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Friday, Jan. 30, 2004 at 1:29 PM
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Several of PNAC's most powerful advocates are now senior members of the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Lewis Libbey, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.
Hearings are needed to root out bad U.S. weapons intelligence
January 28, 2004
Just for a moment, let's give President Bush the benefit of the doubt on his rush to go to war in Iraq. Let's suppose that he was the victim of poor intelligence about the extent of Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction. Let's forget that in the run-up to the conflict he was archly confident that the weapons were present in Iraq and that their existence justified the decision to conduct the United States' first war of pre-emption.
That's important because it seems now that the premise that Saddam possessed a sophisticated arsenal of WMD was badly flawed.
David Kay, the administration's own man on the weapons case, said last week that he concluded the threat from Iraq was overstated. Kay said he thinks that Saddam's ability to develop chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities had been degraded or destroyed by the United Nations' inspection regime put into place at the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991.
In fact, Kay said, it appeared that Saddam's WMD scientists had duped the dictator and, over the years, spent money he supplied for illicit weapons programs in other ways. Apparently, the United Nations Special Commission and its inspectors did not fail in their mission to uncover these weapons. As far as Kay is concerned, they weren't there. His findings appear to vindicate the inspection regime and, indeed, reinforce that it was effective.
Which leads us back to the decision to go to war. How did we come to the conclusion that Saddam was a WMD menace when, in fact, he apparently possessed little or none of the material he was accused of having?
Again, if we assume the president was acting on faulty intelligence, then there obviously is some explaining for the administration to do. There are, after all, more than 500 Americans who have died as a result of the decision to go to war.
If the president made his decision based on the assessments of the Central Intelligence Agency, then those responsible for the WMD estimates need to find a new line of work. Their blunders, if that's the case, have cost us unnecessary deaths and the enmity of nations around the world that believe our doctrine of pre-emption is dangerous and arrogant.
The pre-emption doctrine also sheds some light on the decision to go to war. That line of thinking has its origins in the Project for the New American Century, an ultra-conservative think tank created in the mid-1990s in the aftermath of the Gulf War. (See the organization's Web site at newamericancentury.org.)
One of PNAC's founding principles is that the United States has the right to conduct wars pre-emptively. Early on, PNAC targeted Iraq as a nation that was subject to the doctrine of pre-emption.
Several of PNAC's most powerful advocates are now senior members of the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Lewis Libbey, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. All, including the vice president, long have been advocates for forcefully removing Saddam from power.
PNAC's influence on the administration and its decision-making is obvious.
It seems that Kay's findings now form the basis for an investigation into the intelligence that the president used to justify the war with Iraq. Calls for an independent commission and/or Senate hearings already have been made. Kay is scheduled to appear today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
We are in the midst of the most dangerous period in the nation's history since World War II. If we, as a country, are to understand completely what's expected of us, how our leaders arrived at this momentous point and how they plan to confront the perils ahead, we need all the information that investigations or hearings can provide.
We owe it to the military forces risking their lives each day in Iraq and other places around the world and to ourselves to determine in this election year which direction we want our leadership to take us.
Too much is at stake to do otherwise.
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