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October 24, 2003

INTELLIGENCE BASHING....Now that the war is over and we've all calmed down a bit, it looks like everyone wants to get in on the intelligence-bashing act. Here's the lastest from the Senate:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing a blistering report on prewar intelligence on Iraq that is critical of CIA Director George J. Tenet and other intelligence officials for overstating the weapons and terrorism case against Saddam Hussein, according to congressional officials.

The committee staff was surprised by the amount of circumstantial evidence and single-source or disputed information used to write key intelligence documents -- in particular the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate -- summarizing Iraq's capabilities and intentions, according to Republican and Democratic sources.

I don't have a problem with this as far as it goes. It's entirely possible that the CIA did a lousy job of assessing the situation in Iraq.

But at the same time it's almost beyond belief that Republicans, faced with a mountain of evidence they can no longer ignore, are trying to dig their way out of it by pretending that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld were just innocent dupes of a CIA gone wrong. "The executive was ill-served by the intelligence community," says Pat Roberts, chairman of the committee.

Is he serious? Do these guys really have the chutzpah to try and claim that Bush was genuinely unsure about Iraq and only decided on war after an agonizing session in which George Tenet convinced him he had to do it? There isn't a single soul in all of Washington DC who believes that.

On another note, I wonder how long Tenet can hold out? The pressure on him has been increasing steadily, and it seems pretty obvious that the White House continues to back him because they're afraid of what he might say if the pressure finally gets too intense. After all, if he gets bashed hard enough he might eventually cave in and tell the truth — and that wouldn't a pretty sight, would it?

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 24, 2003 09:20 AM | TrackBack


Comments

BushCo deliberately ignored the intelligence that went against their agenda, namely to invade Iraq. I'm assuming they figure everyone distrusts and hates the CIA (right, Carol?) therefore they figure the CIA for a convenient fall guy.

Two things not working in BushCo's favor: the typical idiot American is now watching TV shows and movies that show the CIA in a favorable light; AND the spooks are not taking a dive.

Posted by: chris at October 24, 2003 09:29 AM | PERMALINK

For Bush, the war on Iraq was always about regime change, and the WMD issue was mere window-dressing meant to browbeat both our Congress and the U.N Security Council into supporting a decision that was made back in August, 2002 if not before.

The current bashing of intelligence is intended to deal with the political blowback caused by the fact that those WMDs were in fact deliberately hyped to sell the war to the American people, who in general don't like being misled. Whether the fickle finger of blame ultimately points to Tenent or Bush is what's in play here.

Posted by: David W. at October 24, 2003 09:36 AM | PERMALINK

Tenet seems to be such a political animal, that I am not certain that I would believe whatever he says as truth, which he would apparently reveal only after being canned.

Think about that. The guy goes along with the neo-con run-up to war and allows CIA career people to be steamrolled in favor on maintaining good ties with White House. He does the double faced "mea culpa" re the "16 words" which is so slippery that even the Bush people missed the other side of the sword, and ended up taking the heat even though Tenent apparently dodged a bullet with his "confession." He keeps mum even now in face of Bush buck passing to those same CIA career people as allegedly being the ones who erred or were misleading. But he'll tell the "truth" if he is booted?

Seems to me that Tenet is a true Bush man -- willing to put craven political goals above policy or government service. As long as he keeps figuring out to be useful to Bush administration, he'll keep his job, which seems to be his only priority.

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 24, 2003 09:37 AM | PERMALINK

But to add one more thought. I think most people will believe his disclosures after a firing to be credible, even though there seems ample reason to question them. He seems to be that good at the Washington insider game.

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 24, 2003 09:38 AM | PERMALINK

I'm clinging to the memory of the scene from Wag the Dog where DeNiro gets the word that the imaginary war is over. He says, "Looks like the CIA cut a better deal."

Posted by: Get HR2239 Passed Now at October 24, 2003 09:46 AM | PERMALINK

Still deiseling away with comments. The Seymor Hersh article in current New Yorker puts the best light on why the Bush administration got Iraq's WMD threat wrong. Mechanisms in the CIA that were intended to verify and filter intelligence data were put aside. That seems to be the simplest answer as to how this mess happened.

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 24, 2003 09:49 AM | PERMALINK

Can we wait until we see the report before we start criticizing it?

Posted by: Registered Independent Joel at October 24, 2003 09:53 AM | PERMALINK

Good analysis.

Largely, this is an exercise to set up the CIA and Tenet. More specifically, it's part and parcel of Rove's plan to stop the bleeding of public support away from Shrubby.

Posted by: JadeGold at October 24, 2003 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall makes exactly this point and reminds everyone that it was after the Iraq policy had already been formed that the NIE was ever done, and only then because the senate Democrats demanded it.

Posted by: phil at October 24, 2003 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

WRT the CIA simultaneously up- and downplaying the Iraqi threat.

When I studied Aristotle, I was taught that a thing cannot both be and not-be. It seems like either this doesn't apply any longer to the CIA, or the GOP, or something.

Was the law of the excluded middle repealed as part of the Contract on America?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina at October 24, 2003 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

"There isn't a single soul in all of Washington DC who believes that."

Au contraire, these people are the master of belief. Fact or truth doesn't even enter into it man. They'll believe what they want, when they want it, no matter how opposed to actual reality.

Posted by: Adam in MA at October 24, 2003 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Boy, did you see how mad Larry Johnson and Vince Cannistrano are on CSPAN this morning in front of the democratic committee!!

Palpable to say the least

Posted by: eg at October 24, 2003 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Now that the war is over and we've all calmed down a bit...

Three more Americans killed today, Kevin.

I haven't calmed down a bit. War in the sense of armies fighting each other may be over, but our troops are still getting killed. This isn't Iran-Contra, something that happened 17 years ago. The Iraq affair is still an open, bleeding wound. Why should I have calmed down when it's still ongoing?

"What's gone and what's past help should be past grief." Fine, Shakespeare. But while our getting involved in Iraq (again) has already occurred, our engagement there is not ended, not by a long shot. It is not gone or past help. I haven't calmed down at all.

Posted by: Mitch Schindler at October 24, 2003 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

RE: waiting to see the report before we criticize it...

It seems to me that what Kevin is doing is analyzing what's in the news regarding the report. It's obviously not too early to be doing that eh?

Also, it's really surreal to be living in a world where it seems like the left (which i'd consider myself a part of) is to some extent coming to the defense of the CIA. I think it says something about how far out in right field Bushco (thanks for the term) is going. I don't want a bunch of angry responses here, and i'm not saying that it's hypocrisy, it's just a sign of what weird times we are living in.

Posted by: Urk at October 24, 2003 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Well, regardless of what you think about the war, fact is the CIA should have done a better job, just as it should have done a better job before September 11. The war critics say the CIA's filtering function got turned off, but the real problem seems to have been not that we believed bad intelligence but that everyone involved lacked good intelligence, with the result that hawks and doves had to argue over what level of alarm to apply to things we suspected but could not be sure about. Given that we now know to be true what those of us in the pro-war camp argued at the time -- that Saddam was lying and hiding his weapons programs -- it was not at all unreasonable to decline to give his regime the benefit of the doubt.

Next time, we'd prefer not to have to deal with doubt. But if we do, I don't want to have to trust our security to those who give its benefit to murderous tyrants.

Posted by: Crank at October 24, 2003 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Setting up a fall guy is always that bit easier when he agrees to take the fall. If he doesn't, it can get messy.
My feeling is that Tenet has already established he does not intend just to take the fall. In consequence, I'm looking forward to the CIA's next move, whatever it is.

Posted by: John Isbell at October 24, 2003 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Crank, it's quite plausible that there's a large amount of data out there which says anything that you'd like to say. Particularly if people are being paid to furnish juicy tidbits. Interpretation and analysis is the key.


Posted by: Barry at October 24, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

The war critics say the CIA's filtering function got turned off, but the real problem seems to have been not that we believed bad intelligence but that everyone involved lacked good intelligence, with the result that hawks and doves had to argue over what level of alarm to apply to things we suspected but could not be sure about.

Well Crank, the U.N. was conducting a pretty decent ongoing assessment of Iraq's WMDs (or rather, the lack of them), but of course that information was dissed by the Bushies in their zeal to get Saddam out.

Given that we now know to be true what those of us in the pro-war camp argued at the time -- that Saddam was lying and hiding his weapons programs -- it was not at all unreasonable to decline to give his regime the benefit of the doubt.

