Iraq truth: Powell defends Bush

A testy US Secretary of State Colin Powell has denied President George Bush "cooked the books" or "murdered" the truth to justify war on Iraq.

    Powell said Iraq was pursuing banned weapons programmes

    In a contentious House of Representatives committee hearing on Wednesday

    ,

    Powell continued the administration

    counter-offensive against claims Bush tailored intelligence to

    take America

     into an unnecessary war.

    More used to a fawning welcome by senior representatives, Powell

    faced several harsh critiques on Iraq, and clashed with outspoken

    New York Democrat Gary Ackerman.

    "Truth is the first casualty of war, I would contend that the

    truth was murdered before a shot was fired," Ackerman told the House

    International Relations panel.

    "This administration lacks credibility with Congress, the

    American people and the international community."

    Controversial UN presentation

    Powell snapped back, "the truth was not murdered Mr Ackerman,

    nobody shaped it, nobody told the intelligence community what to

    say".

    "Truth is the first casualty of war, I would contend that the

    truth was murdered before a shot was fired.

    This administration lacks credibility with Congress, the

    American people and the international community"

    Gary Ackerman,
    Democrat congressman

    He defended his presentation to the United Nations Security

    Council on 5 February last year, which argued that Saddam was

    deceiving UN weapons inspectors and pursuing banned weapons

    programmes.

    "I went into that briefing believing there were stockpiles, that

    there were weapons there, that we expected to find them.

    "It was not a question of we knew nothing was there and we lied

    about it, what we did was we presented the facts that our

    intelligence community provided to us, nothing more nothing less.

    "I did not go before the UN and tell anything but the truth as

    we knew it at the time."

    Intelligence probe

    Powell also defended Bush who

    last week announced an independent probe into

    US intelligence gathering on weapons of mass destruction.

    "I don't think we have anything to be apologetic about and under

    no set of circumstances do I believe that anybody in America should

    think that the president cooked the books or in some way tried to

    mislead them."

    Powell argued that although no weapons of mass destruction had

    yet been discovered in Iraq, there was proof that Saddam Hussein had

    been developing long-range missile systems.

    The former general also uncharacteristically lost his patience, rounding on

    a House of Representatives aide he said was casting doubt on his

    testimony.

    "Are you shaking your head for something young man back there?"

    Powell said, directing his remarks to man at the back of the hearing

    room.

    "Are you part of this proceeding?"

    "It was not a question of we knew nothing was there and we lied about it, what we did was we presented the facts that our

    intelligence community provided to us, nothing more nothing less"

    Colin Powell on his presentation to the UN before the Iraq war

    Bush under pressure

    "I seldom come to a meeting where I am talking to a congressman

    and I have people giving editorial comment by head shakes."

    In a television interview on Sunday, President Bush

    insisted the Iraq invasion was a "war of necessity" amid growing

    signs that the failure to find unconventional weapons has hurt his

    credibility before the November US presidential election.

    He told NBC television that Saddam "had the capacity" to make

    weapons of mass destruction.

    Bush suggested Saddam might have

    destroyed his arsenals, hidden them or transported them to a nearby

    country.

    Democratic Party candidates battling for the right to challenge

    Bush in the general election in November, have accused Bush of

    leading Americans into a quagmire in Iraq, and of hyping the threat

    posed by Saddam Hussein.

    SOURCE: AFP


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