Image: House Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Doug Bereuter, R-Neb.
Peter Cosgrove  /  AP file
House Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., seen in this November 2003 photograph, broke from his party, saying he believes the U.S. war in Iraq was unjustified.
updated 8/19/2004 8:15:03 AM ET 2004-08-19T12:15:03

A top Republican lawmaker has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes that the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and that the situation there has deteriorated into “a dangerous, costly mess.”

“I’ve reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action,” Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., wrote in a letter to his constituents.

“Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action,” he said.

Bereuter, 65, is a senior member of the International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He is stepping down after 13 terms to become president of the Asia Foundation effective Sept. 1.

The letter, which Bereuter (pronounced BEE-writer) sent to constituents who have contacted him about the war, was reported Wednesday by the Lincoln Journal Star.

Signs of GOP slippage
In 2002, Bereuter spoke out in support of a House resolution authorizing President Bush to go to war. Bush has continued to argue that the war was justified because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein represented a threat to the United States, his neighbors and the people of Iraq.

Most Republicans and top administration officials say the war was justified even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found.

However, after a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report concluded in early July that intelligence agencies had provided false assessments of the Iraqi threat before the war, the panel’s Republican chairman, Pat Roberts of Kansas, said Congress might not have approved the Iraq war had lawmakers known the truth.

Roberts said that without an immediate threat that Saddam had and was trying to get weapons of mass destruction, military action against Iraq still could have been justified on humanitarian grounds but that the battle plan might have been different from a full-scale invasion.

Bereuter sees other problems
Bereuter said that in addition to “a massive failure or misinterpretation of intelligence,” the Bush administration made several other errors in going to war.

“From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force,” he said. “Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world.”

Bereuter said that as a result of the war, “our country’s reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened.”

Bereuter declined to answer questions Wednesday about the letter. His spokesman, Alan Feyerherm, said Bereuter “feels the letter speaks for itself.”

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