Bucket after bucket of grease ran of Little Scottie today as he was grilled mercilessly about those pesky, nonexistent Iraqi WMD.
Q The fact that the Iraq Survey Group has now folded up its field operations, can you explain to us if there is any sense of embarrassment or lack of comfort about the fact that after two years of looking, these people found nothing that the President and others assured us they would find?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President already talked about this last October in response to the comprehensive report that was released by Charles Duelfer at that point. Charles Duelfer came to the White House in December; the President took that opportunity to thank him for all the work that he had done. The two discussed how Saddam Hussein’s regime retained the intent and capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, and they also discussed how he was systematically gaming the system to undermine the sanctions that were in place, so that once those sanctions were eliminated — which was something he was trying to do through the U.N. oil-for-food program — then he could begin his weapons programs once again. And I think the President talked about the other issues back in October. Nothing has changed from that time period.
Q Minority Leader Pelosi has just sent out a statement saying the President owes the American people an explanation for how he was so wrong for so long. Is that —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what the President’s focus is on is looking at the recommendations from the independent commission on weapons of mass — on intelligence relating to weapons of mass destruction that he appointed. That commission has continued to do its work; they’ve been meeting with a number of people. And one of the areas that they’ll focus on is the intelligence from Iraq. Their job is to make sure that they take a comprehensive look at our intelligence capabilities because we face many dangerous new threats in this day and age. And it’s vital that Congress and the President have the best possible intelligence to make the necessary decisions to confront the threats that we face.
So the President looks forward to seeing the recommendations from the Silberman-Robb commission when they release those recommendations. And he is committed to acting on those recommendations, to make sure we take steps to improve our intelligence.
Q The President accepts that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he said back in October that the comprehensive report by Charles Duelfer concluded what his predecessor had said, as well, that the weapons that we all believed were there, based on the intelligence, were not there. And now what is important is that we need to go back and look at what was wrong with much of the intelligence that we accumulated over a 12-year period and that our allies had accumulated over that same period of time, and correct any flaws.
Q I just want to make sure, though, because you said something about following up on additional reports and learning more about the regime. You are not trying to hold out to the American people the possibility that there might still be weapons somewhere there, are you?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just said that if there are — if there are any other reports, obviously, of weapons of mass destruction, then people will follow up on those reports. I’m just stating a fact.
OK, Scottie is starting to repeat himself now, so lets go to the questions alone.
Q And finally, what is the President’s assessment of the damage to American credibility that might have been done by his very forceful case that there were weapons and his launching of a war on that basis?
Q Just one more. What I was getting at is looking forward — when it comes to Iraq, North Korea, and the President — this President stands up and says, they’ve got weapons programs, they’ve got weapons of mass destruction, isn’t it the case that there will be many people in the world who will say, how can we believe him? And how does he deal with that?
Q Scott, this is an important political question that you’re not really addressing squarely, which is, can this President or a future President go to a Tony Blair or a leader of Spain and say, we believe something is happening and you need to join us in a preemptive show of force? Has this experience not totally wiped out that possibility for political action in the future?
Q I’m talking about preemptive military action.
Q How can he do it again —
Q Even if the information is wrong?
That was fun, but in this next bit it is important for you to read Scottie’s responses.
Q Secretary Rumsfeld said you go — infamously, he said, “you go to war with the Army that you have.” Well, this administration went to war, when it went to war, based on information that proved to be incorrect. Does the President now regret the timing of this? Does he feel that the war effort and its aftermath and the post-immediate war conflict phase was undermined by that timetable and intelligence that was wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: Based on what we know today, the President would have taken the same action, because this is about protecting the American people. As I said —
It’s about protecting the American People? Are you sure, Scottie?
Q At the very same time, he would have done it on the same timetable?
MR. McCLELLAN: — this is about advancing freedom and democracy in a dangerous region of the world. We saw what happened as the threat built over a long period of time in the Middle East, while countries were looking the other way and letting tyranny advance in that region and letting — and we took action to confront a threat posed by Saddam Hussein. We’re also taking action to support reform in other parts of the broader Middle East. And the world is going to be a safer place because of the action that we’re taking.
So, it’s not about protecting the American People anymore, it’s about “advancing freedom and democracy” – and Saddam was a threat. I’m confused now.
Oh well, back to the questions.
Q Scott, are you saying that the President — it’s the President’s view that the WMD situation has not hurt United States credibility around the world?
Q So if the information is wrong, is there no consequence?
Q If the information about WMDs is wrong, as we all agree now, is there no consequence?
Hey, if they stopped looking for the WMD in December (or is it October), how come we just learned about it today?
Q Scott, did the White House intend to, at any point, come out and tell the American people that the search for WMD was over?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the President addressed this issue back in October. Maybe you weren’t there for when he talked about it. But Charles Duelfer is the one who was overseeing these efforts and he’s now back here. He’s continuing to wrap up his work. I think it’s up to him to make those determinations about when he says everything is concluded.
Q And understanding that the White House —
MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, there is still some wrap-up work that he’s doing; there’s still some — the Iraq Survey Group continues to operate in Iraq under the multinational force command. And much —
Q The search is over? Is the search —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think — I think that others have already addressed that much of their physical search has — that their physical search has essentially ended, yes, but that they continue to go through documents. So they’re — some of their work continues, because there are thousands and thousands of pages of documents that they were able to recover that were part of the basis for the previous report that Charles Duelfer released. And it was — the President talked about it at that time, it was a comprehensive look at the regime and the regime’s intentions and the regime’s capabilities.
Q And understanding that the President wants to look ahead and see what intelligence missteps were made, still, critics are saying that this demonstrates an unwillingness on the White House’s part to deal with realities as they exist now, versus what initial assessments may have been. Could you respond to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: The reality is that the United States of America was attacked on September 11, 2001, and some 3,000 innocent civilians lost their lives. The reality is that the Middle East has been a dangerous region of the world and has been a breeding ground for terrorism. The reality is that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a sworn enemy of the United States, that Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s regime was a state sponsor of terrorism and had terrorist ties. The reality is that it was a unique threat, and the President recognizes that September 11th changed the equation for how we confront the threats that we face. And this President is committed to acting to make the world a better place, make the world a safer place, and make America more secure.
That’s it, folks – we attacked Iraq because of September 11th. That’s the last word from Little Scottie. Chew on that.