Bush already wanted war: Tenet


Summary

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected as "flat wrong" George Tenet’s assertions that Mr Bush already had plans to invade Iraq and overthrow its dictator.

"In the entire period after the President became president, he was trying to put together an international coalition that could deal with Iraq," Ms Rice said in an interview on CNN.

She said Mr Bush tried a range of options to counter the perceived threat posed by Saddam, from "smart sanctions" to tougher no fly zones and challenging the Iraqi leader before the UN Security Council.

"This was a period of more than a year and a half of trying to find other ways to deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein," she said.

"The idea that the president had made up his mind when he came to office that he was going to go to war against Iraq is just flat wrong," she said.

Mr Tenet, who led the Central Intelligence Agency in the run-up to and after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, said in his book that there was no real debate in the Bush White House about the threat posed by Saddam's regime.

"There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence about the Iraqi threat," he wrote in his memoir At the Center of the Storm .

"Nor was there ever a significant discussion about enhanced containment or the costs and benefits of such an approach versus full-out planning for overt and covert regime change," he said.

Ms Rice strongly contested Mr Tenet's account, saying Mr Bush "met with George almost every day about the Iraqi threat".

Rice dodges question about threat

But she sidestepped a query about whether Mr Bush ever questioned the "imminence" of that threat.

"The question with imminence is not whether someone will strike tomorrow, but whether you're in a stronger position today to deal with the threat, or whether you're going to be in a stronger position tomorrow," she said.

Ms Rice also denied laying the blame on Mr Tenet for the bungled use of intelligence that mistakenly claimed Saddam was actively developing weapons of mass destruction – initially the main Bush justification for going to war.

In his book, Mr Tenet accuses Ms Rice and others of citing his use of the basketball term "slam dunk" – an uncontested shot executed with dramatic flair –during a pre-war White House discussion of the WMD intelligence to justify the decision to go to war.

"I'm sorry that George feels that people are using the 'slam dunk' comment in that way," she said.

"We all thought the intelligence case was strong," she said.

"To the degree that there was an intelligence problem, it was not just an intelligence problem with George Tenet…it was an intelligence problem worldwide," she said.


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected as "flat wrong" George Tenet’s assertions that Mr Bush already had plans to invade Iraq and overthrow its dictator.

"In the entire period after the President became president, he was trying to put together an international coalition that could deal with Iraq," Ms Rice said in an interview on CNN.

She said Mr Bush tried a range of options to counter the perceived threat posed by Saddam, from "smart sanctions" to tougher no fly zones and challenging the Iraqi leader before the UN Security Council.

"This was a period of more than a year and a half of trying to find other ways to deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein," she said.

"The idea that the president had made up his mind when he came to office that he was going to go to war against Iraq is just flat wrong," she said.

Mr Tenet, who led the Central Intelligence Agency in the run-up to and after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, said in his book that there was no real debate in the Bush White House about the threat posed by Saddam's regime.

"There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence about the Iraqi threat," he wrote in his memoir At the Center of the Storm .

"Nor was there ever a significant discussion about enhanced containment or the costs and benefits of such an approach versus full-out planning for overt and covert regime change," he said.

Ms Rice strongly contested Mr Tenet's account, saying Mr Bush "met with George almost every day about the Iraqi threat".

Rice dodges question about threat

But she sidestepped a query about whether Mr Bush ever questioned the "imminence" of that threat.

"The question with imminence is not whether someone will strike tomorrow, but whether you're in a stronger position today to deal with the threat, or whether you're going to be in a stronger position tomorrow," she said.

Ms Rice also denied laying the blame on Mr Tenet for the bungled use of intelligence that mistakenly claimed Saddam was actively developing weapons of mass destruction – initially the main Bush justification for going to war.

In his book, Mr Tenet accuses Ms Rice and others of citing his use of the basketball term "slam dunk" – an uncontested shot executed with dramatic flair –during a pre-war White House discussion of the WMD intelligence to justify the decision to go to war.

"I'm sorry that George feels that people are using the 'slam dunk' comment in that way," she said.

"We all thought the intelligence case was strong," she said.

"To the degree that there was an intelligence problem, it was not just an intelligence problem with George Tenet…it was an intelligence problem worldwide," she said.