The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/18/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening. Thanks for being with us
This is a joint resolution of Congress. It was passed in 1964. The
signatures here, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the president
of the Senate, and down here, the big one, that is the signature of the
president of the United States.
This resolution passed on a Friday. The Tuesday before, the
president had gone on TV in a live late-night urgent broadcast.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans –
MADDOW: And in that broadcast, he said the United States Navy had
come under attack. He said there had been open aggression on the high seas
against the United States of America.
The result was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It passed in the House
unanimously. It passed in the Senate 88-2.
It turns out we got snookered. It did not happen the way they said
it happened, the way they so urgently and sternly informed us that it had
happened. But it would be seven years before this was repealed. And by
then the escalation that this levered us into had already become the
longest yet war in U.S. history. A war that defined an era that indelibly
tattooed the generation of political leaders who made it happen or who did
not stop it from happening.
We say that Vietnam changed our politics forever. But less than 40
years after this, again, a campaign directed at the highest levels of
government to get us to agree to a war based on something that did not
happen the way they said it happened.
It was a month`s long campaign in 2002 and 2003, and it worked. It`s
a decade now since it worked, since they got that war.
How did it work? Why did it work? And could it work again?
NBC News investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and “Mother
Jones`” David Corn, an MSNBC contributor, they co-authored a book called
“Hubris” that detailed exactly how that war was sold to the American
What you are about to see tonight is based on their reporting.
We are still too close to all of this in time to know if what some
say was the biggest foreign policy deception and disaster in modern U.S.
history will define its generation of leaders too. Whether this is going
to be the first line in the obituaries of the men and women who caused that
But if what we went through 10 years ago did not change us as a
country, if we do not understand what happened and adapt as a country to
resist it, then history says we are doomed to repeat it again.
Here`s what happened.
SUBTITLE: Hubris: excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.
“Hubris: Selling the Iraq War”
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The people of the United
States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw
regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.
RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: My belief is we will in
fact be greeted as liberators.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of money to pay for this that
doesn`t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of
the Iraqi people.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: You go to war with
the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have.
G. W. BUSH: The search is under way for those who are behind these
evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law
enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to
justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorist who committed
these acts and those who harbor them.
DOUGLAS FEITH, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE, 2001-2005: What weighed on
many of us is the 9/11 attack revealed major vulnerabilities. Iraq had
been a big problem even before 9/11, and became even bigger and more urgent
in light of 9/11.
MADDOW (voce-over): America`s greatest national security failure
since Pearl Harbor hurls its leaders into a massive national security
G. W. BUSH: And the people who knock these buildings down will hear
all of us soon.
MADDOW: Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network are the
immediate target. But the day after the attacks, President George W. Bush
comes to the White House Situation Room and orders Counterterrorism
Director Richard Clark to look into an Iraq connection.
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM DIRECTOR: When I said, Mr.
President, we will do that of course. But we`ve done it before and rather
recently. And the answer has always been no. And it`s likely to be no
He didn`t like that answer. And he got mad.
LISA GORDON HAGERTY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I was in the room
during that time, and he was very adamant about perhaps seeing whether or
not Iraq could conduct such an operation against the United States.
I was surprised when the president left the room. I said I believe
Secretary Wolfowitz got to him.
MADDOW: Paul Wolfowitz, Bush`s secretary of defense, has had Saddam
on his personal enemies list for two decades.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time he survives something, he sends the
message to his enemies I outlast my enemies. And if you are on the wrong
list when I`m still around, you`ll be in trouble.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS: Paul Wolfowitz would become convinced
that if we looked strongly enough, if we look closely enough, we`d find the
hand of Saddam Hussein behind virtually every terrorist attack on the
MADDOW: Even before 9/11, Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense
Douglas Feith had been driving administration policy on Iraq.
FEITH: Some of us believed that you will have a Saddam Hussein
problem forever unless you get rid of him.
