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. Patrick

    Of course Rove is going to defend the war and say Bush didn't lie. He was right there in the thick of it lying right along side him. The former Bush Administration are trying to rewrite history but the American people are smarter than that.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. check the fact checker

    You fail to point out that Russia itself came out later to say that they had knowledge of Iraq's capability, statement made by Putin himself.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. billp

    Sadly for Rove, It doesn't matter what he says going forward – proven liars are not believed even when they tell the truth. I don't know if he's telling the truth this time, but given his record I cannot give him the beneift of a doubt.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tom goskirk

    I keep wonder how much more of the past administration actions are based on poor judgement or rather based on taking biased postions or corporated profit. As a republican, it is very very sad.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. David

    " 'an overwhelming international and domestic consensus' that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." Why did, then Sec. of State, Colin Powel have to go overseas to make the case for the WMDs and the invasion if there was an overwhelming consensus? There was no such thing.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. christopher Smith

    THis is a poor attempt to discredit Rove. He says that he did not mount as much of a defense of the accusations that Bush lied as he should have. Just because Scooter Libby defended the president doesn't change anything about the veracity of what Rove said. And if these are the best attacks against Rove's accounts, than I think he has sucessfully defended the administration.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. Eric Bernhard

    When members of congress decided to approve the invasion of Iraq, they were trusting the Administration to tell the truth about the intelligence gathered about the Iraq weapons and intentions. If those members of Congress were lied-to, does their endorsement of the war vindicate those who fed them the lies? Carl Rove and Dick Cheney use circular arguments to justify their deception.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. jphilly08

    i bet the department of energy disagreed with the aluminum tubes that were presented, the tubes could never have been used for enrichment. every intelligence agency out there new saddam didnt have chem or bio weapons. let alone nukes!!!

    March 11, 2010 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. Listen to Hans Bli

    The US agreed to the inspections. Hans Blix didn't find anything. At that point the US should have backed off and waited a couple of years and then find a new excuse to invade Iraq.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. RichM

    Really all of this is irrelevant. This danger in Iraq came from the unpredictability and miscalculations of Saddam Hussein and his sons. Whether WMD's were there in 2003 should never have been made an issue. It's not that hard for a man who controls the resources of an entire oil producing country to make WMDs at the time of his choosing.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. joe_conservative

    Ok. It wasn't absolute consensus but there was general consensus. It seems that this piece is doing more twisting to show that there was not consensus than Karl Rove does to show that there was.

    In short, was there a large body of people, advocates, and "experts" that believed the weapons existed. Yes. Is there any evidence that the administration deliberately deceived Congress or the public. Maybe if you take Joe Wilson's claim as 100% true and this would be a bit weak.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
  12. Brett

    You mean Rove is a lying worm? Who'd have thought?

    March 11, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jepp

    Rove is a lock step die hard republican who has mastered lying and creating his own reality which is in actuality is one big lie.

    March 11, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. jimbo

    I can honestly tell you that when the supreme court declared Bush the winner in 2000, I knew right then we were going into Iraq. The main fact was the U.N inspector was proving there was no WMD, but Bush attacked anyway. After all what did you think was going to happen. You have the leader of the most powerful army in the world who had a personal grudge against Sadam. At the very least this was an abuse of power, and our country has paid dearly for it.

    March 11, 2010 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bill

    The one thing that is always overlooked in the argument about what was known before the invasion of Iraq and whether it was warranted is the FACT that Saddam Hussein ADMITTED to intentionally deceiving people into believing that he did indeed have weapons of mass destruction.

    He admitted to leaking that information for other intelligence agencies to pick up on.

    So, his plan worked. He wanted other countries to believe and they did.

    March 11, 2010 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
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