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February 5, 2004



** A full probe of the "intelligence disaster" is vital so "mistakes of the past are not repeated."

** Bush and Blair are "trying to save their necks," while intelligence agencies take the blame.

** Bush agreed to an inquiry to "quell mounting criticism" and avert "damage" to his campaign.


Commissions have a 'vital task' to learn cause of intel failure-- Global observers found it imperative to "profoundly review the working methods of intelligence services" and judged that the "doctrine of pre-emptive war" has been undermined. Citing a prevailing concern, Britain's center-left Independent deemed a probe "necessary to determine whether the information was misused in the process of going to war." Most held President Bush and PM Blair as "ultimately responsible," but conservative Western voices cautioned against "assigning blame." The Australian insisted: "Based on the evidence, Bush, Blair and Howard told no lies and deserve no censure." The moderate New Zealand Herald expected the U.S.-UK inquiries to reveal that the West's intel agencies have been "seriously weakened by an increased reliance" on technology. But Germany's left-of-center Frankfurter Rundeschau said "a commission will not reveal too much...if the White House selects its members, determines the rules and the task."

Intelligence services will be the 'likely victims' of any 'political witch hunt'-- Critics accused both Bush and Blair of trying to "avoid responsibility" for pre-war intel mistakes by letting their intelligence agencies take the fall. Reflecting widespread European criticism, France's Catholic La Croix termed their decision an "ingenious turnabout," with the two "landing on their feet at the expense of subordinate agencies." Arab, Indian, African and Latin editorials averred that both leaders will waste no time in "exonerating themselves and in laying the blame squarely on their respective intelligence services." Yet the "ploy to pass the buck," warned an Indian daily, "may backfire if it comes to light that the White House and 10 Downing Street put pressure on the agencies to provide the information which Bush and Blair wanted to hear." Brazil's right-of-center O Globo added: "In an election year, it would be a relief for candidate Bush to...use the recognized incompetence of the CIA as a scapegoat."

Decision to approve inquiry a tactical political 'maneuver' to 'bury the whole thing'-- Recalling the White House's initial resistance to an independent commission, writers worldwide judged Bush's "about-face" an "astute" political move. The president accepted the investigation because it would deprive his Democratic adversaries of a "weapon" to use against him and help "ward off greater political damage to his re-election campaign." Russia's business-oriented Kommersant judged that by giving the "go-ahead" to an independent inquiry, the administration can "quell the charges that it put pressure on the special services over Iraq." Syria's government-owned Tishreen echoed European assertions in saying that Bush wants to set next year as the deadline for the inquiry report "to avoid having the findings become a political issue in the presidential election campaign."

EDITOR: Irene Marr

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 67 reports from 30 countries, January 31-February 4. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.


BRITAIN: "The Buck Must Stop"

The independent Financial Times remarked (2/4): "That the U.S. and British governments have both finally decided to hold inquiries into the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction they used to justify the war in Iraq is welcome.... It is also essential to determine if incomplete information was properly analyzed, and if it was in any way misused in the political process of deciding to go to war. It is impossible to separate those three stages of the process.... The U.S. version, a powerful bi-partisan presidential commission, will have the broad task of investigating intelligence assessments of WMD programs not simply in Iraq but in Iran, North Korea and Libya too.... The UK inquiry...seems likely to be much more restricted. It will focus only on any possible failures of intelligence gathering and analysis.... But these twin inquiries have a vital task. They must make clear whether there were systematic failings in the process of gathering, analyzing and using the intelligence on Iraq's presumed possession of WMD. That is not just a question for the intelligence services. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair are ultimately responsible for the decision they took to go to war. That is where the buck stops."

"Iraq Inquiry: Short Of The Mark"

The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (2/4): "Yesterday's announcement is too little and too late. This inquiry urgently needs amendment and improvement before it gets under way if it is to command the public respect that the issue of the Iraq war merits and that Mr. Blair's government needs if it is to regain its forward momentum as a general election nears....We hope that Lord Butler and his team will decide to reopen the question of terms of reference with the prime minister. They should ask Mr. Blair to think again, or to ask him to remit the final formulation of the terms of reference to the committee itself. Unless there are changes, the current form of inquiry cannot command the necessary confidence of the British public."

"Mr Blair Is Well-Advised, For Once, To Follow In Footsteps Of Bush"

The center-left Independent averred (Internet Version-WWW, 2/4): "The government's decision to hold an inquiry into the intelligence that underpinned its case for war in Iraq is a tardy recognition of the inevitable. Once President Bush had deftly reversed himself, to announce a full, independent and bipartisan inquiry, Mr Blair had no option but to follow. It was a rare example of Mr Bush outclassing Mr Blair on political instinct.. Mr Bush and his spin-meisters in the White House may have over-egged, not to say 'sexed up' the threat they believed Iraq represented. But hyperbole is a natural feature of Mr Bush's political discourse. The suspicion of clever and deliberate deception, so strong in this country despite Lord Hutton's findings, is less of a problem for Mr Bush, who may argue that in the matter of intelligence about Iraq he was simply misled. If he can delay the inquiry report until after the November election, Mr Bush has probably defused a difficult political situation, while exposing himself to minimum risk. The public response to the Hutton report shows that the British public still has a considerable appetite for inquiries and recognises a whitewash when it sees one. We need to know what information was supplied to the Government, how it was gathered, in what form it was presented and to whom, and how the intelligence that was supplied matches what has subsequently been found in Iraq. Until we are equipped to judge whether it was wisdom or folly that took us into this unpopular war, many will believe the worst."

"Inquiry Time"

The conservative Times argued (2/3): "President Bush's decision to call an inquiry into the intelligence failure behind the Iraq war only underscores the logic behind a similar review by the British Government.... It is important to emphasize that Mr. Kay also expressed support for the toppling of Saddam and found evidence that weapons programs did exist. But his belief that an American investigation is 'important for our credibility as a global power'--and would assure America's allies in the War on Terror that an honest effort was being made to work out what went wrong--also applies to British credibility.... The inquiry should not be seen as a sign that it is open season on the secret services. It is all too easy to find fault with imperfect intelligence gathered under the most difficult of conditions. These agencies have suffered a jolt to their confidence and certainly do not need politicians to add to their injury by scoring cheap points at their expense."

"This Must Not Be An Inquiry Into The War"

An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph (2/3): "George Bush's decision to establish a presidential commission of inquiry to investigate the performance of the American intelligence community in the run-up to the war in Iraq made it inevitable that the Prime Minister would concede a similar inspection in this country.... The body must not become a proxy committee of inquiry into the rights and wrongs of the war itself. That is something for the political arena. This has to be an inquiry into how politicians interact with spies, and the related matter of the culture of the intelligence services.... If we are to take future actions against rogue states such as Iran, Syria and North Korea, we need a clearer picture of the threat they pose -- both for its own sake and for the sake of the war on the home front."