MADDOW: The meeting notes from the afternoon of 9/11 showed Donald
Rumsfeld tasking a top aide to find the best info fast good enough to hit
Saddam Hussein. He asks the aide to get evidence from Wolfowitz of a
Saddam connection with UBL, Usama bin Laden.
MARK ROSSINI, FORMER FBI AGENT: We all looked at each other like,
what are they talking about? Who the hell – Saddam Hussein? Bin Laden
hates him. This is a heretic. There`s no connection between Saddam
Hussein and al Qaeda.
MADDOW: The word goes out to the CIA, FBI, and all the intelligence
services – find the connection.
SUBTITLE: October 7, 2001. Operation Enduring Freedom.
MADDOW: First, though, the war on terror goes to Afghanistan to
capture or kill Osama bin Laden and destroy the Taliban regime that
supports al Qaeda.
By November, the enemy is on the run, forced to flee into the
mountains and across the boarder to Pakistan. But while bin Laden remains
at large, Washington`s attention turns to Iraq, to Saddam.
RUMSFELD: I think the United States since Desert Storm has always
had a various planning with respect to Iraq.
MADDOW: Operation Desert Storm, also known as the First Gulf War.
In 1991, following Iraq`s invasion of Kuwait, a U.S.-led coalition of
34 countries drives Saddam`s forces out of Kuwait and decimates the Iraqi
army in six weeks.
But despite that overwhelming victory, President George H.W. Bush
faces criticism at home for not going all the way to Baghdad to rid the
world of Saddam Hussein.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I made very, very clear
from day one that it was not an objective of the coalition to get Saddam
Hussein out of there, by force.
MADDOW: Dick Cheney, his defense secretary at the time, supports the
first President Bush`s restraint.
CHENEY: I think we got it right. Conversations I had with leaders
in the region afterwards, they were concerned that we not get into a
position where we were an imperialist power willy-nilly moving into
capitalism in that part of the world taking down governments.
MADDOW: After the Gulf War, Bush and his successor and Bill Clinton
send U.S. planes to provide air cover for vulnerable populations in
northern and southern Iraq.
The U.N. Security Council imposes harsh sanctions and sends in
weapons inspectors to dig deeply for Iraqi WMD capabilities, weapons of
CHARLES A. DUELFER, HEAD OF IRAQ SURVEY GROUP: This went on for
years. At a certain point, unbeknownst to the weapons inspectors or anyone
else over in Iraq, it turns out we pretty much accounted for the full
system, but we didn`t know that.
MADDOW: In 1998, Saddam refuses to cooperate further, and the United
Nations pulls out the weapons inspectors.
Saddam virtually seals Iraq off from the West. In a 1998 letter to
President Clinton, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and other leading
neoconservatives urge the president to take action to remove Saddam`s
regime from power.
The neocons align with urbane Iraqi expatriate named Ahmad Chalabi.
Chalabi heads the Iraqi national congress, a group of Iraqi emigres and
defectors lobbying to get rid of Saddam.
AHMAD CHALABI, IRAQI EXPATRIATE: I say to you now the opposition is
united in its aim of getting rid of Saddam and establishing democracy in
FEITH: He was a very impressive and effective spokesman for the
Iraqi opposition to Saddam.
PAUL PILLAR, RETIRED CIA OFFICER: A very slick operator who was
skillful enough to convey the idea that he could step in as a new leader of
Iraq. But that was totally divorced from realities on the ground.
G. W. BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear –
MADDOW: When George W. Bush is sworn in January 2001, Rumsfeld,
Wolfowitz and Feith take the reins of Defense Department policy.
Vice President Cheney has reversed course and now supports regime
change in Iraq.
Motive awaits opportunity. And for the Bush administration, 9/11
G. W. BUSH: Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America
and to support terror. This is a regime that has something to hide from
the civilized world. States like these and their terrorist allies
constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.
