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Democrats, Not Just Bush, Made Claims of WMDs in Iraq

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We speak with Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy, which has released a list showing that five of the Democratic presidential contenders at one point publicly said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. [includes transcript]

  • Sam Husseini, Institute for Public Accuracy which has released a list showing that five of the Democratic contenders at one point publicly said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
  • Tape: Sam Husseni questioning House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi at the National Press Club on January 16, 2004.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Sam Husseini is on the line with us at the Institute For Public Accuracy. He has been compiling this list of quotes of the candidates. Your response to the candidates responding Jeremy Scahill’s questioning in New Hampshire, and also what they said in the past.

SAM HUSSEINI: I think what they need to do and what I don’t hear them doing, from what I was able to make out of the situation that Jeremy found himself in, is unequivocally saying yeah, I was wrong. You know, they could possibly have a way out of saying, I was hoodwinked by the administration; I was far too trusting of these people. And then they need to offer a full explanation as to why they said what they said. What intelligence they did see, what intelligence influenced them and how they were misled; if they’re going to tell us they were misled. The other alternative is to say they’re complicit. That they, instead of opposing war, whether rhetorically or whatever, that they in fact facilitated war. There’s been a lot of rhetoric about Bush and Hitler, but the point of all of this stuff the point, I think, is that Bush doesn’t need to be Hitler when he has willing accomplices on the other side of the aisle who are willing to put forward statements that are not founded in fact. They need — these people need to be held accountable, and only then could they possibly — I’m speaking of the five who’ve claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction — could they possibly be in a position to hold George Bush accountable in a general election.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Kerry is particularly interesting because he was long-time member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, though not serving on it now.

SAM HUSSEINI: Yeah, I mean, this is a big question. Somebody like Kerry and to some extent, Wesley Clark, I mean, he touts his 'foreign policy experience', you know, and his 'leadership skills'. So, now we have to ask him about his statements. And from what I was able to hear, his response you to when you asked him that question was, when did I say that? And that he denied saying it. He said, that I never said that Saddam Hussein is developing nuclear weapons. Or he said that Saddam Hussein had been developing nuclear weapons. Well, that’s not what he said. He said, Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons. He’s saying that in 2002. That’s not a reference to what Saddam Hussein may or may not have been up to in 1990. And really reading, not just the parts about weapons of mass destruction, reading Kerry’s speech on the floor in the Senate on October 9, 2002 — This is not merely a war mongering speech This is not merely a speech that makes false claims about weapons of mass destruction. It makes false claims in an effort to drive war that were provably false at the time. He makes allegations — he says that Saddam Hussein kicked out the weapons inspectors at the end of 1998. That’s false. Saddam Hussein did not kick out the weapons inspectors at the end of 1998. They were withdrawn at the behest of the Clinton administration by Richard Butler, the head of UNSCOM, in order to facilitate their bombing, 'Operation Desert Fox', which took place on the eve of President Clinton’s scheduled impeachment. So there is a systematic pattern here of John Kerry falsifying information about Iraq. He must be held accountable for this.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Sam Husseini of the Institute For Public Accuracy. Now, you got a chance to speak to the democratic leader of the House, Congress member Nancy Pelosi, Sam. Where were you when you questioned her?

SAM HUSSEINI: At the National Press Club where our office here in D.C. is located. Occasionally, I’m able to — occasionally luminaries come and speak here, and I’m able to get a question in.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s take a listen to what Nancy Pelosi had to say.

(from a recording)

SAM HUSSEINI: I’m Sam Husseini from I.P.M. Media. Miss Pelosi this is you on “Meet The Press” on November 17, 2002. Quote, Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There’s no question about that. Wasn’t it your job to ask questions about that, and doesn’t that make you a rather weak person in contrast to some of your colleagues in the House, in the democratic House, who did ask those questions, as the Bush administration pushed towards war, that you said, quote, Saddam Hussein certainly has —

NANCY PELOSI: I heard you the first time.

SAM HUSSEINI: — chemical and biological weapons. There’s no question about that.

