Senate Majority Project

Friday, November 11, 2005

Still Misleading America (Part 1): Bush and the RNC Keep Distorting Democrats Iraq Comments

The Bush Administration has launched yet another P.R. offensive to salvage public support on Iraq. With polls saying that Bush is simply not trustworthy, and that he lied about intelligence before Iraq, Republicans are left stammering that Democrats made similar pre-war statements. While both parties recognized the obvious -- nuclear weapons in Saddam Hussein’s hands would be bad – Bush alone had access to superior intelligence, the ability to weigh separate claims and release them selectively and the responsibility as commander-in-chief to make the decision whether to send Americans into Iraq.

For the record, here is what Bush said:
  • Bush raised threat of “mushroom clouds
    ”“Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Iraq had WMD
    “[Iraq] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons…Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Iraq and Al Qaida were connected
    “We know that Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America. We know that Iraq and Al Qaida have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Saddam was connected to 9-11
    “Some citizens wonder, ‘After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?’ And there’s a reason. We have experienced the horror of September the 11th.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Iraq sought uranium from Africa and attempted to purchase aluminum tubes“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” [Remarks on the State of the Union, 1/28/2003]
This week the RNC has been in front of distributing segments of remarks from Democratic leaders that would seem to suggest that Democrats made the same judgments the administration did and only recently have questioned Bush’s policy. Even worse, Bush himself has suggested that those questioning the decision are being disloyal to the troops that are there.

Trouble is … every example the Republicans use is either wrong, out of context, specifically based on Administration-released reports that were wrong, or all three. Here are just a few examples:
  1. Sen. Reid said Iraq did not have nuclear weapons
    Pointing to a 1992 Senate floor speech, the RNC suggests Reid agreed that Hussein had WMD. But nowhere in the quote that Republicans use did Reid agree that Hussein has WMD, nuclear weapons, OR ties to Al-Qaeda. In fact, he left Iraq out of a list of countries that were believed to have nuclear weapons. Reid didn’t say that Hussein HAD nuclear weapons, rather he specifically said he did NOT.

    Furthermore, the speech used was in 1992, shortly after the first Gulf War, and long before the Bush Administration began its march to war. In fact, in 1992, George W. Bush may not have had been able to tell whether Raphael Palmiero was stockpiling steroids.

    Sen. Reid’s full quote: "The problem is not nuclear testing; it is nuclear weapons: There are too many of them, and there are too many of them in the wrong hands. The number of third world countries with nuclear capabilities seems to grow daily. Saddam Hussein's near success with developing a nuclear weapon should be an eye-opener for us all. In addition to the United States, three Republics of the former Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China, four countries are believed to have nuclear weapons, or have the ability to assemble them in short order; namely, Israel, India, Pakistan, and South Africa."

  2. Sen. Schumer asked for better intelligence in 2002
    Schumer did say that the threat of giving nuclear weapons to a suicide bomber was a threat. However, he did not say that Iraq had or was imminently about to obtain a nuclear weapon. Far from endorsing the Bush Adminsitration’s intelligence, Schumer complained that Bush had not yet made his case, saying

    "You know, the president and the secretary of defense, in a briefing to the senators last week, said, "We have good evidence that shows why this is a necessity, and we will be sharing it with you and, in a non- classified way, with the American people and the people of the world." That hasn't happened yet. It's interesting, Wolf, I think there's more of a -- there's very little partisanship on this issue, Wolf. From what I've heard from Democrats and Republicans, the stand is virtually the same, which is, basically, show us the money, show us the evidence that, A, Iraq is going to be a real danger, which, if it has nuclear weapons or could have them in a short time, would be, and B, that invasion is the only resort, or maybe the last but only remaining resort. And you'll find -- I think the president will get generalized support. But thus far, he hasn't done that to either the Congress or the American people or, for that matter, to the people of the world, so that even leaders like Blair who want to go along with him are being pulled by their populace in another direction."

  3. President Clinton actually said Bush’s top priority should be pursuit of Al Qaeda, not invasion of Iraq
    While Bill Clinton was President, the U.S. and the world community disarmed Iraq. While president, Clinton repeatedly warned of what could occur if the weapons inspectors were not allowed to do their work in the country. Hussein removed weapons inspectors, but backed down and allowed them back into the country in February 1998; days after the speech the RNC cites. In the speech cited, Clinton also notes:

    [The UN] inspectors, the eyes and ears of the civilized world, have uncovered and destroyed more weapons of mass destruction capacity than was destroyed during the Gulf War. This includes nearly 40,000 chemical weapons, more than 100,000 gallons of chemical weapons agents, 48 operational missiles, 30 warheads specifically fitted for chemical and biological weapons, and a massive biological weapons facility at Al-Hakim, equipped to produce anthrax and other deadly agents.

    Later, after September 11th, Clinton warned that:

    "Saddam Hussein didn't kill 3,100 people on Sept. 11, Osama bin Laden did, and as far as we know he's still alive. … I also believe we might do more good for American security in the short run at far less cost by beefing up our efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere to flush out the entire network ... We know they still have a terrorist network around the world, and we're already kind of changing the subject, looking at Saddam Hussein. We know he's not going anywhere." [Associated Press, 9/6/2002]
More to come …