"WMD: The Final Reckoning"

An editorial in the far-left Guardian (2/3): "That intelligence-gathering, like reporting, is an imperfect business is probably already widely understood. What needs explaining, in contrast, is how military pre-emption can be justified in future when threat assessments are so very unreliable.... The government must explain why it felt the situation to be so pressing in early 2003 that UN inspections had to be halted, with all the still reverberating, negative consequences for UN and western unity. The war's legality must be determined. Most fundamentally, the suspicion that Mr. Blair went to war because he knew the U.S. was going to do so anyway, and he believed a refusal to join in would wreck Britain's key strategic relationship, needs close examination.... Without such a full accounting, the poison injected by Iraq into British public life cannot be drawn. Without it, there will be no final reckoning."

"Intelligence Test For Wars Of Pre-emption"

The independent Financial Times commented (2/3): "There is no more serious act for a government than a declaration of war. If a war is fought for reasons that later turn out to be false, leaders must account for their actions.... It has taken them a long time to acknowledge the need for such inquiries--but their decisions are nonetheless welcome.... The commission must not confine its inquiries to the failures of the intelligence agencies. It must also investigate the use made of their reports by politicians to support the case for war. In particular, it should probe the Pentagon's selective approach to intelligence findings and its reliance on Iraqi exiles who told officials what they wanted to hear.... The threat posed by WMD is such that no country wants to wait for attack before acting. But pre-emptive wars will only be defensible if there is confidence in the procedures that establish the case for this most extreme form of state action."

FRANCE: "The 'Allies' Investigate"

Bruno Frappat held in Catholic La Croix (2/4): "Mass destruction or mass misinformation? The allies are investigating. Better late than never.... The truth is beginning to surface: to date there has been no trace of any WMD in Iraq and no proof is available to tie Iraq with al-Qaida. Are George Bush and Tony Blair beginning to see that there will be no retroactive justification for the war?... The decision they have just made...to investigate the nature of the information available to them and on which they founded their firm declarations, appears like the beginning of an empty confession. And certainly like an ingenious turn-about, with both men falling back on their feet at the expense of subordinate agencies. The time may come when they will acknowledge that their good faith was abused but that the war had other valid and legitimate motivations. Still, something has been shattered: how will we be able to believe tomorrow in those who we knew yesterday were laying it on a little thick?"

"Blair Forced To Investigate"

Christophe Boltanski commented in left-of-center Liberation (2/4): "George Bush does and Tony Blair follows. Twenty-four hours after President Bush, Tony Blair launched his own investigation.... Even if the British investigation is more limited in scope, British intelligence is more exposed to criticism and the process is not totally without danger for Tony Blair. By accepting today what he rejected in the past he is once again giving truth to the accusations that he is 'Bush's poodle.' And the world of intelligence gathering may not appreciate being the only fall guy in the Iraqi WMD affair."

"Bush For An Investigation"

Fabrice Rousselot wrote in left-of-center Liberation (2/3): "Under pressure from Congress, President Bush has announced that an independent commission will conduct an investigation into intelligence gathering.... The U.S. president has had to do an about-face because of the political tempest caused by David Kay's revelations.... In this election year President Bush is trying to limit the potential damage of an issue that is at the center of the campaign.... But in spite of his concession, President Bush will be hard pressed to sidestep the controversy which has already started about the precise role of the commission and the date when it is supposed to give its conclusions.... Besides President Bush, Vice President Cheney may also be in the direct line of fire for having repeatedly said before the war that Baghdad had WMD and that Iraq represented a clear and immediate danger."

"Bush Accepts The Idea Of An Independent Commission"

Jean-Louis Turlin observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/3): "President Bush has drawn the conclusions from David Kay's deposition.... The White House had no choice but to go ahead with an independent investigation.... President Bush has played very astutely and deprived his adversaries of a major argument while minimizing the risks for himself.... The Bush administration will be able to put part of the blame on their predecessors and on Democratic legislators who did not always support [intelligence] budgets. Mostly, the results of the investigation will be available only in 2005 and will not affect the election."

GERMANY: "Agents Questioned"

Juergen Kroenig opined in an editorial in center-left, weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (2/5): "First Bush, now Blair.... For the president and the premier it is only a weak consolation that that all western intelligence services, including the Israeli one, expected an abundance of operational WMD in Iraq. It is now overdue to examine the activities of the spies after David Kay openly confessed that all were wrong.... But Kay cannot be used as the principal witness against the invasion. Iraq may not have owned WMD at that moment. But his inspectors discovered as hidden infrastructure of laboratories and ABC weapons programs, which were all designed to quickly produce weapons. Kay said in Washington that Iraq...was even a greater danger than was assumed a year ago. It is sad that this sentences is not cited too often."

"Bush Fleeing"

Washington correspondent Dietmar Ostermann judged in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (2/4): "The signal emanating from President Bush's turnabout is clear: I am not afraid of the truth, the president wants to make us believe.... This is an elegant form of retreat...but now the war lie has caught up with George W. Bush. And it was a lie even if Washington and London are outraged and rub their hands in innocence.... A commission will not reveal too much, at least not if the White House selects its members, determines the rules and the task.... But this is not a bad approach as such, since it is clear that the intelligence material that was used as an instrument by the warmongers was not worth the paper it was written on. All western intelligence services were convinced that Saddam pursued a banned weapons program. Iraq was a global intelligence service failure. It is necessary to find out why and draw the necessary conclusions. Too often intelligence, ranging from Iran to the Soviet Union, has under- or overestimated weapons programs. But those who like the Bush administration use such dossiers as a reason to go to war and turn them into the foundation of a security doctrine of military pre-emption, cannot simply steal away from their responsibility."

"Gaining Time"

Center-right Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein-Zeitung of Essen contended (2/4): "First Bush, now Blair: even in post-war times, a certain order prevails. Both are intending to commission committees to examine the intelligence gathering of their services.... By doing so, they gain time. But it may also be possible that the information disaster will be distributed on so many shoulders that no one will be responsible. In the end, everyone is guilty. But the Iraq war was no misunderstanding. It was not stupid either, but many things went wrong. To wage a war without a mandate based on international law is a primitive law of the jungle. Nothing would really improve if the information on Iraqi weapons had been true. The fact that not even the pretext was sound and that the scenery collapsed with great thunder is really embarrassing for the brothers-in-arms, Bush and Blair."

"WMD Intelligence"

Joerg Schoenenborn commented on ARD-TV's (national channel one) late evening newscast "Tagesthemen" (2/2): "Bush wants to give the impression from now to November 2 that he is ceaselessly searching for the truth. This search will be so unrelenting that it would appear irresponsible to publish any results before November 2."


Torsten Krauel wrote in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (2/3): "The technophile intelligence services and the massive budget increase as a reaction to quality problems could not prevent the U.S. from drawing the wrong conclusions in important matters like Pakistan's nuclear trade, al-Qaida's intentions, or the balance of power in Afghanistan. The new commission will compete with two Congressional panels on Iraq and an expert committee investigating 9/11. The fragmentation of control mirrors the splintered intelligence services--a maze where well willing investigators can get lost easily. It would not help the Bush government or the opposition if the up-coming clarification is disguised by the understandable excitement of an election campaign."