DUELFER: When I heard the axis of evil speech –
G. W. BUSH: By keeping weapons of mass destruction.
DUELFER: – I thought, well, something is going to happen.
FEITH: The idea was take actions after 9/11 that would so shock
state supporters of terrorism around the world that we might be able to get
them to change their policies regarding support for terrorism and pursuit
of weapons of mass destruction.
RUMSFELD: General Franks is both a warrior but also a wise and
MADDOW: A declassified memo from November 2001 reveals that Donald
Rumsfeld met as early as then with CENTCOM commander, General Tommy Franks,
to review plans for the decapitation of the Iraqi government. They discuss
ideas of how to start a war.
One suggestion is to create a dispute over WMD inspections.
G. W. BUSH: This is a regime that agreed to international
inspections, then kicked out the inspectors.
PILLAR: 9/11 made it politically possible for the first time to
persuade the American people to break a tradition of not launching
MADDOW: The pressure to find evidence falls heavily on all 15 U.S.
PILLAR: The extremely strong policy wind that was blowing at the
time and that everyone in government corridors felt made it absolutely
clear what was preferred and what was not preferred.
SUBTITLE: Atta in Prague.
MADDOW: Atta, Mohamed Atta, leader of 9/11`s al Qaeda hijackings.
From Prague comes a Czech intelligence report of a photograph allegedly
showing Mohamed Atta meeting with a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence
The photograph of the supposed meeting is never made publicly
ROSSINI: Mohamed Atta was a slight guy barely, what, 5`5”, 5`6” and
skinny. The guy in the photograph was muscular and thick and had a neck
the size of two of my necks. And I mouthed, that`s not Mohamed Atta on the
photograph. But send to it the lab anyway. And in my mind, that matters
put to bed.
CHENEY: In the final analysis –
MADDOW: But event without definitive evidence, the vice president
goes public with it.
CHENEY: It`s pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he
did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in
Czechoslovakia last April.
ROSSINI: I was sitting in my den, in home in Washington, D.C., and I
remember looking at the TV screen saying, what did I just hear? And I –
first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television,
because I couldn`t believe what I had just heard.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Over and over again, the vice
president for years would say we had a report of this meeting. It`s true.
There was a report. And nobody believed it. That`s what they didn`t add.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We clearly know
MADDOW: In a PBS interview on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”,
national security adviser Condoleezza Rice reveals with certainty more
evidence of Saddam`s supposed terrorist link.
RICE: We know too that several of the detainees, in particular some
high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al
Qaeda in chemical weapons development.
MADDOW: The key high-ranking detainee Rice is referring to is an al
Qaeda commander named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi.
ISIKOFF: He is at first interrogated by the FBI using standard
interrogation techniques. But the CIA wants more. They seize control of
him. They send him to Egypt where he is rendered and turned over to one of
the most brutal intelligence services in the world.
MADDOW: This is al-Libi years later. In a Libyan prison being
visited by his family. This video was recently located by Michael Isikoff.
ISIKOFF: Within weeks of his interrogation in Egypt, al-Libi coughs
up this story that he hadn`t told the FBI before, that Saddam was training
al Qaeda in chemical and biological weapons. It`s the single most
frightening story that could have been told post-9/11.
MADDOW: Almost from the outset, the intelligence community has
doubts about the claim. A 2002 CIA report states that questions persist
about al-Libi`s forthrightness and truthfulness, and that in some instances
he seems to have fabricated information.
After the invasion, al-Libi will recant the story that was extracted
by Egypt`s brutal interrogation.
PHILIP MUDD, CIA COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: What we said at the time
was, look, he said two different things at two different times, and we will
tell the policy consumers and other analysts in the community both stories.
You choose to believe what you choose to believe. But I don`t know which
one is accurate.
MADDOW: The administration chooses to believe the connection.
G. W. BUSH: We`ve learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in
bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.
