Imagine Democratic Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee moving to VETO authorization for the President of the United States to do what he needed to do to keep the nation safe in 2002.
Consider the fact that all through the airwaves, we heard Bush, Blair (UK) and Howard (AU) claiming to know for certain that Saddam Hussein had amassed a vast arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that were ready for use; that the production of such weapons was increasing in tempo; and that it was almost certain that within a short few years Saddam Hussein would be in possession of nuclear weapons as well. Well after the 2002 IWR, a report came out from the Institute for Policy Studies, which was critical of Bush's decision to rush to war, but was still showing an uncertainty on WMD.
Question: Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction?
Answer: We don't know for sure - that's why the UN inspectors are in Iraq. As of the end of 2002, the inspectors have not indicated they have found evidence of any viable weapons programs.
A Senate Intelligence Committee veto in October, 2002?
The nation was one year removed from the 911 attacks. The nation was still reeling - and misled by the President and his administration. The scenario of a veto is preposterous, and yet John Walsh is forwarding it in a Counterpunch article.
He makes an accusation against certain Democratic Senators, a case for which has not proven out in any realistic or hypothetical sense in his opinion piece,
"Democrats had enough knowledge to know that we were being lied into war in October, 2002. And except for a courageous 21 Senators, along with 2 Republicans, they went along for the ride - with their careers in mind."
Enough knowledge? I'm not so crystal clear on that. It was easy for us bloggers to bounce around our thoughts, but we weren't sitting in a Senator's seat. One uncovering of a cache of chemical weapons or nuclear material in Iraq would have sent those 21 "courageous" Senators' careers straight down the crapper.
In a nutshell, Graham tells us that everyone on that committee knew that Bush was lying about weapons of mass destruction.
In a nutshell, I'll bet that most of those Senators felt that way in their gut, even though their final votes to give the President authorization to proceed may have been different.
Mr. Walsh expresses deep concern that there is no "opposition party" today.
Right now it is crystal clear that there is no true opposition party, although there are minor elements (very minor ones) among the Left in the Democratic party and the Libertarians in the Republican party. These could constitute a genuine antiwar opposition. Until that happens, the war will go one, the neocons may drive us into further wars and our democracy will be further imperiled.
I find that to be a shaky conclusion from my own experience - the Bush agenda is not in line with that of the majority of our Democratic representatives, and I don't believe it is "opposition" that we need. What we need is cooperation from all of our Representatives, Republican and Democrat for a sane and moral agenda in both foreign and domestic policies. We are all faced with instability in the Middle East, and a good part of it is because of the way in which our Commander in Chief approached and executed this war. I believe that giving the President of the United States the authorization to proceed was done in good faith by the Democrats. If there was a shadow of doubt about the WMD question (and there were many shadows - I had blogged about the small chance that chemical weapons might be used against the troops we were sending headlong into Iraq), then those Representatives held a great responsibility for that smallest doubt in their hands in October 2002. It's too easy to sit back now, with all we have uncovered since 2002, and point our fingers at cherry-picked Senators who did what they felt they had to do. In 2002, I was fairly sure that Bush was lying about the level of truth in the confidence we should have had in the available intelligence information he was presenting to our representatives. Many of our representatives probably felt that same uneasiness.
William Rivers Pitt wrote this in March, 2003 - speaking to all American citizens about the mistake he believed had been made:
"I understand why you support this engagement. At bottom, you do so because you are loyal. The President has said it must be so, and so it must be so. The loyalty of this nation's citizenry is now and has always been our greatest strength. Many of you who support the war are veterans of other conflicts, and so your support is based upon a desire to stand with the troops now in harm's way. This is more than honorable. Many of you believe this must happen because you have been told, time and again, that Saddam Hussein possesses an awesome arsenal of mass destruction weapons that he will gladly give to terrorists for use against us. Your belief that this is so stems from your loyalty - - the President has told you it is true, and so it must be true...........At the end of the day, though, I think I know the true reason why you support this war. You still see September 11th when you close your eyes.
I'm sensing that people like Mr. Walsh are angry with the whole of our society, and I understand perfectly well why he would feel that way. No one stopped a radical leader with no plan to complete the task he set out to accomplish - and that task - a war - was based on false information. We are angry. We're all looking for someone or something to blame.
The targets of our anger are many. I would think, if we really wanted to make a difference with promoting alternatrives to unjust pre-emptive wars, we might learn to trust some of our experienced Democratic leaders rather than throwing them over for candidates who don't stand a snowball's chance in hell of winning an election. When you see a leader like Senator John Edwards reaching a hand out and telling you why he believes he's made a mistake and offering ways to turn this mess around, instead of slapping him in the face, why not listen and think about the realities of our world and what we face, as one nation today? It's useless to try to adjudicate this long-standing distrust for our Democratic Senators by asking who was the most wrong at the time of the IWR. If any anti-war movement will ever have a valid voice, it will have to be a voice that gives up the animosity toward some of the leaders who have learned important lessons - and try forgiveness, and to appeal to them to implement their hard-learned experience to put our nation on a moral path. If you're like me, you might pray for their strength to lead us on.
