Jay Rockefeller is on a mission. He wants to close the case on Iraq with a Senate conclusion that George Bush misled congress and the American people about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. According to Fred Hiatt, Rockefeller's approach is to mischaracterize the contents of a recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report. It's like writing a juicy headline for dry, bland news story.
"In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent," he [Rockefeller] said.
But here's what Hiatt says, as he quotes the committee report. I've put the quotes in bold below.
But dive into Rockefeller's report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.
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."
As you read through the report, you begin to think maybe you've mistakenly picked up the minority dissent. But, no, this is the Rockefeller indictment. So, you think, the smoking gun must appear in the section on Bush's claims about Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to terrorism.
But statements regarding Iraq's support for terrorist groups other than al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." Statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda "were substantiated by the intelligence assessments," and statements regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." The report is left to complain about "implications" and statements that "left the impression" that those contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation.
It was actually Rockefeller, not the administration, who insisted that Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent threat" while the Bush administration argued that he was not. Instead, the Bush administration argued that it would be folly to wait for the threat to fully develop.
In hindsight it would appear that the Democrats' political strategy was to pretend to a conviction that Saddam was an imminent threat, then to accuse the administration of misleading them when it turned out that he wasn't -- which was what the Bush administration argued in the first place. Isn't that just so "Jay Rockefeller."