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Rich: Is Condi hiding the smoking gun?
Published: Saturday May 5, 2007
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"George Tenet is just the latest to join this blame game," writes Frank Rich in his Sunday New York Times op-ed piece.

Three years ago it was General Tommy Franks laying the blame for the bungled Iraq war at the feet of Douglas Feith. Last year it was "neocon cheerleader" Kenneth Adelman pointing the finger at Tenet, Franks and L. Paul Bremer. Richard Perle called out Bush, Ahmad Chalabi placed the burden on Paul Wolfowitz.

"And of course nearly everyone blames Rumsfeld," says Rich. "This would be a Three Stooges routine were there only three stooges."

But the highest level Bush confidant who was around when the war was being conceived, and is still on the payroll, is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Last week Rice made the rounds on the morning talk show circuit, just days after rebuffing a subpoena from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the intelligence that was used to make a case for war with Iraq.

"Rice was dispatched to three Sunday shows last weekend to bat away Tenet's book before '60 Minutes' broadcast its interview with him that night. But in each appearance her statements raised more questions than they answered," writes Rich. "She was persistently at odds with the record, not just the record as spun by Tenet but also the public record. She must be held to a higher standard -- aka the truth -- before she too jumps ship."

For video of Rice's appearance on ABC's This Week, see RAW STORY's coverage here.

But dodging questions on morning talk shows is not where Rich thinks Rice should be talking.

"As long as U.S. troops are dying in Iraq, the secretary of state has an obligation to answer questions about how they got there and why they stay. If accountability is ever to begin, it would be best if those questions are answered not on '60 Minutes' but under oath," he concludes.

Excerpts follow:


On CBS' "Face the Nation," she claimed that intelligence errors before the war were "worldwide" even though the International Atomic Energy Agency's Mohamed ElBaradei publicly stated there was "no evidence" of an Iraqi nuclear program and even though Germany's intelligence service sent strenuous prewar warnings that the CIA's principal informant on Saddam's supposed biological weapons was a fraud.

Of the Sunday interviewers, it was George Stephanopoulos who went for the jugular by returning to that nonexistent uranium from Africa. He forced Rice to watch a clip of her appearance on his show in June 2003, when she claimed she did not know of any serious questions about the uranium evidence before the war. Then he came as close as any Sunday host ever has to calling a guest a liar. "But that statement wasn't true," Stephanopoulos said. Rice pleaded memory loss, but the facts remain. She received a memo raising serious questions about the uranium in October 2002, three months before the president included the infamous 16 words on the subject in his State of the Union address. Her deputy, Stephen Hadley, received two memos as well as a phone call of warning from Tenet.