Country must learn from mistakes

NIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I’ve fallen short, slipped up and, on occasion, I have even failed miserably.

The fact is, everyone makes mistakes.

It is these mistakes that define us, teach us and make us the people we are today. My mistakes have taught me not to wash whites with colors and exactly how much is too much to drink.

However, I never would have learned these and many other valuable bits of knowledge if I hadn’t recognized my shortcomings.

Last Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a yearlong investigation, released its report outlining the failures of the intelligence community leading up to the Iraq war. It was a rare moment in American politics, to see a bipartisan panel stand before the press and reveal so candidly that devastating mistakes had been made.

In a press conference on Friday, committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) tried to sum up a 511-page report:

“Before the war, the U.S. intelligence community told the president, as well as the Congress and the public, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and if left unchecked would probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade.

“Well, today we know these assessments were wrong. … They were also unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence.”

Oops!

The report also details many other intelligence shortcomings, including an overestimation of the power of an Iraqi army that had decayed under Iraq’s economic sanctions.

The sobering effect of this report is that it is unlikely Congress would have authorized the Iraqi invasion had it known what it does today.

It also brings into question how much responsibility should be put on the White House. The report indicated that the flawed intelligence was not a result of political pressure, but there are still questions of how administration officials used the intelligence in making the case for war. That information, which is the second part of this report, will not be available until after the election in November.

So with the WMD argument and 9/11 connection debunked, we are left with one last legitimate case for war: The humanitarian cause.

After the committee released its report, President Bush reiterated to supporters on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania that Saddam was a bad man and that America is safer with him gone.

While there is truth to this rationale, it does not necessarily make a great case for war.

I doubt the American people would approve of removing the “bad men” from the war-torn parts of Africa at the expense of more than a $100 billion, the death of 1,000 coalition troops and thousands of civilian casualties.

The most damaging effect of this report is the fact that we have been embarrassed on the international stage.

Our dissenters in the United Nations have, to a certain degree, been proven right. Without the imminent threat, it is hard to justify the haste at which we went to war.

We must learn from our mistakes.

This is not the first time our country has screwed up. Slavery was a big mistake. We also did a lot of nasty things to Native Americans.

I think the Bush administration needs to drop the air of infallibility and publicly recognize that mistakes have been made at all levels of government. Americans and people everywhere have a lot of questions about how we got here.

The first step to fixing our problems is to face them.

We owe it to our troops, our country and the world to ensure that we never end up with this much egg on our face again.

Matt Ford