"America And Its Intelligence Services"

Olivia Schoeller commented in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (2/3): "The war in Iraq poses many questions and the answers could be agonizing for Bush. Either it turns out that the president knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction; then he is a liar. Or it becomes clear that intelligence services are not reliable sources. Then the theory of preemptive strikes, which is based on statements of intelligence services, is weakened. It appears that the president is [being brave] appointing this panel. But it is a careful consideration, as the panel is not only to investigate the failures of the intelligence services in Iraq but will also compare them to those on Libya and other places. That could result in a pattern of wrong intelligence findings and expose the Bush government as victim of this knowledge. Secondly, the panel will present its result only in November. By then the elections are over."

"War Debt"

Christoph Schwennicke editorialized in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/3): "It remains a tremendous political achievement and evidence of Prime Minister Blair's willpower to have led his country to a war that the majority of his people opposed. Nobody, including the American President, had to face this kind of challenge. But Blair had to take out a huge mortgage on his political credibility. It looks like he cannot pay it back. In this critical moment Blair's most important ally gave way. President Bush shows doubts about the war reasons by appointing a panel, which is to investigate the underlying intelligence information and how it was politically used. The strategy change in the U.S. is a result of the election campaign and in so far a signal to Blair. He also wants to be re-elected after Bush."

"Power And Legitimacy"

Guenther Nonnenmacher noted in a front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/2): "There is no way around it but we have to raise the question of the validity of all the data gathered [by the intelligence services]. In the crucial question of WMD, these data have not produced any reliable new insights.... There was no doubt that the services had plausible assumptions, but it is the job of intelligence services to check facts that confirm or refute their assumptions. And if this is not possible...then it must be said so openly. It seems that there is an urgent need to profoundly review the working methods of intelligence services.... It is in the stars whether a sovereign Iraq will become a peaceful and democratic nation. The fundamental problems of the Near and Middle East, however, have not changed, at least not now.... It is right that the United States will show a high military presence in the region with the occupation of Iraq. This presence is, as far as the economy is concerned, of overwhelming significance and will also remain a seat of an infection for religiously based terrorism, and it is difficult to say whether it will help security or conjure up new risks."

"Lie And Legitimacy"

Stefan Kornelius editorializes in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/31): "At the end, weapons of mass destruction were the clearest sounds in the cacophony of reasons, but they did not want to name the true reason for going to war. These weapons were suitable for the bureaucratic argumentation; they were the lever hold for international lawyers and debaters before the UN.... The public feels that it is facing a quagmire. Either the intelligence services didn't do their job right and the government still believed them. Or a small clique of influential masterminds manipulated the services. Whether the government knew about it or not: It failed because it manipulated or was manipulated.... If Bush is lucky the lie will not dominate the election campaign. But he will not be able to deny it much longer. It will haunt him."

ITALY: "Why Democracies Tell Lies"

Sergio Romano opined in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (2/4): "If the object of the inquiry is to discover the work of the intelligence, then Bush and Blair will maintain that they were deceived by bad information and they will try to save face. But whether or not they will succeed is uncertain. Whatever the mandate, the media will not hesitate in brutally simplifying the terms of the problem and in maintaining that the crucial issue is the sincerity of the two governments. Did they exaggerate the threat? Did they justify the war with imprecise information? Did they lie to their public?... There are two lessons to be learned in what is happening today. Lesson number one: the more a government depends on the consensus of its public opinion, the more numerous its lies.... Democratic governments today lie with great sophistication and skill. Lesson number two: a war that is won erases all previous lies. If Bush and Blair had, at the end of military operations, pacified Iraq, no one in Washington and London would have called for an inquiry commission."

"Powell Anti-War, But Later Retracts"

Paolo Mastrolilli wrote in centrist, influential La Stampa (2/4): "Was it the usual straining for the truth by the media, a cursory gaffe, or is the cohesion of the Bush administration on the war in Iraq beginning to falter? The question is legitimate after the interview given by Colin Powell...in which he stated that the absence of WMD could have influenced the decisions made prior to the invasion. Later in the evening, the Secretary of State adjusted his aim, but doubts linger.... President Bush decided to call for a commission to investigate the mistakes made by intelligence.... Powell's international reputation is at stake here."

"Powell: I Would Not Have Invaded Iraq If I Knew There Was No Evidence"

Alberto Pasolini Zanelli noted in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (2/4): "The Secretary of State, before the growing evidence that the 'evidence' he was presented with on Iraq doesn't prove anything, said he doesn't know whether or not he would have advised the invasion of that country.... Maybe even Powell is hoping for an answer from the inquiry that President Bush has called for, succumbing to pressure from Congress and the public opinion."

"Security, The Obstacles"

Stefano Silvestri commented in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (2/3): "The truth of the matter is that the nomination of a commission sounds very much like the acknowledgment that there were serious mistakes or distortions. The gravest thing for Bush is that people may begin to doubt the foundation and applicability of his 'great strategy,' the one on which he based the war on terror.... After all, the obvious difficulty on the one hand to control the situation in Iraq and the continuing terrorist alerts on the other are contributing to a progressive loss of credibility.... The result of this crisis could prove to be very dangerous for the security of us all. International terrorism could end up strengthened and above all, if the situation in Iraq does not take a positive turn, the U.S. could be tempted to put an end to the game in the Gulf by quickly assembling a system which could reward unstable or untrustworthy regimes, and favor nuclear proliferation in the region."

"The Sexed Up Commission"

Elite, classical liberal daily Il Foglio editorialized (2/3): "If George W. Bush and Tony Blair had really muddled and sexed up the intelligence service reports on Iraqi weapons, they would have found chemical test tubes.... If they were all cheats and corrupt, they would have continued to cheat until the end, and if the secret service were corrupted, they would have given the public a live TV viewing of findings. This didn't happen. So either they are second-class swindlers, or they aren't swindlers at all. Bush has decided to nominate a bipartisan commission to evaluate the work of intelligence in 18 months' time. It's a good but useless idea. He who asks for the investigation does not request it to figure out what went wrong, but to demonstrate that Bush and Blair manipulated the evidence against Saddam. If this doesn't succeed, they will ask for another one. They want a sexed up commission."

"A New Front For Bush"

Vittorio Zucconi commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (2/2): "The shadow of that humiliating fiasco on the part of the (U.S.) intelligence, on which they had built the ideology...of 'preventive' war, is now obscuring Bush's reelection's chances, forcing him to accept an inquiry panel.... The positive effect of Saddam Hussein's fall and capture...is wearing out throughout U.S. domestic public opinion.... And, for the first time since 9/11, the White House is bound to be on the defensive. This is a new, difficult situation for a powerful group, whose winning strategy was based on standing on the attack.... However, the intelligence disaster...has forced 'Bushvikis,' Bush's defenders...to end their arrogance.... On the defensive, the White House is shaky, and uncertain whether admitting, denying...or drawing back to the offensive strategy."

