Censure The President

 by Ed O’Rourke

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The House of Representatives impeached President Clinton for lying under oath about sexual affair.  Now it is the Senate’s sad necessary duty to censure President Bush for lying to the American people about Iraq.  For more than a year, the president and his advisors were telling the dangers of mushroom clouds and chemical weapons which the United Nations could not find.    Central Intelligence Agency director, George Tenet, thought that Iraq had something, but at his February 5, 2004 Georgetown University speech, said that there was not an imminent threat.

President Bush and the American intelligence community rejected the views of former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter and then current inspector Hans Blix.  No one publicly asked why the intelligence community did not give the suspected weapons locations to the United Nations inspectors.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reported that the Bush administration started preparing for war 10 days after the inauguration, long before the September 11 event.  Bush and his advisors continually said Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda in the same sentence often enough to give a majority of Americans that they were linked.  A majority of Americans thought that liberating Iraq would be a blow against terrorism.  In fact, the Iraq War has encouraged al-Qaeda recruitment.  Jeffrey Rector, a visiting research professor at the Strategic Institute of the Army War College, prepared a 56-page monograph stating that the Iraq War as a detour in the anti-terrorism effort.  “The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.”  Richard Clark’s book and testimony conform what the anti-war people have known for a long time.  The importance is that Richard Clark is a registered Republican who had the job of anti-terrorism czar.

President Bush says that if the anti-war people had their way that Iraq would not be liberated.  He is probably right about that.  The anti-war people consider dangers presented by North Korea, nuclear proliferation and the terrorists to be higher priorities.

Still, it was possible to have an international agreement to remove Saddam Hussein on humanitarian grounds.  It may have taken another year to obtain agreement among Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel and the United Nations.  The agreement would be complicated and detailed with reconstruction plans and an exit strategy.

The president is right when he says that the world is better off with Saddam out of power.  What he does not say is the costs of the liberation, the continuing casualties, the spiraling price of the occupation, inflaming public opinion in the Muslim world and our loss of credibility.  Who will believe the United States if the president were to make a case for a war with North Korea?

The National Commission to investigate the intelligence community is a necessary step.  The Houston Chronicle editorial board wonders why the anti-war protestors got it right and our $30 billion a year intelligence community got it wrong.  Disinformation is as old as intelligence itself.  The old story is that you do a good job when you fool the enemy and you do a poor job when you fool yourself.  Operation Fortitude gave German intelligence the impression that General Patton commanded a sizable army group in England preparing for the D-Day invasion.  The phantom army was a major factor in the success of the Normandy invasion.   Internal disinformation happened with U.S. officials running the Iran Contra operation who lied to each other.  The same thing occurred when Iraqi officials spoke to each other about weapons and programs that did not exist.  The investigation of the intelligence community is not a factor in the timing of the censure vote.  There is no reason to delay the vote waiting for the National Commission’s report.  The U.S. Senate does not have to prove that the president lied.  They only will state that he has been incompetent in this matter.

Some leaders take responsibility for their actions and that of all the people who report to them.  Harry Truman had a sign of his desk, “The buck stops here.”  West German Chancellor Willy Brandt accepted the responsibility for one of his top-level advisors was arrested for being an East German spy.  He even drafted a suicide note but lived on, resigning on May 7, 1974.

Since this president is unlikely to resign and the Republican House is not likely to impeach him, the best avenue is a censure (official reprimand) by the U.S. Senate.  Contact our Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn.