Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Decoding Mr. Bush's Denials

November 15, 2005

To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.
Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.
It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.

Mr. Bush says everyone had the same intelligence he had - Mr. Clinton and his advisers, foreign governments, and members of Congress - and that all of them reached the same conclusions. The only part that is true is that Mr. Bush was working off the same intelligence Mr. Clinton had. But that is scary, not reassuring. The reports about Saddam Hussein's weapons were old, some more than 10 years old. Nothing was fresher than about five years, except reports that later proved to be fanciful.
Foreign intelligence services did not have full access to American intelligence. But some had dissenting opinions that were ignored or not shown to top American officials. Congress had nothing close to the president's access to intelligence. The National Intelligence Estimate presented to Congress a few days before the vote on war was sanitized to remove dissent and make conjecture seem like fact.
It's hard to imagine what Mr. Bush means when he says everyone reached the same conclusion. There was indeed a widespread belief that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. But Mr. Clinton looked at the data and concluded that inspections and pressure were working - a view we now know was accurate. France, Russia and Germany said war was not justified. Even Britain admitted later that there had been no new evidence about Iraq, just new politics.
The administration had little company in saying that Iraq was actively trying to build a nuclear weapon. The evidence for this claim was a dubious report about an attempt in 1999 to buy uranium from Niger, later shown to be false, and the infamous aluminum tubes story. That was dismissed at the time by analysts with real expertise.
The Bush administration was also alone in making the absurd claim that Iraq was in league with Al Qaeda and somehow connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That was based on two false tales. One was the supposed trip to Prague by Mohamed Atta, a report that was disputed before the war and came from an unreliable drunk. The other was that Iraq trained Qaeda members in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Before the war, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that this was a deliberate fabrication by an informer.
Mr. Bush has said in recent days that the first phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation on Iraq found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence. That is true only in the very narrow way the Republicans on the committee insisted on defining pressure: as direct pressure from senior officials to change intelligence. Instead, the Bush administration made what it wanted to hear crystal clear and kept sending reports back to be redone until it got those answers.
Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence, said in 2003 that there was "significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The C.I.A. ombudsman told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the administration's "hammering" on Iraq intelligence was harder than he had seen in his 32 years at the agency.
Mr. Bush and other administration officials say they faithfully reported what they had read. But Vice President Dick Cheney presented the Prague meeting as a fact when even the most supportive analysts considered it highly dubious. The administration has still not acknowledged that tales of Iraq coaching Al Qaeda on chemical warfare were considered false, even at the time they were circulated.
Mr. Cheney was not alone. Remember Condoleezza Rice's infamous "mushroom cloud" comment? And Secretary of State Colin Powell in January 2003, when the rich and powerful met in Davos, Switzerland, and he said, "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?" Mr. Powell ought to have known the report on "special equipment"' - the aluminum tubes - was false. And the uranium story was four years old.

The president and his top advisers may very well have sincerely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But they did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections. We need to know how that happened and why.
Mr. Bush said last Friday that he welcomed debate, even in a time of war, but that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." We agree, but it is Mr. Bush and his team who are rewriting history.

13 Comments:

Blogger Germanicu$ said...

What burns my bunions is how Bush and the MSM keep going on about how the Senate Democrats voted for war. They voted to authorize the President to use appropriate force if necessary - a HUGE difference, and I think central to any debate about the War on Iraq.

The constitution clearly states that only Congress has the power to declare war, and for a long time this has been sidestepped by the Executive branch, via various nefarious rhetorical strategies. Vietnam was a "police action" and not a war. Some are more transparent than others, such as when our invasion of Panama to oust our buddy Noriega was feebly labeled "Operation Just Cause".

Congress never declared war on Iraq. The mandate to oust Saddam never existed - not from the American people, their elected representatives, or the international community. Bush made hay with this during the 2004 election, claiming he did not do what was popular, but what was right. Now that it's clearly unpopular, he's shifting the burden of responsibility to those he attacked as doves and cowards back in '02, when the vote to "authorize the use of force" was being debated.

Does anyone really doubt that the invasion or Iraq would have proceeded had Congress failed to authorize the use of force?

I don't claim John Kerry and all those Dems don't have blood on their hands too - in fact, by granting extra-constitutional powers to a rogue executive, they're culpable for a more than just the Iraq quagmire. But NOWHERE - including NPR and PBS - have I heard a clarification of Bush's claim that the Senate voted for war.

1:00 PM  
Blogger mkchicago said...

