"There was a risk -- a real risk -- that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks," Bush said. "In the world after September 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take."
Supporters rallied around the administration, which has suffered a string of setbacks recently with revelations that the CIA had warned the White House about the strength of Iraqi insurgents, and from former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer, who said this week that the United States should have put more troops in Iraq during the invasion.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John R. Warner (R-Va.) listens to testimony from Charles A. Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group.
(Evan Vucci -- AP)
MSNBC Video: The Post's Dana Priest talks about details of Saddam Hussein's personality contained in the report.
AP Report: The top U.S. arms inspector said Wednesday he found no evidence that Iraq produced any weapons of mass destruction after 1991.
_____Today's Post Coverage_____
Hussein Used Oil to Dilute Sanctions (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
War's Rationales Are Undermined One More Time (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
A Leader With an Eye on His Legacy (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
Inspector Is Known as Tough, Thorough (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
Timing of Report Called Inspector's Decision (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said: "We didn't have to find plans or weapons to see what happened when Saddam Hussein used chemical and biological weapons on his own people. So just because we can't find them and Saddam Hussein had 12 years to hide them doesn't mean he didn't have them and didn't use them."
But Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said the report showed U.N. inspections and sanctions had worked in preventing Hussein from pursuing his weapons ambitions. "Despite the effort to focus on Saddam's desires and intentions, the bottom line is Iraq did not have either weapons stockpiles or active production capabilities at the time of the war."
Duelfer's report contradicted a number of specific claims administration officials made before the war.
It found, for example, that Iraq's "crash" program in 1991 to build a nuclear weapon before the Persian Gulf War was far from successful, and was nowhere near being months away from producing a weapon, as the administration asserted. Only micrograms of enriched uranium were produced and no weapon design was completed. The CIA and administration officials have said they were surprised by the advanced state of Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear program, which was discovered after the war, and therefore were more prone to overestimate Iraq's capability when solid proof was unavailable.
There also was no evidence that Iraq possessed or was developing a mobile biological weapons production system, an assertion Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and others made before the invasion. The two trailers that were found in early 2003 were "almost certainly designed and built . . . exclusively for the generation of hydrogen" gas.
Duelfer also found no information to support allegations that Iraq sought uranium from Africa or any other country after 1991, as Bush once asserted in a major speech before the invasion. The only two contacts with Niger that were discovered were an invitation to the president of Niger to visit Baghdad, and a visit to Baghdad by a Niger minister in 2001 seeking petroleum products for cash. There was one offer to Iraq of "yellowcake" uranium, and that was from a Ugandan businessman offering uranium from Congo. The deal was turned down, and the Ugandan was told that Baghdad was not interested because of the sanctions.
Despite the U.S. intelligence judgment that Iraq in 2002 had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program, Duelfer reported that after 1991, Baghdad's nuclear program had "progressively decayed." He added that the Iraq Survey Group investigators had found no evidence "to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program."
There was an attempt to keep nuclear scientists together and two scientists were discovered to have saved documents and technology related to the uranium enrichment program, but they appeared to be the exception.
Although some steps were taken that could have helped restart the nuclear program, using oil-for-food money, Duelfer concluded that his team "uncovered no indication that Iraq had resumed fissile material or nuclear weapons research and development activities since 1991."
Duelfer's report is the first U.S. intelligence assessment to state flatly that Iraq had secretly destroyed its biological weapons stocks in the early 1990s. By 1995, though, and under U.N. pressure, it abandoned its efforts.
The document rules out the possibility that biological weapons might have been hidden, or perhaps smuggled into another country, and it finds no evidence of secret biological laboratories or ongoing research that could be firmly linked to a weapons program.
Some biological "seed stocks" -- frozen samples of relatively common microbes such as bolutinum -- were found in the home of one Iraqi official last year. But the survey team said Iraq had "probably" destroyed any bulk quantities of germs it had at the height of the program in the late 1980s and early 1990s.