Last week, amidst the replay of all the 9-11 anguish, an article appeared in the Albuquerque Tribune under the headline “Wilson: I questioned Iraq evidence.” I wonder if any of you saw it. Wilson was trying to distance herself from the disastrous lead-up to the war, but a closer reading of the excellent article, which included a chronology of all her Iraq votes, left me angrier than I was to begin with.
It seems that, before she announced her intention to vote to give the President authority to go to war on Oct. 8, 2002, she was privy to information from the Department of Energy that cast doubt on the administration’s assertion that Hussein had attempted to buy aluminum tubes to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. In spite of that information, she not only voted to go to war on Oct. 11, but became a key advocate of the war, responding to the President’s state of the union speech on Jan 29, 2003 that “the evidence that Iraq has, and is, further developing weapons of mass destruction becomes ever more convincing.”
In the weeks and months that follow, Wilson continues rallying support for the war-- in spite of testimony and evidence to the contrary before the House Armed Services Committee where she is a member. She follows up Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN in February, 2003, with the statement that Iraq is deceiving the UN and avoiding its obligation to get rid of its chemical and biological weapons. In April, she organizes a series of remarks on the floor to praise US troops.
In November 2005, when it becomes clear that the doubts of the DOE and many others in the government about the justification for the war were right, she votes against a troop withdrawal. And on June 15 of 2006— as the civil war deepens and the American death toll rises to over 2,600-- she says “it is important to stay the course because the terrorists made Iraq a central front and they could thrive in the chaos of civil war.”
Is this a case of the evidence be dammed, full speed ahead? That’s the way it looks to me. As a lawmaker and someone often asked to make important decisions that involve conflicting, changing facts, I find it prudent to refrain from cheerleading a cause that I know may be seriously flawed. Even if, under duress, I had voted for the measure, I wouldn’t get out in front of the parade if I had any doubts, and I’d reserve the right to change my mind later as the situation evolved. I guess that’s because I believe that the evidence—and common sense—can trump both personal and party loyalty. Wilson’s actions—and her speeches—show that she has a different idea.
The whole sad story, I believe, underlines the importance of Congressional oversight. The Republican Congress has utterly failed in this area—and we are now paying the price. If Republicans continue in the majority in the House, I find it difficult to believe that it will be any different for the next few years. Didn’t Dick Cheney just say that if he had known in 2003 that the claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were false, “we’d do exactly the same thing?” I think it safe to assume that, despite any nagging questions, so would Heather Wilson.