I don't believe any movement that calls itself "anti-war" with leaders who profess to be "anti-war" without presenting solid alternatives to war will ever have a chance for practical success here in this nation. I am "anti-war" - and I know that we face a dangerous world with more tensions today, thanks to the worst President in history, than we have ever faced.
In the words of Wendell Berry:
"We can no longer afford to confuse peaceability with passivity. Authentic peace is no more passive than war. Like war, it calls for discipline and intelligence and strength of character, though it calls also for higher principles and aims. If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we now prepare for war."
Now is not the time to parse the words of Bob Graham to accuse any other Senator of being a "liar" - which is an unfair and unacceptable accusation. I'm quite sick of reading this kind of journalism, but I understand why it's out there. Democrats have missed the boat on creating a better vision. The ones who admit they've learned the hardest lessons and that they care to change the status quo are the ones we might hold out the best hope for leading us to a better day -with war as a last resort rather than the first.
Scott Ritter makes a very important statement, and I agree with his opinion because I know a person who had direct experience with intelligence in the 90s in the Middle East and Africa - and in past conversations, he has told me much the same:
The crux of the problem of this Iraqi WMD intelligence "failure" lies in the fact that the U.S. intelligence community and the products it produces are increasingly influenced by the corrupting influences of politics. The politicization of the intelligence community allows the process of fixing intelligence around policy to become pervasive, and the increasingly polarized political climate in America prevents any real checks and balances through effective oversight, leaving Americans at the mercy of politicians who have placed partisan politics above the common good. The recent overhaul of the U.S. intelligence community, which resulted in the creation of the national intelligence chief, only reinforces this politicization, because the new director reports directly to the president and is beyond the reach of congressional oversight.
Not only is intelligence, once pinned down, used for partisan politics, but I have been told that the process by which intelligence gathering itself takes place has unmistakable political influence. The way we do business to justify war has to change or, God forbid, we'll have more Iraqs.
Ritter suggests this solution:
The only true fix to the problems of intelligence that manifested themselves in the Iraqi WMD debacle is to depoliticize the process. The position of national intelligence chief should be a 10-year appointment, like that of the director of the FBI, and subject to the consent of Congress. Likewise, all intelligence made available to the president to make national security policy should be shared with select members of Congress, from both parties, so that America will never again find itself at war based upon politically driven intelligence. Finally, and perhaps most important, the American people should start exercising effective accountability regarding their elected officials, so that those who voted yes for a war based on false and misleading information never again have the honor and privilege of serving in high office.
In the real world, voters are probably not going to overturn their incumbent representatives for their vote on the Iraq War Resolution. It may seem distasteful to think it's true, but the final vote - for or against giving a President authorization to make war, if necessary, will always be political, even if the intelligence is not fixed around the policy. It's my opinion that no matter how hard we try to provide oversight and balance, our intelligence agents and officials will be perpetually led by the political nose. Let's not be naive. Maybe the best suggestion is not to rush to war resolutions in the first place - to find alternatives to war. This is where I disagree with Scott Ritter. Rather than lashing out from anger and frustration at the way things are - and probably will not drastically change, let's act positively, as a large activist voting bloc, toward the change we want to see. The American people should start worrying and concentrating a lot more about exercising effective pressure on their representatives to make war obsolete - to impress upon their government the belief that war should the very last choice in an array of viable alternatives. The work of peacemaking and following the rule of law is not a walk in the park, and it takes great minds to carve out the new paths we will need to take if we're going to survive as a civil nation among a league of civil nations in the 21st century. We should accept no less. We have to ask ourselves who is up to the task. Our representatives should exercise accountability for their IWR votes in an open and frank manner - and we should be allowed to decide for ourselves whether or not their reasoning makes sense to us.
Overall, I have a healthy respect for Scott Ritter's suggestion for better checks and balances on intelligence operations that will forever be subject to political abuse.
"I think religious people are strengthened in their beneficent influence by being separated from government and not dominated from government." - Former President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter Interviewed by Busted Halo
Don't miss this interview with former President Jimmy Carter at Busted Halo. The webmag discusses "America's Moral Crisis" with the former President.
"I believe that the recent public opinion polls that I’ve read, just like you, show an increasing disillusionment with this administration, a very rapid decrease in trust that the administration is telling the truth and exemplifies the moral values that I describe in the book, those things are showing up in the present disapproving polls. And I think that may very well be a predictor of what will happen in future."
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*While you're visiting Busted Halo, Jason Rowe, a Catholic Worker at Casa Juan Diego in Houston, Texas, has written a piece about the life and legacy of Dorothy Day, one of my personal heroines for having been selflessly devoted to ministering to the ever-present needs of the poor and the homeless.
"Day should serve as a model for believers seeking to radically live out their baptismal calling within the concrete context of the world they inhabit." - Jason Rowe
It is only by embracing our own state of brokenness that we are able reach out with compassion in faith and hope to others and as we have offered our love and understanding we find by some miracle that we are loved and understood