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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Pay no attention to that elephant in the corner

Republican senators were outraged Tuesday when Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid invoked a little-used rule to call for a closed session, drawing attention to the perception that GOP leaders are dragging their feet on a report detailing prewar intelligence and how the White House manipulated it to justify invading Iraq.

"The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist asserted.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts called Sen. Reid's action a "stunt."

Sen. Frist speculated that President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court "set the Democrats back on their heels ... This may just be a reaction to that."

Here's another possibility: The American people — not just Senate Democrats — want to know what Mr. Bush knew about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and when he knew it.

It has been well documented that Mr. Bush included those now-infamous 16 words in his State of the Union speech, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," months after the president learned from the CIA that the British intelligence had been proven bogus.

Former Bush administration officials, as well as former national security advisers Richard Clarke and Brent Scowcroft, have publicly criticized Mr. Bush and his administration about the foreign policy rhetoric that led to the invasion of Baghdad.

Yet the Senate Intelligence Committee continues to drag its feet on releasing its findings about faulty prewar Iraq intelligence. Is it any wonder that Democrats are outraged?

One of the knocks against failed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry was that he voted to authorize the war. Similarly, people have criticized potential 2008 presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for her war vote.

But, like other lawmakers and the American people, Sens. Kerry and Clinton relied on the information provided by the administration — information about Saddam's WMDs and his links to al-Qaida and the Sept. 11 attacks.

We now suspect that the intelligence was not only wrong, but that the administration knew it was wrong before using it to justify war.

As Sen. Ted Kennedy put it: "It's bad enough that such a glaring blunder became part of the president's case for war. It's far worse if the case for war was made by deliberate deception. We cannot risk American lives based on shoddy intelligence or outright lies."

We also now know that the administration tried to discredit anyone who tried to point to the truth, and went so far in its deception as endangering the life of a federal agent.

Maybe that is why so many people who initially supported the invasion are now rethinking their positions. Maybe that is why Mr. Bush's approval ratings are at an all-time low. Maybe that is why Democrats are frustrated at the Intelligence Committee's foot-dragging.

A note to Sens. Frist and Roberts: No less authority than the U.S. Constitution specifically authorizes Sen. Reid's "stunt."

The nation deserves the truth.

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