Ex-CIA analyst condemns Bush 'manipulation campaign' on Iraq


2 hours, 51 minutes ago

MADRID (AFP) - A former Middle East specialist of the US Central Intelligence Agency has condemned what he called an organised campaign of manipulation by the Bush administration to justify the Iraq war.

Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst specialising in counter-terrorism in the Middle East and Asia, said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais that the United States had particularly wanted to prove a link between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

"That was not the case," he was quoted as saying. "I suppose by some definitions that could be called a lie."

"There was an organised campaign of manipulation," El Pais also quoted Pillar as saying. "That would be the proper way to define it."

The decision to invade Iraq was taken as early as the beginning of 2002, a year before hostilities began, Pillar said.

It was decided "for other reasons and did not depend on weapons of mass destruction or the results of United Nations inspections," he said, according to the interview published in Spanish.

"As far as weapons of mass destruction were concerned, there was a generally false perception in the American, British and other intelligence services that Iraq possessed these. We were wrong."

"The problem was the wider message, the attempt to spread the impression that there was a terrorist alliance between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," Pillar was also quoted as saying.

The theory of the link interested the government of President George W. Bush because "it was this that most strongly affected public opinion in the United States, and which would keep alive the images of September 11, 2001.

"The administration's voracious appetite to obtain material about this non-existent alliance cost a great deal of time and work to senior intelligence staff and the most highly experienced analysts in the CIA," Pillar said in the interview.