In the Wall Street Journal today, President Bush’s former Chief Speechwriter William McGurn writes that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has “earned” the Presidential Medal of Freedom “for work that made possible the success we are now seeing in Iraq.” McGurn argues that though “it’s possible that George W. Bush would award” Hadley, it would be better “for the country” if President-elect Barack Obama were to honor Hadley:
Were President Obama to do so, a good man would receive an honor he richly deserves. The American people would see a new president confident enough to acknowledge the success of a decision he opposed. And the world would know that when the United States does leave Iraq, we intend to walk out with honor instead of being helo’d off an embassy rooftop.
McGurn’s argument in favor of Hadley is based solely on the idea that “without this good man’s courage and persistence, there would have been no surge.” It’s true that Hadley made many of the key decisions regarding the surge and that the strategy has achieved important gains in reducing violence in Iraq (though true political accommodation in Iraq is still elusive). But McGurn’s focus on the surge ignores Hadley’s role in selling the Iraq to the American people based on false information:
— Hadley disregarded memos from the CIA and a personal phone call from Director George Tenet warning that references to Iraq’s pursuit of uranium be dropped from Bush’s speeches. The false information ended up in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.
— Weeks after the 2003 State of the Union, Hadley repeated the false uranium claim in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, saying that the Iraqi “regime has tried to acquire natural uranium from abroad.”
— Hadley also pushed to have the unsubstantiated claim that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague months before the hijacking placed into then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations.
Hadley even recognized that he had failed at his job in the lead-up to war. According to former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Hadley said, “I blew it. I think the only solution is for me to resign.”