During the Watergate period, the CIA was revealed to have spied on American citizens, and the agency took heat from the Hollywood and literary left. The Iran-contra "scandal" during the Reagan administration further besmirched the agency, and in 1994, when it was revealed that longtime CIA employee Aldrich Ames - the son of a CIA executive - was a Soviet spy and the highest paid American traitor in history, morale fell to new lows.
In the matter of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, Congress had access to the same information given to the White House and Pentagon. It was information credible to many other nations. In typical hand-washing fashion, Congress now wants to avoid taking blame and is passing the buck to others. Senators could have questioned the accuracy of any of the intelligence they received, but the members of this body, who often do not read the bills for which they vote and seem to care more about pork than they do matters pertaining to war and security, refuse to hold themselves even partially accountable.
Was it laziness or dereliction of duty on the part of Congress? Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times wrote a year ago: "Fewer than a dozen House members have taken the time to review more than 10,000 pages of intelligence documents backing up the administration claims about Iraq, which were made available more than a month ago." Surely senators also had access to the same material. Where was congressional oversight?
The larger question - is the world better off without Saddam Hussein in power? - cannot be answered any other way but "yes." How much more dangerous would the world be had Saddam not been ousted and the Iraqi people given a chance to taste freedom for themselves? Civilization advances when any tyrant falls.
As Congress attempts to correct mistakes at the CIA, Congress should not ignore its own shortcomings. It might also want to question where the weapons of mass destruction have gone, since they were once in Iraq and used by Saddam Hussein.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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