[Vision2020] 08-18-04 CNN: Retiring GOP congressman breaks ranks on Iraq

Art Deco aka W. Fox deco at moscow.com
Wed Aug 18 16:44:55 PDT 2004

Retiring GOP congressman breaks ranks on Iraq
Bereuter calls war 'a mistake'
>From Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 Posted: 6:12 PM EDT (2212 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Breaking ranks with his party and reversing his earlier
stance, a senior retiring Republican lawmaker said Wednesday the military strike
against Iraq was "a mistake," and he blasted a "massive failure" of intelligence
before the war.

The unexpected four-page statement came from Rep. Doug Bereuter of Nebraska, who
until earlier this month was the vice chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee -- a panel that reviewed much of the evidence the administration cited
before going to war.

"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate
intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being
considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action, especially without
a broad and engaged international coalition," Bereuter wrote in a four-page
letter to his constituents.

"The cost in casualties is already large and growing, and the immediate and
long-term financial costs are incredible."

Bereuter was particularly critical of the pre-war intelligence, which described
an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But no such weapons have been
found since the U.S.-led invasion.

Bereuter voted in support of an October 2002 resolution authorizing the use of
force in Iraq, but he said that vote was based on what he had been told about
the WMD threat from Iraq.

"Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued
to justify military action," Bereuter said.

After 26 years on Capitol Hill, Bereuter is retiring next month, and will become
the president of Asia Foundation.

Congressional Republicans were surprised and angry at Bereuter's comments.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Illinois, a member of the intelligence committee, described
Bereuter as "very bitter" for having been passed over in recent years to head
both the intelligence and international relations committees. He suggested
Bereuter's comments were a parting shot to House GOP leaders and President Bush.

An aide denied Bereuter was motivated to write the letter because he didn't get
the appointments.

Rep. James Gibbons, R-Nevada, who is also on the intelligence panel, said
Bereuter's new conclusions are wrong.

"The facts don't change. Iraq was a dangerous place," Gibbons said. "Mr.
Bereuter is entitled to his opinion."

Bereuter's critique of the administration on Iraq was sharp.

He said the administration was wrong to disband the Iraqi army -- because so
many of its members joined forces with the insurgents -- and was wrong to rely
on the Defense Department instead of the State Department to spearhead
reconstruction and the interim government.

He also said the administration was wrong to ignore military leaders who warned
many more troops would be needed in Iraq to maintain the postwar peace.

"Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess and there is no easy and quick
way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems
in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world," Bereuter said.

There was no reaction from the White House to Bereuter's charges.

Bereuter said it was important for both the executive and legislative branches
of government to learn from the "errors and failures" relating to the war in
Iraq and its aftermath.
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