FACTBOX: U.S. marched to Iraq with inaccurate intelligence

Fri Mar 14, 2008 8:16am EDT

(Reuters) - The Bush administration marched to war with Iraq armed with inaccurate intelligence, mistaken assumptions and extravagant hopes that have cost the United States dearly in blood and treasure.

Following is a series of quotations, statements and subsequent outcomes of some of the main justifications that led the United States to invade Iraq on March 19, 2003:

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

* President George W. Bush, two days before the war's start: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

* Then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in September 2002: "We don't want 'the smoking gun' to be a mushroom cloud."

* Vice President Dick Cheney on August 26, 2002: "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

"Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."

* An October 2002 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate -- representing the consensus views of the American intelligence community -- concludes that Iraq is pursuing a nuclear device, has an active biological weapons program and has resumed making deadly mustard, sarin and VX chemical agents.

* In an exhaustive 2005 review, the blue-ribbon Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction finds that the NIE's conclusions were flat wrong.

"The intelligence community's Iraq assessments were, in short, riddled with errors," the commission concludes.

"The harm done to American credibility by our all too public intelligence failings in Iraq will take years to undo."

CONNECTIONS TO AL QAEDA

* Top Bush administration officials spoke of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda and implied Iraqi involvement in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Cheney said on September 14, 2003: "He (Saddam) had long established ties with al Qaeda."

* But independent bodies, including the September 11 commission, found there had been no collaborative links between Iraq and the militant network before the 2003 invasion.

* In February 2007, a report by the Pentagon inspector general said former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith presented the White House with claims of a "mature symbiotic relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda while ignoring contradictory views from the intelligence community.

THE COST OF WAR

* In September 2002, Lawrence Lindsey, then director of the White House National Economic Council, estimates that war with Iraq could cost between $100 billion and $200 billion.

The Bush administration quickly disputes the assertion, with White House budget director Mitch Daniels calling it "very, very high." Other officials estimate the tab at $50 billion.

* A congressional report released in January 2008 shows Congress has so far set aside $440 billion for the war, plus $21 billion to support Iraqi security forces and $26 billion for diplomatic operations and foreign aid.

THE REJUVENATION OF IRAQ'S OIL INDUSTRY

* In April 2003, Cheney predicts Iraqi oil production could rise to between 2.5 million and 3 million barrels per day by the end of 2003 -- up from around 2 million barrels per day the year before the war began.

Five years later, Iraqi oil production has yet to reach the lower end of Cheney's band.

Baghdad was pumping 2.3 million barrels per day at the start of this year and expects to boost production to between 2.6 million and 2.7 million during 2008, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told Reuters in January.

NO SERIOUS IRAQI RESISTANCE TO U.S. FORCES

* Cheney, on NBC's "Meet the Press" on March 16, 2003: "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

* While violence has fallen significantly since Bush ordered additional U.S. troops to Iraq last year, tens of thousands of Iraqis have died as a result of insurgent and sectarian attacks since the invasion.

According to the human rights group Iraq Body Count, up to 89,300 Iraqi civilians have been killed since 2003. Over the same period, U.S. military deaths have reached nearly 4,000.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Rick Cowan in Washington and Adam Entous in Jerusalem; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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