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Where’s the outrage?
President Bush took the country to war based on half-truths and lies

THE MISSING IRAQI weapons of mass destruction — are they in Syria or were they nonexistent to begin with? — do more than illustrate the dangers of applying political pressure to intelligence analysis. The questions still surrounding the weapons of mass destruction and the quality of the intelligence that said they definitely existed also demonstrate the dangers of stifling debate in a democracy.

We’ve known for a while now that two key pieces of "intelligence" cited as evidence of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction were bogus. During his State of the Union speech in January, President Bush dramatically revealed that Hussein had tried to purchase uranium ore from Niger. Less than three months later, when the documents "proving" this assertion were given to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it took the agency "less than a day to determine that the documents had been fabricated," as atomic-energy and intelligence expert Thomas Powers recently wrote. And during his riveting and, to many, persuasive presentation to the United Nations Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell relied on a British intelligence report outlining how Hussein was hiding his weapons-making capabilities. Of course, it was immediately — and most embarrassingly — revealed that large chunks of that British intelligence report were plagiarized from a 2002 article in the Middle East Review of International Affairs.

Even worse than this use of faulty intelligence by politicians seeking public backing for war, however, is what we’re just now learning: that the Bush administration likely pressured intelligence analysts to provide information that would support the president’s political goal of deposing Hussein. In a June 5 dispatch frightening in its implications, Washington Post reporters Walter Pincus and Dana Priest reported that Vice-President Dick Cheney made numerous visits to CIA headquarters over the last year to directly interview intelligence analysts about their information regarding Iraq. The visits created "an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration’s policy objectives, according to senior intelligence officials," Pincus and Priest wrote.

No one can credibly argue today that there was a need for the US to go to war with Iraq when it did. Yes, there was evidence that Hussein had possessed weapons of mass destruction in the past, and yes, he refused to comply with a UN mandate to account for those weapons last winter. But Bush contended that Hussein’s weapons were an imminent threat. Clearly, that was not true. Bush could have waited. He could have — and should have — built a true international coalition. The rush to war was based on faulty intelligence reports quite possibly tainted by political pressure.

We have one question: where’s the outrage?

Every political party in this country, including the Republicans, should be apoplectic about the deception. About what this does to American credibility the next time military action is needed against a rogue country. About the cavalier approach the Bush administration took toward the gravest decision a president can make: sending American troops into battle. About the fact that he sent troops into battle pre-emptively.

The Democratic Party should be shouting about this daily. Why isn’t this an issue with leading Democratic presidential candidates, such as US Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and John Edwards, Congressman Dick Gephardt, and former Vermont governor Howard Dean? As a decorated war veteran, Kerry, in particular, could command the attention of the nation’s dailies by speaking out strongly against White House pressure on intelligence analysts. Yet he hasn’t — and neither has any other leading contender.

It’s fair to note that when Bush asked Congress for a resolution supporting war with Iraq, Congress acquiesced with a vote in favor of the move. Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards, and Gephardt all voted in favor of the resolution. As the New Republic’s Ryan Lizza points out in the magazine’s current issue, this might be one reason why these candidates have been quiet. No one wants to be accused of hypocrisy. Yet speaking out would hardly be hypocritical at this point, given all the questions now surrounding the intelligence upon which these politicians made their decision to support the war. And why Dean, who vociferously opposed the war, hasn’t been making hay with the issue is a mystery. Unless, as Lizza speculates, he doesn’t want to go so far out on a limb that he would look foolish should evidence of weapons of mass destruction eventually turn up. Or, perhaps more likely, none of the candidates wants to be branded a traitor, as have so many who’ve been outspoken against the war.

That the leading contenders from the Democratic Party seem more concerned with the possibility of looking foolish or being called hypocrites than speaking out on what is easily the most important issue of the day is discouraging, to say the least. The party has a reputation for being weak on foreign policy; this is one reason why. Bush and his cohorts in the administration — Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz — are dangerous people. That Bush governs without opposition makes him even more dangerous. We need a loyal opposition in this country. And we need it now.

Let your political leaders know you want answers from Bush on why he rushed this country to war. Senator Kerry can be reached at (617) 565-8519. Senator Ted Kennedy can be contacted at (617) 565-3170. Either senator can be e-mailed by visiting and clicking through to the senators’ Web pages. US Representative Ed Markey can be reached at (781) 396-2900, Stephen Lynch can be reached at (617) 428-2000, Michael Capuano can be reached at (617) 621-6208, and Barney Frank can be reached at (617) 332-3920. Any representative can be e-mailed from

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Issue Date: June 20 - 26, 2003
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