Even President George W. Bush could not resist pressure to back an independent commission to look at U.S. intelligence failures with regard to the Iraq war. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq undermines one key aspect of the case for going to war, and it’s only reasonable to investigate why U.S. intelligence was so off the mark.
The president will name a nine-member bipartisan panel, which will report back to the White House after the November election. That makes sense. The panel should include members of both parties, from various backgrounds. Waiting until after Election Day is wise if the goal is to figure out forthrightly what happened rather than create a political furor.
Calls for an investigation have intensified since former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay resigned last week and said he always had doubts that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMDS, although intelligence information repeatedly suggested that he did.
We might add that the assumption that Iraq had dangerous weapons stockpiled was accepted by nearly everyone before the war. Leading congressional Democrats and the Clinton administration believed as much. So it’s important to look at intelligence failures and not just create politically charged headlines that can be used in the presidential campaign.
Such commissions, of course, always have their pitfalls. Often they fail to look critically enough at the government, given that commission members typically are former high-ranking government officials. Nevertheless, an independent query is better than no query, and we applaud the president for being willing to move forward with this idea.