RUSSIA: "Bush Orders An Inquiry"

Aleksandr Reutov said in business-oriented Kommersant (2/3): "It is mostly the Democrats who want an 'independent inquiry.' Of all the commissions that have been set up to date, none has been able to prove that George Bush manipulated the special services and the nation at large.... To the Democrats, that is tantamount to a defeat.... By having given the go-ahead to an independent inquiry, the President has avoided being accused of trying to hush up the whole thing. Also, the Administration has been able to quell the charges that it is putting pressure on the special services over Iraq, since the inquiry, rather than focusing on the case of the Iraqi WMD, will deal with global security risks in the 21st century. The results of the investigation, experts believe, will be presented in 18 months or so, that is, after the presidential election. By that time there will be much less interest in them than now."

"Best Response To Criticism"

Dmitriy Suslov wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2/3): "Over the last few days several critiques in the United States have asserted that the war in Iraq, in effect, is part of a geopolitical project, not a global war on terrorism.Under the circumstances, observers point out, launching an inquiry, a tactical setback for Bush, is the best response to critics among both the Democrats and Republicans."

"George Bush Finds He Has Questions For The Secret Services"

Natalya Babasyan judged in the popular, respected Izvestiya (HTML version, 2/3): "The White House has started talking for the first time about the possibility of an independent investigation into the intelligence information that served as the basis for starting the Iraq war.... Virtually all of Bush's potential Democratic rivals are insisting on such an investigation. Pressure on the administration has intensified particularly since the resignation of David Kay, the head of the American experts group..Admittedly there is a risk that the commission will publish its conclusions before the 2 November presidential elections. But it is not too great. Another independent commission -- to investigate the terrorist acts of 11 September -- was created more than a year ago but has not completed its investigations to this day."

AUSTRIA: "Keeping Track Of The Intelligence Services"

Foreign affairs writer Markus Bernath commented in liberal daily Der Standard (2/2): "U.S. President George W. Bush is having his own reasons for the Iraq war investigated.... He wants to clear up the mystery of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction once and for all.... By initiating an independent assessment of the quality of the information provided by his intelligence services, the president is finally facing up to a dreadful suspicion: Saddam Hussein never had any weapons at all, there was no threat to the U.S., the reasons given for the war in Iraq were false ones.... Both Bush and Blair are trying to delegate responsibility, to postpone judgment on their decision to go to war, to buy time. The U.S. president now wants to know the 'truth.' And what then? Is he going to sacrifice George Tenet, head of the CIA, is he going to apologize to the war opponents, is he going to undo the war?... Both Bush and Blair must face up to the fact that they are solely responsible for the war and the information on which they based their decisions. At no point did they give the impression that they were weighing the quality of this information."

"There Is Still Hope For Iraq"

Foreign affairs editor Guenter Lehofer wrote in mass-circulation provincial daily Kleine Zeitung (2/2): "It is becoming increasingly obvious that the fight against the Americans and their allies in Iraq is an important propaganda disguise for the fight between rivaling groups in Iraq itself. If there were no American soldiers left in Iraq, the battle for power would still continue more determinedly than ever. This total civil war could only be avoided if the U.S. and U.N. were to succeed in organizing a recognized government for the whole of Iraq. This is not impossible.... There is still hope that the Iraqi population would vote for moderate politicians--but the time for neutralizing the radicalism in the country is beginning to run out. The situation in Iraq has developed independently from the situation in the U.S. and the UK. The question whether Iraq actually did possess weapons of mass destruction or not is now only relevant for Tony Blair and George Bush."

BELGIUM:"Bush Plays An Astute Game"

Patrick Dath-Delcambe commented in tabloid La Derniere Heure (2/3): "When, in politics, you want to duck a question, there is a very simple method: you create a parliamentary investigative commission whose meetings will soon bore everyone and whose conclusions will be published so long after the facts that their impact will be quite mitigated."

"George Bush Is Playing for Time"

New York correspondent Alain Campiotti commented in left-of-center Le Soir (2/2): "Between two evils, George Bush had to choose the lesser. He is going to accept the opening of an independent investigation on the quality of the intelligence that was used to justify the war against Iraq. Until the end of last week, the U.S. president was opposed to this dangerous introspection. But his advisors opened his eyes. His refusal to name an independent commission was a weapon in the Democrats' hands and they were going to make an increasing use of it. They were going to say that the U.S. administration lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and is now trying to conceal its lie. By accepting this investigation, George Bush is playing for time. The composition of this commission will be complicated and its work very difficult. It will therefore be difficult to obtain a report before November 2, the day of the Presidential elections."

HUNGARY: "Buried In A Committee"

Former Washington correspondent Gabor Miklos editorialized in leading Nepszabadsag (2/4): "Before the committees [to investigate the activities of the secret services] Bush and Blair got some political slaps in the face. Bush received the bigger one when the American chief weapons inspector resigned. The assumption might be that the CIA and several other American intelligence-gathering organizations, as well as the British counterpart, carried out a political assignment requested from the highest circles. But the 175 analysts unanimously denied that they had been requested by the White House to 'sex up' their reports. But none of the spies can be so dumb as to not know exactly what their boss would expect from them. This is not an intelligence-technical or methodology question. The answer therefore can only be political. The political answer is that any derailment, which becomes a turning point, is often the consequence of the politics of a superpower that prefers unilateral decision making to partnership. Bush and Blair had a good sense to realize that this time, it is about an issue that affects their own career. So they have both applied the good old Parkinson solution: they have set up an investigation committee in order to 'bury ' the whole thing. According to the New York Times, the task that the American experts received is so big that 18 months will not be enough to complete it. So, who, then, will be the president in Washington? Well, the answer to this...is not certain."

THE NETHERLANDS: "Credibility"

Influential independent NRC Handelsblad asserted (2/4): "Now that the weapons of mass destruction have still not been found, Bush and Blair are under increasing political and public opinion pressure. Both have called for an investigation into the intelligence based on which their governments supported the war in Iraq. These investigations are really necessary and do not come one day too early. Bush and Blair have allowed their intelligence services to embarrass them. The intelligence services, who knows, felt they were under political pressure and came with unverifiable facts... The argument that despite this all it is a good thing that Saddam's regime has been removed from power, that the war sets an example to other dictators, and that the invasion was a major step in the fight against terrorism, could all be true but they wrongfully overlook the existential question why one state should invade another.... The announcement that both the U.S. and the UK will further investigate the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, marks an important moment in the history of this first large and controversial war at the beginning of the Millennium. Bush and Blair will probably try to use the investigations to their advantage.... But eventually they will both have to take responsibility as should happen in a democracy. Both these leaders' most precious political instrument is at stake: their credibility."

