Michael Barone

 Official reports issued the last two weeks have conclusively refuted those who have been arguing that "BUSH LIED" about the dangers from Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction programs. The first report was that of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That committee has been rent by partisan divisions over the last year, but the report was unanimous.
 
One prime conclusion of the report is that American intelligence organizations, like those of every other major country, did indeed believe that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and had ongoing WMD programs. That intelligence seems to have been mistaken.

 But given Saddam Hussein's documented development, possession and use of WMDs, and his refusal to account for their disposal, what intelligence evidence could have convinced a reasonable analyst that he no longer had them?

 As the Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon -- a frequent Bush critic -- puts it, "It would have taken an overwhelming body of evidence for any reasonable person in 2002 to think that Saddam did not possess stockpiles of chemical and biological agents."

 So Bush was justified in relying on the intelligence. And "the committee did not fund any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities."

 So much for the wild charges that Bush manipulated intelligence and lied about weapons of mass destruction. He simply said what was believed by every informed person -- including leading members of the Clinton administration before 2001 and Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards in their speeches in October 2002 supporting military action in Iraq.

 The Senate Intelligence Committee report also refuted completely the charges by former diplomat Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration ignored his conclusion, based on several days in Niger, that Iraq had not sought to buy uranium in that country. Democrats and many in the press claimed that Wilson refuted the 16-word sentence Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, noting that British intelligence reported that Iraq sought to buy uranium in Africa.

 But British intelligence stands by that finding, and the committee noted that Wilson confirmed that Iraq had approached Niger, whose main exports are uranium and goats, and intelligence analysts concluded that his report added nothing else to their previous knowledge. And the report flatly denied Wilson's statements that his wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, had nothing to do with his mission to Niger -- it quotes Plame's memo taking credit for the appointment.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM