Without further explanation, let me reprint an e-mail I received this morning from former senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards:
I was wrong.
I wrote these words about my vote to authorize the Iraq war in a Washington Post op-ed piece and I want to share my views with you as well.
Almost three years ago, we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.
It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a very dear price. It is not right, just or fair that we made a mistake, but they pay for that mistake.
The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.
While we can't change the past, we need to accept responsibility because a key part of restoring America's moral leadership is acknowledging when we've made mistakes or been proven wrong -- and to show that we have the creativity and guts to make it right.
The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were hearing from the President -- and that I was being told by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.
George Bush won't accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at almost every step: twisting intelligence to fit their pre-conceived views about Iraq's threat; failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops; not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for peace.
Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater threat than it actually ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our presence there is draining the goodwill that our country once enjoyed, diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.
The urgent question isn't how we got here, but what we do now. We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means leaving behind a success, not a failure.
What is success? I don't think it is Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy. I think it is an Iraq that is relatively stable, largely self-sufficient, comparatively open and free, and in control of its own destiny.
A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives: reducing American presence; building Iraq's capacity; and getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.
First, we need to remove the image of the imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation.
We also need to show Iraq and the world that we will not stay there forever. We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals. Therefore, early next year, after the Iraqi elections and a new government has been created, we should begin the redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq. This should be the beginning of a gradual process to reduce our presence and change the shape of our military's deployment in Iraq.
Most of these troops should come from National Guard or Reserve forces. That will still leave us with enough military capability, combined with better trained Iraqis, to fight terrorists and continue to help the Iraqis develop a stable country.
Second, this redeployment should work in concert with a more effective training program for Iraqi forces. We should implement a clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met. To increase incentives, we should implement a schedule outlining that as we certify that Iraqi troops are trained and equipped, a proportional number of U.S. troops will withdraw.
Third, we must launch a serious diplomatic process that brings the world into this effort. We should bring Iraq's neighbors and our key European allies into a diplomatic process to get Iraq on its feet. It's not just in America's security interest for Iraq to succeed, but the world's -- and the President needs to create a unified international front.
Too many mistakes have already been made to make this easy. Yet we must take these steps to succeed. The American people, the Iraqi people and -- most importantly -- our troops who have died or been injured there and those who are fighting there today deserve nothing less.
America's leaders -- all of us -- need to accept the responsibility we each carry for how we got to this place. Over 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in this war; and over 150,000 are fighting there today. They and their families deserve honesty from our country's leaders. And they also deserve a clear plan for a way out.
John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden... any time now. We're waiting.
Don't forget the atmosphere that prevailed in the two or three years immediately after 9/11. A politician had to agree with the administration line, or be branded 'soft on terrorism'.
Posted by Dean at November 16, 2005 1:06 PM
"The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda."
That's a lie.
• In July 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan 500-page report that found numerous failures of intelligence gathering and analysis. As for the Bush Administration's role, "The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."
• The Butler Report, published by the British in July 2004, similarly found no evidence of "deliberate distortion," although it too found much to criticize in the quality of prewar intelligence.
• The March 2005 Robb-Silberman report on WMD intelligence was equally categorical, finding "no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. . . .analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments."
Removing Saddam from power was not a mistake, and this kind political opportunism by the Democrats is going to bite them in the ass, not least because they are wrong about being supposedly misled or tricked AND wrong about the current state and future of Iraq.
Keep celebrating holding onto the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey. With these Democratic Party leaders not losing what they already have in an off-year election is indeed a great victory for them.
Posted by Lawrence at November 16, 2005 2:47 PM
Lawrence, the Washington Post has pointed out in detail that you're uttering nonsense ( http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/11/AR2005111101832_pf.html ); Mark Kleiman has pointed out in detail that you're uttering nonsense (
http://markarkleiman.com/archives/lying_in_politics_/2005/11/secondorder_lying.php ); Josh Marshall has done so ( http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/006933.php ; http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/006935.php ); Larry Johnson has done so ( http://tpmcafe.com/story/2005/11/14/224550/85 ); Matt Yglesias has done so ( http://yglesias.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/11/11/131029/55 ), and now James Fallows has done so ( http://huffingtonpost.com/jim-fallows/what-bush-isnt-addressin_b_10621.html ). It may reasonably be concluded from their collection of evidence that you're uttering nonsense.
