May 25, 2007

On War Funding, Whitehouse Votes to Keep Pressure On Bush

Opposing Vote Accompanies New Report on Pre-War Intelligence

Washington, D.C. – Amidst the release of a new report that the Bush Administration ignored intelligence community assessments of potential Al Qaeda influence in post-war Iraq, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) voted against legislation that would provide funding for the war without compelling the President to take steps to end it.

“Whether I or any other member of this body supports our troops is not in question. We always have, and we always will,” Whitehouse said. “Neither is it in question whether the troops now on the ground will get the funding they need. They will. What is in question is whether this President will ever heed the calls of millions of Americans who believe his war has lasted long enough. I have heard from thousands of Rhode Islanders urging me to keep putting pressure on the President to bring this war to an end. I voted in that spirit, and I pledge my efforts will continue.”

Last week, Whitehouse cosponsored and voted for an amendment, offered by Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), to require the President to redeploy virtually all American troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008. The Feingold-Reid measure would have ended funding for the war, with a few narrow exceptions, on that date.

Today the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Whitehouse serves, released a report evaluating what the nation’s intelligence agencies told the Bush administration in the days leading up to the war about the possibility that Al Qaeda or other extremists groups might gain a foothold in a fragile, newly-liberated Iraq. The sobering report found that the administration did not heed warnings from the intelligence community that an American military presence in Iraq could destabilize the country.

In a statement of “additional views,” Whitehouse joined committee chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and others to note that prior to the war, the intelligence community cautioned that “the American invasion would bring about instability in Iraq that would be exploited by Iran and al-Qa’ida terrorists,” a warning the senators called “chilling and prescient.”

“These pre-war cautions were marginalized if not ignored by an Administration set on going to war,” the senators wrote. “In doing so, the Bush Administration once again demonstrated its practice of cherry-picking intelligence reports and assessments that supported policy objectives and denigrating or dismissing those that did not.”

Among the important conclusions contained in the report:

— The Intelligence Community assessed prior to the war that establishing a stable democratic government in postwar Iraq would be a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge.

— The Intelligence Community assessed prior to the war that al Qa’ida probably would see an opportunity to accelerate its operational tempo and increase terrorist attacks during and after a U.S.-Iraq war.

— The Intelligence Community assessed prior to the war that Iraq was a deeply divided society that likely would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it.

— The Intelligence Community assessed prior to the war that the United States’ defeat and occupation of Iraq probably would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups.

— The Intelligence Community assessed prior to the war that Iranian leaders would try to influence the shape of post-Saddam Iraq to preserve Iranian security and demonstrate that Iran is an important regional actor.

— The Intelligence Community assessed prior to the war that military action to eliminate Iraqi WMD [weapons of mass destruction] would not cause other regional states to abandon their WMD programs, or their desire to develop such programs.


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