Iraqis can participate in three historic elections, pass the most liberal constitution in the Arab world, and form a unity government despite terrorist attacks and provocations. Yet for some critics of the president, these are minor matters. Like swallows to Capistrano, they keep returning to the same allegations--the president misled the country in order to justify the Iraq war; his administration pressured intelligence agencies to bias their judgments; Saddam Hussein turned out to be no threat since he didn't possess weapons of mass destruction; and helping democracy take root in the Middle East was a postwar rationalization. The problem with these charges is that they are false and can be shown to be so--and yet people continue to believe, and spread, them.
Study after study has shown time and again that the MSM leans to the left, and almost always spins a story to make Republicans look wrong-footed, flummoxed, and outright dishonest, even if the facts do not warrant such descriptions or conclusions. Author Peter Wehner examines each allegation in turn:
The president misled Americans to convince them to go to war. "There is no question [the Bush administration] misled the nation and led us into a quagmire in Iraq," according to Ted Kennedy. Jimmy Carter charged that on Iraq, "President Bush has not been honest with the American people." And Al Gore has said that an "abuse of the truth" characterized the administration's "march to war." These charges are themselves misleading, which explains why no independent body has found them credible. Most of the world was operating from essentially the same set of assumptions regarding Iraq's WMD capabilities. Important assumptions turned out wrong; but mistakenly relying on faulty intelligence is a world apart from lying about it.
Let's review what we know. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is the intelligence community's authoritative written judgment on specific national-security issues. The 2002 NIE provided a key judgment: "Iraq has continued its [WMD] programs in defiance of U.N. resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."
Thanks to the bipartisan Silberman-Robb Commission, which investigated the causes of intelligence failures in the run-up to the war, we now know that the President's Daily Brief (PDB) and the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief "were, if anything, more alarmist and less nuanced than the NIE" (my emphasis). We also know that the intelligence in the PDB was not "markedly different" from that given to Congress. This helps explains why John Kerry, in voting to give the president the authority to use force, said, "I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." It's why Sen. Kennedy said, "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." And it's why Hillary Clinton said in 2002, "In the four years since the inspectors, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability and his nuclear program."
Beyond that, intelligence agencies from around the globe believed Saddam had WMD. Even foreign governments that opposed his removal from power believed Iraq had WMD: Just a few weeks before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Wolfgang Ischinger, German ambassador to the U.S., said, "I think all of our governments believe that Iraq has produced weapons of mass destruction and that we have to assume that they continue to have weapons of mass destruction."
In addition, no serious person would justify a war based on information he knows to be false and which would be shown to be false within months after the war concluded. It is not as if the WMD stockpile question was one that wasn't going to be answered for a century to come.
So everybody on both sides of the aisle basically agreed along with almost every intelligence agency on the planet, that Saddam had these weapons. Even Saddam's leading military advisors believed he had them! Two versions of how he spirited them out of the country in a clandestine secret police operation have appeared in the media. They are either in Syria or somewhere in Lebanon, according to these versions. And there is even evidence that Iraq went to Niger in 1999 to talk over buying yellowcake for a nuke, although Valerie Plame's House Dick named Joe Wilson clubfootedly failed to figure that out, for which services he was made a hero by the paraplegic MSM and quadraplegic ultra-left. Wehner goes on:
The Bush administration pressured intelligence agencies to bias their judgments. Earlier this year, Mr. Gore charged that "CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House . . . found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases." Sen. Kennedy charged that the administration "put pressure on intelligence officers to produce the desired intelligence and analysis."
This myth is shattered by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's bipartisan Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. Among the findings: "The committee did not find any evidence that intelligence analysts changed their judgments as a result of political pressure, altered or produced intelligence products to conform with administration policy, or that anyone even attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to do so." Silberman-Robb concluded the same, finding "no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. . . . Analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments." What the report did find is that intelligence assessments on Iraq were "riddled with errors"; "most of the fundamental errors were made and communicated to policy makers well before the now-infamous NIE of October 2002, and were not corrected in the months between the NIE and the start of the war."
Because weapons of mass destruction stockpiles weren't found, Saddam posed no threat. Howard Dean declared Iraq "was not a danger to the United States." John Murtha asserted, "There was no threat to our national security." Max Cleland put it this way: "Iraq was no threat. We now know that. There are no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear weapons programs." Yet while we did not find stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, what we did find was enough to alarm any sober-minded individual.
Upon his return from Iraq, weapons inspector David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), told the Senate: "I actually think this may be one of those cases where [Iraq under Saddam Hussein] was even more dangerous than we thought." His statement when issuing the ISG progress report said: "We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities" that were part of "deliberate concealment efforts" that should have been declared to the U.N. And, he concluded, "Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction."
Among the key findings of the September 2004 report by Charles Duelfer, who succeeded Mr. Kay as ISG head, are that Saddam was pursuing an aggressive strategy to subvert the Oil for Food Program and to bring down U.N. sanctions through illicit finance and procurement schemes; and that Saddam intended to resume WMD efforts once U.N. sanctions were eliminated. According to Mr. Duelfer, "the guiding theme for WMD was to sustain the intellectual capacity achieved over so many years at such a great cost and to be in a position to produce again with as short a lead time as possible. . . . Virtually no senior Iraqi believed that Saddam had forsaken WMD forever. Evidence suggests that, as resources became available and the constraints of sanctions decayed, there was a direct expansion of activity that would have the effect of supporting future WMD reconstitution."
Beyond this, Saddam's regime was one of the most sadistic and aggressive in modern history. It started a war against Iran and used mustard gas and nerve gas. A decade later Iraq invaded Kuwait. Iraq was a massively destabilizing force in the Middle East; so long as Saddam was in power, rivers of blood were sure to follow.
Of course, no one takes Gore or Kennedy seriously unless their assertions are accompanied by a negative pronoun. But there is a third assertion, that democracy was an afterthought, which has a bit more plausibility as some sort of an add-on to dress up and put lipstick on an otherwise unpretty forceful entry. Here Wehner strains a little:
Promoting democracy in the Middle East is a postwar rationalization. "The president now says that the war is really about the spread of democracy in the Middle East. This effort at after-the-fact justification was only made necessary because the primary rationale was so sadly lacking in fact," according to Nancy Pelosi.
In fact, President Bush argued for democracy taking root in Iraq before the war began. To take just one example, he said in a speech on Feb. 26, 2003: "A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq. . . . The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. . . . A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region."
On second thought, if it comes to a choice between agreeing with Nancy Pelosi and the New York Times, I reluctantly choose the latter:
The following day the New York Times editorialized: "President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. . . . The idea of turning Iraq into a model democracy in the Arab world is one some members of the administration have been discussing for a long time."
Since then, the political commissars on the NYT editorial board have turned to chasing what Wehner calls "urban legends:"
These, then, are the urban legends we must counter, else falsehoods become conventional wisdom. And what a strange world it is: For many antiwar critics, the president is faulted for the war, and he, not the former dictator of Iraq, inspires rage. The liberator rather than the oppressor provokes hatred. It is as if we have stepped through the political looking glass, into a world turned upside down and inside out.
Despite the fall of the USSR and the isolation of out-and-out Communism to reclusive police-states like N. Korea and Cuba, the twisted Marxism editorial board members and journalism school grads were indoctrinated with early in life live on in their one-sided view that America, the most successful economic and military champion of democracy the planet has ever experienced in three millenia, sadly violates all sorts of legalistic and ideological boundaries set up by mandarins of political correctness representing nothing but a failed political philosophy.
And I didn't even mention the UN by name! The Third World lives in the hearts and twisted minds of the LA and NYC nomenklatura.