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Editorial: Selling Iraq

Casualties of a lie

President Bush awarded the Medal of Honor last week to Army Pfc. Ross McGinnis, a Pennsylvania native who died in Iraq after throwing himself on a grenade, saving the lives of four other soldiers.

Three days later, the Senate released a report that concluded that Bush and his aides repeatedly overstated the threat posed by Iraq in the run-up to the war.

McGinnis' valor is without question. The 19-year-old from Knox, Pa., gave his life not only to his country but especially to the fellow soldiers he saved in Baghdad in December 2006. Presenting the Medal of Honor to McGinnis' parents was "a high privilege," said Bush. His sentiments are echoed by many Americans.

But the timing of the award and the Senate intelligence committee report serves as a stark reminder that the deaths of McGinnis and more than 4,000 U.S. casualties might have been avoided were it not for Bush & Co.'s rush to war.

The same goes for the more than 30,000 U.S. troops wounded in Iraq, and the $600 billion spent on the war so far.

The Senate report doesn't contain much new information. By now, most reasonable people agree that the Bush administration over-hyped evidence that Iraq was an imminent military threat. And at 170 pages and after five years of investigation, the report is the most comprehensive assessment of the selling of an unnecessary war.

The findings were endorsed by all eight Democrats and two of the seven committee Republicans, Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Committee Chairman Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D, W. Va.) said Bush and his advisers used the Sept. 11 terror attacks to launch a "relentless public campaign" to justify invading Iraq.

The report was critical of statements by the president and Vice President Cheney linking Iraq to al-Qaeda. "Representing to the American people that the two had an operational partnership and posed a single, indistinguishable threat was fundamentally misleading and led the nation to war on false premises," Rockefeller said.

Five Republicans on the panel instead blamed the war on faulty information from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Indeed, the report found that some statements by Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials were in line with the best estimates of the U.S. intelligence community.

But the report also said Bush's inner circle ignored disagreements among the spy agencies about Iraq's weapons programs and Saddam Hussein's links to al-Qaeda. In that environment, many elected officials, including Rockefeller and other Democrats, bought the administration's sales job. In large part, the media and the public went along as well.

In the end, the country paid a heavy price for Bush's hubris. None more so than the thousands of casualties that include Pfc. McGinnis.