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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rush to invade Iraq fueled to large degree by congressional ignorance

Raw Story:

On Monday night, Rachel Maddow presented “Hubris: Selling the Iraq War,” a documentary about the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, one of the biggest military blunders in U.S. history. In one segment, she reported that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who were charged with determining whether or not the country should go to war, never read the pertinent briefs before giving then-President George W. Bush the go-ahead to launch the Iraq War.

The segment began in September of 2002, when Congress returned from its summer recess. Bush administration officials were lobbying heavily for an invasion of Iraq, using a flawed intelligence brief, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq, which wildly oversold the case for Saddam Hussein having a nuclear and biological weapons program.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, told MSNBC that the main “shop” behind a large amount of slanted, pro-invasion intelligence was the office of Doug Feith, undersecretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005, who was key in positing that Iraq was working with al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that attacked the U.S. on Sep. 11, 2001.

The NIE on Iraq was prepared by the CIA in less than a month, a rush job that contained many thinly sourced claims, as well as outright distortions of the facts on the ground in Iraq. In intent, it was a barely disguised PR document for the Bush administration, hastily cobbled together by CIA Director George Tenet, who was then all but acting as the administration’s spokesperson.

Even within the NIE, however, there were caveats about the whether Hussein’s weapons programs were still active. Unfortunately, as Michael Isikoff, co-author of the book Hubris, noted, “As far as we can tell, only about a half a dozen Senators actually read it. If they’d done so, they would have seen that it was filled with dissents.”

Of course, for a lot of congress critters, reading it would’ve been a waste of time. They were going to go to war no matter what, facts be damned. One way to get a reputation as a “tough” politician is to cast a vote to send Americans to kill and die. John McCain, for example, has never once in his entire career voted against military action. Think of it as an extension of the “tough on crime” spin.

But those who cast their votes without studying the rationale for signing off on creating a mountain of corpses should not sleep soundly at night.

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