Given the fact the weapons of mass destruction claimed to exist by Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, etc. etc. etc. did not exist, it's rather pathetic to fall back to a position that wasn't the main stated reason for the war in the first place.

Next time, we'd prefer not to have to deal with doubt. But if we do, I don't want to have to trust our security to those who give its benefit to murderous tyrants.

If you think the CIA is somehow on Saddam Hussein's side, that's pretty silly to say the least.

Posted by: David W. at October 24, 2003 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

From Baseball Crank, March 5 2003:

'If you buy the idea that disarming Saddam is enough (which I don't -- I'm for regime change anyway), presumably you mean removing all his WMD and disarming him of such weapons permanently...

So, we let's say disarm Saddam. Then we leave, with him still in power, sanctions lifted, his germ/chem/nuke scientists still in the country . . . does anyone really think he would never try to get the same weapons again???'

From Baseball Crank now:

'Given that we now know to be true what those of us in the pro-war camp argued at the time -- that Saddam was lying and hiding his weapons programs -- it was not at all unreasonable to decline to give his regime the benefit of the doubt.'

I presume when you meant disarm you really meant that he had programs that needed to be disarmed. And when you meant WMD you meant WMDP or WMDs-that-have-not-yet-been-made-but-will-be. Or the 'armanent' part of 'disarm' actually refers to 'armanents' in the future. Which one is it?

Posted by: Thomas at October 24, 2003 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Pat Roberts is, of course, a total hack and perfectly willing to say whatever he needs to say to support president backbone - in fact, kevin, i'm not even sure it justifies "chutzpah." It's SOP with these folks.

Now Crank - that's "chutzpah." In case you weren't paying attention, Crank, even the Kay Report makes clear that there were no weapons programs - there was, at most, a desire to reinstitute weapons programs at some future date.

That, of course is a nuance, and i realize that our president doesn't do "nuance," but that doesn't mean Crank has to fall into the same trap.

Posted by: howard at October 24, 2003 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

You might provide a link to that. My point, then as now, is that the problem was the regime, its desire to get WMD and/or work with terrorists, and its lack of moral scruples about using either moreso than the exact state of the WMD program. The provisional Kay Report makes clear that Saddam in fact had such a program and was actively (and successfully) concealing it from the inspectors. My other point (then as now) was that with the ability to conceal bio/chem weapons in small, portable weapons caches, we faced too much uncertainty over what inspectors could or couldn't know about what he had or didn't have.

Given the fact the weapons of mass destruction claimed to exist by Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, etc. etc. etc. did not exist

Um, who exactly has searched the haystack and come back with proof of the absence of needles? This was the problem from Day One. We knew what he was after but faced a shell game trying to prove what he had at any point in time and couldn't rely forever on a permanent inspection regime to prevent the same program from going further tomorrow. What if inspections had found nothing after a year, and everyone went home? What then?

Posted by: Crank at October 24, 2003 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Um, who exactly has searched the haystack and come back with proof of the absence of needles? This was the problem from Day One. We knew what he was after but faced a shell game trying to prove what he had at any point in time and couldn't rely forever on a permanent inspection regime to prevent the same program from going further tomorrow. What if inspections had found nothing after a year, and everyone went home? What then?

We haven't been looking for needles Crank, we've been looking for literally tons of WMD's that the Bush administration *knew* were there in Iraq. Well, they aren't there and it's a pretty lame argument to keep on claiming that they have to be out there, somewhere. If Bush had based his argument on regime change instead of alledged WMDs, it's very doubful the U.S. public would have gone along with the war because the costs would have been seen as not worth the benefit.

As to hypothetical questions like what would have happened if the U.S. hadn't invaded Iraq, all you need to do is look at the aftermath of the Gulf War where Saddam Hussein was kept under a pretty big thumb and posed no serious threat to even his neighbors, let alone the U.S. BTW, there still is no evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 or was in cahoots with Al Qaeda.

Posted by: David W. at October 24, 2003 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Davis, the law of the excluded middle is another philosophical idea that tends to not work well when it involves people. You tend to get into contradictions because of it. After all, when you think you have a contradiction, just step back and reanalyse your starting premises, one of them will be false, and for about half the contradictions you meet, it will be the law of the excluded middle.

