WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Without warning last Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., invoked a little-used provision of Article I, Section 5 of our Constitution to force "the world's greatest deliberative body" into an unusual closed session. For a moment I thought he was doing a commercial for my new bestselling novel, "The Assassins" -- which has a similar scene in chapter 5.
As it turns out, this cynical maneuver was far more crass than a mere commercial endorsement. Though Mr. Reid and his colleagues say their goal is to force disclosure of the "misinformation and disinformation" presented by President Bush and his administration during the lead-up to war in Iraq, their real motive seems to be nothing less than bringing down the commander-in-chief in the midst of a war. And unfortunately, the Republican leadership, caught flatfooted like deer in your headlights, failed to do their duty.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R.-Kan., called the maneuver a "political stunt" - and then went on to agree that a six-Senator bi-partisan task force will report by Nov. 14 on progress reviewing "pre-war intelligence." In other words -- now that the president's polls are down and we have more than 2,000 dead, let's explore once again if we're engaged in a war we didn't have to fight.
For the Iraqi people who just affirmed their own constitution -- and who are about to go to the polls to select the first freely-elected legislature in the Islamic world -- this is at best, disheartening. For the Jihadists, intent on driving all western influence out of "Islamic lands" -- it is a propaganda windfall for recruiting more suicide-terrorist "martyrs." Worse yet, for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines serving on the front-lines in the war on terror -- and their families here at home - it was a painful and pitiful performance all around.
The staged "closed session" came just four days after Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted for perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in the investigation into the leak of CIA employee Valerie Plame-Wilson's identity. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Mr. Reid tried to make a connection between the Plame-Wilson leak and the ongoing war to liberate Iraq: "The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about: How the administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions."
On cue, Senate Minority Whip Richard "Dick" Durbin, D.-Ill., -- who once likened American servicemen to those who served Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin and Cambodia's Pol Pot -- added, "We have lost over 2,000 of our best and bravest. Over 15,000 have been seriously wounded. We are spending more than $6 billion a month with no end in sight. And this Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee refuses to even ask the hard questions about the misinformation and disinformation given to the American people and the efforts made by the members of this administration to cover it up."
Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, fired his own shot, also accusing the White House of manipulating the committee's GOP leadership into steering away from the subject of pre-Iraq war intelligence. "Any time the Intelligence Committee pursued a line of inquiry that brought us close to the role of the White House in all of this, in the use of intelligence prior to the war, our efforts have been thwarted time and time again," he said.
The "closed session" was hardly over before Sen. John "Reporting for Duty" Kerry was out to his dozens of supporters on his website, alleging "the country was misled into this war by a president and an administration who [sic] appear today to have put politics and narrow ideology ahead of sound honest national security policy."
With weekly polls showing a precipitous drop in public support for the war, all of this rhetoric is red meat to the far-left leadership of the Democrat party. George Soros, Howard Dean and Michael Moore have to be euphoric -- they have the hated George Bush on the ropes -- and hope to score a knock-out. They will, of course, have the help of the mainstream media who are unlikely to remind the American people that this is all being carried out in a U.S. Senate that had access to the same ambiguous intelligence that was used by the White House before hostilities began on March 19, 2003.
Nor is it probable that Messrs. Reid, Rockefeller, Kerry, et al, will want to be reminded that they -- along with 26 other Democrats, all voted for the Oct. 11, 2002 resolution committing U.S. troops to a war that they now clearly do not want us to win.
What the Democrat leadership is asking for is an "Instant Replay" of all that was discussed and debated before hostilities commenced. But this isn't the NFL -- it's war. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate doesn't seem to know it either.
As this circus in the Senate was unfolding, the best a befuddled Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist could manage was a weak restatement of the obvious: the Senate "has been hijacked by the Democratic Leadership." What he should have done was introduce a "privileged motion" of his own -- demanding an immediate vote on who wants to stop the war right now. But then, that would have taken real leadership.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.