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.