March 10th, 2010
07:50 PM ET

Rove's 'consensus' on Iraq soft-pedals disputes

Karl Rove calls the invasion of Iraq "the most consequential decision" of former President George Bush's two terms, and Bush's former political adviser devotes a chunk of his new memoir to defending it.

In the nearly 600-page book, "Courage and Consequence," Rove takes two chapters to attack the belief that the Bush administration exaggerated the case for the invasion of Iraq. One attacks former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who first argued in July 2003 that the Bush administration had "twisted" the evidence that Iraq was re-arming, and a second, titled "Bush Was Right on Iraq," criticizes Democrats who followed suit.

Rove writes the major argument that underpinned the U.S.-led invasion - concerns that Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's government was concealing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and a nuclear bomb program - was based on "an overwhelming international and domestic consensus" that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"The charge that Bush lied was itself a lie," Rove says. But he says he and the White House failed to mount a sufficient response to an accusation that polls show a majority of Americans came to believe.

"I know how carefully people on both sides of the aisle examined this information and examined these conclusions, because this was a question of war or peace. This was a question of whether our country was going to go to war and send our military, our brave men and women, into combat, and this is not a decision that anyone in our government, Democrat or Republican, takes lightly," Rove told CNN's "The Situation Room."

Fact Check: Did an 'overwhelming' consensus on Iraq's weapons exist before the invasion?

- The consensus was hardly overwhelming internationally. While Britain strongly supported war and called the evidence "beyond doubt," France, Germany and Russia issued joint statement in February 2003 declaring that, "While suspicions remain, no evidence has been given that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction or capabilities in this field."

- In March 2003, less than two weeks before the invasion, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix specifically addressed one of the most dramatic U.S. allegations: that Iraq was using mobile biological weapons laboratories. "No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found," Blix said.

- Nor was the consensus completely solid within U.S. intelligence, as investigations since the invasion concluded. The 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that summarized most of the U.S. intelligence on Iraq included conclusions that were "overstated or not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting," the Senate Intelligence Committee reported in 2004. The State Department's intelligence bureau disagreed that Iraq had restarted its nuclear weapons program, and the Department of Energy disputed a highly publicized piece of evidence top administration officials were citing as evidence of that.

- Rove correctly points out that several leading Democrats echoed the

Bush administration's arguments for the invasion, including some lawmakers who later alleged they had been misled. But Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against authorizing the invasion by a 2-to-1 margin, and 21 of the 50 Democrats then in the Senate opposed it as well.

- And while the Bush administration may not have launched an "all-hands-on-deck" counterattack, as Rove says it should have, one attempt at blunting the allegation triggered another problem. White House adviser Lewis

"Scooter" Libby "undertook vigorous efforts to rebut this attack" in the following week, according to the prosecutors who ultimately convicted him of perjury, obstructing justice and lying to investigators probing the exposure of former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, former Ambassador Wilson's wife.

Libby was not charged with leaking the name, only with trying to obstruct the subsequent investigation. His 30-month sentence was commuted by Bush before he reported to prison.

- Rove appeared before the CIA leak grand jury five times, but was never charged. The disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's role with the CIA ultimately was traced to then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who also did not face charges.

Bottom Line:

In defending his old boss, Rove is stretching the consensus that existed at the time and ignores much of what has come to light since. And the administration didn't take the allegation of dishonesty lying down, as the evidence presented in the Libby case showed.

Got something that needs checking? Email us at factcheck@cnn.com

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soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Joe

    It seems pretty clear that Saddam wanted people to believe he had WMD because he could use the threat to bully people. Also he seemed to be obssessed with "saving face" and would never admit that he did NOT have them, even if that could have prevented an invasion. Finally, information was disclosed that France had a number of highly-placed ministers on Saddam's payroll, so French reluctance to invade can be dismissed by the bribes they accepted.

    March 10, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. keith

    HInd-sight is always 20/20, and at the time of the invasion, the preponderous of evidence showed Iraq could have a stock pile of biological/chemical/nuclear weapons, or the capability to produce these weapons. I have always, whole heartedly supported the President's decision to invade Iraq in order to stop Hussien from commiting any further weapons. What I can argue, is how the invasion and the ensuing occupation has been managed. The decision to attack was right, what followed was mis-managed, but history will be the only judge of the decision. In my eyes, I feel what was done, was the right thing to do, and as always, I support the President for his decision.

    March 10, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Charles in Cincinnati

    A patriot is someone who puts his country's best interests before his own.

    Karl Rove is the exact opposite.

    March 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bobby

    Karl Rove lied? We really needed an article to figure that out?

    March 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    The Downing Street memo gives the lie to Rove's claims.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian

    Rove was the architect of most of the Bush folly, anyway. Why would we expect his to say anything different. They are both liars. My only hope is that we can re-use the words of slugger Reggie Jackson, "One's a born liar and the other is convicted"

    March 10, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Robert

    Rove, once a liar always a liar, is anyone surprised he's manipulating and stretching the truth, and outright lying in most cases.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gordon Burnet

    Rove, Rumsfeld, Chaney and the White House all conspired to pump up rationale for a war they wanted to start. It was a scam of the largest magnitude on the American public. We will be paying the price in lives lost, ruined, and economic woes for years to come. It was all about EGO in the WH.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. scottwiningear

    Karl Rove is just like ALL top republicans right now. they look at their own interests instead of the "people's" interest, and are complete liars. Everything that comes out of their mouths smells worse than what is in the cow field down the road!

    March 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sd-mouth

    The bottom line will always show that Rove the Weasel, George the Lesser and Big Dick Cheney started a war where the US of A, for the first time in it's history invaded a sovereign country, all be it despicable, and was the aggressor based on shameful information and reasoning. The moral compass of the US of A took a real dip while these incompetents were in office.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Zon

    I think anyone who's been paying attention knows that Karl Rove has a penchant for trying to re-write history. The fact of the matter is he lost all credibility as a truth-teller a long time ago. He's entitled to his own interpretation of truth, but we are entitled to continue to call him a liar.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The Crawfish

    The reason to go to war with Saddam wasn't that he had WMDs. He repeatedly violated the terms of the 1991 ceasefire accord, as acknowledged by Bill Clinton numerous times, and that accord stated that if the terms were broken by Saddam's government, the Desert Storm Coalition was to reform and remove Saddam's government by force.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DUKEOFNEWYORKA1

    Karl Rove? Yeah, there's a source of honesty! (Sacrasm)

    March 10, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rick in L.A.

    Why must we afford this buffoon the time of day, especially since he's just trying to make a buck on his book? When all is said and done, the history books will clearly show the United States preemptively began a war with Iraq without sufficiently allowing the U.N. to complete it's search for WMD's. Rove, Bush and Cheney should all be imprisoned for lying to the American people.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. larry

    In other words, Rove remains a liar, as we all knew he was.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
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