CROATIA: "Journalists Are Always Culpable"

Zagreb-based Government-owned Vjesnik observed (2/4): "Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction--the reason for America starting the war--and it's obvious that the intelligence [agencies] and journalists will be blamed for the fact that weapons aren't there, and that there has been a war.... The time for the full truth has arrived at the White House's doorstep. Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Rice and Powell are sweating, and so is their transatlantic partner Blair.... Which will win in the end, truth or lie, infallible politicians or always fallible journalists? This has become the question of all questions for the future of democracy."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Naiveté Worse Than A Lie"

Pavel Masa commented in the center-right daily Lidove Noviny (2/4): "A gloomy atmosphere prevails among members of the CIA these days. And their British colleagues from MI6 allegedly feel like sheep on the farm specialized for breeding sacrificial lambs. Staffers of the intelligence services in the U.S. and the UK concur that it is impossible to omit the role of politicians.... The question, who is responsible, is aiming particularly at George Bush. He, however, did not announce details about the activities of the forming investigative commission, thus dodging this issue more tactically than Blair.... The Bush administration will not get away with any tricks, because they were already used and are well known. If Bush and Blair try to save their necks through manipulation of the work of the two commissions, they can perhaps succeed in the short term. But their credo, that a long-term violation of international norms must be responded to by force, will fall down a slippery slope towards general condemnation."

"Where Was The Mistake Made"

Former Head of Czech Military Intelligence, Andor Sandor, editorialized in the center-left Pravo (2/4): "Why did the intelligence services fail? We hear this sentence from politicians seeking to save their face because of the lack of evidence of WMD in Iraq. I believe that the intelligence reports made prior to the war in Iraq were provided by analysts whose access to relevant data was limited. Was this their fault? The investigation that will start in the U.S. and in Britain may answer this question. However, the key problem is what task the services had actually received. Will the investigation only look into the quality of the reports, or will it also check how they were 'politically used'?"

IRELAND: "U.S. Inquiry To Conclude After Presidential Poll"

Conor O-Clery observed in the center-left Irish Times (2/3): "Under election-year pressure from Democrats and Republicans, U.S. President George Bush announced yesterday that he would set up an independent bipartisan commission into intelligence failures that led to his pre-war claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Mr Bush did not say how long the commission would have to report, but it will almost certainly run into next year, allowing the White House to postpone any explicit acknowledgement that it was wrong on WMD until after the November election.... Mr Bush had resisted setting up an inquiry but his tactical retreat became inevitable after Mr David Kay resigned as head of the Survey Group in January and reported that the weapons cited as the main US reason for war against Saddam Hussein did not exist."

FINLAND: "Bush Agrees to Appoint Commission"

Finland's leading daily, centrist Helsingin Sanomat editorialized (2/3): "The commission is a tactical maneuver by which Bush hopes to blur the unpleasant accusations for the time being--the commission would be expected to publish its findings next year. The war in Iraq is not seen as having weakened President Bush's chances (of re-election) fatally because enough Americans consider the ousting of Saddam Hussein a good enough reason for the war. But the commission poses the danger that key information will become public--especially about whether central Administration players tried to exaggerate intelligence data to provide a reason for going to war and to secure support for the war from Congress and the American people."

"The Snow Ball Is Rolling"

Leading, centrist Helsingin Sanomat remarked (2/3): "Suspicions about distortions of Iraq's WMD may yet become a nightmare for U.S. President George Bush although, at least for the time being, there is no evidence of intentional efforts to falsify the evidence. Less than a year ago Secretary Powell assured the UNSC that Iraq's WMD was an established fact. This claim, reiterated by Bush, was followed by war. The claim has since been proven false. Strong pressure to investigate the source...seems to have partially surprised Bush. Only on Monday did he announce that he was creating a commission to investigate the claim, after it had become obvious that if he did not announce the creation of the commission, somebody else would. So the Bush administration was able to define the agenda of the investigation, which includes everything else but the Bush administration. This strategy, which smacks of delay tactics, has failed earlier in the history of the United States. The prime example is the Watergate scandal. Then-President Richard Nixon was able to win re-election in 1973, after the scandal broke out, but eventually the scandal destroyed his political career and forced him to resign the following year."

SPAIN: "Spain Keeps 'Comfortable Distance' From WMD Investigations"

An editorial in right-of-center La Razon asserted (Internet Version-WWW, 2/3): "There are many doubts over the usefulness of an investigating commission in the USA but perhaps the main one, which the electors can consider, resides in knowing if it is true that Bush, as he now says, really wants to know what went wrong. And that is as much as accepting that he believed what the CIA was telling him and that, from the start, the White House did not have a hand in the content of the reports, as many people suspect. In Spain, with the election campaign under way, the subject of weapons of mass destruction is naturally also of interest, however much the situation is quite different and allows the Popular Party executive to keep a comfortable distance while things are clarified. And Aznar's government, at least in public, did not base its support for the attack ordered by Bush and Blair on decisive CNI [Spanish intelligence service] reports and considered valid those compiled in their day by the UN inspectors, as well as the two allied governments' reports, based on their now more-than-dubious intelligence services."

"Weapons Of Deception"

The left of center El Pais opined (Internet Version, 2/4): "An intelligence mistake? Or did Bush, Blair and Aznar deceive public opinion? The decision to go ahead with inquiries in the U.S. and UK to investigate the information the intelligence services had on Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction provides a shield for Bush and Blair.... Since it followed in line with Bush, the PP should have agreed to a similar investigation. It is known that in its reports before the war, the CNI pointed out that it did not have proof of the existence of WMD. In spite of this, Aznar, on various occasions, asserted that "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.". There are many indicators that an invasion of Iraq was being planned in the early days of the Bush Administration, accelerated after 9/11. Once the decision was made, the case against Saddam was mounted, even knowing that he did not have such weapons. The war of lies and deceit keeps on turning."

"TURKEY: Chutzpah"

Fehmi Koru argued in the Islamist Yeni Safak (2/5): "The real story about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq proves the absolute distortion of the facts by the American neo-cons, including Richard Perle. David Kay has made it clear to the world that Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction. He also blamed U.S. intelligence units for misinforming the administration. The absence of WMD in Iraq demonstrates that there was no reason for the Iraq war, not to mention the senseless loss of innocent lives. The international community has started to grumble about this disinformation, and President Bush has already started suffering politically.. Richard Perle is among the leading figures in the U.S. war-mongering lobby. His counter to David Kay's statement is rather interesting. Perle says he had always been aware of the inefficiency of U.S. intelligence efforts in the Gulf. Yet the very same Richard Perle was advocating a war in Iraq by using false intelligence.. The neo-cons used every administration agency for their selfish interests and strongly advocated a war that was without basis. They bear all the moral and political responsibility, so Perle's remarks about intelligence shortcomings could serve as a definition for chutzpah."


ISRAEL: "Justifying Iraq"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/1): "Doubtless, it would behoove both the British and American intelligence services to start asking some hard questions of themselves as to why they apparently got it wrong. But intelligence failures do not equal political failures, a distinction partisan critics of Blair and Bush ought to bear in mind pending their own eventual return to power.... What mattered in the war on Iraq, then, has little to do with whether WMD existed and are found. What counted was that, by rapidly destroying Iraq's war machine, and by capturing and humiliating Saddam, the U.S. deflated this particular Arab fantasy of strength and defiance. The war on terrorism will not be won until terrorists and their fellow travelers, particularly in the Arab world, have their faces rubbed in the failure of their strategy, their methods, their ideals. The war in Iraq has already been justified on many grounds. But as a front in the war on terrorism, its success will not be assured until America demonstrates that it can more than afford the toll terrorists can exact in American lives."

