Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank write a piece in the WaPo about the intelligence prior to the vote over Iraq, and come up with the following:
President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.
Neither assertion is wholly accurate.
The administration’s overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements…
In the same speech, Bush asserted that “more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.” Giving a preview of Bush’s speech, Hadley had said that “we all looked at the same intelligence.”
But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President’s Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community’s views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.
In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.
The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.
A sign of the times. It is pretty clear that everyone (with very few exceptions) thought Saddam had WMD, and that everyone was wrong. Not sure what the rest of the fuss is from those on the left, but there is no evidence that Bush ‘lied.’ Unless, of course, if lying is the same as being wrong. In that case, I am a ‘liar,’ too, because I thought he had WMD.
*** Update ***
Andrew actually has a remarkable good take on the whole ‘Bush lied’ bit (which I am posting in its totality because I want to make sure you read it):
LIE: I’m sympathetic to the president’s case that he was not the only one who supported war against Saddam because of the threat of WMDs. The consensus at the time – and it was shared by opponents and supporters of the war – was so overwhelming that Saddam’s WMDs were a premise of everyone’s case, pro and con. Maybe Scott Ritter and Baghdad Bob get a pass on this. But not many others. Nevertheless, all the rest of us were wrong.
Were we lied to? I see no reason yet to believe we were – in the strong sense that deliberate untruths were consciously uttered. Was the post-9/11 atmosphere sufficient to blind many people to the possibility that they might be wrong about this premise? Certainly, that’s the case for me. I wasn’t skeptical enough. I followed the groupthink. I shouldn’t have. It’s also true, I think, that in the effort to ensure that the CIA was doing its job, some around the veep’s office and elsewhere may have seized on materials of dubious, if not discredited, validity. In retrospect, they were not skeptical enough either – and they have a much higher responsibility in this respect than bloggers or even Democrats who do not have full access to the full intelligence.
HIS NO-WIN BOTTOM LINE: But what I’m describing here is a failing, not a sin. It may deserve criticism on the grounds of incompetence, but not, I think, moral condemnation on the grounds of duplicity. The “Bush Lied!” screams are as cheap as they are very hard to substantiate. Moreover, it’s easy to get lulled into the fact after four years of no further atrocities on the mainland that we do not face grave dangers. After 9/11, I give government officials a pass on over-estimating threats to the country. Moreover, I don’t doubt the sincerity of Bush and Cheney in making their case for war on the WMD grounds (although, again, it’s baloney to say that that was the only ground they based their argument on). I’m open to debate on the Niger stuff and the aluminum tubes, but these are not central to the broad WMD case. I’m also open to the argument that the administration could have been more careful in their rhetoric. Talk of mushroom clouds was not exactly conducive to calm debate.
But my bottom line is: These guys made a hard call in perilous times for good reasons. It turns out they were also wrong in one critical respect. That’s the judgment we have to grapple with – and it’s not very emotionally satisfying for either side. Above all, it’s not good for the president. In this debate, Bush has to choose between being called a liar or someone who made a profound, if forgivable, misjudgment in the gravest decision a president ever has to make. That’s no-win. “Hey, guys, I’m not a liar. I just got the intelligence completely wrong, and waged a pre-emptive war partly on the basis of that mistake. Sorry.” Not exactly a strong position.
Oddly enough, I think Bush would have been more easily forgiven by the public if he’d been less defensive about it at the moment the WMD argument collapsed after the invasion. But he refused to acknowledge the obvious, dismissed the embarrassment, tried to change the subject and then just went silent. Once again, he mistook brittleness for strength. These many small decisions not to trust the American people with the full, embarrassing truths about the war has, in the end, undermined trust in the president and therefore support for the war. For that lack of candor, the president is paying dearly. So is the war in Iraq.
I think Andrew hones into one aspect why the Bush lied bit is so pervasive and so satisfying to some- this has been an extremely arrogant administration, and even more so, and extremely arrognat period of Republican rule. Not only have they stripped the minority party of any power, they continue to actively rub their noses in things, ignore any efforts to work in a bi-partisan manner, have passed legislation with Democrats on board and then failed to follow through on the promises they made to get the Democrats aboard, and let jackasses like Rove run around suggesting liberals are traitors and the like. The anger I see, in many cases, is justified. The argument that Bush lied, however, is not.