July 15, 2004

Apologies, please

You may recall that critics of the war in Iraq recently hounded President Bush to apologize about “faulty intelligence” before the onset of conflict. Had the president issued such a declaration, John Kerry could have fired every one of his political consultants and advertising executives.  To win the election, he merely would have had to play the apology over and over and over.

Now comes word, however, through the Senate Intelligence Committee, the British Parliament, and the governments of interested third parties (including Australia and Russia) that the president told the truth about uranium shipments from Niger to Iraq; about links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda; about Saddam’s links to the terror network; and about Saddam’s desires to build weapons of mass destruction. Nobody has found the much-sought stockpiles, which may or may not have existed, but it’s pretty clear that at least two of the three justifications for war in Iraq — human rights abuses by Saddam and ties to Al Qaeda and other terror outfits — were absolutely on the mark.

Conversely, some of the key exhibits in the Democratic case against the president — Joe Wilson’s now fully discredited trip to Niger, the chestnut that the president claimed Saddam posed an “imminent threat” (Democratic leaders, including Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Jay Rockefeller, made the point), and the assertion that there was “no” evidence of WMDs — all have dissolved like cotton candy in a bucket of spit.

One further point: in the there-they-go-again category, Sen. Rockefeller now has accused Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith of running a rogue intelligence operation, in defiance of the law. You may recall that Sen. Rockefeller’s staff last fall encouraged him to ignore his pre-war hawkishness and exploit public ambivalence about the war for political benefit. He appears to be doing the same now. Despite Pentagon insistence that he either provide evidence or apologize, Sen. Rockefeller merely says, “Our review of these activities is still ongoing and will be completed as part of the second phase of the Committee’s work on prewar intelligence.”

In other words, he has no evidence, and won’t have to account for his calumnies until after the election.

This all contrasts sharply with the inquiry conducted recently by the British Parliament, in which the parliament acknowledged the inadequacies of prewar intelligence but didn’t try to manipulate the report for political purposes. Furthermore, British Prime Minister Tony Blair calmed the waters by assuring one and all that nobody lied, nobody gratuitously sought to send soldiers toward the jaws of death, and - most importantly - the war itself still had plenty of political, legal, and moral justification.

So, given the example of our British forbears, shouldn’t members of Congress demonstrate a little grace by apologizing and moving on?

Share your thoughts with Tony.  E-mail him at