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Additional Views

Jay Rockefeller takes the president to task for using faulty intelligence in making the case for war. But what did Rockefeller say back in 2002?

8:40 AM, Jul 12, 2004 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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DEVASTATING. CRITICAL. SCATHING. Those are just some of the adjectives used to describe the report on prewar Iraq intelligence by the Senate Intelligence Committee. I'd like to add another: Hilarious.

Okay, not the whole report. But the "additional views" section contributed by the committee's vice chair, Senator Jay Rockefeller (Rockefeller was joined in his view by Senators Carl Levin and Richard Durbin):

The Bush Administration's case against Iraq was largely based on the argument that we knew with certainty that Iraq possessed large quantities of chemical and biological weapons, was aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons, and that an established relationship between Baghdad and al Qaeda would allow for the transfer of these weapons for use against the United States. This national security rationale being put forth publicly by senior administration officials in support of regime change in Iraq was simple, direct and often fundamentally misleading.

Perhaps Rockefeller, et. al. had in mind a categorical argument like this one.

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. And that may happen sooner if he can obtain access to enriched uranium from foreign sources--something that is not that difficult in the current world. We should also remember that we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction . . . But this isn't just a future threat. Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq's enemies and against his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East. . . . [emphasis added]

Thank you, Jay Rockefeller, who spoke those words on October 9, 2002, in explanation of his vote to "authorize the use of force if necessary."

In their recent report, Rockefeller and friends charge the Bush administration with language far too "hyperbolic and urgent." You see, "the qualifications the Intelligence Community placed on what it assessed about Iraq's links to terrorism and alleged weapons of mass destruction programs were spurned by top Bush Administration officials, early casualties in the war with Iraq."

The first example?

The danger to America for the Iraqi regime is grave and growing . . . Delay, indecision, and inaction are not options for America, because they could lead to massive and sudden horror.

(President Bush, radio address, October 5, 2002)

That criticism is awfully hard to square with this line from Rockefeller's floor speech, just four days later: "The president has rightly called Saddam Hussein's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction a grave and gathering threat to Americans."

Among the lines from President Bush singled out in Rockefeller's "additional view" was this one:

And as I have said repeatedly, Saddam Hussein would like nothing more than to use a terrorist network to attack and to kill and leave no fingerprints behind.

(President Bush, remarks with Prime Minister Blair, January 31, 2003)

That argument doesn't sound too different from this one, which Rockefeller included in his impassioned floor speech, delivered four months earlier.

And he could make those weapons available to many terrorist groups which have contact with his government, and those groups could bring those weapons into the U.S. and unleash a devastating attack against our citizens. We cannot know for certain that Saddam will use the weapons of mass destruction he currently possesses, or that he will use them against us. But we do know Saddam has the capability.

Or, for that matter, this one from the same speech:

Some argue it would be totally irrational for Saddam Hussein to initiate an attack against the mainland United States, and they believe he would not do it. But if Saddam thought he could attack America through terrorist proxies and cover the trail back to Baghdad, he might not think it so irrational.

The "additional view" from Rockefeller and friends cites this line from President Bush as an example of Bush administration exaggeration:

Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof--the smoking gun--that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

(President Bush, Speech in Cincinnati, October 7, 2002)

And yet Rockefeller echoed those concerns in his floor speech two days later: