"We were misled -- misled not only in the intelligence, but misled in the way that the president took us to war ... I think there's been an enormous amount of exaggeration, stretching, deception." -- John Kerry, the Democrat who came in first in the New Hampshire primary
"The administration did cook the books." -- Howard Dean, the Democrat who came in second in the New Hampshire primary
We were misled? The Bush administration cooked the books?
Welcome to the ugliest, nastiest policy scrum Americans have ever had to referee in a presidential election year. Rather than hearing a philosophical or strategic alternative to the Bush foreign policy, we are being asked to vote Democrat because leading Democrats charge that the incumbent Republican administration willfully "misled" the American people into war -- exaggerating, stretching, and deceiving -- with a scheme to "cook the books." Are these heinous accusations true?
To be sure, inspectors in Iraq haven't found the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) President Bush and Vice President Cheney warned against. This comes as a shock to us all, including Bill Clinton, Tom Daschle, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ted Kennedy, Jacques Chirac, Al Gore, German intelligence, Bob Graham, the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, Hans Blix, even John Kerry -- just some of the subscribers to the old Saddam-equals-WMD theory that inspired former President Clinton to warn against "the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program" six years ago.
(As recently as last October, Clinton told the prime minister of Portugal he believed Saddam Hussein possessed WMD until the end of the dictator's regime.)
Think of it (thanks to columnist William Rusher, who compiled the following set of quotations): It was then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, not Condi Rice -- or even George W. Bush -- who in 1998 said, "The risk that the leaders (of Iraq) will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security risk we face." That same year, Democratic senators including Tom Daschle, Carl Levin and current presidential front-runner John Kerry urged Clinton "to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
Even Kerry-boosting, Bush-bashing Ted Kennedy got on the record about Saddam Hussein and his WMD. And in fall of 2002, Al Gore said, "We know (Saddam Hussein) has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."