Saturday, November 12, 2005

Get Me Rewrite…Again!

You would think that if the president was going to blow a solemn occasion like a Veterans Day speech out of the water by saying that Congress had the same intelligence information he had and that an independent commission had asserted that the White House did not misrepresent that intelligence, he’d be very certain he was telling the truth. Ah, but you would be wrong. According to the Washington Post,

The administration’s overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.

But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

[…]

The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

Even within the Bush administration, not everybody consistently viewed Iraq as what [National Security Advisor Stephen] Hadley called “an enormous threat.” In a news conference in February 2001 in Egypt, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said of the economic sanctions against Hussein’s Iraq: “Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.”

Bush, in his speech Friday, said that “it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.” But in trying to set the record straight, he asserted: “When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support.”

The October 2002 joint resolution authorized the use of force in Iraq, but it did not directly mention the removal of Hussein from power.

The resolution voiced support for diplomatic efforts to enforce “all relevant Security Council resolutions,” and for using the armed forces to enforce the resolutions and defend “against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

It makes it very easy to accuse others of “rewriting history” when you yourself have been doing it all along.