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. Jim In Miami

    Carl Rove – lying?
    Say it ain't so.....

    March 11, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. irishprince

    As my dear old sainted mother always said, " one lies and the other swears to it."

    March 11, 2010 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff B

    As an Independent voter, let me just say that among the many despicable pieces of human debris that inhabit Washington DC, Rove has to be among the very worst. Few people have caused as much damage to our country and to our global partners as he and his band of self-serving political manipulators.
    His attempt to put a happy face on perhaps the most disgustingly dishonest administration this country has ever seen is laughable in the extreme. Rove should have been hanged for treason along with Dick Cheney.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. D. Bunker

    Why hasn't Rove been prosecuted yet?

    March 11, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kevin

    It doesn't matter democrat or republican. If you were in favor of this war you were dead wrong.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. steve lahaie

    It is no surprise that cnn would try to neutralize Rove, who I find to be a very intelligent, well thought out, and honest man, something the left could never bring themselves to believe. Somehow cnn still believes that the Bush administration somehow wantede so badly to go to war with Iraq they lied about everything. Even if there were no weapons of mass destruction, where is Sadaam today? Six feet under to cause the world no harm. My question to all that think Iraq was wrong is, do you think that we wwouldn't have had to deal with Sadaam sooner or later?

    March 11, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. meatgrinda

    " The charge that Bush lied was itself a lie." Rove says.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. JC

    Why is this clown defending the indefensible. Where are the weapons of mass destruction, the chemical weapons, the nuclear material? Where is the overwhelimng evidence? If I recall correctly the coalition of the willing were small countries who never directly contributed to the cause except Britain. They supported the US only because of political or economic incentives. This coalition was strategically formed by the Bush cronies to mitigate for the unpopular war. The world's skepticism was greater than the cause for the war, period. Remember the backlash against France for not supporting the war. And why does he justify it saying that democrats supported the war as well? doesn't really matter that they supported the war. They were manipulated and misinformed by the administration. It was skillfull crafting of propaganda.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. Steve_NH

    FACT

    They made up the reason to start the war.

    After that , whatever.

    It should have never happened. They let Afghanistan go to hell.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jim

    If the consensus was based on intelligence that was manipulated by the Bush administration, the degree of the consensus doesn't help Rove's case one bit.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jorge

    Where there ever found any weapons of mass destruction Mr. Rove?

    March 11, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. Wyet

    The blame goes both ways, Democrats and Republicans. Don't try and point fingers to one party or the other. The both voted for the war. Period. The were both had access to the same evidence and both voted the same way. Period.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Frank

    the can call Mr Rove names....but they can't win against his facts and arguments!
    and that drives Dems crazy
    the bottom line is that Bush did the right thing the corageous thing! something dems will never understand
    good for Karl Rove and his book! the truth always surfaces in the end

    the dems can't prosecute him....because he is telling the truth and he is not guilty of any crime!

    March 11, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis Cooper

    In an attempt to augment how the history of the Iraq war is perceived for future generations, Rove has failed. He has failed because we KNOW the truth. I question the timing and purpose of his coming out in support of the Bush Agenda myself. In politics ladies and gents, there is ALWAYS a motive. I just can't figure out his. This would be akin to Osama Bin Laden making statements that Al Qeda is a peacekeeping movement.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. Harvey Wells

    There is no question that Iraq used poison gas in it's war with Iran and again
    on it's own people. Also missles were launched against Israel. Add to this an
    invasion of another country. Thousands of people lost their lives in these
    attacks and we don't consider this as weapons of mass destruction. Give me a break. I often wonder where we would be now if we hadn't gone into Iraq.
    Would we now have two Irans to deal with, probably so. With democracy
    emerging in Iraq now I hope that full credit will go to G.W. instead of the
    present administration who I now understand is taking credit for Iraq's
    success, especially by those that opposed the increase in troops in the
    first place. Regardless of the motivation for the invasion of Iraq, the end
    result is what counts and that is a democratic government has taken hold
    in the mid east instead of another dictatorship which, in time, will help tp
    stableize that area of the world.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
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