Congressman raps Iraq debacle

Nebraska Republican Rep. Doug Bereuter fired a salvo at the Bush administration as he prepared to retire. Bereuter said he now believes the war on Iraq is unjustified, according to a report in the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star.

“I’ve reached the conclusion, retrospectively,” he said, “now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action.” Bereuter wrote those comments to his constituents in the waning days of his congressional career.

Bereuter added that his conclusion is especially true in light of the fact that the attacks were launched “without a broad and engaged international coalition.”

“Knowing now what I know about the reliance on the tenuous or insufficiently corroborated intelligence used to conclude that Saddam maintained a substantial WMD arsenal, I believe that launching the pre-emptive military action was not justified,” Bereuter said.

The congressman said as a result of the war “our country’s reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened.” Bereuter is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and vice-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

His four-page letter was a complete reversal of his stand in favor of the war when he supported a 2002 resolution to authorize the president to go to war. The U.S. Constitution reserves a declaration of war to the Congress alone, not to the president.

Bereuter said his vote to use military force–even pre-emptive force—was based on intelligence that was faulty or misrepresented, leading congressmen to fear Saddam Hussein would share weapons of mass destruction with terrorists.

“Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action,” he said.

In a statement on the House floor in 2002, Bereuter had urged the coalition against Iraq be broadened and that the Bush administration make adequate plans for the consequences of the war and not divert vital resources from the fight against al-Qaeda and the stabilizing of Afghanistan.

Despite proven intelligence failures and failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President Bush continues to argue that the war was justified because Saddam was a threat to the United States, his neighbors and the people of Iraq.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has said that even though he disagrees about the way in which the administration went to war, he still would have voted to authorize the use of force knowing what he knows today.

Speaking of the war, Bereuter said: “The cost in casualties is already large and growing, and the immediate and long-term financial costs are incredible. From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force.

“Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and in general, the Muslim world.”

Bereuter said he sent the letter because he felt he should respond to constituents who contacted him for his views on the war. “I felt I should send you a forthright update of my views and conclusions on that subject before I leave office,” he said.

He leaves the U.S. House after 26 years to become president of the Asia Foundation on Sept. 1. In departing, he said Congress and the administration “must learn from the errors and failures” related to the attack and its aftermath.

“The toll in American military casualties and those of civilians, physical damages caused, financial resources spent, and the damage to the support and image of America abroad all demand such an assessment and accounting,” Bereuter said.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star

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