MADDOW: Right up to the war and beyond, it remains a key
administration argument for war. And the public largely trusts it to be
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: If you look at all the key pieces of
evidence that they presented publicly at the time, on every single one of
them, not only was there doubt, there was debate within the intelligence
agencies of the U.S. government.
MICHAEL LEITER, COMMISSION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE: The intelligence
community assessed that Saddam Hussein was building a mobile biological
weapons capability to avoid detection by the U.S. and its allies. And the
assessment was based almost entirely on one source from the German
government, a source named Curveball.
MADDOW: His real name as far as they know is Rafid Ahmed Alwan, an
Iraqi engineer who makes his way to Germany and tells German intelligence
and says he worked in Saddam`s mobile weapons labs used to develop weapons
of mass destruction.
VALERIE PLAME-WILSON, FORMER CIA AGENT: In the intelligence
community, Curveball was known to be a fabricator. He could not be relied
upon. His intelligence was always had been sort of stamped, you know, do
not – do not disseminate. This is – this is useless.
MADDOW: Curveball is a lone and seriously suspect source, and U.S.
intelligence agencies rely solely on German reports. They never actually
question him themselves.
In this 2011 interview with Britain`s newspaper “The Guardian”, the
man called Curveball confirms the lies of his pre-war claims.
REPORTER (translated): Imagine you could go back to the past and you
were back in 2000 again. Would you tell lies again?
RAFID AHMED ALWAN, “CURVEBALL” (translated): Yes, yes, definitely.
I would do something against Saddam against the old regime. I would do
whatever was possible.
PILLAR: This particular issue about the supposed mobile labs was
mishandled all the way around, certainly by the intelligence community in
terms of how it was assessed, and then became the very heart of the whole
case about unconventional weapons.
MADDOW: With dubious evidence like that, the White House will
present its case for war.
CHENEY: The case of Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of our country,
requires a candid appraisal of the facts.
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons
of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use
against our friends, against our allies, and against us.
GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: I had a seat at the
stage next to the lectern where he was speaking. And I literally bolted at
CHENEY: With our help, a liberated Iraq can be a great nation once
MADDOW: Vice President Dick Cheney`s speech to Veterans of Foreign
Wars is the opening salvo of the Bush administration`s effort to sell to
the American people what White House insiders call “The Product.”
CHENEY: Thank you very much.
ZINNI: It was a shock. It was a total shock. I couldn`t believe
the vice president was saying this.
And doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefs I
heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was
an ongoing program. And that`s when I began to believe they`re getting
serious about this. They want to go into Iraq.
MADDOW: Two weeks after the speech, Cheney again makes his case on
CHENEY: What we know is just bits and pieces we gather through the
intelligence system. But we do know with absolute certainty he is using
his procurement system to acquire what he needs in order to enrich uranium
to build a nuclear weapon.
MADDOW: Saddam and nukes, absolute certainty. A terrifying prospect
based on the CIA`s discovery that Iraq is attempting to purchase 60,000
aluminum tubes. Some analysts become convinced the tubes are intended to
be used in centrifuges to make uranium for nuclear weapons.
Soon after the discovery, the Department of Energy gets hold of the
actual tubes and asks engineering professor Houston Wood, an expert on gas
centrifuges, to evaluate them.
HOUSTON WOOD, NUCLEAR SCIENTIST: From the information they gave me,
it took me about 15 minutes to come to the conclusion that these tubes
could not be used for gas centrifuges. They`re too thick. They`re too
MADDOW: The Energy Department concludes that the tubes are for
conventional rockets, not for nuclear weapons. But CIA analysts stick to
their position that the tubes are for centrifuges, and the White House
embraces that position.
Administration sources leak the disputed findings to “The New York
Times” in September 2002. The paper runs its sensational scoop on the
CHENEY: This is –
MADDOW: Within hours, Dick Cheney is quoting that scoop as fact on
“Meet the Press.”
