In my prior posts about the report of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as to “whether public statements regarding Iraq by U.S. government officials were substantiated by intelligence,” I’ve had occasion to quote a number of Senate Democrats whose prewar statements about Iraq mirrored (or were more categorical) than those made by the administration and criticized in hindsight by the Committee report. These Senators — e.g., Rockefeller, Dodd, Kerry, Clinton, and Edwards — had access to the same intelligence cited by the Committee. Based on that intelligence they reached and expressed the same conclusion as the administration regarding WMD and, accordingly, voted to take military action against Iraq.
It’s worth adding, though, that even some Senators who voted against taking military action stated that Iraq possessed WMD. Thus, one of Senator Levin’s reason for voting “no” was his fear that Saddam would use these weapons if we pushed him into a corner. I understand that the U.S. government shared this concern and that this was a principal reason for moving quickly, with a relatively small force and without a prior air campaign, in order to achieve surprise.
Interestingly, Joseph Wilson apparently made the same argument as Levin. Although I haven’t found a live link, there are multiple references on the internet to a Wilson op-ed in the Los Angeles Times of February 6, 2003 called “A Big Cat With Nothing To Lose.” In this piece, Wilson apparently wrote:
There is now no incentive for Hussein to comply with the inspectors or to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction to defend himself if the United States comes after him. And he will use them; we should be under no illusion about that.
In sum, members of both parties read the same intelligence and, whether they agreed with going to war or not, reached the same conclusion — namely that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons and the capacity to obtain nuclear weapons. They reached this conclusion because the intelligence reports pointed overwhelmingly in that direction. For the Senate Intelligence Committee to have pretended otherwise is not only dishonest but will, in the words of Committee members Bond, Chambliss, Hatch, and Burr, have “a damaging effect on [the] Committee’s credibility to oversee our intelligence community.”
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