President George W. Bush, under siege for "misleading" the country into war against Iraq, received some help from an unusual source -- former President Bill Clinton.
"When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for . . . it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks . . . " said Clinton recently on "Larry King Live." Also, Clinton said he never found out whether a U.S.-British bombing campaign he ordered in 1998 ended Saddam's stockpiles of or his capability of producing chemical and biological weapons. "We might have gotten it all, we might have gotten half of it, we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know," said Clinton.
Presidential contender Sen. Bob Graham, D-FL, actually suggested impeachment of the president over Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech reference about an Iraqi-Africa uranium connection. But Clinton said, "The White House said . . . that on balance they probably shouldn't have put that comment in the speech. What happened, often happens. There was a disagreement between British intelligence and American intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence that said it. . . . British intelligence still maintain that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. . . . Here's what happens: every day the president gets a daily brief from the CIA. And then, if it's some important issue -- and believe me, you know, anything having to do with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons became much more important to everybody in the White House after September the 11th -- then they probably told the president, certainly Condoleezza Rice, that this is what the British intelligence thought."
About the gravity of the president's "error" -- never mind that the British still stand by the Africa/uranium assertion -- Clinton said, "You know, 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 right now."
Why does Clinton, a consistent and persistent critic of this administration, suddenly leap to Bush's defense? After all, polls show Bush's popularity coming down from the post-major-Iraqi-war-operations peak. And the White House appears off-balance in their defense of Bush's speech reference to Iraqi attempts at purchasing uranium in Africa. Furthermore, Americans quite understandably show concern over the almost daily headlines of anti-American Iraqis ambushing soldiers.
Clinton's motives? Check out the just-released Joint Congressional Committee report on 9-11. Under Clinton's watch, the Committee reports how intelligence apparatus failed to connect the dots. Yes, lapses occurred under the current president, but Clinton missed numerous opportunities to focus on the growing terror threat, including opportunities to get Osama bin Laden. Clinton knows that constant browbeating over the alleged lack of Iraqi "imminence" and of Bush's "security failures" serves only to make Clinton's presidency look bad. If anything, the "imminent threat" loomed during Clinton's administration, and he knows he took insufficient action to quell it.
Meanwhile, the Bush anti-war critics either support or sit silently as Bush ponders the use of our military to stop civil war bloodshed in Liberia -- a humanitarian mission. But does the existence of Iraqi shallow graves, torture chambers, and executions translate into support, if belated, for the war against Iraq?
Human Rights Watch says, "The Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party has been in power in Iraq since 1968. Under the leadership of President Saddam Hussein, who seized power in 1979, the Iraqi government has committed a vast number of crimes against the Iraqi people and others, using terror through various levels of police, military, and intelligence agencies to control and intimidate large segments of the Iraqi population. Two Iraqi groups in particular have suffered horrific abuses -- the Kurds in the north, and Shi'a populations in the south. Two decades of oppression against Iraq's Kurds and Kurdish resistance culminated in 1988 with a genocidal campaign, and the use of chemical weapons, against Kurdish civilians, resulting in over 100,000 deaths. . . . Saddam Hussein and others . . . are responsible for a vast number of crimes that constitute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The victims of such crimes include up to 290,000 persons who have been 'disappeared' since the late 1970s, many of whom are believed to have been killed."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opposed the war in Iraq, despite the U.S.'s national security concerns. Back then, Annan said, "My position has always been very clear, that I think it would be unwise to attack Iraq, given the current circumstances of what's happening in the Middle East." Yet Annan now demands that the U.S. send troops to Liberia, "I think we can really salvage the situation if troops were to be deployed urgently and promptly."
Maybe Annan might benefit from a chat with former President Clinton.