White House Iraq Group

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A UN weapons inspector in Iraq.

The White House Iraq Group (aka, White House Information Group or WHIG) was the propaganda arm of the White House whose purpose was to sell the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the public. The task force was set up in August 2002 by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and chaired by Karl Rove to coordinate all the executive branch elements in the run-up to the war in Iraq. One example of the WHIG's functions and influence is the "escalation of rhetoric about the danger that Iraq posed to the U.S., including the introduction of the term 'mushroom cloud'"[1].

The 1967 White House Information Group under President Lyndon B. Johnson was similar in name and function.

"Up to the Invasion"[edit]

Soon after WHIG was formed, the Bush Administration's claims about the danger Iraq posed escalated significantly:

  • July 23, 2002: The Downing Street Memo was written, in which British intelligence said "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
  • August, 2002: White House Iraq Group formed.
  • September 5, 2002: In a WHIG meeting, chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson proposes the use of a "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" metaphor to sell the American public on the supposed nuclear dangers posed by Saddam Hussein. According to Newsweek columnist Michael Isikoff, "The original plan had been to place it in an upcoming presidential speech, but WHIG members fancied it so much that when the Times reporters contacted the White House to talk about their upcoming piece [about aluminum tubes], one of them leaked Gerson's phrase — and the administration would soon make maximum use of it." (Hubris, p. 35.)[2]
  • September 6, 2002: In an interview with the New York Times, Andrew Card did not mention the WHIG specifically but hinted at its mission: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." On September 17, 2002, Matt Miller stated on NPR that the above quote from Andrew Card was in response to the question: "... why the administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on military action against Iraq" [3]
  • September 7, 2002: Judith Miller of The New York Times reports Bush administration officials said "In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."[4] In fact, many government officials had concluded the tubes were unsuitable for uranium refinement.
  • September 7-8, 2002: President Bush and nearly all his top advisers blanketed the airwaves, talking about the dangers posed by Iraq.[5]
    • On NBC's "Meet the Press," Vice President Richard Cheney cited the New York Times article, and accused Saddam of moving aggressively to develop nuclear weapons over the past fourteen months to add to his stockpile of chemical and biological arms.
    • On CNN, Condi Rice acknowledged that "there will always be some uncertainty" in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon but said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
    • On CBS, President Bush said U.N. weapons inspectors, before they were denied access to Iraq in 1998, concluded that Saddam was "six months away from developing a weapon." He also cited satellite photos released by a U.N. agency Friday that show unexplained construction at Iraq sites that weapons inspectors once visited to search for evidence Saddam was trying to develop nuclear arms. "I don't know what more evidence we need," Bush said.
  • October 14, 2002: President Bush says of Saddam "This is a man that we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army." [6]
  • January 21, 2003: Bush says of Saddam "He has weapons of mass destruction -- the world's deadliest weapons -- which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies." [7]
  • February 5, 2003: Colin Powell addresses the United Nations, asserting that there was "no doubt in my mind" that Saddam was working to obtain key components to produce nuclear weapons.
  • March 19, 2003: The U.S. invades Iraq.

Members[edit]

The members of the White House Iraq Group include: [8][9][10]

Response to Yellowcake Forgery Issue[edit]

In response to the Yellowcake forgery issue, the White House Iraq Group devised this strategy[11] to combat critics:

"There is a strategy now, devised by White House communications director Dan Bartlett, Mary Matalin, a former aide to Vice President Cheney, and former Bush aide Karen Hughes. Both advise the White House as a consultants to the Republican National Committee.

The plan: Release all relevant information. Try to shift attention back to Bush's leadership in the war on terrorism. Diminish the significance of that single piece of iffy intelligence by making the case that Saddam was a threat for many other reasons. Put Republican lawmakers and other Bush allies on TV to defend him.

Most important: Question the motives of Democrats who supported the war but now are criticizing the president."

From British Report:

From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.

d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made,and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

CIA leak scandal[edit]

Records and notes of White House Iraq Group activities were subpoenaed by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald as part of the investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

References[edit]

External links[edit]