CHENEY: It`s now public that in fact he has been seeking to acquire
and we have been able to intercept and prevent him from acquiring through
this particular channel the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a
WOOD: I call my friends in Oakridge, and I said are these the same
tubes that we were talking about last year? And they said yes. I said I
thought we put that to rest a year ago.
G. W. BUSH: United Nations inspections –
MADDOW: Four days later, commemorating the first anniversary of
9/11, President George W. Bush repeats the claim at the United Nations.
G. W. BUSH: Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength
aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.
BILL KELLER, EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES, 2003-2011: I think the Bush
administration took a great deal of satisfaction in being able to cite the
supposedly liberal “New York Times” in making their case for it.
LEITER: Absent the aluminum tubes, most of the community believes
that there is no sufficient evidence to assess that there is a nuclear
MADDOW: From the African country of Niger comes another nuclear
alarm. Italy`s military intelligence agency informs the CIA that it has
the text of a contract between Iraq and Niger for Saddam to purchase 500
metric tons of yellowcake, a form of uranium suitable for nuclear weapons.
LEITER: They were rather extensive written documents about the ways
in which Iraq was negotiating to buy very significant amounts of uranium
ore. But the State Department expressed how dubious they were about these
documents and the likelihood that they were forged.
MADDOW: At the time no one from U.S. intelligence had actually laid
eyes on the documents, and they will ultimately turn out to be forgeries.
But when a DIA report on the yellowcake claim is presented to Dick
Cheney, he orders the CIA to dig deeper. The agency sends to Niger a
veteran diplomat with extensive experience in Africa, former Ambassador
AMB. JOSEPH WILSON: I knew the foreign minister who was subsequently
the prime minister. I knew the minister of mines.
It did not happen. It could not have happened. Just because of the
nature of uranium mining operations in francophone Africa, the French
ISIKOFF: The most important thing to know about the yellowcake story
is that the CIA never believed it.
MADDOW: But even as speculation, it is enough for administration
officials to move ahead with plans to take out Saddam.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice goes on CNN to alert the
RICE: The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty
about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapon. But we don`t want the
smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
ZINNI: What I was hearing and what I knew did not jive. I asked one
time at Langley, am I crazy or is there no credible evidence of an ongoing
program? And I had a former deputy director of the CIA say to me, “You`re
MADDOW: But there are administration voices urging caution.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and his senior staff who unlike their
counterparts at defense are all former military men, they press to give a
chance for sanctions to work, for inspections to keep Saddam in check.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: The
concern was we hadn`t finished in Afghanistan, and if we went to war in
Iraq, we would take the emphasis off Afghanistan, which is subsequently
exactly what happened.
MADDOW: The administration has Saddam squarely in its sights. The
time has come to persuade congress to squeeze the trigger.
REP. WATER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: One of the most serious
responsibilities the Congress has is to cast a vote to send a young man or
woman to war to die.
MADDOW: With Congress back from its summer recess, administration
leaders prepare to make their case to invade Iraq to eliminate Saddam.
Inside the White House, Paul Wolfowitz`s deputy, Undersecretary of
Defense Douglas Feith, an Iraq hawk like his boss, presents a slide show to
national security officials that is full of questionable assertions.
LEVIN: Of all the places where intelligence was being manipulated in
the Bush administration, the Feith shop was the key place.
FEITH: There was a debate about how one characterizes the
relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Nobody made the argument that
there was no relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.
G. W. BUSH: I want to thank the –
MADDOW: The administration deploys its biggest guns to push
congressional leaders for quick passage of a resolution to authorize the
president to take military action.
G. W. BUSH: It`s important signal for the world to see that this
country is united in our resolve to deal with threats that we face.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), FORMER MAJORITY LEADER: The president made
the point that there was an urgency to taking action, that it couldn`t
wait. He got very animated. He used uncharacteristically profanity and
used the middle finger to demonstrate Saddam Hussein`s disdain for the
United States and for him personally.