NANCY PELOSI: That was the evidence — the evidence is that Saddam Hussein has had chemical and biological weapons, and he used them. However, that was when they were asking about nuclear, and I said there was no evidence of any nuclear weapons. In fact — thank you for bringing up this question, because you give me an opportunity to say that as the senior democrat on the Intelligence Committee in the debate leading up to the vote, I said that the intelligence does not support the threat that the administration is putting forth in Iraq, and that while there may be chemical and biological weapons, because they’re rampant in the region, there was no imminent threat that would justify our going to war. We had not exhausted all of our remedies. I also want to announce that my colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, Congresswoman Jane Harmon, the senior democrat, will be making a speech, I think, noon in California to the World Affairs Council there questioning the National Intelligence Estimate and the Intelligence going into the war. But I voted against the war because I said the intelligence did not support the threat. 60% of the House democrats voted against the war. And that is my response to your question.

SAM HUSSEINI: I’d just like to clarify, please, are you still not conceding that this is a false statement, to this day, that Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There’s no question about that? Are you not conceding that’s a false statement?

NANCY PELOSI: The point is, is there an imminent threat to the United States? Is there a nuclear plume? What I was responding to there is that their intelligence did not support the threat, and that while you might concede in the region there was programs to develop chemical and biological, there was no reason to go to war, and we had not. That is my response. You want to ask it three times, that’s up to the audience.

(End of recording.)

AMY GOODMAN: And that was Nancy Pelosi, Congress member from California, speaking to Sam Husseini. Sam, in the context of the New Hampshire Primary and the context of the race for President right now — In the candidates we spoke to, throughout the weekend in New Hampshire, there was a running theme in talking to Congressman Kucinich, for example, and others. They said why impeachment, on the question of, if President Bush was lying, should he be impeached, there is a people’s impeachment which is called voting him out of office.

SAM HUSSEINI: Right. Well, look, I mean, there are a couple of ways to go about this. On the Pelosi thing, what I was trying get to, and part of my question was, she is in a weak position to hold Bush accountable given that she has made false statements. She needs to forthrightly say that the statements that she made were false. And/or the democratic party could easily put in place somebody as its House leader, somebody like Jim McDermott, who did question Bush. He called Bush a liar before the war, as was provably true. You know, I just want to get a little perspective here, Amy. A lot of people say, we haven’t found weapons of mass destruction, therefore we knew Bush was lying. That’s not true. We knew Bush was lying about weapons of mass destruction, and he made various claims that were provably false prior to the beginning of the invasion of Iraq. I think that, you know, if you follow the law and the constitution, including war powers provisions, it’s up to Congress to declare war. No war declaration was made.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain how you knew, when you say that’s not true, you knew before the invasion.

SAM HUSSEINI: Well, people can check out our web page, accuracy.org, and we had made statements talking about a White House pattern of deceit before the war. He made allegations about reports that existed from the I.A.E.A. saying that there would be — that Iraq was capable of nuclear weapons within a six-month period. You turn to the I.A.E.A., and they say that no such report existed. Now, that was tacitly acknowledged in the mainstream media, even. There were occasional “Washington Post” stories, for example, that noted that what some of — I mean, they put it very kindly, that some of his claims are not quite borne out by the facts and so on. But the information was there that showed that Bush was lying about weapons of mass destruction before the war. So, all of these statements put forward by these candidates in late 2002 and early 2003, that if they were reading the “Washington Post,” they knew he was lying.

AMY GOODMAN: Final comments, Sam Husseini.

SAM HUSSEINI: One thing that I think Nancy Pelosi was correct in saying was that the intelligence does not bear out that there was a threat. And I think what Kay is doing, by putting it on the intelligence rather than on the administration, is very dangerous; that in fact what’s going on is that obviously that the Bush administration wanted war. And indeed, Wesley Clark is very interesting in this regard, because he said that on September 11, he got a call — or the day after September 11 — from the administration, somebody saying that you got to pin this on Iraq. So, he knew, in spite of all of his claims, that the administration was driving towards pinning September 11 on Iraq well before things developed as they did. And he refused to do so. He said, look, I don’t have any evidence. So Wesley Clark knew that the administration was wanting to lie well — well before all of the drive towards an invasion of Iraq. So, he can’t claim that he was naive about believing what the administration’s claims were about weapons of mass destruction. All of these people need to be held accountable. What did the candidates know and when did they know it?

AMY GOODMAN: Sam Husseini of the Institute For Public Accuracy. I want to thank you for being with us.

SAM HUSSEINI: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Democracy Now!. Democracynow.org. Stay with us.

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