Monday, November 14, 2005

Tricked into War?

A couple of posts back, I made the point that certain senators (Kerry, specifically) who are now claiming that Bush tricked Congress into declaring war on Iraq displayed far less self-righteous skepticism back in 2003 when the majority of Americans were in favor of going to war. I stopped short then, and I stop short now, of saying Kerry et al are merely flip-flopping to stay on the positive side of public opinion, but I think senators who voted to go to war need to accept at least a share of the blame for leading the country into what has become a long and bloody conflict.

Kevin Drum weighs in on this debate in a recent post, enumerating the ways in which the Bush Administration actively manipulated intelligence to make the case for war. Drum makes several good points and links to a TPM Café post that describes how the Bush administration suppressed the Senate’s ability to speak out in opposition to the war. I recommend reading the whole piece, but in case you don’t get around to it, I’ll cut to the punch line.
On October 1, 2002, Tenet produced a declassified NIE. But Graham and Durbin were outraged to find that it omitted the qualifications and countervailing evidence that had characterized the classified version and played up the claims that strengthened the administration's case for war. For instance, the intelligence report cited the much-disputed aluminum tubes as evidence that Saddam "remains intent on acquiring" nuclear weapons. And it claimed, "All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program"--a blatant mischaracterization. Subsequently, the NIE allowed that "some" experts might disagree but insisted that "most" did not, never mentioning that the DOE's expert analysts had determined the tubes were not suitable for a nuclear weapons program. The NIE also said that Iraq had "begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents"--which the DIA report had left pointedly in doubt. Graham demanded that the CIA declassify dissenting portions.
Do reports like these excuse the Senate for signing off on a war that was peddled under false pretenses? No, but they place an even greater share of the accountability for the war onto the Bush Administration.

--Matthew McCoy