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If I knew, I may not have called for war on Iraq: Powell
February 03, 2004 22:48 IST
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that if he knew that Iraq had no stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction he may not have recommended a war against Iraq.
However, in an interview to the Washington Post on Monday, he still justified the war in retrospect.
Asked if he would have recommended the invasion if the revelations by former US chief weapons inspector David Kay were made a year ago, Powell said: "I don't know. I don't know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world."
"But... the considered judgement of the intelligence community, represented by George Tenet, and also independently by the United Kingdom and other intelligence agencies, suggested that the stockpiles were there. I can't go back and give you the hypothetical as to what I might have done."
"The absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus. It changes the answer you get, the formula I laid out," he conceded.
"We went into this with the understanding that there was a stockpile and there were weapons, and from my own personal perspective... we went in expecting to be hit with chemical weapons (during first Gulf War of 1991, of which he was commander)," he said.
"We weren't hit with chemical weapons, but we found chemical weapons. And so it wasn't as if this was a figment of someone's imagination. And so what assumption would one make some nine years after the inspectors had been moved? I think the assumption was that there were stockpiles present."
Powell asserted that despite the absence of stockpiles of WMD, to remove which Bush went to war, the military invasion of Iraq was still justified. "I think it was the right thing to do, and I think history will demonstrate that."
"You have to look at the intent and you have to look at capabilities, and two of them together equals a threat," he claimed.
"With respect to the intent, Saddam Hussein and his regime clearly had the intent... that manifested itself many years ago when they actually used such horrible weapons against their enemies in Iran and against their own people," he said.
There are different levels of capability, he argued. "One level is that you have the intellectual ability, you have people who know how to develop such weapons and you keep training such people and you keep them in place and working together."
"And also you keep in place the kind of technical infrastructure, labs and facilities. Did he do that? Yes, he did that."
About Kay's remark that he found no stockpiles of WMDs, Powell said: "He did say, with respect to stockpiles, we were wrong, terribly wrong. But he also came to other conclusions that deal with the intent and with capability, which resulted in a threat the president felt he had to respond to."
"And there is no doubt in my mind that if Iraq had gotten free of the UN constraints and if we had gone through another year of desultory action on the part of the UN, there is no doubt in my mind that intention and capability was married up, and they would have gone to the next level and reproduced these weapons. Why shouldn't they? That was always (Saddam Hussein's) intention."
Asked whether the American public should be reassured that so many intelligence agencies were wrong, Powell replied: "I think it should be reassuring to the voters of the US that we found a regime that has clearly demonstrated intent and clearly had the capability, and that the president had the information from the intelligence community."
Powell added that he had faith in the intelligence analysts, who, he said, gave 'their best advice'.
"I have confidence in the intelligence community," he said. "I've seen them do many things that were absolutely brilliant in their concept and their execution, many things we will never be able to discuss and will never get a headline."