MADDOW: A number of members of Congress, mostly Democrats, remain
DASCHLE: I`m still very skeptical about Saddam Hussein`s intent and
position. Nothing has changed the basis for that skepticism.
MADDOW: The Senate Intelligence Committee requests a National
Intelligence Estimate, a comprehensive summary of the evidence. NIEs are
routinely delivered on intelligence issues, yet on this gravest of matter,
none yet exists.
In three weeks, the CIA pulls together what normally takes months.
It is delivered just seven days before the congressional vote.
GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Aluminum tubes are interesting,
and I know there is controversy associated with it.
LEVIN: In my judgment, the CIA director George Tenet had become a
political spokesperson for the administration, and that is not the role of
the CIA. He was too often towing the line that the administration wanted
him to tow.
TENET: We think we have stumbled on to one avenue of a nuclear
PILLAR: There is no question that there were erroneous judgments in
that National Intelligence Estimate. The purpose was to sell a policy
initiative, which was to go to war against Iraq.
MADDOW: The 90-page classified NIE asserts that Saddam is actively
pursuing his WMD program. It cites the debatable intelligence on aluminum
tubes, the yellowcake uranium purchase, and mobile weapons labs.
But deep inside that thick document are strongly-worded dissents that
argue the evidence is weak, even wrong.
ISIKOFF: The NIE is sent over to Congress. It`s kept in a
classified vault. And as far as we can tell, only about a half a dozen
senators actually read it. Had they done so, they would have seen that it
was filled with dissents.
JONES: If I had read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, I
probably would have been – have done myself a favor by being better
informed on the intelligence rather than listening to the administration.
MADDOW: As a congressional resolution to authorize war is put to a
vote, most Republicans stand solidly behind President Bush.
FORMER REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: The forces of freedom are on the
march and terrorists will find no safe harbor in this world.
MADDOW: Democrats are deeply divided.
FORMER SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It is wrong for congress
to declare war against Iraq now before we have exhausted the alternatives.
FORMER SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I urge senators to go
down on the Capitol Mall and look at the Vietnam Memorial.
DASCHLE: We were two months out from an election, and no one –
Republican, Democrat, independent – ever wants to be viewed as weak on
I will vote to give the president the authority he needs.
FORMER SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The threat of Saddam
Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real.
FORMER SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It is a vote that puts
awesome responsibility in the hands of our president, and we say to him –
use these powers wisely and as a last resort.
JONES: In my heart, I knew that a no to the authority for the
president was the right vote, but yet I was not strong enough to vote my
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joint resolution is passed without objection.
MADDOW: The vote is overwhelming. The margin is more than 3-1 in
the Senate. It`s more than 2-1 in the House. The president is officially
given a free hand.
G. W. BUSH: The days of Iraq acting as an outlaw state are coming to
WILKERSON: Powell walked into my office, and without so much as a
fare thee well, he walked over to the window and said I wonder what will
happen when we put 500,000 troops into the Iraq and come the country from
one end to the other and find nothing. And he turned around and walked
back into his office.
And I wrote that down on my calendar as close to verbatim as I could,
because I thought that was a profound statement comes from the secretary of
state, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
MADDOW: The march to war begins in earnest, it is Colin Powell who
gets the job of selling it to the world.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What we`re going you
are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.
MUDD: Anybody who says this was an intelligence-driven war I believe
is mistaken, end, stop.
MADDOW: By the end of 2002, the U.S. military is headed to the Gulf.
Congress is on board, as are British Prime Minister Tony Blair and most of
the mainstream media. The stage is set for war.
A new U.N. resolution has forced Iraq to submit to tough new arms
inspections. But President Bush is growing impatient. The Defense
Department tells him that if he is going to war, he`s got to do it before
the blistering desert summer.
