WMDs

Letter | Faulty analysis led to Iraq War, not lies

February 7, 2014 

Re: Jan. 24 letter from John Parisi, “Who were the real liars as Secretary of State”

Regardless of what one thinks of the war in Iraq, the truth should not be lost as to how the Iraq policy unfolded. Mr. Parisi repeats the false shibboleth that through Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, the Bush administration lied about getting the United States involved in Iraq.

This is untrue according to a report by a Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 and the Robb-Silberman Report a year later. The Robb-Silberman report was a bipartisan report by the Iraq Intelligence Commission, whose chairman was Charles Robb, a Democrat and former Governor and Senator from Virginia, and Laurence Silberman, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

President Bush went to Congress and got the resolution (Public Law 107-243), “Authorization for use of military force against Iraq.” Prior to the resolution the President released a National Intelligence Estimate for Congress to read before making their decision to vote on the resolution. The Senate voted 77-23 and the House voted 296-133 in favor of the resolution. Washington Post writer Dana Priest wrote: “No more then six Senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five page NIE executive summary, according to several Congressional aides responsible for safe guarding the classified material.” Future presidential nominees Sen. H. Clinton and Sen. J. McCain both voted in favor of the resolution. The NIE was the same intelligence that the President used in his decision to use force.

In making Bush's case for the use of force, he used intelligence not only from U.S. sources, but from sources from the governments of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Israel and Russia, who all believed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Then, CIA Director George Tenet, a holdover from the Clinton administration, thought the presence of WMDs in Iraq was a “slam dunk” because of the similar intelligence from so many sources. Some of this intelligence turned out to be wrong, or at least not analyzed correctly, but this doesn't mean that the Bush Administration lied.

In 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee report was unanimously approved and it “did not find any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments.” The bipartisan Robb-Silberman agreed and found similar results when it stated: “no indication that the intelligence community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's WMDs ... no evidence of political pressure to influence the intelligence community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments.”

In 2008 Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. This committee “concluded that the Administration (Bush) made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence. In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even not-existent.” This committee was bipartisan, but only two Republican senators agreed with the findings.

Intelligence doesn't lend itself only to fact, it includes analysis and opinion, in which there can be disagreement. This is obviously what happened with Iraq intelligence, not lying. The Los Angeles Times, certainly no right wing newspaper, sums it up best: “Four years on from the first Senate Intelligence Committee report, war critics old and newfangled, still don't get that a lie is an act of deliberate, not unwitting, deception.”

The writer lives in Murrells Inlet.

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