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Editorials
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Sunday, July 27, 2003




[ OUR OPINION ]

U.S.-Iraq policy
demonized by
House members


THE ISSUE

Four congressmen, including Rep. Neil Abercrombie, are participating in periodic sessions on the House floor criticizing U.S. policy in Iraq.

REP. Neil Abercrombie and three other Democratic congressman calling themselves "The Iraq Watch" have been engaging in a weekly dialogue on the House floor lately about what they see as misguided U.S. policy. The quartet is calling for a bipartisan congressional or independent investigation of how the Iraq policy came about. The call is not likely to be heeded, since it is a partisan one that presumes policy-makers have been trying to put one over on the American electorate.

In embarking on the end-of-day exchange last month, Rep. William Delahunt of Massachusetts promised "a lively give-and-take about Iraq." However, as with other staged House colloquies, it has been all give and no take. Abercrombie and Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois voted against the congressional resolution authorizing military action in Iraq while Delahunt and Rep. Joseph Hoeffel of Pennsylvania voted for it, but all four now agree it was a terrible mistake.

The foursome's concerns about U.S. involvement in Iraq are legitimate and a discussion of the issues is worthwhile. However, a conversation of the liberal faithful can turn shrill, accusing people with whom they disagree of odious motives and underhanded tactics to attain their goal of "world domination" -- Rush Limbaugh turned on his head.

In opposing the resolution, Abercrombie questioned whether the Bush administration had provided adequate evidence that Iraq posed an imminent threat to world peace to warrant a military strike by U.S. and British forces. The failure since then to locate any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has hardened the Hawaii congressman's opposition to U.S. policy. The recent flap over President Bush's State of the Union address has added fuel to his skepticism.

In his speech, Bush cited British intelligence that Saddam Hussein "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" to build nuclear weapons. The president and CIA Director George Tenet have apologized for the reference, since the only American intelligence about such a potential deal was based on documents that the CIA knew to be forged.

"Who committed these forgeries?" Abercrombie asked in one of the floor sessions. The answer, he said, "has to do with who benefitted from it." In another session, he blamed American policy in Iraq on people inside the Bush administration and in conservative think tanks "who were determined to start a war in Iraq, to include Syria and Iran, because of the policies that they feel this country should be not only espousing but pursuing in terms of world domination beginning in the Middle East."

However, the British intelligence was based on information other than the forged documents, and Prime Minister Tony Blair continues to stand behind it as "genuine." That does not excuse Bush from citing the intelligence or CIA officials for failing to alert the president before his speech was delivered that it could not verify the claim, nor does it constitute deliberate deceit.

Emanuel, an aide in the Clinton White House, said "heads would have rolled" if such a gaffe had occurred during that administration. Why the sentence remained in the Bush speech, he said, is "one of the great mysteries."

"It has nothing to do with plots and conspiracies," Abercrombie answered, "but it has everything to do with a philosophy and an attitude and an ideology which has been expressed again and again" by people he described later as "self-appointed elitists" with an "imperialist vision on the world."

Former President Bill Clinton has a simpler and more rational explanation. "You know," he told CNN's Larry King last week, referring to the State of the Union address controversy, "everybody makes mistakes when they are president. I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to without messing up once in a while. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now."

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