Some famous cretan once said: "All Cretans are liars." If the statement is true, then it must be false. Turn that into algebra and you get "x = 1 - x" which makes no sense if x can only be 1 or 0. But it make sense if you let x be any value in the interval 0 to 1. What does it mean for a statement to be half true? It pushes buttons on folks who think the law of the excluded middle is sacrosanct. Their heads pop off. Just look for an Ayn Rand worshipper and watch them flip out.

The law of the excluded middle is a human observation. Just like all the other so called "laws" of nature: they are human observations. Nothing in the universe requires it to exist, nor be true. It becomes such a fundamental point of western philosophers that it turns into an religious argument when even discussing the possibility it is not true with many people.

And before anyone wants to start whining about the "law of gravity," maybe they ought to talk with a physicist, because physicists call it the "theory of gravity."

Posted by: Peter at October 24, 2003 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Crank, the Kay Report - and the associated testimony to Congress - says nothing of the sort that you claim, absolutely nothing. If you believed that "regime change" was a worthy expenditure of $200B+, hundreds of American lives, and thousands of Iraqi lives, well, you wouldn't be the only one to think that way.

But pretending that the Kay Report claims that there was an active WMD program is simply not even close to true.

Posted by: howard at October 24, 2003 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

literally tons of WMD's

I'll admit to some puzzlement as to that -- but those figures cited by Bush in the SOTU speech were intelligence -- mostly from UN sources -- that pre-dated the Administration, and the point was that Iraq was required to say what happened to it all and couldn't account for it. Sure, many of us expected to find some signs of that stuff, but the larger question was why we should trust him when he had had these huge stockpiles in the past and wouldn't account for their whereabouts.

Or is it your position that UNSCOM invented all that? Suddenly the backers of UN inspections seem awfully unwilling to admit to what the UN actually did find.

Posted by: Crank at October 24, 2003 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

I'll admit to some puzzlement as to that -- but those figures cited by Bush in the SOTU speech were intelligence -- mostly from UN sources -- that pre-dated the Administration, and the point was that Iraq was required to say what happened to it all and couldn't account for it. Sure, many of us expected to find some signs of that stuff, but the larger question was why we should trust him when he had had these huge stockpiles in the past and wouldn't account for their whereabouts.

Crank, is an accounting problem enough of a reason to declare an actual war? If Bush had only gone as far as basing his case for war on _alledged_ WMDs, instead of making the claim that they *actually* existed - well, the U.S. public might not have bought into that sort of fuzzy math. The U.N. inspections were being conducted precisely to resolve such questions, of course. I don't want my country to wage war on trumped-up charges, especially when there were alternatives that could have been allowed to play out.

Or is it your position that UNSCOM invented all that? Suddenly the backers of UN inspections seem awfully unwilling to admit to what the UN actually did find.

The accounting glitch was real, of course. But what did the U.N actually find? Other than missles which were slightly out of compliance (they had a possible range about 15 miles further than allowed under sanctions, IIRC) and some old artillery shells that were capable (assuming they weren't too rusty) of being loaded with chemical munitions that is.

Posted by: David W. at October 24, 2003 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Peter: What are you talking about?

Posted by: Walt Pohl at October 24, 2003 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Sure, many of us expected to find some signs of that stuff, but the larger question was why we should trust him when he had had these huge stockpiles in the past and wouldn't account for their whereabouts."

Umm, In what way do sanctions and inspections amount to "trusting him?" While your argument certainly justifies a muscular, internationally maintained and mandated inspections program, i don't see how it at all justifies an internationally illegal invasion. oh, i meant to say "preemptive war to accomplish regime change." Arguing against the war was not and is not arguing in favor of ignoring the potential threat. it just seems to me that given the costs of this war, in human lives, in dollars, in international relations, in perception of the US in the "arab street" and in damge to the whole idea of international cooperation, the bar should have been a little higher, to say the least.

Posted by: Urk at October 24, 2003 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the idea that everybody was surprised by the lack of WMD has been pretty much destroyed by John Pilger, who aired two clips, one of Powell, one of Rice, on CNN in the pre-9/11 days, bragging that the sanctions had neutralized Saddam H. And for those who look for larger patterns, there was always the problem that, for the past ten years, Northern Iraq had substantially broken away from Saddam's rule, and he had never made any concerted effort (save for a tank drive in 96 that had much to do with a temporary alliance with a Kurdish faction) to regain it. So we are supposed to believe that a man who is incapable of attacking Northern Iraq is planning on attacking the U.S., eh?
Kennedy's right -- the war was a fraud.

