Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says there is "no question" the declaration presented by the United States to the United Nations justifying war against Iraq "was flawed, was inaccurate, was false," but nonetheless President Bush "made the right decision."
In an interview last Saturday for my Fox News Channel program, "After Hours," Rumsfeld commented on the Senate Intelligence Committee report, which concluded that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction and that the CIA was wrong to cite their existence as justification for toppling Saddam Hussein. Rumsfeld also had this to say: "A great many people have been rushing around trying to prove the negative. The conventional wisdom has concluded that the negative has been proved, that is to say that there were not stocks of weapons of mass destruction. I think it's hard to conclude that. We keep finding that there are things we didn't know. We may very well find, as we go forward, that there are things that we don't know today."
An October surprise, perhaps? Rumsfeld didn't say. He did reiterate the administration's position that most of Congress and the world saw the same intelligence the administration saw and reached the same conclusion: that Saddam Hussein, who had violated 17 U.N. resolutions, had to go-and only the United States had the power and resolve to topple him.
What about the decision by Spain and the Philippines to pull out troops following terrorist attacks and kidnappings? Rumsfeld responded, "When a country negotiates with and acquiesces in a demand of terrorists ... it encourages that type of behavior on the part of terrorists."
Rumsfeld surprised me with his answer to a question about whether the flawed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war will make the neoconservative doctrine of preemption more difficult to employ when the United States faces new threats. "It makes it more difficult," he said. "And the balance is going to be a difficult one for the world because we have, in the 21st century, more readily available weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological weapons, as well as nuclear and radiation weapons. And we have extremists across the globe who have been killing innocent men, women and children in Spain, Bali and Saudi Arabia and in the United States."
Rumsfeld projected an almost Dr. Strangelove doomsday scenario over the possible acquisition of such weapons by terrorists. "They will be able to kill not just 3,000 people, as were killed here on Sept. 11, but 30,000 or 300,000," he said. So when governments consider preemptive strikes, they are going to "have to make a judgment about the risk of being right and the risk of inaction."
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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