WILKERSON: We were moving along the path of getting a good
inspection going that would probably come to fruition one way or the other.
But once you start military forces flowing to the extent that we did for
Iraq, it`s hard to pull them back.
SUBTITLE: January 28, 2003. State of the Union Address.
MADDOW: As the inevitable moves closer, President Bush reargues the
case and ups the ante with 16 infamous words in a State of the Union
G. W. BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein
recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
MADDOW: That would be yellowcake, again. But by referring to a six-
month-old British white paper, the president does an end-run around a claim
discredited by his own intelligence service.
PILLAR: It wasn`t a matter of lying about this or lying about that,
but rather through the artistry of speechwriters and case presenters,
conveying an impression to the American people that certain things were
CORN: It`s a real sleight of hand. And I think it`s kind to call
MADDOW: On the heels of the president`s speech, the administration
plays its ultimate trump card. It tasks Secretary of State Colin Powell,
its most public trusted face, its most reluctant warrior, to make the case
against Saddam Hussein at the United Nations. He is given a week to pull
that presentation together.
WILKERSON: He walked into my office with a sheaf of papers in my
hand and he threw them down on the desk and he said, “That`s the script of
my presentation at the United Nations. It came from the vice president`s
It was junk. It was pure junk. I was in charge of putting it
MADDOW: Powell and Wilkerson tear up the original 48-page script and
start over with a team from the State Department and CIA.
Director George Tenet suggests they base their presentation on the
National Intelligence Estimate, which unbeknownst to Powell is a deeply
flawed document. Still, he is wary.
WILKERSON: We went into a room. He slammed the door shut. He said,
“Sit down.” And he sat down. We were the only two people in the room. He
looked at me and said this bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED) of contacts with al
Qaeda has got to be taken out. It`s bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
And I said, I agree with you. Let`s take it out. Done.
Within a half an hour, Tenet comes in and explosively tells about
this high level al Qaeda operative who has been interrogated and admitted
to these contacts. Whoa! And we put it back in.
MADDOW: That would be the dubious confession extracted from Ibn al-
Shaykh al-Libi, the result of torture by the Egyptians.
WILKERSON: Both of us convinced ourselves if the intelligence
community believed what we were presenting, then we had to believe it,
because they were the experts.
MUDD: I wrote parts of this speech, what I saw over the course of
week, up until the night before he gave that speech, and in fact into the
early morning, 1:00, 2:00 a.m., was – does this fit? Is this compelling?
Who can pick a hole in this?
I`m going to stand in front of a billion people. What I say better
be deemed clearest and most credible information we have.
MADDOW: On February 5th, 2003, the moment of truth arrives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 4,701st meeting of the Security Council is
called to order.
MADDOW: The world witnesses Colin Powell deliver the ultimate
argument for war against Iraq.
POWELL: What we`re giving you are facts and conclusions based on
solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human
PLAME-WILSON: I was at CIA headquarters, and all of us sort of
gathered around the TV in the office to watch his speech live from the U.N.
POWELL: We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons
factories on wheels and on rails.
MADDOW: Those would be descriptions by the discredited witness
PLAME-WILSON: As he is talking about this and showing vials of white
powder and so forth, I turned to a woman next to me who had followed this
whole case of Curveball much more closely than I. I said, “What the hell
is going on?” And my colleague said, “I don`t know. I don`t know what`s
going on. What is this?”
WILKERSON: We did not know he was in Germany. We did not know he
had a code name, Curveball. We did not know that no U.S. intelligence
personnel had ever interrogated him.
POWELL: Based on defector information of May 1991, Saddam Hussein
had a massive clandestine program that covered several different techniques
to enrich uranium.
MADDOW: That would be defector information supplied by notoriously
unreliable Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi national congress, the self-
appointed ex-patriot Iraqi shadow government.
DUELFER: We talked to Chalabi on multiple occasions, and we saw that
they were hyping the type of information they put out.