Now we have a different weapons problem, and as usual, the Bush people are screwing up. While their soldiers are busy displacing Iraqi contractors and building schools, Iraqi guerrillas are pilfering unguarded weapons dumps for incredible deals, like mobile anti-aircraft missiles. The shelf life of the administration's concern about weapons falling into the hands of terrorists is apparently over. That was merely an excuse, anyway, to cover a military action against Syria or Iran that is now unlikely to come off. Meanwhile, the weapons are going somewhere -- or blowing up in Baghdad. At least, if Al Q. shoots a plane out of the sky in the next six months, we'll know where they got the missile.

This is what happens when you fight half a wars -- the half a war in Afghanistan, and then the half a war in Iraq, the latter having nothing to do with the "war on terrorism".

Posted by: roger at October 24, 2003 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Any bets as to how long before the right-wing theme of "Clinton's man screwed over W at the former first couple's instruction" surfaces?

Posted by: Fred Arnold at October 24, 2003 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, the best theory i've seen regarding the "unaccounted for" tons is that saddam used more of these materials in the iran-iraq war than he was willing to acknowledge.

Of course, one of the problems all along with the potential chemical and biological materials stocks is that these things do have a shelf life....

Posted by: howard at October 24, 2003 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP is rounding up the usual suspects. Nearly three years into his administration, the song remains the same: "It's not George's fault!"

Posted by: obruni at October 24, 2003 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

I won't bother to link--which I generally don't do, anyway--or quote.
Just remind everybody of what you already know but hope others have forgotten--we haven't--which is that the Clinton administration believed in WMD and serious threats.
I guess the stuff went away between the election and the inauguration.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 24, 2003 01:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with John Isbell in looking forward to the CIA's response. As I note elsewhere, Dana Priest of the Washington Post has already said in an online chat that "I can't imagine Tenet just taking this kind of thing passively." And she co-wrote the Post's first big Plame story, so there may be some implied math readers can do.

Posted by: Swopa at October 24, 2003 02:08 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the stuff went away between the election and the inauguration.

Clinton's bombing of Iraq was in response to Hussein's non-cooperation with inspections. Needless to say, this was far short of a war. Given the fact that Hussein was cooperating with U.N. inspectors, it's illogical to compare Bush's war on Iraq with Clinton's punative action in 1998 there.

Posted by: David W. at October 24, 2003 02:19 PM | PERMALINK

Richard, you aren't still flogging this line, are you? Please.

First off, the Clinton Administration did not push the idea that Saddam had an active nuclear weapons program, which is really what the term WMD should be reserved for.

Second, who cares what the Clinton Administration thought - it's the Bush Administration that is in office?

Third, you aren't, in the face of all the information that has come out, still denying that the Bush Administration took the same range of intelligence reports and cherry-picked the ones that fit their preconceptions?

And yes, it is indeed possible that between '98 and now, whatever remnants of WMD materials remained were destroyed - this remains unknown at this time.

But what of any of it? Exactly what point are you still trying to make? It was the backbone administration that puffed up the claims to launch the war and developed postwar plans based on delusional fantasies. What does that have to do with Bill Clinton?

P.S. Clinton supported the war. he was wrong. Over here on the left side of the spectrum, we can deal with the notion that politicians can be wrong, a quality notably absent in far too many conservatives' approach to george bush.

Posted by: howard at October 24, 2003 02:23 PM | PERMALINK

The CIA is a 'legalized' black bag operation. You'd call it the mafia, but this one doesn't suffer under RICO.

And, Tenet isn't the only maniac who created his own power base. Reminds me of J. Edgar Hoover, who did the whole thing, too. AND, while wearing a dress.

Get over it.

All societies need a level of 'intelligence' that veers off Kosher, so that you really do know what your opponents are thinking and doing. In another age it would have been called gossip, on the one hand, and Freemasonry on the other.

It's not such a bad thing.

And, it's a whole lot better than a Tokyo Rose operation run by a few faggots. Not to diss faggots. They are the Catholic Church's life blood.

