Monday, November 14, 2005

Roberts Suggests Senate Do Its Job

The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), suggested yesterday that the intelligence leading up to the War in Iraq would give future congressional war hearings pause to consider the validity of intelligence being presented. (Washington Post: Roberts: Iraq Will Affect Future War Votes).

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, the Senator stated, "I think a lot of us would really stop and think a moment before we would ever vote for war or to go and take military action." Let me stop and think a moment. Does that imply that congress did not stop and think before overwhelmingly approving military action in Iraq? I seem to remember Senator Byrd waving a copy of the US Constitution and warning that he would not approve another Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Are we really to believe that both the House and Senate Intelligence committee's did not scrutinize the evidence placed before them? I'm not buying it.

We have three co-equal branches of government. The power to go to war does not rest in any one branch. It requires the consent of congress - both the House and Senate - as well as action by the President. Both Congress and the President are responsible for reviewing pre-war intelligence before making the decision to go to war. It seems to me that Senator Roberts is attempting to sidestep his responsibilities and let the Senate off the hook.

It gets better, though. Roberts went on to say, "We don't accept this intelligence at face value anymore. We get into preemptive oversight and do digging in regards to our hard targets." Wasn't that lesson learned in the Spanish American War? Remember the Maine, the ship used to justify going to war in the first place but was actually sunk by a boiler explosion? Wasn't that lesson learned in Vietnam? I'm sure Senator Byrd learned it since he used the phrase "Gulf of Tonkin" more often than a talk radio host invokes 9/11.

Personally, I find Senator Roberts' statements outrageous. The intelligence placed before the President was also placed before both houses of Congress. They had ample opportunity to review and question the intelligence and the sources of that intelligence. They did not. There was much debate on the floor of both houses over whether force was necessary. There was much debate over whether or not another UN resolution was prudent. There was much debate over whether inspections or additional sanctions should be given more time. At no point, however, was the quality or validity of the intelligence called into question.

Congress cannot skirt their responsibilities in this regard, and their responsibilities are quite clear. Only congress, not the President, has the authority to send this nation to war. Senator Roberts' suggestions that Congress did so without scrutinizing the evidence submitted to them are outrageous. With his next election coming up in 2008, one wonders if Roberts is simply trying to distance himself from the decision to go to war - something he supported when the vote came up in the Senate. He wouldn't be the first politician to spin tales to save his own skin.


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