The White House has acknowledged for the first time that a key moment in post-war Iraq, the declaration by George Bush that “we have found the weapons of mass destruction”, was based on intelligence known in Washington to be false.
The president’s assertion on May 29 2003 that Saddam Hussein’s arsenal had been located was based on the capture of two trailers claimed to be mobile biological warfare labs. In Mr Bush’s TV interview that day, and for months afterwards, US officials used them to justify the invasion.
However, the Washington Post yesterday reported that the Pentagon had sent nine US and British weapons experts to Iraq to examine the trailers, who concluded they had nothing to do with biological weapons, and transmitted their finding to Washington on May 27 2003.
In response to the paper, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, yesterday admitted Mr Bush had used false information but said he had been unaware of the fact, and called the reporting “irresponsible”. “The president’s comments were based on intelligence assessments by the CIA and briefing by the intelligence community,” he said. “It’s not something that turns round on a dime.” However, by September 2003 vice-president Dick Cheney was still saying the trailers could have been used to make anthrax.