Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Here We Go

Initializing blog now. Sending emails full of smart remarks to my friends is old technology. Posting smart remarks, if any, is at least efficient and possibly less intrusive.

Let's start with Sen. John Kerry's speech Monday. My only smart remark was, "Kerry rips Bush a new one..."

(Below link to GPO's PDF of the Congressional Record pages may or may not work.)

Congressional Record
Monday, November 14, 2005
(pp. S12737-8

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The Senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I thank the managers, particularly Senator Graham and Senator Levin.

Veterans Day is a very special day in our country's history. There are a lot of veterans who believe Veterans Day is just plain sacred--a lot of families, Gold Star mothers, wives for whom it is a day set aside to memorialize the unbelievable sacrifice of generations of Americans who have given themselves for our country. Veterans Day is sacred. It is a day to honor veterans, not a day to play attack politics. The President, who is Commander in Chief, should know and respect this.

Veterans Day originally marked the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the guns of World War I, the war to end all wars, finally fell silent. Instead of honoring that moment, instead of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, instead of laying out a clear plan for success in Iraq, the President laid into his critics with an 11th hour rhetorical assault that I believe dishonors that day and does a disservice to veterans and to those serving today. He did so even as he continued to distort the truth about his war of choice.

Perhaps most striking of all is that his almost desperate sounding Veterans Day attack on those who have told the truth about his distortion was itself accompanied by more distortion. Does the President really think the many generals, former top administration officials, and Senators from his own party who have joined over two-thirds of the country in questioning the President's handling of the war in Iraq--are they all unpatriotic, too? This is America, a place where we thrive on healthy debate. That is something we are trying to take to Afghanistan and Iraq. It is something we are trying to export to the rest of the world. The President does not have a monopoly on patriotism, and this is not a country where only those who agree with him support the troops or care about defending our country.

You can care just as much about defending our country and have just as much support for the troops by being a critic of policies. No matter what the President says, asking tough questions is not pessimism, it is patriotism. And fighting for the right policy for our troops sends them exactly the right message that all of us here take very seriously the decision to put them in harm's way and that our democracy is alive and well.

Ironically, the President even used the solemn occasion of Veterans Day to continue his campaign of misrepresenting the facts and throwing up smokescreens. His statement that Democrats saw and heard the same intelligence he did is just flat-out untrue, unless, of course, the President and the administration did not do their job and study the additional intelligence given only to them and not the Congress.

As the Washington Post said on Saturday, Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than lawmakers who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. But that whole discussion is nothing more than an effort to distract attention from the issue that matters most and can be answered most simply: Did the administration go beyond what even the flawed intelligence would support in making the case for war? Did they use obviously inaccurate intelligence, despite being told clearly and repeatedly not to? Did they use the claims of known fabricators and rely on those claims of known fabricators? The answer to each and every one of these questions is yes. The only people who are now trying to rewrite that history are the President and his allies.

There is no greater breach of the public trust than knowingly misleading the country into war. In a democracy, we simply cannot tolerate the abuse of this trust by the Government.

To the extent this occurred in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, those responsible must be held accountable. That is precisely why Democrats have been pushing the Senate Intelligence Committee to complete a thorough and balanced investigation into the issue. When the President tried to pretend on Friday that the Intelligence Committee had already determined that he had not manipulated intelligence and misled the American public, he had to have known full well they have not yet reported on that very question. That is precisely why Democrats were forced to shut down the Senate in secret session and go into that secret session in order to make our colleagues on the other side of the aisle take this issue seriously.

When the President said his opponents were throwing out false charges, he knew all too well that these charges are anything but false. But the President and the Republicans seem far more interested in confusing the issue and attacking their opponents than in getting honest answers.

Let's be clear, Mr. President, let's be clear, my fellow Americans: There is no question that Americans were misled into the war in Iraq. Simply put, they were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when he did not. The issue is whether they were misled intentionally.

Just as there is a distinction between being wrong and being dishonest, there is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and making statements that you know are not supported by the intelligence.

The bottom line is that the President and his administration did mislead America into war. In fact, the war in Iraq was and remains one of the great acts of misleading and deception in American history. The facts are incontrovertible.

The act of misleading was pretending to Americans that no decision had really been made to go to war and that they would seriously pursue inspections when the evidence now strongly suggests that they had already decided as a matter of policy to take out Saddam Hussein, were anxious to do it for ideological reasons, and hoped that inspections, which Vice President Cheney had opposed and tried to prevent, would not get in their way.

The President misled America about his intentions and the manner in which he would make his decision. We now know that his speech in Cincinnati right before the authorization vote was carefully orchestrated window dressing where, again, he misled America by promising, "If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible, we will plan carefully, and we will go with our allies.'' We did not take every precaution possible, we did not plan--that is evident for every American to see--and except for Great Britain, we did not go in with our allies.

The act of misleading was just going through the motions of inspections while it appears all the time the President just could not wait to kick Saddam Hussein out of power. The act of misleading was pretending to Americans the real concern was weapons of mass destruction when the evidence suggests the real intent was to finish the job his father wisely refused and remove Saddam Hussein in order to remake the Middle East for modern times.

The act of misleading was saying in a Cincinnati speech that "approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable,'' when the evidence suggests that all along the goal was always to replace Saddam Hussein through an invasion. For most of us in Congress, the goal was to destroy the weapons of mass destruction. For President Bush, weapons of mass destruction were just the first public relations means to the end of removing Saddam Hussein. For most of the rest of us, removing Saddam Hussein was incidental to the end of removing any weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the President was misleading America right up until 2 days before launching his war of choice when he told Americans that we had exhausted all other avenues.

