By Randall Mikkelsen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush and his top policymakers misstated Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism and ignored doubts among intelligence agencies about Iraq's arms programs as they made a case for war, the Senate intelligence committee reported on Thursday.
The report shows an administration that "led the nation to war on false premises," said the committee's Democratic Chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia. Several Republicans on the committee protested its findings as a "partisan exercise."
The committee studied major speeches by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials in advance of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and compared key assertions with intelligence available at the time.
Statements that Iraq had a partnership with al Qaeda were wrong and unsupported by intelligence, the report said.
It said that Bush's and Cheney's assertions that Saddam was prepared to arm terrorist groups with weapons of mass destruction for attacks on the United States contradicted available intelligence.
Such assertions had a strong resonance with a U.S. public, still reeling after al Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Polls showed that many Americans believed Iraq played a role in the attacks, even long after Bush acknowledged in September 2003 that there was no evidence Saddam was involved.
The report also said administration prewar statements on Iraq's weapons programs were backed up in most cases by available U.S. intelligence, but officials failed to reflect internal debate over those findings, which proved wrong."