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Friday, July 18, 2003

Go Debbie! Go Debbie!
I was very pleased last fall when both of my senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, along with my outgoing rep in the House Lynn Rivers and new rep (to me) John Dingell, voted against the resolution giving W authority to go to war with Iraq. Since then, Levin and Dingell have both made good statements opposing Bush policies, although not with the clarity or force of Robert Byrd or Dennis Kucinich. Stabenow, unfortunately, has been fairly silent, generally spouting the "support our troops" line. That is, until now. Here's what she said Wednesday on the Senate floor:

Madam President, I rise to . . . commend our service men and women who have served us so well in Iraq, as well as around the world.

We join in our pride and gratitude for their courage and their service.

However, I must rise today to express my deep concern about revelation after revelation of the fragile nature of the facts presented to the American public and the world about the reasons we had to preemptively, unilaterally attack Iraq.

Those misleading words in the President's State of the Union Address this past January have brought into question the credibility of our Government. This is extremely serious. It hurts our country because Iraq is not the only threat to our Nation, as the Senator from New Jersey indicated. We continue to be threatened by terrorists in emerging nuclear countries such as Iran and North Korea. In order to win the war on terrorism and ultimately disarm Iran and North Korea, we are going to have to work with
NATO and other allies to protect American citizens.

Unfortunately, the misleading statements about Iraq attempting to purchase uranium from Niger will make building such coalitions even more difficult. This means our homeland will be less safe and our American citizens less secure. This is a deep concern of mine. I wish the misleading statements about Iraq and Niger were the only statements in question that the President and his administration have made to the American people. Unfortunately, there have been others.

First, let's go through what transpired with the statements on Iraq and Niger. Before the State of the Union referencing Iraqi purchases of uranium from Africa, the administration, at the direction of the CIA, took out a nearly identical line in a speech the President gave in Cincinnati last October justifying the use of force in Iraq. Then, the African uranium purchase was back in the State of the Union Address, although we were told now this was a mistake by the CIA director George Tenet. Then, the African reference was dropped from Secretary of State Powell's presentation on Iraqi weapons capabilities to the United Nations just 8
days later. Then, Saddam's nuclear weapons came back with certainty when Vice President Cheney appeared on Meet the Press in March and said, "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.''

This was one of the main assertions used that took us to war, and I believe the American people have a right to know which it is. If it was good intelligence, why the constant change of mind? Either Iraq had nuclear weapons or it didn't. If it was bad intelligence, who kept pushing to use it in the administration speeches and interviews? We need to know the answers to these questions. It is important for the credibility of our country and for the trust of the American people in our Government.

It does not end there. We heard much about specially-made aluminum tubes that could be used to build centrifuges to create weapons-grade uranium. In the same State of the Union where he referenced uranium purchases from Africa, President Bush also said: Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.

But, in fact, an unclassified intelligence assessment back in October stated some intelligence specialists "believe that those tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs.''

Last February, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council that "we all know there are differences of opinion,'' and that "there is controversy about what these tubes are for.''

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency, after conducting its own study, concluded the uranium tubes were not for uranium enrichment.

Which is it? Enough time has gone by; we should have and are entitled to answers. We are entitled to the truth. Most importantly, the American people are entitled to the truth. Although we now have more than 140,000 troops in Iraq, we have not yet found chemical or biological weapons or even the plants needed to make them. We have not found evidence of al-Qaida training camps, although in the run-up to the war the administration not only said they were there in Iraq but that they knew
precise locations.

Again, this administration has taken us into a new age, an age where we claim the right to unilaterally, preemptively strike another nation because we believe our national survival is at stake. In such a world, the intelligence used as proof for striking first has to be unassailable, has to be totally credible, or the American people and our allies will be deeply suspicious of any future claims.

The claims led to decisions to put American men and women in harm's way and in too many instances have led to the loss of life. We need to find out the truth behind the various claims and questions, legitimate questions that have arisen, questions that have been asked by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, questions that have taken us into the deserts of Iraq and put our men and women in harm's way.

The only way we can get to the bottom of this is to set up an independent commission to get the facts, a bipartisan commission, a way to objectively look at what happened so it does not happen again.

There is nothing more serious than a potential nuclear threat to our people. If there was ever a need for an independent commission, it is now. We now face potential nuclear threats from Iran, from North Korea. We could face more in the future. American families and our American troops deserve answers to the questions that have been raised. We all deserve answers. We all deserve the truth.

I hope my colleagues will join in support developing this independent commission. I believe nothing less than the credibility of our country is at stake. I hope we all join in supporting the Corzine amendment.