Once you understand how power works you'll gain a healthier respect for our presidents. Fer sher.

Posted by: Carol in California at October 24, 2003 03:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm genuinely puzzled, Carol: What's your point?

It appears to boil down to "intelligence agencies do murky stuff," and I guess we can all say "amen" to that but it ain't exactly news.

There's a serious charge in play here: That the Bush administration ignored the CIA when deciding to go to war, then browbeat the CIA into producing evidence to support their foreordained conclusions, bypassing the CIA's time-tested techniques for assessing intelligence and instead discarding unfavorable reports and uncritically accepting favorable ones.

Are you refuting or advancing that accusation? It looks to me like you're trying to address it in some way, but I can't figure out if you're actually saying anything.

Apologies to the room if I'm feeding a troll here.

Off-topic: Can ANYONE tell me when the wingnuts decided that CIA and the State Dept. are a bunch of anti-war librul america-hating weenies? I mean, Jesus Christ. When even the CI fucking A thinks toppling a foreign government is a bad idea, doesn't it seem like it's time to check yourself?

Posted by: Laertes at October 24, 2003 03:40 PM | PERMALINK

The point is, Howard that if the Bush Administration was believing "delusional fantasies" about intelligence on Iraq they were the same fantasies that were believed by the Clinton Administration. You can take statements from Clinton, Albright, and Dem leaders in 98 and place the side by side with statements from their Republican counterparts in 02 and 03 and there is really no difference between them.

It undermines the argument that Bush and company made everything up. To disinterested Independents it doesn't sound logical that administrations of both parties could have the same basic assessment of a foreign country over a period of almost eight years and reach the conclusion that Clinton was right and Bush was wrong.

You can logically argue Clinton acted properly with sporadic bombing and Bush didn't by invading - but that is a different argument that saying Bush made everything up.

Posted by: TR Farmer at October 24, 2003 06:02 PM | PERMALINK

The charge is not that Bush "made everything up," the charge is that the administration demostrably hyped shaky intelligence and ignored dissenting opinions about the poor quality of this intelligence in order to advance a preexisting and poorly thought out plan for invasion and reconstruction. There is a lot of evidence for this and I don't see how the argument "Clinton did it too" entitles us to ignore what the Bush administration has actually done. Besides, 1998 and 2002-3 were different years and justifying a war on 4-5 year old intelligence is kind of, well, inexcusable.

Posted by: Thersites at October 24, 2003 06:25 PM | PERMALINK

TR, i'm afraid you read me too fast.

I specifically differentiated between "puffed up the claims to launch the war," which i think is indisputable (and no, again, the Clinton administration did not make the claims about the iraqi nuclear prorgram that the backbone administration did), and "developed postwar plans based on delusional fantasies," which i also, at this point, regard as indisputable since everyone acknowledges the level of misjudgement at this point.

I most assuredly did not say "delusional fantasies about WMDs," which i think, for the prewar period, is an overstatement. I'm happy to stand behind they cherrypicked the intel and took away the caveats and presented uncertain as certain, and so is donald rumsfeld, who testified to this very matter in congress back in may (acknowledging that we had no new intel since 1998, but we changed the way we looked at the intel post-9/11, an absolutely honest statement by rummy, given what we know now).

This all said, Thersites is right: of what relevance is what the clinton administration said for the decision-making of the backbone administration?

Posted by: howard at October 24, 2003 06:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Clinton did it, so that means it's OK for BushCo."

Wow.

Posted by: bleh at October 24, 2003 07:21 PM | PERMALINK

Dear TR Farmer:

No difference in statements, Clinton-98 vs. Bush-02: There is a BIG difference. Bush went from this directly to the assertion that war against Iraq had to start RIGHT NOW. Were the Republicans asking for war in '98? Hell no. They were too busy spending 50-70 millions of our tax dollars making up stuff about Bill Clinton's past.* Oh, yea, 9/11 "changed everything". Well, what did it change? WHY DID WE GO TO WAR?

The charge that Bush "made everything up": Straw man, and you know it. Exaggerate, cherrypick, whatever, but no sane person makes the claim you attribute. WHY DID WE GO TO WAR?

Answer that question, and let the discussion begin.

*Hmm. Could be a pattern emerging here.

Posted by: bobbyp at October 24, 2003 08:34 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if it's okay for the Bush administration to do it if the Clinton administration did it...

