- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

The United States went to war in Iraq not because of new intelligence about banned weapons but because Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s previously known programs were viewed differently after the September 11 attacks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told senators yesterday.

“The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass murder,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light, through the prism of our experience on September 11th.”

In a wide-ranging hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Rumsfeld defended the war and the U.S. intelligence used to justify it.

“The objective in the global war on terror is to prevent another attack like September 11th, or a biological, nuclear or chemical attack that would be worse, before it happens. We can say with confidence that the world is a better place today because the United States led a coalition of forces into action in Iraq,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

The administration, which has been accused by some on Capitol Hill and in the media of overstating U.S. intelligence on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, has defended the way it handled prewar intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons programs.

President Bush, speaking at a news conference yesterday with South African President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria, South Africa, was unapologetic about his erroneous prewar assertion that Saddam had tried to buy uranium, pointing out that “he’s not trying to buy anything right now.”

After a rare White House retraction earlier this week, Mr. Bush did not directly answer a reporter who asked whether he regretted his statement in January: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

It has since been learned that documents about the purported transaction attempt were forged.

Mr. Bush went out of his way to avoid openly discussing the mistake, sidestepping repeated questions during the press conference.

“Look, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to theworld peace,” the president said. “And there’s no doubt in my mind that the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him from power.”

Yesterday, a recently retired State Department intelligence official accused the administration of acting on “faith-based intelligence” that “fostered a fundamentally flawed view of reality” and said Iraq had not posed any immediate threat before the war.

“The administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people,” said Greg Thielmann, a 25-year Foreign Service professional who retired in the fall. “Iraq posed no immediate threat.”

While he said that “some of the fault lies in the intelligence community,” he added that most of the blame should go to the White House, which “misused” the information it was provided.

He also said that while Secretary of State Colin L. Powell never interfered in the intelligence bureau’s work, there was pressure from other political appointees.

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