WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The Bush administration's warnings about prewar Iraq, from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's "mushroom cloud" to Vice President Dick Cheney's statements on weapons of mass destruction, were released on Wednesday in a searchable online database.
The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington research group highly critical of U.S. policy in Iraq, put together 935 comments uttered by eight top administration officials including President George W. Bush in the run-up to the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Much of their case for war has since been discredited, in large part because no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were found despite the administration's prewar warnings that Iraq's arsenal presented a threat to its neighbors and U.S. interests.
Bush critics including Democrats in Congress charge the administration hyped its case for war. Republicans maintain that the prewar assertions were simply based on faulty intelligence.
The remarks compiled by the center, totaling about 380,000 words, are largely well-known and range from assertions that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium to build a nuclear weapon, to warnings of a link between Iraq and the al Qaeda militant network blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Center for Public Integrity, which released the database on its Web site at www.publicintegrity.org/WarCard/, said the comments show how Bush and senior administration officials "methodically propagated erroneous information over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001."
One ominous comment came in September 2002, when Rice said in a CNN interview that the United States should not wait for proof of Iraq's nuclear capabilities. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," warned Rice, then Bush's national security adviser.
An analysis of the data showed that Bush made the largest number of comments, at 260, followed by former Secretary of State Colin Powell with 254, the center said.
The administration comments were assembled from a number of sources including news articles and government reports and speeches. (Reporting by David Morgan, Editing by Frances Kerry)