People, if your daughters are White House interns, be afraid. Very afraid.

Posted by: Darkwater at October 24, 2003 09:09 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it. Did something happen with an intern when Clinton was President?

Posted by: Wes at October 24, 2003 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

I mean, Jesus Christ. When even the CI fucking A thinks toppling a foreign government is a bad idea, doesn't it seem like it's time to check yourself?

laertes-thanks. I have been thinking something like this in the back of my head and hadn't found the words. Hasmmer, Nail, Blam!

Posted by: Urk at October 24, 2003 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Howard, the point I'm making is that the Clinton administration believed all this stuff, and talked most masculinely about what they were going to do about it, as did a number of the seven (or however many) dwarves currently trying to be the democratic nominee for president.
So either they were lying, or they were cherry-picking intel, or they were making things up for political purposes----or they weren't.
You pick it. Most bushhaters would never, for an instant, admit the first. Thus, they have to admit the intel was hard.
If the intel was hard, what's wrong with Bush coming to the same conclusion?
I don't recall anybody saying at any time that Desert Fox destroyed the WMD everybody thought SH had. Certainly, the UN didn't.
That one won't work. Besides, the UN should have gone to those sites and discovered the detritus of WMD among the wreckage. Since Desert Fox is the new Silver Bullet, making the difference between Clinton's views (which, of course were 100% correct) and the dreadful lack of WMD evidence now, then the Desert Fox bombs must have hit WMD targets. Can't have missed. Not logically possible. So what did the UN find when it looked? Or didn't they look? If they didn't look, then we have no evidence from the UN that the programs were destroyed by Desert Fox. No evidence that the WMD were destroyed means the WMD still existed.
Sounds like Blix needs to return his paychecks.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 25, 2003 08:33 AM | PERMALINK

"The Clinton administration believed all this stuf... So either they were lying, or they were cherry-picking intel, or they were making things up for political purposes----or they weren't. You pick it. Most bushhaters would never, for an instant, admit the first."

Um... I can. I'm a 'bushhater,' I guess, and I can ABSOLUTELY believe that the Clinton administration was capable of lying. Why can't you do the same regarding Bush? Or is your draft-dodging, drinking-and-driving, condemned-prisoner-mocking, campaign-donor-backscratching cokehound some kind of saint?

However, whether or not the Clinton Administration believed in the same Saddam WMD intel that the Bush Administration did (less the nukes, of course... you still haven't said anything about the nukes), Clinton didn't invade, did he? He mustn't've thought Iraq posed enough of an "imminent" (sorry, I know you guys are twitchy about that word lately) threat to justify doing so.

Bush did, though. Why? Why was Iraq such a looming threat to us that we couldn't possibly give Blix the "months, not years" that he was asking for? Why go it alone, right this moment, if there were a chance that allowing the UNMOVIC process to play out might possibly gain us a Desert-Storm-style coalition, saving us hundreds of lives and hundreds-of-BILLIONS of dollars (and possibly staving off the al-Qaeda-recruitment bonanza that this misadventure has become)?

CLINTON didn't see the immediate threat from Iraq... not a threat that meritied invasion, anyway. But Bush did. So BUSH is on the hook, baby. And he took us all with him, kicking and screaming.

But that's understandable. There must've been some new-found threat from Iraq that couldn't be ignored, right? So what, exactly, about the threat from Iraq changed? Was it the uranium from Niger? (oops, I guess not). Was it that Saddam could deploy his WMDs in 45 minutes? (oops, wrong again). Was it that the CIA was badgering our poor President Bush, saying this Iraq intel is HOT and CANNOT be ignored, and so Bush'd better find it in his peace-loving heart to pull the trigger on this war he so dreaded? As Kevin said: "There isn't a single soul in all of Washington DC who believes that."

So, Richard, what was the new can't-be-ignored threat from Iraq?

Oh wait, I know. Fifteen Saudis and three Egyptians got on some planes with boxcutters.

THAT'S why Iraq was suddenly a threat. Just like every other nation with boxcutters, I guess.

The more you think about it, the less sense it makes.

