Memo To: Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D WV]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: You’re Getting Warm, Senator
You were the talk of the Sunday talk shows, Senator, after you told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that you would not have voted for the war resolution last fall if you knew then what you know now. As the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, you are now getting close to pay dirt on what has been going on all this time. You seem to finally realize the decision to go to war with Iraq was made in the Oval Office long before the President asked for your support with that war resolution only if diplomacy failed in the effort to disarm Saddam’s regime. You were fooled, Senator, but so was I. Until the last minute, I could not believe the President would decide to have a nice little war when diplomacy was clearly working via the United Nations Security Council and its teams of weapons inspectors.
In your interview Sunday, you wondered how the subject keeps changing as fast as it does, from weapons of mass destruction to the reconstruction of Iraq. You need wonder no longer, Senator. Partisan politics is involved, with the 2004 national elections upon us. Republicans know the President has been caught with his pants down, to coin a phrase, so they are doing everything they can to change the subject. You need only check out the views of your GOP colleague, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, chairman of Foreign Relations. I’ve always liked Lugar, a nice soft-spoken fellow who seems to respect the views of others.
One of the reasons I thought war would be avoided last March was that Lugar seemed to have his own head screwed on right, still leaning toward UN inspections to finish the disarmament job. I should have known he would not have the brass needed to stand up to the President. He would have had to tell Mr. Bush he was going to make a grave mistake and it would have to be without his support. What is Lugar saying now?: We had to go to war, because “Saddam was defying the United Nations!” Of course he was doing no such thing, which is why the UN Security Council refused to join in a war it could see had been planned without regard to Saddam's compliance, which was total.
If Republicans now talk fast enough, they can hope people will forget these blunders made by the White House -- which makes them complicit if they did not have the brass to stand up to the President at the time. The whole point of this discussion, as far as I am concerned, is not to embarrass the President or Dick Lugar or you for your vote for war. My hope is that this kind of war never, ever happens again as a result of the President of the United States shooting from the hip with no checks and balances from the Congress. We’ve all known that George W. Bush was a neophyte on foreign policy and national security. If you think back, you may realize yourself you only went along with the war because you thought there were grownups around the President, people who you have known for a long time like Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and the President's father and Brent Scowcroft. Senator, I thought so too. But in this new unipolar world, the United States really does have to put these kinds of questions of war or peace to our own friends and allies at the United Nations. Even to old adversaries at the UN Security Council, like Russia and China.
As long as nobody with real power is willing to stand up and say the Rookie Emperor is buck naked, the whole world of people will be left with the impression that this is the way it is going to be with the USA, from now on. Shoot first and CYA later. The fact is, Dick Lugar has a bad, bad memory when he says Saddam had defied the United Nations. Quite the opposite, Saddam was practically begging the USA to send George Tenet and his CIA minions to come and look under every rock for a sign of WMD. There was no “defiance,” certainly not this year, not really since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. It was as plain to me as could be that Don Rumsfeld and his sidekick, Paul Wolfowitz, and “that group” as you called them, planned war with Iraq from the moment they took their Pentagon desks. The last thing they wanted was a congressional resolution to require the President to first go through the motions at the United Nations. Your former GOP colleague, Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, told his friends at FoxNewsSunday in the summer of 2002 that his “worst fear” was another round of UN arms inspections. He was of course part of “that group” of warhawks committed to the nice little war they envisioned.
You are breathing down their necks, Senator, getting warmer all the time, close to making the case for a different kind of permanent relationship between the United States and the rest of the world. Keep at it, please. It will be an ugly 21st century if you and others with the means to change directions fail.
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MR. RUSSERT: Senator Rockefeller, do you regret your vote in favor of the war?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: If I had known then what I know today about the intelligence or maybe the lack of proper intelligence, if I suspected that there might have been a predetermination to go to war, regardless of the United States, United Nations Security Council, I probably would have voted differently.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you...
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: And I want to explain that.
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I think the central question here is, frankly, “Was there a predetermination to go to war on the part of the administration led by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and that group?” Or was there faulty intelligence? And whichever the answer is, it’s not a good answer. Because we put our soldiers in harm’s way, we’ve lost a lot of people, injured a lot of people, and my question really is: “Did we do justice by the American people by not taking a little bit longer, by not waiting longer for that national intelligence estimate, which was hurried up so quickly, and which was very much in favor of going to war?” So we haven’t-we really don’t know whether it was a wise decision to go to war or not. Right now it does not appear so.
MR. RUSSERT: You are the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the midst of looking at this very issue of intelligence, whether it was hyped, whether it was faulty. This was a headline from Dana Priest’s story in The Washington Post. “The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing a blistering report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq that is critical of CIA Director George Tenet and other intelligence officials for overstating the weapons and terrorism case against Saddam Hussein according to congressional officials. The committee staff was surprised by the amount of circumstantial evidence and single-source or disputed information used to write key intelligence documents...”
What can you tell us about that? Are you finding single-source or disputed evidence that was hyped or molded to fit a case for war?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I think there’s a possibility that was the case. We had three ex-CIA officials who had retired and, therefore, were free to speak. They indicated that a number of the analysts that were interviewed-and this was not just recently but also over the years-that they had with them officials from the CIA, the General Counsel’s Office, Congressional Liaison Office, and that served as kind of a threat to them or as an intimidation to them, would they say everything they really felt. My own view is that people-we don’t know the answer to that question yet. I mean, that release came- I was disturbed by that because we don’t have the report. It’s still being written. George Tenet and the intelligence community have asked both Pat Roberts and myself to be able to come before the Intelligence Committee and give their side of all of this, and they said that’ll take several days to do.
They deserve that chance. I think there was faulty intelligence. They went on weapons of mass destruction from no real use on nuclear weapons, which is the main cause for going to war, preemption, to reconstruction. Now, how did they move from one to the other in such a short period of time? It’s disturbing.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask each of you: Do you believe there’s a shift of emphasis from questioning whether the president hyped the intelligence to the intelligence communities for what they found and is there a political motivation for shifting the emphasis?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: It’s possible there is and there may not be, but it is happening. And you’re quite correct about that. I mean, it’s like one group wants to say, “It was the intelligence community’s fault,” and the other group wants to say, “Well, the White House was causing the intelligence community to shift their product.” I mean, the main thing is the intelligence community didn’t give the direction for the United States to go to war, and secondly, what we have to find out: Were there other sources of intelligence coming out of the Defense Department or other places that were being run separately, quite apart from the knowledge of the CIA or the State Department to get the kind of intelligence that they wanted to hear which would allow them to make a “predetermined” decision to go to war.