Sunday 25 May 2003
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top Senate Democrats on Sunday said they believed the Bush administration either exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq, or may have had faulty intelligence on its alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Joe Biden of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration "hyped" Iraq's potential for developing nuclear arms and for using other weapons of mass destruction, but said he expected such weapons will be found.
Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the Senate Intelligence Committee's senior Democrat, said he was "beginning to believe" that the intelligence the administration claimed to have on Iraq's weapons program before the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein was not as sound as he had been led to believe.
Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, the lawmakers gave voice to growing concerns in Congress over the failure so far to find Iraq's alleged biological, chemical and possibly nuclear weapons that President Bush used to justify the war.
"I do think that we hyped nuclear, we hyped al Qaeda, we hyped the ability to disperse and use these weapons. I think that tends to be done by all presidents when they are trying to accomplish a goal that they want to get broad national support for," Biden said.
Rockefeller said Congress must determine whether the administration "intentionally overestimated" Iraq's weapons program, or "just misread it. ... In either case it's a very bad outcome."
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said he expected weapons to be found, and that the United States must make certain they have not fallen into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations.
If the weapons are not found, Roberts said on Meet the Press, "Basically, you have a real credibility problem."
"There's not any doubt that he had weapons of mass destruction. The question is, where are they?" Sen. Orrin Hatch , a Utah Republican, said on CNN's Late Edition.
Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who led opposition in the Senate to the Iraq war, last week delivered a blistering speech accusing Bush of constructing a "house of cards, built on deceit" to justify the war.
Biden, who backed Bush's call to oust Saddam, stopped short of saying there was a deliberate deception. But he said, "I think a lot of the hype here is a serious, serious, serious mistake and it hurts our credibility."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, a Florida Republican, said on CBS' Face the Nation that he had "no doubts whatsoever that the administration worked on the basis of the intelligence that was given to them.
"What I don't know is how good that intelligence was, and it is our job to find out."