by John Hawkins | November 21, 2005 3:59 pm
“What is not legitimate — and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible — is the suggestion by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence.
Some of the most irresponsible comments have come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence materials. They are known to have a high opinion of their own analytical capabilities. (Laughter.) And they were free to reach their own judgments based upon the evidence. They concluded, as the President and I had concluded, and as the previous administration had concluded, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. Available intelligence indicated that the dictator of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and this judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of many other nations, according to the bipartisan Silberman-Robb Commission. All of us understood, as well, that for more than a decade, the U.N. Security Council had demanded that Saddam Hussein make a full accounting of his weapons programs. The burden of proof was entirely on the dictator of Iraq — not on the U.N. or the United States or anyone else. And he repeatedly refused to comply throughout the course of the decade.
Permit me to burden you with a bit more history: In August of 1998, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution urging President Clinton take “appropriate action” to compel Saddam to come into compliance with his obligations to the Security Council. Not a single senator voted no. Two months later, in October of ’98 — again, without a single dissenting vote in the United States Senate — the Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act. It explicitly adopted as American policy supporting efforts to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime from power and promoting an Iraqi democracy in its place. And just two months after signing the Iraq Liberation law, President Clinton ordered that Iraq be bombed in an effort to destroy facilities that he believed were connected to Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
By the time Congress voted to authorize force in late 2002, there was broad-based, bipartisan agreement that the time had come to enforce the legitimate demands of the international community. And our thinking was informed by what had happened to our country on the morning of September 11th, 2001. As the prime target of terrorists who have shown an ability to hit America and who wish to do so in spectacular fashion, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep terrible weapons out of the hands of these enemies. And we must hold to account regimes that could supply those weapons to terrorists in defiance of the civilized world. As the President has said, “Terrorists and terror states do not reveal … threats with fair notice, in formal declarations — and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide.”
In a post-9/11 world, the President and Congress of the United States declined to trust the word of a dictator who had a history of weapons of mass destruction programs, who actually used weapons of mass destruction against innocent civilians in his own country, who tried to assassinate a former President of the United States, who was routinely shooting at allied pilots trying to enforce no fly zones, who had excluded weapons inspectors, who had defied the demands of the international community, whose regime had been designated an official state sponsor of terror, and who had committed mass murder. Those are the facts.
Although our coalition has not found WMD stockpiles in Iraq, I repeat that we never had the burden of proof; Saddam Hussein did. We operated on the best available intelligence, gathered over a period of years from within a totalitarian society ruled by fear and secret police. We also had the experience of the first Gulf War — when the intelligence community had seriously underestimated the extent and progress Saddam had made toward developing nuclear weapons.
Finally, according to the Duelfer report, Saddam Hussein wanted to preserve the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction when sanctions were lifted. And we now know that the sanctions regime had lost its effectiveness and been totally undermined by Saddam Hussein’s successful effort to corrupt the Oil for Food program.
The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight, but any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false. Senator John McCain put it best: “It is a lie to say that the President lied to the American people.”
American soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq go out every day into some of the most dangerous and unpredictable conditions. Meanwhile, back in the United States, a few politicians are suggesting these brave Americans were sent into battle for a deliberate falsehood. This is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety. It has no place anywhere in American politics, much less in the United States Senate.” — Dick Cheney
Cheney’s speech was superb and there was a lot of good material that wasn’t quoted in this excerpt. So, if you want to read the whole thing.
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