Fred Hiatt's recent column about Senator Rockefeller's investigation into President Bush's alleged lies about pre-war intelligence on Iraq should be plastered around the blogosphere. Despite the Democrat senator's intentions and proclamations, his committee report appears to be a thorough and compelling defense of the President.
On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."
On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."
On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."
On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."
And so on for quite a ways. In 2002, even the honorable senator from West Virginia believed these very same intelligence reports.
After all, it was not Bush, but Rockefeller, who said in October 2002: "There has been some debate over how 'imminent' a threat Iraq poses. I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat. I also believe after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated. . . . To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? I do not think we can."
The real disgrace is how very wrong some of these intelligence reports turned out to be. We may never know how close the ties were between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, or whether Hussein believed his scientists were working on WMD, or even whether Iraqi WMDs were moved to Syria in the run-up to the invasion. But it's crystal clear that American intelligence agencies bungled their job horribly and were never held to account.
Given what we know now, I would still have favored the invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- though with our present hindsight we could have administered it better. But even those who opposed and still oppose the war must eventually admit that it wasn't instigated as a grand hoax on the American people by an oil-crazed idiot-savant, but that the decision was in fact based on the best information available at the time.