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November 11, 2005
Bush Goes Back To Offense On Veterans Day

After months of crescendoing criticism over the intelligence which led to the war, George Bush has finally heard enough. Regardless of whether his relative silence on the subject of pre-war intelligence came from a desire to allow Patrick Fitzgerald a nonpartisan environment in which to investigate the Plame leak or a desire to look forward and not ahead, clearly his political enemies -- not just opponents, but very obviously political enemies -- wanted to do neither. More than 30 months after the fall of Saddam, Bush today reminded the nation that the intelligence from which he operated had not much changed from 1998 when Congress and President Clinton used it to justify an ineffective attack on Saddam Hussein and to declare regime change the official policy of the United States. In fact, the only significant change that did occur was the circumstances in which Bush had to consider the intelligence:

One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The only people twisting intelligence are the ankle-biters who gladly talked up the dangers of Saddam's WMD capability when few took either Saddam or terrorism seriously enough to do anything about it. It made all of the fools who now accuse Bush of "misleading us into war" look like national-security hawks to profess alarm in 1998 about Iraqi stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons for which UN inspectors could not account. Supporting the firing of a few Tomahawks at Saddam's presidential palaces, almost the ultimate in empty American gestures, supposedly gave people like Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden a veneer of credibility for foreign policy, and they gladly relied on that same intelligence that they now claim Bush twisted four years later.

The truth? Thanks to an over-reliance on SIGINT in American intelligence services that declined through the 1990s as we celebrated "peace dividends", the end of the UNSCOM inspections in 1998 meant the end of reliable intelligence on Saddam's WMD programs. As even Hans Blix reported, Iraq had not accounted for thousands of chemical and biological weapons and tons of precursor materials for their creation and deployment by that late date. Saddam thumbed his nose at the international community, which all had the same intelligence analysis: Saddam still had his WMD stocks. Even when Blix returned in early 2003, the only finding he could report was that the Iraqis still wouldn't cooperate with inspectors.

The only change, then, was the circumstances in which we viewed the intelligence, and 9/11 had changed those forever. As Bush told the nation, we could not afford to wait for a threat from a WMD harborer to become imminent. Saddam had over sixteen opportunities in a dozen years to fully cooperate and demonstrate his compliance with UN Security Council resolutions and the cease-fire agreement that kept him in power in 1991. He chose to obstruct, lie, hide, cheat, and violate instead. After 9/11 and given his undeniable connections to terrorists, allowing Saddam to continue in power would have been suicidal -- especially since he had already shown no compunction against using WMD, against the Iranians and on Kurdish civilians in a genocidal attack on his own citizenry.

Now that Saddam has been deposed and the Iraqi people liberated based on the bipartisan support of Congress, based on the exact same intelligence that both parties used to justify their foreign policy goals, Bush's enemies want to somehow rewrite history to make it look like Republicans wrote the reports themselves and misrepresented them to the American public. Put simply, that's not only a lie, but it's political cowardice and it's morally reprehensible. It shows the depths of chicanery to which some Democrats will stoop to regain power, even at the expense of American security and the cost in Iraqi lives.

Those so-called national leaders have turned themselves into national disgraces. Bush finally took the gloves off today and exposed them as such. Perhaps more responsible members of the Democratic Party will take over the leadership of the opposition and stop the Stalinesque revisionism that seems to be the only alternative the Democrats have offered America for the better part of the past three years.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 11, 2005 9:36 PM

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