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Who’s Lying?

November 10, 2005

Norman Podhoretz has an a very strong piece refuting the "Bush lied" wing of the Democratic party. Read it all, including the footnote about Joe Wilson.

The best refutation I have seen of this kind of piece, of which there have been many lately, is (as usual) by David Corn. He follows up with a challenging report on Ahmad Chalabi. I urge you all to read them both, and judge who has the better argument.

Corn throws out a few of the older comments from the early 1990’s as too early to be relevant. Fair enough. Then he makes what I believe is the heart of his argument:

But, yes, some Democrats did plainly say in the run-up to the war that
Iraq possessed WMDs. This doesn’t matter. Few, if any of them,
advocated going to war in March 2003 on the basis of whatever
intelligence they had seen
(or heard of). At that time, the inspections
process was still under way–and, as is now clear, succeeding–and
leading Democrats tended to support the give-inspections-a-chance

Instead of arguing that Bush lied, Democrats should be making arguments like these. It’s honest, it fits the facts, and avoids the corrosive personal attacks on the President, all of which only serve to divide the country and intensify political differences. It also has the further benefit of not admitting they’ve been duped by a man they have berated as stupid for the past several years.

To be clear: Bush didn’t lie, and the Democrats weren’t duped. They simply looked at the evidence of WMD, which was overwhelming, and made a decision to take military action. Now that there has been no WMD found, they feel they made a bad decision. Rather than take responsibility for it, they’ve chosen to blame the President.

Corn confidently says that the "inspections were working". But they
only reason he is able to say that is because our military currently
occupies Iraq. Without that convenience, we would still be in the
position of having to prove a negative. That means we would most likely
believe that Iraq possessed some form of WMD. And the Democrats, 9/11 a
receeding memory, would be cool with that.

But here’s what they were saying then:

But the consensus on which Bush relied was not born in his own administration. In fact, it was first fully formed in the Clinton administration. Here is Clinton himself, speaking in 1998:

If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction program.

Here is his Secretary of State Madeline Albright, also speaking in 1998:

Iraq is a long way from [the USA], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.

Here is Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, who chimed in at the same time with this flat-out assertion about Saddam:

He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.

Finally, Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, was so sure Saddam had stockpiles of WMD that he remained “absolutely convinced” of it even after our failure to find them in the wake of the invasion in March 2003.

Nor did leading Democrats in Congress entertain any doubts on this score. A few months after Clinton and his people made the statements I have just quoted, a group of Democratic Senators, including such liberals as Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, and John Kerry, urged the President

to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.

Nancy Pelosi, the future leader of the Democrats in the House, and then a member of the House Intelligence Committee, added her voice to the chorus:

Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons-of-mass-destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.

This Democratic drumbeat continued and even intensified when Bush succeeded Clinton in 2001, and it featured many who would later pretend to have been deceived by the Bush White House. In a letter to the new President, a number of Senators led by Bob Graham declared:

There is no doubt that . . . Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical, and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.

Senator Carl Levin also reaffirmed for Bush’s benefit what he had told Clinton some years earlier:

Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations, and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed, speaking in October 2002:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical- and biological-weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed as well:

There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.

Even more striking were the sentiments of Bush’s opponents in his two campaigns for the presidency. Thus Al Gore in September 2002:

We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.

And here is Gore again, in that same year:

Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.

Now to John Kerry, also speaking in 2002:

I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force—if necessary—to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.

This is the Democrats testimony to the strength of the evidence that Iraq had WMD’s. And now they wish they had done nothing.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. FecesFlinger (Timmy C) permalink
    January 8, 2006 10:51 pm


    You wrote:

    “To be clear: Bush didn’t lie, and the Democrats weren’t duped.”

    A non-rhetorical question: Help me understand how this this is not a lie?

    “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq’s neighbors and against Iraq’s people.”

    My thesis is that “no doubt” actually means “no doubt” — when in reality there was a great deal of doubt inside the intelligence communities of both ours and other nations.

    And the President knew this, and yet in the most important part of one of the most important speeches to the nation, delivered 3 days before the invasion, he told us there was “no doubt.”

    Relating to the “Democrats weren’t duped” part…There is a lot of evidence highlighted over at the ThinkProgress blog about the distinct difference between what the Whitehouse administration knew and what was told to Congress….And it wasn’t insignificant…

    Hope I’m not too much of a gadfly (or fecesflinger) around here, just want to offer more detail on how and why some of us see things differently…


    (Timmy C)

  2. Rufus T. Flinger (Timmy C) permalink
    February 10, 2006 12:35 pm

    Slightly off this topic, but just today more info on pre-war doubts by the CIA on the case for war…and on the lack of pre-war planning.

    I think this is important not because of it’s content — which Iraq war critics have said for a while — but for who is saying it.

    Paul R. Pillar spent “28 years at the CIA, was an influential behind-the-scenes player and was considered the agency’s leading counterterrorism analyst. By the end of his career, he was responsible for coordinating assessments on Iraq from all 15 agencies in the intelligence community.”

    [Pillar]accused the Bush administration of “cherry-picking” intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein….

    The Bush administration, Pillar wrote, “repeatedly called on the intelligence community to uncover more material that would contribute to the case for war,” including information on the “supposed connection” between Hussein and al Qaeda, which analysts had discounted…

    They thus knew, he wrote, that senior policymakers “would frown on or ignore analysis that called into question a decision to go to war and welcome analysis that supported such a decision. . . . [They] felt a strong wind consistently blowing in one direction. The desire to bend with such a wind is natural and strong, even if unconscious.”

    Pillar wrote that the prewar intelligence asserted Hussein’s “weapons capacities,” but he said the “broad view” within the United States and overseas “was that Saddam was being kept ‘in his box’ ” by U.N. sanctions, and that the best way to deal with him was through “an aggressive inspections program to supplement sanctions already in place.

    “If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication,” Pillar wrote, “it was to avoid war — or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath.

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