Shocking incompetence -- or worse

By Geraldine Sealey
Published October 5, 2004 2:53PM (EDT)

The New York Times editorial board raises an important point this morning about the implications of the paper's report last Sunday that showed how President Bush's pre-war claim that Saddam Hussein was on the brink of developing a nuclear bomb, based on the theory that Hussein was using aluminum tubes to make nuclear bomb fuel, had already been debunked by experts within the U.S. government and also from the International Atomic Energy Agency before Bush informed the American people of the supposed threat. Either Condoleezza Rice knew the nuke theory was wrong, and not only let Bush scare the American people with it during his State of the Union address but stated it publicly herself -- or she didn't know the available intelligence on this critical issue. And if she didn't, then, why didn't she? Although the buck ultimately stops with Bush, it's clear that Rice -- and Powell and Cheney, too -- failed miserably at their jobs, with great consequence.

From the editorial:

"It's shocking that with all this information readily available, Secretary of State Colin Powell still went before the United Nations to repeat the bogus claims, an appearance that gravely damaged his reputation. It's even more disturbing that Vice President Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, had not only failed to keep the president from misleading the American people, but had also become the chief proponents of the 'mushroom cloud' rhetoric."

"Ms. Rice had access to all the reports debunking the [aluminum tubes to make nukes] theory when she first talked about it publicly in September 2002. Yet last Sunday, Ms. Rice said that while she had been aware of a 'dispute' about the tubes, she had not specifically known what it was about until after she had told the world that Saddam was building the bomb."

"Ms. Rice's spokesman, Sean McCormack, said it was not her job to question intelligence reports or 'to referee disputes in the intelligence community.' But even with that curious job disclaimer, it's no comfort to think that the national security adviser wouldn't have bothered to inform herself about such a major issue before speaking publicly. The national security adviser has no more important responsibility than making sure that the president gets the best advice on life-and-death issues like the war."

"If Ms. Rice did her job and told Mr. Bush how ludicrous the case was for an Iraqi nuclear program, then Mr. Bush terribly misled the public. If not, she should have resigned for allowing her boss to start a war on the basis of bad information and an incompetent analysis."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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