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Profile: White House Iraq Group

 
  

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White House Iraq Group actively participated in the following events:

 
  

August 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. forms the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, which aims to “educate the public” about the alleged threat from Iraq. A senior official involved with the group later describes it as “an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities.” Members of the group include Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, James R. Wilkinson, Nicholas E. Calio, and policy advisers led by Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, and I. Lewis Libby. They meet weekly in the White House Situation Room. A “strategic communications” task force under the WHIG is charged with planning speeches and writing white papers. [Washington Post, 8/10/2003] According to an intelligence source interviewed by the New York Daily News in October 2005, the group, on “a number of occasions,” will attempt “to push the envelope on things,”—“The [CIA] would say, ‘We just don't have the intelligence to substantiate that.’” [New York Daily News, 10/19/2005] An important part of the WHIG strategy is to feed their messages to friendly reporters such as New York Times reporter Judith Miller. James Bamford, in his book A Pretext for War, writes: “First OSP [Office of Special Plans] supplies false or exaggerated intelligence; then members of the WHIG leak it to friendly reporters, complete with prepackaged vivid imagery; finally, when the story breaks, senior officials point to it as proof and parrot the unnamed quotes they or their colleagues previously supplied.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 325]
People and organizations involved: Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, James R. Wilkinson, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, Andrew Card, White House Iraq Group, Stephen Hadley, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Mel Sembler
          

9:00 a.m. September 8, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       Vice President Dick Cheney is interviewed on NBC's “Meet the Press” to discuss the Bush administration's position on Iraq and the alleged threat Iraq poses to the world. “[B]ased on intelligence that's becoming available—some of it has been made public [referring to the recent New York Times story (see (1:00am) September 8, 2002)]— ... he has indeed stepped up his capacity to produce and deliver biological weapons, ... he has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon, ... there are efforts under way inside Iraq to significantly expand his capability. ... [H]e now is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium to make the bombs. ... There's a story in The New York Times this morning ... [I]t'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 centrifuge. And the centrifuge is required to take low-grade uranium and enhance it into highly enriched uranium, which is what you have to have in order to build a bomb. This is a technology he was working on back, say, before the Gulf War. And one of the reasons it's of concern, ... is ... [that] we know about a particular shipment. We've intercepted that. We don't know what else—what other avenues he may be taking out there, what he may have already acquired. We do know he's had four years without any inspections at all in Iraq to develop that capability. ... [W]e do know, with absolute certainty, that he [Saddam Hussein] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment [aluminum tubes] he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” Cheney says the US intends to work with the international community, but hints that the US is willing to confront Saddam without international support. “We are trying very hard not be unilateralist,” he says. “We are working to build support with the American people, with the Congress, as many have suggested we should. And we are also as many of us suggested we should, going to the United Nations, and the president will address this issue. ... We would like to do it with the sanction of the international community. But the point in Iraq is this problem has to be dealt with one way or the other.” [New York Times, 10/3/2004; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/27/2003; Washington File, 9/9/2002; Washington Post, 2/7/2003; NBC News Meet the Press, 9/8/2002]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, White House Iraq Group
          

10:30 a.m. September 8, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appears on CBS' “Face the Nation” and talks about Iraq. He tells host Bob Schieffer, “[President Bush] has decided to go to the Congress and to the United Nations later this week and make the case of what Iraq has done for 11 years. It has invaded its neighbors; it's violated almost every single UN resolution that relates to Iraq. And against the agreement they had to disarm, they proceeded to develop weapons of mass destruction—chemical, biological and nuclear.” When asked if the government has “smoking gun” evidence that Iraq is developing nuclear weapons, Rumsfeld responds: “The smoking gun is an interesting phrase. It implies that what we're doing here is law enforcement, that what we're looking for is a case that we can take into a court of law and prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The problem with that is, the way one gains absolutely certainty as to whether a dictator like Saddam Hussein has a nuclear weapon is if he uses it, and that's a little late. It's not late if you're interested in protecting rights of the defendant in a court of law, but it's a quite different thing if one thinks about it.” Schieffer then asks the defense secretary whether or not the administration has information that has not yet been shared with the public. Rumsfeld says: “The problem we have, of course, is a real one. Intelligence, we spend billions of dollars gathering intelligence. And to do it, you have to have methods of doing it and sources from whom you get this information. And to the extent you take that intelligence and spread it out in the public record, what you do is you put people's lives at risk, the sources of that information, because people can connect the dots there and say, well, who knew that, and then they go out and they stop people from helping us learn that type of information, or if it's a source, a satellite or some other thing. To the extent that we reveal the information and show our capability, we then lose that capability because they find ways to deceive and deny us from gaining access to it. So there's a very good reason for not taking all the information.” [CBS Face the Nation, 9/8/2002]
People and organizations involved: White House Iraq Group, Donald Rumsfeld
          

