Russert and panel failed to challenge claim that "no one knew" intel on Iraq WMDs was flawed

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

On Meet the Press, host Tim Russert let former Reagan adviser Ken Adelman assert without challenge that "no one knew" that intelligence indicating Iraq had weapons of mass destruction "wasn't true" prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. In fact, members of the intelligence community, including senior CIA analysts, challenged the accuracy of the intelligence that Iraq had WMDs.

On the December 10 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert failed to challenge former Reagan adviser and Defense Policy Board member Ken Adelman's claim that "no one knew" that intelligence indicating Iraq had weapons of mass destruction "wasn't true" prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. As Media Matters for America has repeatedly shown here, here, and here, members of the intelligence community, including former high-ranking CIA official Tyler Drumheller, challenged the accuracy of the intelligence indicating Iraq had such weapons.

Adelman, who asserted in February 2002 that "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk," and that "President Bush does not need to amass rinky-dink nations as 'coalition partners' to convince the Washington establishment that we're right," made his comment during a panel discussion that included Thomas E. Ricks, a military correspondent for The Washington Post; Eliot Cohen, a professor at The Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and a signatory of the Project for the New American Century's organizing statement, who has criticized the Iraq Study Group as "fatuous" and its creation as "no way to win" a war; and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously an adviser to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and special assistant to President George H.W. Bush, who has called the situation in Iraq "not winnable" and the war itself one "of choice that proved to be much more difficult and expensive than Americans bargained for." While Haass did say on Meet the Press that he "had doubts about the war from the get-go," he has not repudiated Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

During the discussion, Russert asked Adelman: "How will [the Iraq war] be described in history?" Adelman replied: "I think it was the right thing to do. I think that, after 9-11, with the 'evidence' ... that we had with weapons of mass destruction -- and that turned out not to be true, but no one knew it wasn't true then and, certainly, Saddam [Hussein] didn't act like it wasn't true ... with all those factors, I think it was a courageous thing for President Bush to do."

From the December 10 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Will the war in Iraq go down as, what? How will it be described in history?

ADELMAN: I tell you, my view on this is a little different from -- probably from everybody's. I think it was the right thing to do. I think that, after 9-11, with the "evidence," quote-unquote, that we had with weapons of mass destruction -- and that turned out not to be true, but no one knew it wasn't true then and, certainly, Saddam didn't act like it wasn't true -- and with the intelligence during the first Gulf War that the nuclear program of Saddam Hussein was further along than we suspected at the time -- with all those factors, I think it was a courageous thing for President Bush to do. I think that part of it was wonderful.

I think that the MBA part, the master of business administration and the competence that Eliot, who was talking about, in just implementing it, I think it was a shameful exercise. So, I think it's a good idea gone terribly bad by terrible implementation on that.

And for a year from now, I think that it's going to be close to what Richard and Eliot says and Tom, but I want something a little different -- and I think we all want that: a feeling that somehow the Iraqi government has bottomed out, that they're going to be OK, that if you're putting your smart money on things, you're going to go with those guys rather than the sectarian groups, rather than the insurgents, because, eventually, they're going to win -- and I hope to God, for the sake of our troops, as I say, that that is the case.

RUSSERT: We just have 20 seconds. Tom Ricks -- the military spent two decades learning about Vietnam. What will the military take from Iraq?

RICKS: It's too early to tell, but it's going to be a series of, I think, very bad and worrisome and ugly lessons that derive from this, probably being the most profligate and worst decision in the history of American foreign policy.

RUSSERT: Tom Ricks, Ken Adelman, Eliot Cohen, Richard Haass, thank you very much for a very important discussion. We'll be right back.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Tim Russert
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
Stories/Interests
Prewar Intelligence/WMD
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