Joe Conason's Journal

Americans are now supposed to entrust Republican Sen. Pat Roberts with determining why we were misled to war. That would be easier if he weren't a pliable partisan hack whose tether to reality seems rather badly frayed.


Salon Staff
January 30, 2004 4:50AM (UTC)

Senate intelligence and other illusions
Exposed by David Kay's failure to find banned weapons in Iraq, the White House and its friends on Capitol Hill are busily fabricating new illusions to hide behind. Assisted by Kay himself, the Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee now pretend that the president, the vice president, the national security advisor and the secretaries of state and defense were innocently misled by "bad intelligence" -- as if that canard absolves them of responsibility for declaring that America had no choice except war to disarm Saddam Hussein.

But how can anyone take seriously the conclusions of a committee run by a politician as deluded (or dishonest) as Sen. Pat Roberts? On Sunday, the Kansas Republican turned the phrase "Senate intelligence" into an oxymoron. On CNN's "Late Edition," Wolf Blitzer asked Roberts to respond to Kay's admission that Saddam's legendary chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal had vanished sometime during the past decade. Blitzer wondered aloud whether the Iraqis might, in fact, have told the truth about their vanished arsenal.

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"If, in fact, he didn't have them," Roberts replied, "why on earth didn't he let the U.N. inspectors in and avoid the war? That is a real puzzlement to me." Assuming that he isn't just a bold liar, Roberts must be the type who finds himself dazed and confused by events that simply never happened. Does his ludicrous revision of recent history sound familiar? It's the same bizarre falsehood uttered by the president on Tuesday afternoon. For some reason, Blitzer allowed it to pass without comment.

Now Americans are supposed to entrust Roberts with determining how and why we were misled to war. We are asked to accept his judgment about the comparative culpability of the CIA, the White House, and the highest officials of the Bush administration. That would be easier if he weren't a pliable partisan hack whose tether to reality seems rather badly frayed.

Anyone who prefers confronting realities instead of concealing them can consult this catalog of references compiled by the Center for American Progress -- which lays out evidence that the White House distorted intelligence to suit the invasion agenda. The Bush administration was repeatedly warned by CIA, Defense Department and State Department intelligence analysts, by U.N. agencies, and also by some foreign intelligence services that the data on Iraq was questionable at best. Administration officials were warned repeatedly that they were wildly exaggerating the scant evidence of a renewed nuclear weapons program. They were told that the mobile weapons labs were no such thing; that the unmanned aerial vehicles weren't weapons; that the aluminum tubes weren't designed for enriching uranium; that the Niger uranium tale was a forgery and a hoax; and that there was no proof of Iraqi connections with al-Qaida.

Would we have gone to war if the nation's highest officials had told the truth? Would war have been justified to extirpate "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities"? Perhaps someday the president and his crew will address those questions.
[3:30 p.m. PST, Jan. 29, 2004]

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