The tiff that is the [Daily Kos] controversy over whether Obama "caved" to Bush over Iraq War funding, or whether he did not, pales next to the truth over what the Democrats knew about bad intelligence in autumn 2002.
A bad case of historical amnesia has developed, and this diary looks back at op-eds from Senators Graham and Edwards in Nov. 2005 in order to set the record straight.
Senator Bob Graham was Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee when Tenet came to that body to make the case for war against Saddam Hussein in September-October 2002. He described what happened in an op-ed in the Washington Post, What I Knew Before the Invasion:
In February 2002, after a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan, the commanding officer, Gen. Tommy Franks, told me the war was being compromised as specialized personnel and equipment were being shifted from Afghanistan to prepare for the war in Iraq -- a war more than a year away. Even at this early date, the White House was signaling that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was of such urgency that it had priority over the crushing of al Qaeda....
At a meeting of the Senate intelligence committee on Sept. 5, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet was asked what the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) provided as the rationale for a preemptive war in Iraq.... I was stunned when Tenet said that no NIE had been requested by the White House and none had been prepared. Invoking our rarely used senatorial authority, I directed the completion of an NIE.
Tenet objected, saying that his people were too committed to other assignments to analyze Saddam Hussein's capabilities and will to use chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons. We insisted, and three weeks later the community produced a classified NIE.
"We insisted," Sen. Graham tells us. "We." The Senate Intelligence Committee. And it is difficult to believe that others on this committee, if not most in the Senate, did not know about this situation, given the gravity of the pending war vote all knew was coming, sooner or later.
Graham looked at this new NIE, and was troubled:
While slanted toward the conclusion that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction stored or produced at 550 sites, it contained vigorous dissents on key parts of the information, especially by the departments of State and Energy. Particular skepticism was raised about aluminum tubes that were offered as evidence Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. As to Hussein's will to use whatever weapons he might have, the estimate indicated he would not do so unless he was first attacked.
Under questioning, Tenet added that the information in the NIE had not been independently verified by an operative responsible to the United States. In fact, no such person was inside Iraq. Most of the alleged intelligence came from Iraqi exiles or third countries, all of which had an interest in the United States' removing Hussein, by force if necessary.
The American people needed to know these reservations, and I requested that an unclassified, public version of the NIE be prepared. On Oct. 4, Tenet presented a 25-page document titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs." It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed them, avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version.
It's almost humorous, in a dark way, to see Graham still unable to utter the L word: they lied!!
Its conclusions, such as "If Baghdad acquired sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year," underscored the White House's claim that exactly such material was being provided from Africa to Iraq....
Now I had come to question whether the White House was telling the truth -- or even had an interest in knowing the truth.
Now it is evident that others on the intelligence committee had access to this situation, how things were presented and how it developed. Of these, Democratic Senators Levin, Durbin, Wyden, and Mikulski voted againt the war resolution, while Senators Bayh, Daschle, Edwards, Feinstein and Rockefeller voted for it (as did all the GOP Senators on the committee).
But John Edwards, in his own Washington Post op-ed in Nov. 2005, said:
The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.
But how could he not have known? He was on the same intelligence committee and getting the same dubious and manipulated intelligence as Graham.
Sen. Obama doesn't escape blame here, too, in the present, despite his honorable stand opposing the war in 2002. In the USA Today interview that Kos referenced in his piece, Obama repeats the lie that the Democrats were innocent because they got bad information (while the article points out Sen. Clinton purports the same misinformation):
"There are a number of senators who have acknowledged they got bad information or might have made a different decision. What I've tried to suggest is the speech I gave five months before we went to war shows how I think about the problem," he said.
Clinton has refused to repudiate her vote but has criticized the conduct of the war, saying "if we knew then what we know now" she never would have voted as she did.
We need leaders who will tell the complete truth, who are capable of breaking from the war party that rules this country and threatens to take us into World War III. This will now happen until the truth is spoken about how we got where we are.
As the Downing Street Memo told us when it was leaked a few years ago, being a memo from Blair's Foreign Policy Advisor David Manning to key British officials, including the British Defense and Foreign Secretaries, and Attorney-General:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
Let's swift-boat the lie that the Democrats had bad intelligence, once and for all.