Roger’s Rules

Profiles in treachery, or Why it's OK to lie if you are a US Congressman

The first casualty of war, it’s said, is truth. Well, how about politics? What’s its first casualty? The same thing, it seems. Here’s a question: just how far would your common or garden variety politician go in economizing on the truth. i.e., in lying? Not sure? Take a look at Andrew McCarthy’s depressing report over at NRO on the report just issued by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The issue being adjudicated was “whether public statements regarding Iraq by U.S. government officials were substantiated by intelligence information” before the Iraq war started in 2003. The results are a shameful tissue of partisan misrepresentation. “All one really needs to know about this exercise in legerdemain,” McCArthy writes, “is revealed by SSCI Chairman Jay Rockefeller’s diktat – over Republican protest and adopted without a vote – that the Committee would focus myopically on prewar statements made by administration officials. That is, the SSCI opted to overlook the overflowing stream of bellicose commentary, often less restrained, by Democrats.” M<cCarthy continues:

The reality is that SSCI Democrats, among other Democrats, had access to the exact same intelligence about Iraq that Bush officials had. Indeed, many of them had it for years before there was a Bush administration. Like back in October 1998, when those selfsame Democrats were passing the Iraq Liberation Act, signed by none other than President Bill Clinton, which made regime change – the removal of Saddam Hussein from power – the official policy of the United States.

As a result, the SSCI report does not consider, for example, the public statements made by one Jay Rockefeller on the Senate floor on October 10, 2002, explaining his vote in favor of using force in Iraq: “Saddam Hussein represents a grave threat to the United States, and I have concluded we must use force to deal with him if all other means fail.” (And how curious that the Chairman’s speech, for some reason, is no longer available on the Senate website.)

“[A]ll U.S. intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons,” argued Senator John Kerry at the time. The longtime SSCI member, emerging then as the leading contender for the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nomination, elaborated, “There is little question that Saddam Hussein wants to develop nuclear weapons.… If Iraq could acquire [fissile] material from abroad, the CIA estimates that it could have a nuclear weapon within one year.” “In addition,” Kerry warned, “Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents, which could threaten Iraq’s neighbors as well as American forces in the Persian Gulf.”

The committee didn’t think those statements were worth assessing. Nor, to take another example, did the SSCI scrutinize this gem by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who claimed to have consulted her own advisors rather than simply relying on the available intelligence or the Bush administration:

It is clear . . . that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security. . . . [T]his much is undisputed.

Not any more. Now, it is very much disputed. Now that Iraq hasn’t gone according to plan. Now that it has proved to be difficult.

So now, six years later, these profiles in Democrat courage, who did not merely vote in favor of the war but pressed for the opportunity to do so (the better to package themselves, on the eve of the 2002 mid-term elections, as tough on national security), have withdrawn their assent. Now, they busy themselves with the spade work of shoring up the far Left theology that “Bush lied and people died” — while, of course, “supporting our troops” by limning their efforts as illegitimate.

The word treachery does not begin to describe such betrayal. And the circle of shame includes Senators Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe, the two SSCI Republicans. They were also for the war before they were against it, and now they conspire with committee Democrats in this charade of a report.

Read the whole thing. No wonder Congress has an approval rating of less than 18 percent.