(CJ Opinion) — On the sixteenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, as the US government threatens punitive action against International Criminal Court investigators for attempting to look into US war crimes, former George W Bush administration Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has decided to publish a Twitter thread claiming that Bush did not lie to the world about Iraq.

Here is a transcript of the full thread by Fleischer:

The Iraq war began sixteen years ago tomorrow. There is a myth about the war that I have been meaning to set straight for years. After no WMDs were found, the left claimed “Bush lied. People died.” This accusation itself is a lie. It’s time to put it to rest.

The fact is that President Bush (and I as press secretary) faithfully and accurately reported to the public what the intelligence community concluded. The CIA, along with the intelligence services of Egypt, France, Israel and others concluded that Saddam had WMD. We all turned out to be wrong. That is very different from lying.

After the war, a bipartisan group was created to determine what went wrong, particularly why the intelligence community’s conclusions about Iraq were so different from what was found on the ground after the war. The group of experts was named the Robb-Silberman commission. It’s report was issued in March 2005. It can be found in full here. Its key finding was that that a “major intelligence failure” took place. It also stated that no intelligence service was pressured by the Bush Administration to conclude that Saddam had WMDs.

Here are the key quotes from their report:

“Overall Commission Finding: The Intelligence Community’s performance in assessing Iraq’s pre-war weapons of mass destruction programs was a major intelligence failure.

Nuclear Weapons Summary Finding: The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-Iraq war intelligence products. This misjudgment stemmed chiefly from the Community’s failure to analyze correctly Iraq’s reasons for attempting to procure high-strength aluminum tubes.

Biological Warfare Summary Finding: The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq’s biological weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-war intelligence products. The primary reason for this misjudgment was the Intelligence Community’s heavy reliance on a human source — codenamed ‘Curveball’ — whose information later proved to be unreliable.

Chemical Warfare Summary Finding: The Intelligence Community erred in its 2002 NIE assessment of Iraq’s alleged chemical warfare program. The Community’s substantial overestimation of Iraq’s chemical warfare program was due chiefly to flaws in analysis and the paucity of quality information collected. In the case of Iraq, collectors of intelligence absorbed the prevailing analytic consensus and tended to reject or ignore contrary information. The result was ‘tunnel vision’ focusing on the Intelligence Community’s existing assumptions. The Intelligence Community did not make or change any analytic judgments in response to political pressure to reach a particular conclusion, but the pervasive conventional wisdom that Saddam retained WMD affected the analytic process. The CIA took too long to admit error in Iraq, and its Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center actively discouraged analysts from investigating errors.

Finally, we closely examined the possibility that intelligence analysts were pressured by policymakers to change their judgments about Iraq’s nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments.”

That is what the investigators reported, after been given full access to people throughout the intelligence community. Which leads me to conclude that there was a liar and his name was Saddam Hussein. He created an elaborate system of lies to fool western intelligence services and he succeeded. He wanted us to believe he had WMDs.

The allegaton that “Bush lied. People died” is a liberal myth created to politically target President Bush. I understand the anger that was felt after no WMDs were found. But that doesn’t justify calling the President a liar. I can only hope that serious historians and other experts do their homework and resist falling for this myth.

Ari Fleischer

@AriFleischer

The Iraq war began sixteen years ago tomorrow. There is a myth about the war that I have been meaning to set straight for years. After no WMDs were found, the left claimed “Bush lied. People died.” This accusation itself is a lie. It’s time to put it to rest.

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Ari Fleischer is lying. It is an absolute proven fact that George W Bush and his administration lied extensively about the degree of certainty in intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction, having ties to Al Qaeda, and seeking nuclear weapons, all of which (along with Vice President Cheney’s claim that the US invaders would be “greeted as liberators”) proved false. The Bush administration did not know the things they claimed to know with any degree of certainty, but they claimed that they were certain in order to manufacture support for war. Claiming to know something you do not know is lying, especially when it’s to advance an ulterior motive.
“Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda,” Bush claimed in January 2003. “Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.”

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney claimed in August 2002. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

“The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in December 2002. “Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.”

“We are absolutely sure they have continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, and we are sure they have in their possession weapons of mass destruction,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said in December 2002.

“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources,” Powell told the United Nations Security Council in his infamous Iraq presentation in February 2003. “These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

“People will continue to debate this issue, but there is no doubt in my mind,” Powell said in the same presentation. “These illicit procurement efforts show that Saddam Hussein is very much focused on putting in place the key missing piece from his nuclear weapons program, the ability to produce fissile material.”

Powell was not nearly as certain as he claimed to be. None of them were. Facts revealed after the invasion prove that for all their public claims of complete and total certainty that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, was aiding and abetting Al Qaida, and was developing nuclear weapons, behind the veil of government secrecy there was nothing like certainty at all.

For starters, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who was cited in Powell’s presentation and who Fleischer refers to by the code name “Curveball” in the above thread, was known to have been lying about bioweapons long before the invasion. Despite the confident assertions made by the Bush administration about Janabi’s claims to the public, no American personnel were present when he made those claims, and he told the Guardian in 2011that the BND (the German intelligence agency who interrogated him) had known he was lying all along.

“The BND [German intelligence] knew in 2000 that I was lying after they talked to my former boss, Dr Bassil Latif, who told them there were no mobile bioweapons factories,” Janabi said. “For 18 months after that they left me alone because they knew I was telling lies even though I never admitted it. Believe me, back then, I thought the whole thing was over for me. Then all of a sudden [in the run up to the 2003 invasion] they came back to me and started asking for more details about what I had told them. I still don’t know why the BND then passed on my information to the CIA and it ended up in Powell’s speech.”

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson was Powell’s chief of staff and helped him prepare his UN presentation on Iraq. When asked on MSNBC if he believed he was lied to about Janabi following the 2011 revelation, Wilkerson told Cenk Uygur that “I cannot come to any other conclusion, especially when I have discovered that no US personnel were present when Curveball was interrogated by the BND, the German intelligence service. That we accepted that, that we even had a head of the European division for the CIA, Tyler Drumheller, who at the last minute during Powell’s preparation, during my preparation of the secretary, had told both Tenet and McLaughlin that Curveball might not be reliable. That information was never relayed to the Secretary of State, or to me. I have some serious doubts about it now. I think there was some manipulation of this material, and there was some outright lying.”