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. Rico

    So - not surprising - Rove lies again! I applaud CNN for running this fact-check. I just wish more media outlets - are you listening Fox News? - would do the same. There's far too much lying in the public sphere.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sean

    Rove lied...shocking

    March 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel

    With all the spy satillites,the U2 aircraft,the C.I.A. agents,plus the UN arms inspection teem headed by Hans Blix,there was absolutely no way that the Bush administration could have not known that those WMDs did not exist.But,unfortunately,he succeeded in fooling the public and to war we went.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Steve Monroe

    Revisionist history is revisionist history no matter what.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tim Hopkins

    It is fascinating that Mr. Rove so totally ignores the fact that President
    Bush reluctantly formed the 9/11 Commission 15 months after the attacks on the WTC
    and the Pentagon. Why was there so little interest in what actually happened on 09/11/2001 when Mr. Rove himself writes in his memoir that President Bush was first and foremost focusing on preventing another tragedy such as happened on the fateful day?

    March 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Austringer

    Politicians lie? Really? Gosh!

    March 10, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    Rove lie? What a surprise!!!! It is just so obvious he is trying to rewrite history to make his administration – yes, it was his too – look better in history. However, as terrible as the decision to go to war was for the country and economy, how bad does Rove think Bush's decisions on the economy in general were? He nearly caused things to collapse. That was a VERY consequential and devastating set of poor judgements. What about the unfunded tax cuts? The list goes on. You can't help but bad-mouth the Bush group.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kate

    Thanks for setting Rove's allegations to rest

    March 10, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jason

    Excellent job, CNN. Thank you.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    21 out of 50 Democrats in the Senate opposed the war... well that's a majority of support... that's more support by 2 to 1 then the country is supporting the Democrats healthcare debacle.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. IndyCamaro83

    So basically, nothing new to report.....Thanks....

    March 10, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Solo75

    In another country, this person would be already in jail.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cordwainer in K.C.

    I can't speak for others. For myself, Rove's credibility is so low that any defense of the Bush administration by him lends weight to the charges that we were lied to in order to start the war, in my mind, at least.

    I predict that in the future, the Bush administration will be treated by history books in the same manner as Tammany Hall and 'Boss' Tweed.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tony

    Hum....sounds like a LIAR to me! He is a war criminla and belongs in jail.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin

    In other words, He's lying (again!)...wow.. what a shock.. what next, headlines that read "Sun rises in the East!"?

    This guy has all the credibility of a three year old with frosting all over his face and hands that is insisting that his invisible friend is actually the one who ate the cake.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
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