Not quite right

Geraldine Sealey
April 14, 2004 8:44PM (UTC)

Two more claims from last night's presidential press conference need adjusting:

Libya. We've heard a lot from the president in the last few months about how he got Moammar Qadaffi to abandon his WMD programs in December 2003. He mentioned Libya again last night as proof that at least one world despot had picked up on the lesson Bush taught Saddam. "We've had some success as a result of the decision I took [to invade Iraq]," Bush said last night. "Take Libya, for example. Libya was a nation that had we viewed as a terrorist a nation that sponsored terror, a nation that was dangerous because of weapons. And Colonel Qadaffi made the decision, and rightly so, to disclose and disarm for the good of the world." In his State of the Union address, Bush claimed that Qadaffi abandoned his nuclear program after "nine months of intense negotiations."


Not quite. As Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution wrote weeks ago: "In fact, Libyan representatives offered to surrender WMD programs more than four years ago, in then-secret negotiations with U.S. officials. In May 1999, their offer was officially conveyed to the U.S. government Libya was facing a deepening economic crisis amid disastrous economic policies and mismanagement of oil revenue. Sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the U.S. prevented Libya from importing oil-field technology that would have allowed it to expand oil production. The only way out was to seek rapprochement with Washington. Reinforcing this imperative was Qadaffi's quest for respectability. Fed up with pan-Arabism, he turned to Africa, only to find that old revolutionary allies like Nelson Mandela had become recognized as statesmen. Removing the sanctions and their stigma became his priority."

Then there are the Iraq oil revenues. Asked by ABC News' Terry Moran how he got it so wrong that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the war-ravaged country's reconstruction -- among other never-materialized claims about the war -- the president said that in fact, "the oil revenues are bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time."

Actually, we already know that Iraq's oil revenues are far below what the administration had estimated. As the AP reported last fall: "Wolfowitz told a House panel in March that Iraqi oil revenues could be between $50 billion and $100 billion in the next two years. 'We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon,' Wolfowitz said in testimony March 27, a little more than a week after the war started. Current Pentagon estimates say that Iraq's oil revenue will be about $12 billion to $15 billion next year and around $19 billion in 2005 -- a fraction of Wolfowitz's prewar claim."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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