Herbman (et al),
Please source your posts. This one's on me Liberal Talking Points Gazette
The funny thing is that for the last 4 years or so I had the NYT editorials delivered to my e-mail everyday. Until last week. I read one too many op-eds of this genre and I said enough's enough. I just can't escape the insanity. (Sigh)

1:20 PM  
Blogger George W. Bush said...

The truth hurts MK, you can always find solace on Fox. Building on Germanicus's argument, if we were concerned by "what is right" as Chimpie McAwol so often expounds, we would have intervened in Darfur, where to date over 1.5 million have perished.

1:33 PM  
Blogger mkchicago said...

The truth is very easy to take, it's this kind of revisionist nonsense that gives me headaches. We are either wrong for not intervening in the worlds' trouble spots or we are wrong for being "the world's policeman.

Lets get down to brass tacks.
For me to believe what I believe - I have to think that the 2000+ US death and billions of $$ spent are worth the gains in Iraq and worldwide. I do.
For you to believe what you believe- you have to think that it would be acceptable for Hussein and the Taliban (unless of course you favored that act of US imperalism)to still be in power, Al Queda at high stength, Iranian,Syrian,Libyan,Lebanese,Palestinian (among others) emboldened. Do you?

1:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

MK-

"For you to believe what you believe- you have to think that it would be acceptable for Hussein and the Taliban (unless of course you favored that act of US imperalism)to still be in power, Al Queda at high stength, Iranian,Syrian,Libyan,Lebanese,Palestinian (among others) emboldened."

Are you in favor of continued Communist Party domination of China and the DPRK? Continued state repression in Myanmar? Shooting pro-democracy student protesters in Ethiopia? Well, according to your schema you must be, since you presumably don't advocate our invading any of those places, even though really bad people are in charge.

I can't speak for the Herbman, but I opposed the Iraq invasion because it wasn't justified by the facts, it wasn't necessitated by US security concerns, and I pretty much counted on the Bush administration either fucking it up or turning it into a corporate pigout (thus fucking it up). In other words, there were pragmatic legal and political principles involved.

I think reasonable people could have disagreed on Iraq, but I won't accept the neo-con "you love Saddam Hussein" characterization of my position.

2:21 PM  
Blogger mkchicago said...

My bad.
I see now that I mistated the proposition slightly. It should read
For you to believe what you believe- you have to think that it would be preferable for Hussein and the Taliban (unless of course you favored that act of US imperalism)to still be in power, Al Queda at high stength, Iranian,Syrian,Libyan,Lebanese,Palestinian (among others) emboldened."
I meant to highlight the dichotomy between two ugly choices, not to imply that you were pro-Saddam.
Good catch Jeff! Words are important.

2:46 PM  
Blogger mkchicago said...

Again, I mean prefer Sadam in power to war, not in the sense that he's a groovy guy.

2:48 PM  
Blogger George W. Bush said...

Yes, I would have prefered Saddam to an illegal war. That is a no brainer. Containment and inspections were working.

IMO, we should have gone after the Saudis for 9-11 before bombing one of the worlds poorest nations into further oblivion (We really showed em eh?)!!

3:03 PM  
Blogger mkchicago said...

So if Iraq was an "illegal" "war" (technically it was niether)what about Afghanistan? Was it a "legal war"? What's the diff?

3:21 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"Yes, I would have prefered Saddam to an illegal war. That is a no brainer. Containment and inspections were working."

"I... conquer" with Herbman. But I would expand it to say that I would have preferred a contained Saddam in power to a) who knows how many tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, b)2,000+ dead Americans, c) Iraq as a center for on-the-job terrorism training, d) another Shia Islamist government.

3:54 PM  
Blogger mkchicago said...

Let the Fisking begin: iraqnow

9:25 AM  
Blogger hurtleg said...

I disagree that the status quo before the invasion was sustainable. There was plenty of smuggling going on outside the embargo. Plus we now know the entire UN Oil for Bribes (sorry, food) was currupt beyond redemption.

France and Russia had been agitating to remove the UN santions for a couple of years before the invasion. They rejected Powell's smart sanctions (the Bush administration's plan to narrow the embargo to military goods only, making life easier on the civilians) thinking that it would be easier to remove the santions all together if they remained more restrictive.

The US and Britain were the only nations still actively enforcing the no fly zones. The coalition was falling apart.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"There was plenty of smuggling going on outside the embargo. Plus we now know the entire UN Oil for Bribes (sorry, food) was currupt beyond redemption."

You may be right, but out of curiosity, what made the program "corrupt beyond redemption." I'm being serious.

1:00 PM  

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