Posted by Bruce Moomaw at November 18, 2005 4:29 PM
Sure, Bruce. The Senate Intelligence Committee report, the Robb-Silberman report and the hundreds of CIA analysts who were interviewed on the matter are uttering nonsense while your lefty journalist and bloggers are speaking truth to power.
Posted by Lawrence at November 18, 2005 5:55 PM
Maybe I should be a bit more explicit, if Lawrence really does have as much reading-comprehension difficulty as his last message suggests. All those sources I mentioned point out that the report quotes which Lawrence mentions -- which almost all of them also explicitly quote -- are totally irrelevant, because not one of those groups, by their own statement, were authroized to look into whether the Administration deliberately ignored or distorted the evidence that actually had been sent to them by various intelligence sources. And THAT is the main question: whether the Administration deliberately and absurdly overplayed obviously non-credible intelligence supporting its case for an immediate invasion -- even when that intelligence was clearly recognizable as poppycock (as with the Yellowcake Memos) -- while deliberately ignoring huge amounts of far more credible evidence against an immediate invasion.
Posted by Bruce Moomaw at November 18, 2005 10:50 PM
Er, Lawrence. If you'd bother to read a single one of those entries
Hell no, I didn't follow any of those links. If you can't be bothered enough to put a few sentences together to make your own argument, why should I waste my time? Use links to support your arguments if you wish, but don't be so lazy to use one (or 7!) standing alone and expect me to refute every frickin' claim therein. Besides, 9 times out of 10 the article doesn't say what is purported. So don't waste my time.
...you would learn that the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the Robb-Siberman report, and those "hundreds of CIA analysts" never actually said anything remotely like what you (and the GOP spokesmen you're echoing) have said they said.
Now you're just being stupid. Both of those reports were bipartisan and contained interviews of hundreds of CIA analysts. Not one -- not one! -- said they were coerced or pressured in any way to change their judgments relating to Iraq. Those are direct quotes from the report I used above.
So do us a favor and actually READ them before opening your mouth again, eh?
Follow you're own advice.
Incidentally, anyone who describes James Fallows as a leftist may be in serious need of medical attention
Fallows' Bush Lied Us Into War charge clearly places him in left field on the war.
And the key line in his new piece is: "On available evidence, the President himself has not grasped the essential criticism of moving against Iraq when he did: that a war in Iraq undercut the broader and longer-term war against Islamic terrorism."
That's his opinion, and if that's the "key line" in the piece, what does it have to do with manipulating intelligence? Talk about reading comprehension difficulties... You're wasting my time!
the Administration deliberately and absurdly overplayed obviously non-credible intelligence supporting its case for an immediate invasion
That's bullshit, and any reasonable person knows it. But by all means, keep up this line of attack. It can only help Republicans.
Posted by Lawrence at November 19, 2005 2:44 PM
Read the fucking articles, Lawrence. I do not have time, and Seth doesn't have the room, to include multiple paragraphs from each one on this site. The fact that you're not willing to do so -- at the same time that you parrot the official GOP talking points on the issue -- proves, by itself, that you're not just honestly mistaken but a deliberate charlatan, which means that I have no reason to waste any more of MY time debating you (if that's the word for it). I will note, though, that you seem to have no response to my last note -- which explains why those quotes you've been making from the Senate and Silberman Reports (also noted at length by the people I'm citing, as I said) are completely irrelevant.
Posted by Bruce Moomaw at November 19, 2005 4:08 PM
They reports are not irrelevant to the charge of manipulation, Moomaw. They're precisely on point. I don't like to argue with idiots because people may not be able to tell the difference. So have at it, buddy. And for someone who can't make his own argument (Andrew Sullivan says this, Andrew Sullivan says that) you've got a lot of nerve accusing others of parroting anyone.
Posted by Lawrence at November 19, 2005 6:04 PM