Chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay's interim report this week finding no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, despite its clear intent to do so, is disturbing. So is the Bush administration's apparently cavalier attitude toward the notion that its pre-war intelligence on Iraq's WMDs may have been drastically wrong.
"If (the intelligence) is off by a lot, that will be unfortunate," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.
Unfortunate? "Tragic" is more like it. This calls for a thorough reappraisal - and shakeup - of U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis.
"Did we misread it? Did they mislead us? Or did we simply get it wrong?," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., blasting the administration.
It's revealing that former president Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have consistently defended Bush's Iraq policy. Sen. Clinton, who attended classified briefings during her husband's tenure in the White House, told reporters last week that "the intelligence from Bush 1 to Clinton to Bush 2 was consistent" in saying that Saddam already had WMDs and was trying to develop nukes.
Yet the Kay report already proves Saddam was violating United Nations resolutions. Kay's 1,200-member team found a secret network of labs and safe houses for chemical weapons research, a prison lab set up for human tests of biological agents, evidence of secret attempts to get ballistic missile technology from North Korea as late as 2002, and more.
Ridding Iraq of WMDs was America's marquee rationale for ousting Saddam, but it was far from the only one. That nation and the rest of the region will be better off, and America will be more secure. Still, there's no excuse for trying to sugarcoat a serious failure in U.S. intelligence.
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