- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

Key Republican and Democratic lawmakers yesterday said the U.S. faces credibility problems if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq, but they are optimistic such weapons will be uncovered by a new survey team.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr. Bush unnecessarily “hyped” the extent of weapons in Iraq’s arsenal.

“I do think that we hyped nuclear, we hyped al Qaeda, we hyped the ability to disperse and use these weapons,” Mr. Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Such hype is customary for all presidents “when they want to accomplish a goal that they are trying to get broad national support for,” but it was not needed in this case, Mr. Biden said.

“We didn’t need all that to go into Iraq. There was sufficient evidence to go into Iraq. They violated the United Nations’ security agreements. They, in fact, violated essentially a peace treaty,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden called the hype a “serious mistake” but said, “I do think we’ll find weapons of mass destruction.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said weapons must be found to avoid “a real credibility problem.”

“We are now putting in 1,400 people with an Iraq survey group, as opposed to the tactical people that are there now, and it’s my view that we will find out what happened to the weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Roberts said.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, last week accused the Bush administration of deliberately misleading the American public into war with Iraq because weapons have not been found.

“What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the U.S.,” said Mr. Byrd, who also supported the resolution.

Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat and ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS she believed the prewar information and does not believe intelligence was wrong.

However, she said, “the world is owed an accounting.”

“And frankly, I’d like to know other things about what did we know about the Iraqi will to fight, which seemed stronger than predicted; what did we know about the possibility of riots and looting, which emerged; what did we know about the intentions of the leadership of Iraq?” Mrs. Harman said.

Since the war ended six weeks ago, two mobile labs that could have manufactured biological weapons have been found, but there has been no sign of the weapons or ousted leader Saddam Hussein.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, said on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer” that it’s too early to conclude the intelligence was faulty.

“A lot of these things might have been buried in the desert, not incinerated, because that would have been detectable from the skies. We don’t know for sure,” Mr. Rockefeller said.

Mr. Biden, Mrs. Harman and Mr. Rockefeller all voted in favor of the resolution authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq.

Mr. Roberts said the larger question is what happened to the weapons confirmed by inspectors in the 1990s, and to make sure they don’t fall into the hands of the new Iraqi government.

Both the Senate and House select intelligence committees are reviewing the accuracy of intelligence prior to war with Iraq.

“I have no doubts whatsoever that the administration worked on the basis of the intelligence that was given to them,” said Rep. Porter Goss, Florida Republican and House Select Intelligence Committee chairman.

“What I don’t know is how good that intelligence was, and it is our job to find out was it good, could they have done better?” Mr. Goss said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Published reports suggest the House committee’s request that the Central Intelligence Committee review its prewar information was in response to criticisms the Bush administration manipulated intelligence.

Mr. Goss called the reports “incorrect” and said the review decision was made well in advance as “routine business.”

“Those kinds of questions are our responsibility to sort out. We have taken the routine step of saying now is about the right time because we are able to peel back the onion a lot more in Baghdad and see what has been going on. There will be more sources, more methods telling us more, more interrogations, more documentation explanation. We’ll find out what was good analysis and what wasn’t,” Mr. Goss said.

Mr. Roberts said the review was a suggestion made last October.

“This is not something where the DoD has now said ‘Because you failed, let’s take a look at it,’” Mr. Roberts said.

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