(12:00 p.m.) September 8, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       Condoleezza Rice appears on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer to discuss the alleged threat posed to the US by Saddam Hussein. She insists that Iraq is intent on developing a nuclear weapon. “We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance—into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to—high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs. We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought, maybe six months from a crude nuclear device. The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't what the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” [New York Times, 7/20/03; Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04; CNN Late Night with Wolf Blitzer, 9/8/02]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, White House Iraq Group
          

February 1, 2003-February 4, 2003      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       On February 1, Secretary of State Colin Powell begins rehearsing for his February 5 presentation to the UN Security Council (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003) in which he will argue that Iraq represents a serious and imminent threat to the US. Powell is assisted by members of his staff, including his chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. [US News and World Report, 6/9/2003; Bamford, 2004, pp 368-9; Gentlemen's Quarterly (GQ), 4/29/2004] Several members of the White House Iraq Group drop in during the pre-speech sessions, including Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, and Lewis Libby. George Tenet and his deputy director, John McLaughlin, are also present at times. [Bamford, 2004, pp 369; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230] Cheney's staff continues to pressure Powell to include several unsubstantiated and dubious allegations. The allegations that are most contested are the ones dealing with Iraq's alleged ties to terrorism. For example, the group insists that Powell “link Iraq directly to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington” and include the widely discredited allegation (see October 21, 2002) that Mohammed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer (see April 8, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230.; US News and World Report, 6/9/2003] But Powell and his staff reject a good portion of the hawks' material. At one point, Powell reportedly says, “I'm not reading this. This is bullsh_t.” [US News and World Report, 6/9/03; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230] An official later recalls: “On a number of occasions, ... [Powell] simply said, ‘I'm not using that, I'm not using that, that is not good enough. That's not something that I can support.’ And on each occasion he was fought by the vice president's office in the person of Scooter Libby, by the National Security Advisor [Condoleezza Rice] herself, by her deputy [Steve Hadley], and sometimes by the intelligence people—George [Tenet] and [Deputy CIA Director] John [McLaughlin].” [Bamford, 2004, pp 370] “[W]e fought tooth and nail with other members of the administration to scrub it and get the crap out,” Larry Wilkerson, Powell's Chief of Staff later tells GQ. [Gentlemen's Quarterly (GQ), 4/29/2004] In some instances, material rejected by Powell occasionally reappear in subsequent versions of the speech. “One of the most outrageous ones was the Mohammed Atta meeting in Prague. Steve Hadley on one occasion [put] it back in. We cut it and somehow it got back in. And the secretary said, ‘I thought I cut this?’ And Steve Hadley looked around and said, ‘My fault, Mr. Secretary, I'll put it back in.’ ‘Well, cut it, permanently!’ yelled Powell. It was all cartoon. The specious connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, much of which I subsequently found came probably from the INC and from their sources, defectors and so forth, [regarding the] training in Iraq for terrorists. ... No question in my mind that some of the sources that we were using were probably Israeli intelligence. That was one thing that was rarely revealed to us—if it was a foreign source.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 370-1]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Hadley, Larry Wilkerson, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, John E. McLaughlin, Richard Armitage, White House Iraq Group, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Colin Powell
          

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