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Reid: Bush "Willfully Ignored Experts" Before Iraq War

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In his first speech on the Senate floor after returning from Congress's Memorial Day recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blasted George W. Bush and his administration for ignoring pre-war intelligence that specifically predicted long-term chaos in Iraq, the likelihood of a bloody civil war and the capacity of the invasion to actually strengthen al-Qaeda. Citing a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee called "Prewar Intelligence Assessments About Postwar Iraq," that was released the Friday before the holiday weekend, Reid asserted that "the Bush administration cannot hide behind ignorance. Whether out of hubris or incompetence, the President and his men willfully ignored the experts and sent our troops to battle unprepared for the consequences." "Some might say, what is past is past. If the President's prewar failure was a one-time event, we could maybe forget about it, even though that would be hard," continued Reid. "But if President Bush's prewar failure was a one-time event, we could leave it to the historians to study and judge the tragedy of his incompetence. But even today, after almost 3,500 American deaths and more than 20,000 wounded, the President continues to cherry-pick facts in order to paint a rosy but very misleading picture of Iraq." The report was one that Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) vowed to bring to public view before the Memorial Day holiday after years of the do-nothing, Republican Congress refusing to even examine the issues for fear of harming the already-tarnished White House. "Despite more than three years of stonewalling by Republicans in Congress and the Bush Administration, Democrats have taken another major step forward in restoring accountability to government by completing another exhaustive investigation of the Bush Administration's dangerous incompetence," said Reid on May 25, when the report was released. "This new Senate Intelligence Committee report clearly demonstrates that the Bush Administration ignored and dismissed its best intelligence experts' warnings to expect major challenges in post-war Iraq. We have seen the terrible consequences to American national security that have resulted from the Bush Administration's failures over the last five years." In a statement Monday, Reid cited the report in laying out the specifics of what the Bush administration knew -- and ignored -- in January of 2003, months before the Iraq invasion:
  • That installing democracy would "be a long, difficult, and probably turbulent challenge" in Iraq.
  • That Al Qaeda "would try to take advantage of US attention on postwar Iraq to reestablish its presence in Afghanistan."
  • That Iraq "was a deeply divided society that likely would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it."
  • That the United States' occupation of Iraq "would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups."
  • That Iraq's neighbors would jockey for influence in Iraq, "including fomenting strife among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups."
  • That "some elements in the Iranian government could decide to try to counter aggressively the U.S. presence in Iraq or challenge U.S. goals."
  • That our action in Iraq "would not cause other regional states to abandon their WMD programs, or their desire to develop such programs."
"Clearly the intelligence community got it right," said Reid. "And their warnings were not issued in a vacuum: perhaps the most striking finding of the report is this: All the key Administration players were made aware of these warnings. Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Steve Hadley, Scooter Libby, all key Bush officials at the National Security Council, the State Department and the Department of Defense were all on the distribution list." And Rockefeller, who suffered for years as the ranking minority member of a lifeless Intelligence Committee -- as it did zero oversight on the Bush White House -- reinforced that what has occurred in Iraq would hardly be a surprise to an honest administration. "Today's report shows that the Intelligence Community gave the Administration plenty of warning about the difficulties we would face if the decision was made to go to war," said Rockefeller, when the report was released on May 25. "These dire warnings were widely distributed at the highest levels of government, and it's clear that the Administration didn't plan for any of them." More from Intelligence Committee Chairman Rockefeller:
"The Intelligence Community believed an American invasion would be exploited by Iran and al Qaeda terrorists and that an occupation of Iraq would fuel Islamist extremism. They also assessed that al Qaeda would seek to re-establish its presence in Afghanistan while the United States was diverted in Iraq.... Sadly, the Administration's refusal to heed these dire warnings, and worse, to plan for them, has led to tragic consequences for which our nation is paying a terrible price. "The report shows that the Administration was not forthcoming with the American people about the potential costs of going to war."
Of course, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), who has been one of the loudest critics of the Intelligence Committee's failure to perform any oversight in the previous Congress, said that the Bush administration not only ignored critical intelligence in pre-war planning, but also intentionally misled the American people, despite having solid facts refuting their claims. "The report released today by the Senate Intelligence Committee underscores that the Administration was indifferent to the predicted negative consequences of the war in Iraq," said the Wisconsin Senator, who is also on the Intelligence Committee. "The intelligence community's assessments, made prior to the war and widely disseminated within the Administration, also directly contradict many of the assertions made at the time by the Administration." And Reid said that this report, coupled with painful interactions he's recently had with parents of troops killed in Iraq, will make him continue to press for an end to the war, despite the thin majority held by Senate Democrats. "Our resolve has never been stronger," said the Majority Leader. " With a razor-thin majority -- and, remember, it is a razor-thin majority -- an obstinate President, and a Republican minority that continues to bow to his will, we are nonetheless making real progress." "When we take up the Defense authorization bill, we will not just work to correct the President's neglect of troop readiness and protection, we will give our Republican colleagues another opportunity to join us and bring a responsible end to this war. We will fight for that every day this year, as long as the President and a few allies left here in Congress continue to defy the reality the rest of us see clearly." You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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