Monday, November 14, 2005

Responding to Kennedy on Iraq I: "Imminent Threat"

Last week President Bush took the offensive in responding to the negative attacks of the Democrats on his handling of the war in Iraq--in his Veterans Day speech, Then the White House website posted a response to Senator Ted Kennedy's answer to Bush's speech. Today, the White House has a response to an article in the Washington Post.

I wanted to take a crack at this myself, so based on an interview Senator Kennedy did with Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room, I want to take 5 points made by Senator Kennedy and see some of what the blogosphere offers in terms of a response.

I'm going to break the post into 5 pieces so it's easier to read.

1. Kennedy mentions "imminent threat":

The fact is, we have known that Saddam Hussein was a -- a tyrant. We know he was a threat. The real issue, was he an imminent threat to the United States? The president never could have carried the vote in the United States Senate unless he represented that there was an imminent threat to the United States, because Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons or he was right in the proximity of developing it, and, secondly, that he had close associations with al Qaeda. [emphasis added]

But Bush did not say there was an imminent threat. In his State of Union message, Bush said:

Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Bush says very clearly that he does not think the threat is imminent. He says explicitly the very opposite, that the threat is not imminent but we cannot afford to wait.

So who has said the threat is imminent?

John Edwards said it. According to the National Review, February 24, 2002, John Edwards said, "I think Iraq is the most serious and imminent threat to our country."

There is even audio of John Edwards telling CNN's Late Edition in 2002:

"I think Iraq is the most serious and imminent threat to our country. And I think Iraq and Saddam Hussein present the most serious and most imminent threat."

Who else said there was an imminent threat? Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller. Powerline has a transcript from an interview Senator Rockefeller hadwith Chris Wallace just yesterday:

WALLACE: Now, the President never said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. As you saw, you did say that. If anyone hyped the intelligence, isn't it Jay Rockefeller?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. The – I mean, this question is asked a thousand times and I'll be happy to answer it a thousand times. I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq – that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11. Now, the intelligence that they had and the intelligence that we had were probably different. We didn't get the Presidential Daily Briefs. We got only a finished product, a finished product, a consensual view of the intelligence community, which does not allow for agencies like in the case of the aluminum tubes, the Department of Energy said these aren't thick enough to handle nuclear power. They left that out and went ahead with they have aluminum tubes and they're going to develop nuclear power.

WALLACE: Senator, you're quite right. You didn't get the Presidential Daily Brief or the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief. You got the National Intelligence Estimate. But the Silberman Commission, a Presidential commission that looked into this, did get copies of those briefs, and they say that they were, if anything, even more alarmist, even less nuanced than the intelligence you saw, and yet you, not the President, said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. [emphasis added]

See also:

Responding to Kennedy on Iraq II: "The Rush to War"
Responding to Kennedy on Iraq III: "Iraq & Al Qaeda"
Responding to Kennedy on Iraq IV: "WMD"
Responding to Kennedy on Iraq V: "Niger"

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