WEST BANK: "[David] Kay Confirms The Crime Of The Century"

Jawad Bashiti wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (2/1): "The Bush administration has used the September 11 attacks as a means to spread fear among the American people, obliging them to agonize over what would happen to them had they being exposed to an attack of WMD.. The whole world has become convinced more than ever before that the U.S. lied in its claims that its occupation of Iraq is motivated by the need to protect the American people from Iraqi WMD. How then can anyone believe the U.S. occupation of Iraq aims at promoting democracy in Iraq and the region? The international community musn't allow itself to forget the issue of Iraq's WMD. This case must remain open until all evidence is presented and it is shown that those who advocated the 'preventive war' ideology are responsible for committing the 'crime of the 21st Century.'"

SAUDI ARABIA: "What We Could Do Better"

The English-language Saudi Gazette reflected (Internet Version -- WWW, 2/4): "Both the Bush and Blair administrations now face the prospect of investigations into the intelligence information used to justify the invasion of Iraq.... The consensus is that Blair is more likely to be affected by an inquiry than Bush. This is because the U.S. never made Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction the key reason for invading Iraq, whereas in Britain, Blair relied heavily on the threat posed by Iraq's WMDs to support a war that was deeply unpopular amongst large sections of the population. It seems almost inevitable that the security services will become the most likely victims of any political witch-hunt thrown up by the respective inquiries in America and Britain.... Kay said the failure of American security agencies to recognize this fraud had led him to recommend an overhaul of intelligence-gathering and analytical efforts by the CIA.... An unidentified intelligence agent responded to Kay's criticisms saying it was premature to say that intelligence was completely or even largely wrong, and that a lot of answers were still needed remarks that sound very much likes the cries of a drowning man."

LEBANON: "The Deceived President"

Sahar Baasiri commented in moderate anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/4): "David Kay has messed up President Bush's accounts and complicated his life in his election year, and probably, put him in serious trouble he might not manage to get out of easily.... Just days after Kay's resignation, Bush reversed his position.... He appeared with the face of the deceived innocent to announce that he would form an independent committee to investigate all facts. The only truth that Bush seeks now is to identify the person responsible for the failure. The goal is clear: prove that the mistake came from intelligence and not from politics. But the scandal is still in its official beginning although there were many suspicions regarding deception and delusion during the preparatory phase of the war. And although it is still early to predict the results of this scandal--despite talk about a committee that Bush intends to name and talk about his intentions to keep its findings concealed till after the election--one thing for sure is that Bush cannot keep on lying about the Iraqi weapons any more and has to give a clear and convincing answer to the Americans for his insistence and the insistence of his officials on the presence of weapons in Iraq."

SYRIA: "Major Scandal Par Excellence"

Turki Saqr argued in government-owned Tishrin (Internet Version-WWW, 2/3): "[I]t appears that the WMD issue now resembles a snowball that gets bigger and bigger while rolling between London and Washington. It also seems that it has started to turn into a big scandal that has an offensive odor and cannot even be compared to the Watergate scandal....When the independent inquiry to be announced soon by President Bush begins investigation into the data and information that justified the war on Iraq, many other strings about the claims that Iraq possesses WMD will be exposed. But we do not know who will be the victim on the other side of the Atlantic in this issue.... There are fears that the results of the inquiry will target the Central Intelligence Agency and not the media as is the case in Britain. Therefore, it might be difficult to hold the CIA responsible or blame it. This is why Bush tries to set next year as a deadline for the inquiry commission to submit its report instead of this year to avoid having the findings become a political issue in the presidential election campaigns. In any case, it has become impossible now to convince anyone that Iraq had WMD.. But in light of the ever-expanding inquiries, the exposure of this matter now seriously threatens the eruption of an unprecedented scandal and we will not be surprised if they will call it the major scandal of the age par excellence."


AUSTRALIA: "Strong Case For Inquiries"

The business-oriented Australian Financial Review asserted (2/4): "The case for inquiries into intelligence failures is strong. It rests on the premise that Iraq's possession of readily deployable illegal weapons was a major justification for Mr. Bush's decision to go to war, and the justification of Mr. Blair and Mr. Howard joining him. Now that seems to have been wrong, we need to know why, because accurate and objective intelligence is essential if the fight against terrorism and illegal weapons is to have any chance of succeeding."

"Reconsideration Of The Reasons For Going To War"

The liberal Sydney Morning Herald observed (2/2): "It is most unlikely any weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.... Dr. Kay's report concluded the intelligence relied upon before the war was wrong. It forces a wider reappraisal of how the United States, Britain and Australia came to decide to go to war pre-emptively, to counter a threat that with hindsight appears not to have existed or not to have existed sufficiently to justify such a grave step.... The U.S., Britain and Australia have sought to keep alive the idea that weapons might yet be found. That is no longer a tenable position.... Many people need no convincing that the decision to join the war in Iraq was right. Many will never be persuaded it was right. For most, who want to make a considered judgment of their own or at least be reassured that the Government's judgment at the time was correct in all the circumstances, there is a great obstacle--the lack of information, publicly available, of what foreign intelligence was available to the Australian Government and how it was assessed."

"Lies Disproved But WMD Enigma Lingers"

Foreign editor Greg Sheridan opined in the conservative Australian (1/31): "We may be dealing here with one of the most extraordinary and unbelievable episodes in the history of dictatorships. It may be...that Hussein purposely contrived to make the world believe he had WMD, either to bolster his prestige in Arab eyes, or to intimidate his internal enemies. Or as [David] Kay has suggested, it may be that his own scientists lied to him about what they actually had available. That is astounding, because by perpetrating such a deception Hussein would have needlessly brought about his own destruction. But it is a bit much to expect the CIA to know more about the internal situation in Iraq than Hussein himself, or perhaps his generals, many of whom also believed he had WMD. And he had a long history of successfully concealing WMD. This mystery has many layers yet to be uncovered. But on the evidence, Bush, Blair and Howard told no lies and deserve no censure."

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "For The Facts On Iraq, Call An Inquiry, Mr. Bush"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post commented (2/1): "After a war that has cost thousands of lives, split the international community and heaped further misery on the Iraqi people, it is reassuring to know George W. Bush now wants to know 'the facts' about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, the U.S. president was not prepared to take a little more time to establish those facts before launching the invasion, instead placing considerable faith in what now seems certain to have been seriously flawed intelligence.... As doubts about the existence of the weapons grows, Mr. Bush has started to move the goalposts. The war is now being justified on the basis that Hussein posed 'a danger.' While possibly true, it was not this vague assertion that was used in a bid to sell the invasion of Iraq to the international community. A specific danger had been cited--the one said to arise from the dictator's ability to unleash his haul of chemical and biological weapons. It is this claim upon which the credibility of the U.S. administration--and its British partners in the coalition--depends. An independent investigation is needed to probe what went wrong.... Mr. Bush says he wants the facts--this is the best way of establishing them."

