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Not the Same Intelligence, Not the Same Will to War

November 13th, 2005

Here’s a whopper that Bush has been serving up lately:

“… more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate — who had access to the same intelligence [as the White House] — voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.”

The two major lies in that statement: that the Democrats in the Senate had the same intel, and that they approved of the war. The first is an outright lie: they did not have the same intelligence. They had, for the most part, the intelligence that the White House provided them, which is by far not the same thing. One case in point is a story that came out just a few days after the Iraq Resolution was passed in Congress. It turns out that 12 days earlier, North Korea had admitted to having a nuclear weapons program. This intelligence, which may have strongly influenced the votes of members of Congress, was deliberately withheld by the White House; the Democrats in Congress did not have that same intel, and this was known right from the outset.

Another example that has been pointed out more recently is that the Bush administration had access to information that said their intel was not as solid as they were telling Congress; that caveats and reports of sources who were probably fabricating their claims were being withheld. One very specific case in point was the fact that the administration knew that one of their informants, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was probably lying; this intel was not shared with Democrats at the time, and the information that the administration knew was probably false was used by them to bolster their calls for war.

Yet another example is the perspective we have with the Downing Street Memos, which stated that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” This again demonstrates that the quality of intelligence coming into the Bush administration varied greatly from the quality of intelligence going from the administration to the Congress.

The second lie is a bit trickier: it’s one of those lies which is literally true, but clearly implies something which is completely false. Yes, Democrats did vote for the war resolution. But that’s not Bush’s point: by mentioning this, he is saying that Democrats were in complete agreement with him in going to war. And that is completely untrue.

On October 7, 2002, Bush stated that:

“I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America’s military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.”

Bush was making clear that he was not on a rush to war, and that he was seeking the joint resolution from Congress only so as to use it to pressure Hussein to open up to inspections so we could disarm him, and that war was a last resort. This promise was also made clear in a speech by John Kerry just a few days before the October 2002 vote:

“Let there be no doubt or confusion: I will support a multilateral effort to disarm [Hussein] by force, if we ever exhaust those other options as the president has promised. But I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible.”

Here’s what it boils down to: what the Democrats agreed to was not for Bush to rush to war as he did, but rather to give Bush the authority necessary to pressure Iraq into cooperating, and to go to war only as a last resort–a promise which Bush clearly did not follow. So to say now that Democrats were behind him is, to put it bluntly, a bald-faced lie.

The weasel about how Democrats voted for the war also works along the lines of “Clinton / the U.N. / everybody believed that Saddam Hussein had WMD.” As I have pointed out before, this statement, while literally true, is egregiously misleading. Yes, others believed that Hussein had WMD; however, few if any believed that he had “massive stockpiles,” or that he had a nuclear weapon or was close to getting one, or that he was anywhere near enough of a threat so as to do anything more than continue sanctions.

Bush has demonstrated a long-standing predilection for spinning this kind of lie, subtly using true statements to create an absolutely false impression.

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