n recent weeks, I have heard former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier on Fox News twice asserting, quite offhandedly, that President George W. Bush “lied us into war in Iraq.”
I found this shocking. I took a leave of absence from the bench in 2004-05 to serve as co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction—a bipartisan body, sometimes referred to as the Robb-Silberman Commission. It was directed in 2004 to evaluate the intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—I am, therefore, keenly aware of both the intelligence provided to President Bush and his reliance on that intelligence as his primary casus belli. It is astonishing to see the “Bush lied” allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.
The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated, in a formal presentation to President Bush and to Congress, its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction—a belief in which the NIE said it held a 90% level of confidence. That is about as certain as the intelligence community gets on any subject.
Recall that the head of the intelligence community, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, famously told the president that the proposition that Iraq possessed WMD was “a slam dunk.” Our WMD commission carefully examined the interrelationships between the Bush administration and the intelligence community and found no indication that anyone in the administration sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings. As our commission reported, presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
You can read it at the link. I happen to remember this, and find it shocking and discouraging that people who were adults at the time can’t recall it. I would also point out that among the western nations, only Israel stated that Saddam did not have WMD’s. Ariel Sharon said it publicly at the time. But one would have to read the Israeli press and assume that Israelis know something about what goes on in the Middle East in order to have taken him seriously. Sharon told the world that the problem was not Iraq, but Iran.
The scapegoating that the Left has employed against GW Bush will bite them really hard someday. This is because it contributed to the general cynicism about government which is ubiquitous today. Don’t get me wrong – Obama is a truly awful president and lies routinely to our faces (remember that red line in Syria? You can keep your health care plan?) but someday we might have a decent president again. And when he or she says we need to do something big, who will believe it?