"The former regime had no formal written strategy or plans for the revival of WMD after the sanctions."
-U.S. weapons inspection report on Iraq, October 2004
We have been flimflammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, suckered, conned and made fools of.
The embarrassment we can live with. The flag-draped caskets of more than 1,000 troops and beheadings of civilian contractors will take some getting used to.
The Bush administration selectively parceled to the public prewar intelligence about Iraq's weapons capability. That's the conclusion drawn since recent reports challenged the motivation behind the policy of pre-emption initiated in Iraq.
A congressional inquiry into the war hoax should be welcomed. Yet, with the election so close, that's as unlikely to happen as an admission of error.
What the administration did may not be a criminal offense; however, the way it has misled the public and sacrificed the lives of our brave troops should at the least be an impeachable one.
What Sen. Patrick Leahy once said of his colleagues' silence over Halliburton's fuzzy math in Iraq applies to the conflict overall. The Vermont Democrat said in June, "This is the same Congress that during the Clinton administration would have five new investigations started by midday Monday, and just add to them all week long. Now they won't hold hearings, no matter what it is ... they just refuse to hold hearings, but of course they should."
Indeed there should be hearings before the election. Wouldn't that make for a real October surprise if Congress showed some bipartisan backbone and got to it right away?
There's no end to the administration's spin. Any contradiction of policy becomes an affirmation.
"Much of the accumulated body of our intelligence was wrong and we must find out why," President Bush said last week as though he were some unaffected party.
The Iraq Survey Group's recent report of Saddam Hussein's weapons program and of post-Saddam Iraq confirms earlier reports. What the public hears now may be new, but it's not new to the White House.
In his book "Plan of Attack," Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward told of a 15-point memo that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presented to the president. "The following is an illustrative list of the types of problems that could result from a conflict with Iraq. It's offered simply as a checklist so that they are part of our deliberations," Woodward wrote, citing the memo.
Among the 15: "There could be higher than expected collateral damage," "Iraq could successfully best the U.S. in public relations and persuade the world that it was a war against Muslims," and "Fortress Baghdad could prove to be long and unpleasant for all."
Later, Rumsfeld would characterize U.S. troops as "fungible." This administration shows a glaring insensitivity as it furthers its foreign-policy objectives.
Scenarios were presented to the president in the classified National Intelligence Estimates. Until recently, the administration kept a tight lid on those findings. But even these were brushed aside.
Of the 2000 National Intelligence Estimate, Woodward wrote, "The CIA had never declared categorically that it believed Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction."
This finding was reconfirmed in weapons' inspector Charles Duelfer's post-Saddam report and in his testimony last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed or distorted those findings, too.
In August 2002, Cheney said, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us."
Simply stated, Cheney was wrong. He has also said, "On the 9-11 question, we've never had confirmation one way or anther."
This ambiguity, often repeated with a knowing glance, led people to believe there was an Osama bin Laden-Saddam link. Yet, the Sept. 11 commission found no evidence of a "cooperative or corroborative relationship." While bin Laden sought Iraq's help in 1994, "Iraq apparently never responded."
Standing before a "Mission Accomplished" banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush spoke of removing "an al-Qaida ally."
He also has said, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida is because there was a relationship."
When it comes to addressing all the dishonesty it's hard to know where to start, to paraphrase Cheney at last week's debate against Sen. John Edwards.
The arrogance of power is so disarming.
After the Senate passed the National Intelligence Reform Bill last week, Sen. Carl Levin said: "Administration statements leading up to the war were unqualified, unconditional and certain. The qualifications and more cautious words in intelligence community reports, estimates and findings on these subjects were ignored."
The Michigan Democrat added, "The intelligence community also shaped the intelligence to reflect and support the certainty of the administration's public statements. The scope and seriousness of this manipulation of intelligence to serve policy goals cannot be overstated. We are paying a heavy price for those distortions."
2004 Knight Ridder