TAIWAN: "Reason For War Not Justifiable"

Wu Yixue commented in the official English-language newspaper China Daily (2/5): "The Bush administration has proven its skill at fabricating new excuses whenever old ones for the unpopular war against Iraq failed to convince the world. Powell's words seem to be the last but possibly the most effective weapon to which Washington can resort to vindicate itself for a war lacking the support of international law and opinion. Any country can be said to intend to develop dangerous weapons. All weapons are dangerous. But that should not constitute an excuse for one nation to attack another. President George W. Bush and his war backers now clearly know their previous justification for the war can no longer hold water, especially after David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons hunter in Iraq, said last week they were wrong to conclude that Iraq had WMD. Whether Bush was also the victim of the false intelligence or he and his subordinates deliberately concocted that intelligence, it is now the time for him to provide the world with an answer. For the United States, the world's sole superpower which has already established a pre-emptive military strategy as one of the pillars of its security posture, to confess it was wrong in initiating the war against Iraq is difficult. Iraq was the first target of Bush's pre-emptive doctrine, and confessing that the war was wrong would mean that doctrine is wrong. It's unlikely the White House is willing to do that. It does not seem to matter too much whether or not the United States should concede its mistakes, given that the losses suffered by Iraq will never be recovered. But a deep and correct introspection could be of great significance to the superpower's future attitude on pre-emptive strategy."

JAPAN: "Bush Should Fully Probe Intelligence On Iraq's WMD"

The liberal Asahi editorialized (2/4): "President Bush said he would form an independent panel to uncover 'all the facts' about U.S. intelligence on Iraq's alleged stockpiles of WMD. British Prime Minister Blair has also announced that his government will hold an inquiry into intelligence used in deciding to go to war with Iraq. This is a problem that could not only nullify the justification for the war in Iraq but also put the honor and prestige of the U.S. at stake. The problem also poses a serious political headache to PM Koizumi, who expressed support for the U.S.-led war on Iraq and decided to send about 1,000 SDF troops to Iraq on a humanitarian and reconstruction mission. The U.S. President should uncover all the facts and publicize them to the world."

NEW ZEALAND: "It's Time For Spies To Lift Their Game"

The moderate New Zealand Herald of Auckland remarked (2/4): "In a world of ever-present terrorist threat, nothing is more important than accurate and efficient intelligence-gathering. Yet, ironically, the West's spies have probably never been so ill-prepared or ill-equipped to fulfil that role.... What the American investigation will probably discover is that the West's intelligence agencies have been seriously weakened by an increased reliance on the likes of satellites and electronic eavesdropping. Such technology, it was reckoned, would make agents working undercover in foreign countries largely redundant. The collapse of the Soviet Union made traditional spying seem even more irrelevant.... But more important than this error in practice are the wider implications of the intelligence community's failings. Until relatively recently, intelligence information was received virtually without question. It boasted a AAA credit rating. That is no longer the case.... There are also serious repercussions for the Bush Administration's doctrine of pre-emptive attacks against potential enemies.... Now, as much as President Bush may be loath to concede, it is difficult to see how future pre-emptive strikes could be justified. Such attacks must be based upon accurate and credible intelligence - and that, quite simply, is not being supplied.Until it is, the White House's war on terror will be hamstrung, both in terms of its practical pursuit and its international credibility. President Bush has told the investigators into the American intelligence failings that he wants 'to know all the facts'. That sounds, also, like a prescription for intelligence-gathering agencies to regain their reputation for accuracy and efficiency.


INDIA: "Who Dunnit?"

The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (2/4): "In the true Texan fashion of shooting first and asking questions later, the U.S. now wants to know who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when he didn't.... The U.S. president probably knows that in his hurry to go to war, he has probably handed his Democratic opponents a handy stick to beat him with. Across the Atlantic, Tony Blair, too, has had no alternative but to order a similar probe.... These two may still try to change the argument by saying that, whether there were WMD or not, the world is a safer place with Hussein behind bars. But such ploys will not dilute the main charge against them--that they launched a pre-emptive strike on the basis of wrong information. Another ploy to pass the buck to the intelligence agencies...may backfire if it comes to light that the White House and 10 Downing Street put pressure on the agencies to provide the information which Bush and Blair wanted to hear. It is, therefore, a lose-lose situation for both of them."


SOUTH AFRICA: "Where Does The Buck Stop?"

The liberal Natal Witness asserted (Internet version-WWW, 2/2): "President George Bush, trying to quell mounting election-year criticism over Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction, has indicated that he'll name an independent inquiry into the failure of U.S. intelligence services to supply accurate information.... Meanwhile, in London, Prime Minister Tony Blair also instituted a probe into possible faulty intelligence.... Sceptics, who always doubted the existence of weapons of mass destruction and were deeply opposed to the invasion of Iraq, will smile sourly. How convenient it will be, if, forgetting the fact that intelligence gathered clandestinely is always open to interpretation, the leaderships of both the U.S. and Britain can show that they were misled by incompetent intelligence agencies. Both Bush and Blair will surely lose no time in exonerating themselves and in laying the blame squarely on their respective intelligence services. Already, the tendency in both countries is to abandon the ancient principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty vis a vis the agencies....This is no isolated instance; as part of the fall-out from the September 11 terror attacks there's been, in a number of Western countries, a general move away from the presumption of innocence, and towards the presumption of guilt.... It's an alarming swing to the right and many will be watching anxiously to see whether global society in general will begin to respond in the same way to perceived terrorist threats."

"Getting It Wrong"

The liberal Cape Argus remarked (Internet version-WWW, 2/2): "The scurrying has begun in the White House, and the big question is: who will eventually take the blame for going to war against Iraq under false pretences?

UGANDA: "The Truth Must Be Told"

The state-owned daily New Vision editorialized (2/3): "President Bush is about to announce an independent inquiry into the use of intelligence material to justify the war in Iraq. He is reacting to intense political pressure following comments by the former chief U.S. weapons inspector, David Kay, that Iraq appeared to have no weapons of mass destruction. Last week in London Lord Hutton issued his report that blasted the BBC for stating that the British government had 'sexed up' its intelligence that Iraq possessed WMD. Curiously while Hutton was extremely critical of the BBC for a slip by one reporter in one interview, he was totally uncritical of the British government misinforming the public about Iraq's WMD. The British government should therefore also initiate an inquiry into the intelligence failure that led the prime minister to insist that Iraq had WMD that could be deployed within 45 minutes. Virtually all independent observers believed that Iraq had no WMD, at least no usable ones that could be effectively deployed. Iraq was certainly no threat to the USA, Britain or indeed its neighbors. It was not necessary to go war at that time. The USA and the UK cannot be allowed to avoid responsibility for their actions in rushing to war without authority from the United Nations. These inquiries must go ahead. The truth must be told."