POWELL: He is so determined that he has made repeated covert
attempts to acquire high specification aluminum tubes from 11 different
countries, even after inspections resumed.
MADDOW: Yet again, the aluminum tubes.
WOOD: I was incredibly disappointed when he brought out comments
about the aluminum tubes. I felt betrayed as an American and a scientist.
POWELL: I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative
telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al Qaeda.
Fortunately, this operative is now detained. And he has told his story.
MADDOW: Powell is referring to Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the same
detainee the CIA labeled a fabricator.
Powell takes 90 minutes to run through his persuasive litany of
evidence, much of it will turn out to be at best inaccurate.
POWELL: Thank you, Mr. President.
MUDD: If you look at that speech in restrictive, there is too much
of what we think and not enough of we don`t know. There`s so much
certitude in the speech. That`s not Secretary Powell`s problem, that`s on
us as intelligence professionals.
MADDOW: Secretary of State Powell set aside his personal misgivings
and staked his global reputation for integrity, on this one moment, selling
the case for war.
WILKERSON: Though neither Powell nor anyone else in the State
Department team intentionally lied, we did participate in a hoax.
G. W. BUSH: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition
forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to
free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.
Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure.
MADDOW: The conquest goes quickly. And just as quickly, a country
liberated from a dictator dissolves into chaos.
RUMSFELD: Freedom is untidy, and free people are free to commit
mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.
MADDOW: An administration eager to go to war fails disastrously to
plan for its aftermath. And after 18 months of scouring the country, the
truth about Saddam Hussein`s weapons of mass destruction is finally
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: There are no weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq, and there haven`t been for a long time.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The new report by the chief U.S.
weapons inspector finds that Iraq got rid of its weapons of mass
destruction shortly after the First Gulf War.
DUELFER: I wasn`t supposed to find WMD. I was supposed to find
truth. I did not fail to find WMD. I succeeded in finding the truth.
LEVIN: You`re telling us in addition to having no WMD stocks before
the war for the reasons you gave, Saddam chose not to have those weapons?
Is that correct?
DUELFER: That is correct.
LEVIN: Those are stunning statements.
FEITH: It was a terrible mistake.
POWELL: The CIA had said we would find stockpiles that we didn`t
find. It was a disaster.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: You believed it was true at the time?
POWELL: Yes, so did they. But they shouldn`t have. I mean, there
were a lot of people in the agency, in the community, that knew that some
of this information wasn`t, you know, as solid as it was being presented to
WILKERSON: It is not just an intelligence failure. It`s a failure
to the highest levels of decision-making in America. George W. Bush and
Richard Bruce Cheney would have gone to war with Iraq and gone to war with
Iraq and gotten rid of Saddam Hussein even if there wasn`t any intelligence
ZINNI: It is at worst, lies and deception. It is at best,
incompetence and lack of understanding.
CORN: A lot of people who purposely used extreme rhetoric to gin up
populous support for the war, there have been no consequences for them.
LAUER: We sit here some eight years later, 4,000 Americans lost
their lives, maybe 100,000 Iraqis lost their lives. It cost about $1
trillion. Was it worth it? Did you give the right advice?
CHENEY: I think I did. If you look back at the proposition we faced
after 9/11, with respect to Saddam Hussein, we were very concerned about
the prospects of terrorists like the 9/11 crowd acquiring weapons of mass
destruction, biological agent or nuclear weapon that they could use on the
ISIKOFF: There is no question the news media didn`t do its job
during the run-up to the Iraq war. Far too often, the press simply
accepted these sweeping assertions by the highest officials in the
government, without looking for the hard evidence to support it.
JONES: I was more concerned about the politics in my decision,
rather than what is right, and what is wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have prayed to god many times that he would
forgive me for sending his children to die in a war that never had to
LAUER: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the
G. W. BUSH: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was
a wrong decision. And I don`t believe it was a wrong decision.
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