Remarks at a Press Conference in Des Moines, Iowa
July 17, 2003
We must be clear: decisions regarding war and peace are the most serious and solemn that a Commander-in-Chief is called upon to make. There are now fundamental questions about President Bush's leadership in taking us to war with Iraq.
There has been much discussion about the 16 words included in the State of the Union address. Today I call on the President to answer these sixteen questions to ensure that the American people can retain their trust in their government and to help ensure that the United States can retain its credibility as a moral force in the world.
1. Mr. President, beyond the NSC and CIA officials who have been identified, we need to know who else at the White House was involved in the decision to include the discredited uranium evidence in your speech, and, if they knew it was false, why did they permit it to be included in the speech
2. Mr. President, we need to know why anyone in your Administration would have contemplated using the evidence in the State of the Union after George Tenet personally intervened in October 2002, to have the same evidence removed from the President's October 7th speech. (The Washington Post, Walter Pincus and Mike Allen, 7/13/2003)
3. Mr. President, we need to know why you claimed this very week that the CIA objected to the Niger uranium sentence “subsequent” to the State of the Union address, contradicting everything else we have heard from your administration and the intelligence community on the matter. (The Washington Post, Priest, Dana and Dana Milbank, 7/15/2003)
4. Mr. President, we urgently need an explanation about the very serious charge that senior officials in your Administration may have retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson by illegally disclosing that his wife is an undercover CIA officer. (The Nation, Corn, David, 7/16/2003)
5. Mr. President, we need to know why your Administration persisted in using the intercepted aluminum tubes to show that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear program and why your National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, claimed categorically that the tubes were “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs,” when in fact our own government experts flatly rejected such claims. (CNN, 9/08/2002, Knight Ridder News Service, 10/04/2002)
6. Mr. President, we need to know why Secretary Rumsfeld created a secret intelligence unit at the Pentagon that selectively identified questionable intelligence to support the case for war including the supposed link to al-Qaeda while ignoring, burying or rejecting any evidence to the contrary. (New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, 5/12/03)
7. Mr. President, we need to know what the basis was for Secretary Rumsfeld's assertion that the US had bulletproof evidence linking Al Qaeda to Iraq, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence analysts have consistently agreed that Saddam did not have a “meaningful connection” to Al Qaeda. (NY Times, Schmitt, Eric, 9/28/2002, NY Times, Krugman, Paul, 7/15/2003)
8. Mr. President, we need to know why Vice President Cheney claimed last September to have “irrefutable evidence” that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, an assertion he repeated in March, on the eve of war. (AP, 9/20/2002, NBC 3/16/2003)
9. Mr. President, we need to know why Secretary Powell claimed with confidence and virtual certainty in February before the UN Security Council that, “Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets.” (UN Address, 2/05/2003)
10. Mr. President, we need to know why Secretary Rumsfeld claimed on March 30th in reference to weapons of mass destruction, “We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” (The Guardian, Whitaker, Brian and Rory McCarthy, 5/30/2003)
11. Mr. President, we need an explanation of the unconfirmed report that your Administration is dishonoring the life of a soldier who died in Iraq as a result of hostile action by misclassifying his death as an accident. (Time, Gibbs, Nancy and Mark Thompson, 7/13/2003)
12. Mr. President, we need to know why your Administration has never told the truth about the costs and long-term commitment of the war, has consistently downplayed what those would be, and now continues to try keep the projected costs hidden from the American people.
13. Mr. President, we need to know why you said on May 1, 2003 , that the war was over, when US troops have fought and one or two have died nearly every day since then and your generals have admitted that we are fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq. (Abizaid, Gen. John, 7/16/2003)
14. Mr. President, we need to know why your Administration had no plan to build the peace in post-war Iraq and seems to be resisting calls to include NATO, the United Nations and our allies in the stabilization and reconstruction effort.
15. Mr. President, we need to know what you were referring to in Poland on May 30, 2003, when you said, “For those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them.” (The Washington Post, Mike Allen, 5/31/2003)
16. Mr. President, we need to know why you incorrectly claimed this very week that the war began because Iraq would not admit UN inspectors, when in fact Iraq had admitted the inspectors and you opposed extending their work. (The Washington Post, Priest, Dana and Dana Milbank, 7/15/2003)
If you can't or won't answer these 16 questions, Mr. President, I call on the Republicans in Congress to stop blocking efforts to create an independent, bipartisan committee to investigate what is a matter of the highest importance: whether your decision to go to war was sound and just.
The American public deserves answers to all of these questions. I urge you to lead with the honor and integrity that you promised as a candidate.