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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
CIA undermines propaganda war
CIA director George Tenet with President Bush
Tenet (left) insists he is not at odds with Bush

The CIA Director George Tenet has become the unlikely source of embarrassment to President George W Bush, undermining Mr Bush's warning of catastrophic threats from Saddam Hussein and exposing disagreements within the intelligence world about the nature of the danger.

In a letter to Congress, Mr Tenet said: "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical and biological warfare against the United States."

Mr Tenet says that only if attacked would Iraq use whatever weapons of mass destruction it has.

George Bush said in his Cincinnati speech to the American people: "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Assessing intentions

A central issue here is one of assessing Iraq's intentions. Numerous reports over the past few months have detailed its capabilities, though even some of those are in dispute.

Think tanks have put out several summaries. The British Government added new detail with its own dossier. The CIA has this month joined in with a document of its own.


In the propaganda war preceding military action, government are always prone to casting any threat in the most dramatic possible way.

Mr Tenet's assessment, however, deals more with intentions than with hardware.

And it raises the question whether President Bush has been exaggerating the threat to justify military action.

The president has, for example, made much in his speech of the links that Saddam Hussein has had with "international terrorist groups" and that he and Osama Bin Laden "share a common enemy" (ie the United States).

He suggested that it was but a short step from there to providing such terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

The three Ts

This is known as the threat of the "three Ts" - tyranny, terrorists and technology.

But experts say that Saddam Hussein comes from a different background to Bin Laden. Saddam is a secular revolutionary socialist dictator.


Each of us has a solemn responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure that, when the history of this period is written, the books won't ask why we slept

Donald Rumsfeld
His links with al-Qaeda are tenuous at best and do not seem to exist at senior level.

His support for Palestinian groups is well known and was probably what Mr Bush was referring to. Notorious figures like Abu Nidal (who died in Iraq recently) and Abu Abbas have been given shelter.

But there is no evidence that they would be given weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Bush also suggested that Iraq had developed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and that the United States was "concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAV's for missions targeting the United States".

It is known that Iraq is trying to turn a Czech made trainer the L29 into an UAV but it has a range of only 600 kilometres (370 miles). It could hit American bases in the Middle East but not the United States itself.

Propaganda war

In the propaganda war preceding military action, government are always prone to casting any threat in the most dramatic possible way.

And the Bush administration's reply to claims that it is exaggerating is simple - after 11 September, it cannot take a chance.

The Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has made warnings about Saddam Hussein into a speciality, said to the House Armed Service Committee on 18 September:

"We are on notice - each of us. Each of us has a solemn responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure that, when the history of this period is written, the books won't ask why we slept."

Against such rhetoric, the doubts of some in the intelligence community do not make much headway.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Loyn
"There's a political gap between the sober words of the CIA and President Bush's drum-beating"
The BBC's Roger Hardy
"It suggests an attack on Iraq would provoke the one thing Mr Bush says he's trying to prevent"
IISS's Gary Samore
"The three recent dossiers on Iraq have come to similar conclusions"

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See also:

09 Oct 02 | Middle East
09 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
08 Oct 02 | Americas
08 Oct 02 | Americas
02 Oct 02 | Americas
16 Jun 02 | Middle East
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