CANADA: "Intelligence Failures"

The centrist Winnipeg Free Press pointed out (2/3): "George W. Bush indicated this week that he will call an inquiry into American intelligence operations that helped pave the way to war with Iraq.... Tony Blair says that he may do the same in his government's context. Both such inquiries would be useful, not so much in assigning blame for the war--credit for the war is what should more reasonably be awarded--but to ensure that any mistakes committed in the past might not be repeated, that the major powers, when they make major decisions, make them on the basis of dependable information. It is axiomatic that when you are searching for something, you find it in the last place you look. Those who hope that weapons of mass destruction may yet be found in Iraq cling to that desperate thought.... What seems more likely is that faulty or poorly understood intelligence led to political and military decisions that, however fortuitous their outcome, might not have otherwise reasonably been made. The United States, Britain, Europe, Canada, the international community as a whole need to have the confidence that they are acting on accurate information when such drastic steps are suggested. The proposed inquiries can help ensure that this will be the case in future."

"War On Falsehood"

Columnist Eric Margolis observed in the conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun (2/1): "Iraq's nuclear weapons, death rays, vans of death, drones of death, mobile germ labs, poison gas factories, hidden weapons depots, long-range missiles, links to al-Qaida--all were bogus. The only thing real is Iraq's oil. If Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as it long insisted, we must draw one of two conclusions. Either President George Bush, and secretaries Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, lied about the global threat they claimed Iraq posed, and deceived Congress and the American people. Or, they were grossly misinformed by their intelligence experts and must be judged fools of the first order. If Bush and his team of chest-thumping, self-proclaimed national security experts were really misinformed about Iraq's weapons and capabilities, then they started a war by mistake--and presided over the two biggest national security fiascos since Pearl Harbor: the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq.... Too few Americans seem troubled their president either lied or blundered into a horrible mess in Iraq.... This is an historic malfeasance far exceeding in gravity Nixon's Watergate scandal or Bill Clinton's prevarications about sex. The war fever and xenophobia fostered by the Bush administration continues to grip America."

"Saddam Given Too Much Credit"

Columnist Richard Gwyn commented in the liberal Toronto Star (2/1): "Politically, the absence of WMD does matter, of course. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has just been exonerated by the report of Lord Hutton of the politically lethal charge of having deliberately lied. President George W. Bush is more vulnerable. He has to cope with the lesser charge of having misled the public, by incompetence or because of believing what he wanted to believe.... And incompetence is no defense when set against the loss of--so far--the lives of nearly 500 American soldiers.... The surreal, absurd nature of Saddam's Iraq may have the greatest consequence to us, though.... The real error in judgment thus was not about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. It was that too many of us gave him too much credence, out of pessimism, and gave ourselves far too little credence, out of self-doubt."

ARGENTINA: "Blair vs. BBC: When The Messenger Is To Blame"

Oscar Raul Cardoso, international analyst for leading Clarin opined (1/31): "Bush and Blair lied in the case of Iraq, but now, in addition, the U.S. president doesn't want anybody to disclose those lies to the public in this election year."

"Bush's Monsters"

Marcelo Cantelmi, international editor of leading Clarin, observed (1/31): "Of the myriad of problems that harasses George W. Bush more aggressively now, the issue of Iraq is perhaps the most spectacular one. But it might not be the worst. Like a snowball that grows to a point which we think may get out of control, the stack of lies put together to justify the war against Saddam is picking up renewed pace and seems to be heading for the White House occupant. In an election year of key importance for Bush's career, this is an unpredictable trap, to say the least."

BRAZIL: "Under Investigation"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo (2/3) editorialized: "President Bush's decision to convoke an independent committee to investigate possible mistakes made by intelligence services prior to the war in Iraq is paradoxically an attempt to ward off greater political damage to his re-election campaign.... Regardless of the controls that the president may impose on the committee, it will be independent and include members who oppose his administration, which could mean problems for him. According to the White House's political calculations, however, such a threat seems to pose fewer problems than not responding to suggestions that the intelligence services lied or committed mistakes when evaluating Iraq's capacity to produce and use WMD before the war."

"Espionage And Expiation"

Right-of-center O Globo noted (2/3): "Everyone knows President Bush used the supposed existence of prohibited arms in Iraq as a pretext for U.S. intervention. But none of these weapons has appeared.... Under pressure, the president has just created a commission to investigate CIA operations in general and, in particular, the failures that U.S. espionage committed in Iraq. In an election year, it would be a relief for candidate Bush to be able to use the recognized incompetence of the CIA as a scapegoat."

"Blair And Bush Absolved"

Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo editorialized (2/1): David Kay had affirmed before the U.S. Senate that 'almost all of us were mistaken,' and that even Saddam would have been duped in recent years by scientists who presented him with dazzling plans for chemical and biological arms.... The core of Kay's theory is that President Bush genuinely believed what misinformed intelligence services such as the CIA had sent him.... The 'almost all of us were mistaken' theory seems to have been produced to protect the governments of Bush and Blair from the accusation of having fabricated a false pretext for war."

GUATEMALA: "Arms Inspectors Were Honest and Professional"

Business-oriented Siglo Veintiuno published an op-ed by Luis Fernando Andrade stating (2/4): "The frank and surprising public recognition by David Kay... that there is no evidence that Hussein's regime had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them, unleashed unexpected and rising political pressure that has forced President Bush to... require an intense and independent investigation of this delicate issue, of international transcendence."

"Rough Test For Bush"

Business-oriented Siglo Veintiuno editorialized (2/2): "The confirmation made by...David Kay that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction or an advanced program to build them and that intelligence information was wrong, has cast a shadow of doubt over the motivations behind the attack on Iraq."

MEXICO: "The New Front In Iraq"

The business-oriented El Financiero commented (2/2): "Just as the White House acknowledges the fact that there will be an investigation regarding the alleged intelligence mistakes which led the United States to portray Iraq as a world threat, the Kurd city of Irbil suffered two terrorist attacks. It left almost 60 victims and made clear once again that the attack against the former Mesopotamia and its occupation have generated an environment that favors civil war as well as intensifying the instability in the Middle East."

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: "Lessons For World In Iraq Arms Fiasco"

The independent Guardian editorialized (1/30): "On some lucky day, weapons of mass destruction will be found in a hole somewhere in Iraq. But this hope is fading fast inside the Bush administration. First, Secretary of State Colin Powell and, now, President Bush have distanced themselves from the central reason given for the invasion of Iraq.... This was preventive action, not the pre-emptive kind it had been advertised to be.... This episode has been a brilliant, true-life, parable of our times. It teaches that governments of advanced modern states can be led by outright falsehood and/or self-induced fallacy into pursuing policies with far-reaching and tragic consequences.... More than 500 U.S. soldiers and uncounted thousands of Iraqis have died and continue to die; billions have been spent--and Iraq remains traumatized, and as unstable and dangerous as it was under Saddam."##

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