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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Snow vs. Rockefeller
Here is an interview with Sen Rockefeller that illustrates a lot more of this revisionist history. Rockefeller starts right off repeating the obligatory -- and false -- talking points: "What I keep having to remind myself is that we went to war in Iraq based upon an imminent threat."

But Tony Snow challenges Rockefeller throughout (this is Fox, not the NYT).
SNOW: But the president never argued there was an imminent threat.

ROCKEFELLER: No, the argument, Tony, was based upon -- I was there, and I heard the speech very close, and he was talking about weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical and nuclear. And that was more or less signed off on by the intelligence committee, which raises a whole other set of questions.
And the whole problem was that there was a danger of attack. If the word imminent threat wasn't used, that was the predicate; that was the feeling that was given to the American people and to the Congress, whose vote the president clearly was trying to argue or to convince during the course of that State of the Union message.

So, the President didn't say there was an imminent threat, but Rockefeller "feels" that is what he said. Even though he didn't. Now, besides the SOTU speech where Bush denied the imminent threat, I could not be positive that he never, ever said it. But Snow is.

SNOW: I'm sorry, I just -- I don't -- we've done a lot of research on this. And the president never said -- and we've been looking for it because you and a lot of your colleagues have said that he's proposed -- he talked about imminent threat. And he never did. As a matter of fact, the key argument -- was it not? -- that you can't wait for it to become an imminent threat because then it's too late.

Snow also quotes Rockefeller's own words on the issue of imminency.
SNOW: You said this: "There's been some debate over how imminent a threat Iraq poses. I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat." That's what you said.
"But I also believe that after September 11th, the question is increasingly outdated. It is in the nature of these weapons and the way they are targeted against civilian populations, the documented capability and demonstrated intent may be the only warning we get. To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? We cannot."

Now that makes sense to me. But Rockefeller says he now has different views, "based upon the revelations that there don't appear, at least at this point, to be any weapons of mass destruction." But you can't use new evidence to criticize an old decision. We may (may!) learn that Saddam was only bluffing. But the only way you can learn that is by calling the bluff. You can't place a bet in Vegas, lose, and then explain that now that you know the outcome, you'd like to take that bet back. And furthermore, he has switched the standards. In his old speech he (correctly) acknowledged that the "capability" to make WMD was an intolerable threat, but now he thinks that only actual WMD can justify a war.

I'm really amazed how many Democrats said really sensible and hawkish things about Iraq, such as Rockerfeller above, and now they have gone nuts in the last six months. Several good examples from Andrew Sullivan:

Sen. Daschle on Oct 10 2002: The threat posed by Saddam Hussein may not be imminent, but it is real, it is growing, and it cannot be ignored.

Gov. Dean on Sep 29 2002: There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies. The question is, is he an immediate threat? The president has not yet made the case for that. [...] But the president has never said that Saddam has the capability of striking the United States with atomic or biological weapons any time in the immediate future.

Sen Kerry on Jan 23, 2003: We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction... [W]ithout question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. And now he has continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real.

Sen Clinton on Oct 10, 2002: In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.

But now they insist "Bush lied."

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