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. Dave

    ROVE LIES .. All these war criminals try to cover their tracks.. The sad part is they believe their own lies. Rove and his cronies are war criminals and should be in jail. They claim they are victims of a situation, or that they had the "long term' interest in mind. Crap. They are greedy egotistical, power hungry people and their politics lead to one thing: Spend to kill .. Meanwhile the US is being eaten alive by all the bad karma these people have created.

    March 11, 2010 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brand X

    Wow. The facts in this particular case (and likely all other cases) don't match Rove's pitiful effort to rewrite history? What a surprise.

    March 11, 2010 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bruce

    Not surprising that Rove is once again exaggerating and misrepresenting the facts about what happened. He and his cronies spent all of their time in office lying to the American public. I wouldn't trust him to honestly tell me what time it is, much less about what he did during the Bush years.

    March 11, 2010 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. John Vienna

    In a fair trial, Bush, Cheney, Rove and cohorts would be convicted of crimes against humanity for what they did to Iraq. By the best estimates, hundreds of thousands of innocent people died in the chaos that followed a poorly planned invasion that was designed to seize control of Iraqi oil. The dissimulation continues in an effort to prevent that trial from ever happening, but let's hope it does.

    March 11, 2010 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. Li

    Karl Rove ignoring facts that don't support his spin? Say it ain't so!

    March 11, 2010 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Robert Gertz

    The man who pulled every slimy trick he could during the Bush administration, including outing a CIA agent and creating the phony 'swiftboat' team now seeks to continue his performances by spreading rumors accusing Justice Department lawyers who defended terror suspects of being traitors and distorting the events leading us to the disaster in Iraq.

    It figures.

    One could argue at least he didn't go pandering over to the Democrats after their victory, offering to slime for them...But who else but the conservative wing of the GOP would have him?

    March 11, 2010 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mike in NJ

    So, in the end, BUSH LIED.

    And Rove Knows It. So, ROVE LIED and CONTINUES TO LIE as well.

    March 11, 2010 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bill

    I still recall the way the UN Weapons Inspectors under Hans Blix were mocked for the work they were doing. The Bush Administration found a way to marginalize them and their mission and move them out of the country before their pre-emptive attack. Rove is trying to re-write history. CNN's fact checking is important. Rove and his colleagues within the Bush Administration must be held to account for the decisions they made. It might be useful for CNN to replay some of Mr. Blix's interviews made prior to the invasion and at the time they were being pushed out of Iraq.

    March 11, 2010 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jason B.

    OK Karll...you can shush up now. You're not working for Bush anymore. Besides, so much of what you're defending has been proven to be bogus, and yet you still pound it as fact???

    March 11, 2010 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. demon

    Karl Rove ??? still alive?

    March 11, 2010 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Richard Morgan

    In the Fact Check paragraph one, it is stated that Germany, France, and Russia did not support the war in Iraq. If I am not mistaken, during the UN sanctions on Iraq, France, Germany, and Russia were STILL providiing UN-banned items to Hussein worth billions of dollars. An overthrow of Hussein would cost them each billions of dollars during troubling economic times. Could this be why they didn't suport the invasion?

    March 11, 2010 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Godzilla1

    Lies – all lies

    March 11, 2010 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. Vern

    Rove is a lier.

    March 11, 2010 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. SAG1015

    Here's one clear example of what's wrong with this country: We write "Rove is stretching the consensus that existed at the time and ignores much of what has come to light since," when we should write "Rove is a LIAR."

    March 11, 2010 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. Terry

    Rove is a liar. Case closed.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
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