The truth is that on the Sunday preceding the Tuesday launch of the war, there were offers of Security Council members to pursue an alternative to war, but the administration, in its race and rush to go to war, rebuffed them, saying the time for diplomacy is over.

By shortcutting the inspections process and sidestepping his own promises about planning, coalition building, and patience, the President used WMD as an excuse to rush to war, and that was an act of misleading contrary to everything the President told Americans about the walkup to war.

The very worst that Members of Congress can be accused of is trusting the intelligence we were selectively given by this administration and taking the President at his word. Imagine that, taking a President of the United States at his word. But unlike this administration, there is absolutely no suggestion that the Congress intentionally went beyond what we were told by the facts. That is the greatest offense by this administration. Just look at the most compelling justification for war: "Saddam's nuclear program and his connections with al-Qaida.''

The facts speak for themselves. The White House has admitted that the President told Congress and the American public in his State of the Union Address that Saddam was attempting to acquire fuel for nuclear weapons despite the fact that the CIA specifically told the administration three times in writing and verbally not to use this intelligence. Obviously, Democrats did not get that memo. In fact, similar statements were removed from a prior speech by the President, and Colin Powell refused to use it in his presentation to the U.N. This is not relying on faulty intelligence as Democrats did, it is knowingly and admittedly misleading the American public on a key justification for going to war.

This is what the administration was trying so desperately to hide when it attacked Ambassador Wilson and compromised national security by outing his wife. It is shameful that to this day, Republicans continue to attack Ambassador Wilson rather than condemning the fact that those 16 words were ever spoken and that so many lies were told to cover it up.

How are the same Republicans who tried to impeach a President over whether he misled a nation about an affair going to pretend it does not matter if the administration intentionally misled the country into war?

The State of the Union was hardly an isolated event. In fact, it was part of a concerted campaign to twist the intelligence, to justify a war that had already been decided was more preferable. Again playing on people's fears after 9/11, the administration made statements about the relationship between al-Qaida and Iraq that went beyond what the intelligence supported. As recently reported by the New York Times in the Cincinnati Address, the President said, We have learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bombmaking and poisons and deadly gases, despite the fact that the Defense Intelligence Agency had previously concluded that the source was a fabricator.

The President went on to say that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned and manned aerial vehicles that could be used to disburse chemical or biological weapons, despite the fact that the Air Force disagreed with that conclusion. As the Wall Street Journal reported: The Air Force dissent was kept secret, even as the President publicly made the opposite case before a congressional vote on the war resolution.

That is two more memos that the Congress never got. In fact, when faced with the intelligence community's consensus conclusion that there was no formal relationship between Saddam and al-Qaida, the administration then proceeded to set up their own intelligence shop at DOD to get some answers that were better suited to their agenda. Again, there is a fundamental difference between believing incorrect intelligence and forcing or making up your own intelligence.

Where would the Republicans and the President draw the line? How else would 70 percent of the American public be led to conclude that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11? That was not an accident. In fact, I remember correcting the President of the United States at our first debate when he said to America it was Saddam Hussein who attacked us.

Why else did Vice President Cheney cite intelligence about a meeting between one of the 9/11 hijackers and Iraqis that the intelligence community and the 9/11 Commission concluded never took place? Why else make false statements about Saddam's ability to launch a chemical or biological weapon attack in under an hour without ever clearing that statement with the CIA, which in itself mistrusted the source and refused to include it in the National Intelligence Estimate? Why else would they say we would be greeted by liberators when their own intelligence reports said we could be facing a prolonged and determined insurgency? Why else tell Americans that Iraqi oil would pay for the invasion when they had to know that the dilapidated oil infrastructure would never permit that to happen?

What about the President's promises to Congress that he would work with allies, that he would exhaust all options, that he would not rush to war? If the President wants to use quotes of mine from 2002, he might just look at the ones that were not the result of relying on faulty intelligence and trusting the President's word. As I said in my former statement before the authorizing vote--I wish the President had read this--if we go it alone without reason, we risk inflaming an entire region, breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots, and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day. Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has proven not possible.

In my speech at Georgetown on the eve of the war, I said: The United States should never go to war because it wants to. The United States should go to war because we have to. And we do not have to until we have exhausted the remedies available, built legitimacy, and earned the consent of the American people.

We need to make certain that we have not unnecessarily twisted so many arms, created so many reluctant partners, abused the trust of Congress, or strained so many relations that the longer term and more immediate vital war on terror is made more difficult. I say to the President, show respect for the process of international diplomacy because it is not always right but it can make America stronger, and show the world some appropriate patience in building a genuine coalition. Mr. President, do not rush to war.

Today, our troops continue to bear the burden of that promise broken by this administration. We need to move forward with fixing the mess the administration has created in Iraq. I have laid out in detail on five or six occasions my views about exactly how we can accomplish that and how we can get our troops home within a reasonable period of time.

But that does not excuse our responsibility to hold the administration accountable if they knowingly misled the country when American lives were at stake. We need to do both.

Those colleagues on the other side of the aisle need to stop pretending that it does not matter if the administration stretched the truth beyond recognition and they need to start working to find out the real answers that the country deserves and the real leadership that our troops in Iraq deserve. They deserve it from a Commander in Chief, not just a "campaigner in chief.''


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