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. Tom

    War Crimes.

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

    Strange that karl didn't mention that WMD was third or fourth reason to invade Iraq.
    First, Saddam was involved in 9/11. No sale
    Then came Saddam was a bad man. So what?
    Then came Saddam allowed bin Laden to use Iraq bases.
    Then came WMD.
    But, then again, karl has never been known for telling the truth.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. Waldo

    Republicans rely on short attention spans, then work assiduously to reconstruct history. They are pathological liars and sociopaths. The Democrats are merely wannabes, nowhere near as skilled at the game. Americans get the government they deserve.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. Srirama Swaminathan

    I'm quite thrilled to learn the continued attempts of Mr. Rove to spin lies into truth based on the assumptions that repeating a lie becomes a truth in history. It has been proven time and again that Mr. Rove is nothing more than a gas bag but an intelligent one having a huge conservative following that lives in the woods. He needs to make his living which he has been doing by spinning lies, a grand old lawyer's tradition. Media should start ignoring him which then shall result in him going to oblivion,

    March 11, 2010 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. Charlie

    I'm glad you did the Fact Check I almost came right down to the comment section to rebut Rove. So what did the guys on The Situation Room say when Rove made these statements? Did they miss an opportunity to show how full of it he is or did they call him on it?

    March 11, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. IMYY4U

    I have not read this book so I am not in a position to judge its merits or its short-comings. I do not know when Mr. Rove started writing this book or when he finished it. The facts that have come out about the reasons we invaded Iraq and kicked out Saddam clearly lead to the conclusion that President Bush pulled the trigger a little prematurely on the decision to go to war. One of the things I detest the most is being lied to, and I feel that the Bush Administration lied to the American people about the total destruction package that Iraq had available to use. Our major Allies, with the exception of Great Britian, were not fully behind the US in invading Iraq. There was certainly some stretching and fracturing of the truth, and stories were written with the exhileration of Dr. Suess, to sell the war to the American people. Karl Rove has been a friend of former President Bush and the Bush family, for a very long time. He goes back to the days of W. running for Governor of the State of Texas. The last thing he is going to do is trash-talk a friend. Rove up to this point has been 100% teflon, nothing bad is sticking or has stuck to him. He is not about to start anything new.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. frank

    I just dont understand why this man is not in jail. makes me sick, just the thought,all those men and women that died in that war.on the lies this whack'o help fabricate.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bob R

    Apparently, Karl Rove and other members of the Bush-Cheney administration, such as the former Vice-President himself, believe that a lie repeated frequently enough becomes truth.

    When a full and accurate history is finally written of the Bush 43 years, it will be very, very ugly.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. JoeS

    Rove is still using two main lines of argument: lies and damned lies. When he needs facts, he makes them up and then asks for overwhelming evidence to prove him wrong. He argues in terms of generalities that cannot be confirmed or disputed. He doesn't refer to solid facts, findings or evidence that can be confirmed or disputed. The Bush administration could not penetrate Saddam's deceptions and assumed his threats and bluster were backed by actual military capability, but the ease with which the U.S. forces swept through Iraq showed that Saddam's posturing was a bluff. We have paid dearly for Bush's mistakes. Let's hope Obama may be able to salvage some benefit and regional stability from our efforts.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. Angela

    Tom Pauken's new book "Bringing America Home" discusses how key policymakers such as Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Henry Paulson, attempt to put the best possible face on their actions during the Bush presidency, but it does not change the fact that on the major economic and foreign policy issues confronting them at the time, they often made bad choices – you might want to check it out.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. A. Goodwin

    Does it surprise anyone that Rove is still out there spewing his lies? The man is an ego-maniac! Rove will make more $$ with is lies...just what the American people need. On a high note, bringing this info. back to life only makes the Dems look great. The only war the Dems want to make, is against the insurance carriers of this country. I like this war MUCH better.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. bubba551

    Ah,good old CNN, still too busy 'Fact Checking' the last administration to bother with this one.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    That is the most biased fact check I have ever seen. SHould be called "Fact Check in a liberals view point".

    March 11, 2010 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Susan

    It figures. We all know that the Bush Administration pushed us into war. They were lies from day one. The American people were bilindsided and manipulated into this disaster. The hypocracy of the Republicans will always amaze me.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bob in Kansas City

    Just another Bush sychophant attempting to re-write history. Usually happens when an administration is inundated in deciet and criminal behaviour Nixon and his sychophants spent years try the same re-write of history only to be unsuccesful as the Bush administration will be remembered as one of the worst in U.S. history!

    March 11, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
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