Posted by: Patrick Meighan at October 25, 2003 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

"Since Desert Fox is the new Silver Bullet, making the difference between Clinton's views (which, of course were 100% correct) and the dreadful lack of WMD evidence now, then the Desert Fox bombs must have hit WMD targets. Can't have missed. Not logically possible. So what did the UN find when it looked? Or didn't they look?"

They were IN THE MIDDLE of looking when Bush said "screw it, we're invading anyway," a'member? Blix asked for "months, not years," and evidently that was something we couldn't grant him. Remember?

"If they didn't look, then we have no evidence from the UN that the programs were destroyed by Desert Fox. No evidence that the WMD were destroyed means the WMD still existed."

This is just so much hooey. That's why you HAVE an inspection process. To figure out how to account for missing items. Unless, of course, the process gets aborted by a single nation, acting unilaterally, launching an invasion, against the wishes of a majority of the humans on the planet. 'Cause in that case, you don't so much get a chance to complete your inspections. That's 'cause you're running for your life from Tomahawk missles and DU-tipped shells.

But what if Blix HAD completed his inspections, found no weapons, but also found certain materials unaccounted for? Does that certainly indicate nefarious activity, and a grave threat, of the sort that justifies 10,000 dead Iraqis, 500 dead Americans, and 150 billion American-dollars flushed? Or could the unaccounted-for materials have been due simply to incompetent bookkeeping? 'Cause that's happened before, y'know.

From The San Francisco Chronicle (5/18/03)
"A study by the Defense Department's inspector general found that the Pentagon couldn't properly account for more than a trillion dollars in monies spent. A GAO report found Defense inventory systems so lax that the U.S. Army lost track of 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units."

But the Iraqi military was way more sophisticated than ours. There's no way they could make such a mistake.

And there's no way that an extended regime of UN sanctions could possibly keep the Iraq from developing stocks and stocks of weapons.

Except that, y'know, the UN sanctions apparently did that very thing.

Ooops. Sorry, dead people!

Posted by: Patrick Meighan at October 25, 2003 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Why is anyone suprised at the lies this administration will tell? They started lying in Florida during the recount, and they haven't stopped.

(Remember Baker telling the media that the votes "have been counted and recounted" while he knew that approximately 30% of the Florida votes were never recounted at all).

The media didn't call them on that then, and until the media calls them on their lies, they will keep doing it. They will keep doing it because they believe that their cause is right and that anything they do to promote their cause
is justifiable.

Hence we are told that there are weapons of mass destruction, when there are not; that we can have tax cuts and still have a balanced budget, when we can't; and that they support "No Child Left Behind", when they don't.

The problem is that a president will get in trouble with the media if he lies about sex, but not if he lies about policy or programs. There is an excellent article in a back issue of the Columbia Journalism Review about why that is so.

Exposing a president who lies about sex, or supposedly lies about his investment in a land deal, doesn't make the media look partisan. After all, almost no one disagrees with the idea that you shouldn't lie under oath, or engage in crooked land deals. If you expose a president who lies about policy, howeve, his partisans are going to attack you as being partisan.

The media, which values their supposeed "objectivity", doesn't want to deal with those kinds of attacks. Therefore they will very rarely tell the American public when a president is lying about policy.

Hence the present situation where to tell the public that the president is lying about policy and programs is considered in bad media taste.

Posted by: john at October 25, 2003 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

HOW LONG CAN THE GODFATHER HOLD OUT?

You must be kidding me.

Tenet holds out until he turns the reins over to his son, Michael.

THEN, Michael gathers the clan together and explains what his father taught him:

"My dad taught me to hold my friends close. And, my enemies, closer."

Funny, we get more truths from the old movies than we get from discussion. Now, go round up the usual suspects ...

Posted by: Carol in California at October 25, 2003 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

Richard, it's simply not true that the clinton administration said the same things about iraq and wmds that the bush people did. They absolutely did NOT say the same things about nuclear weapons that the backbone administration did. This rather makes all the difference in the universe.

And unless you think Rumsfeld was lying under oath back in (i think it was) May when he testified to congress, he acknowledged that there was no new information about iraqi wmds since '98, but the "prism" through which we viewed the information changed after 9/11.

Now you may agree or disagree with the way they shifted the "prism" (it seems pretty clear that you agree), but you can't pretend that by shifting the "prism," the backbone administration was merely reiterating the clinton administration.

Please stop this tired canard.

Posted by: howard at October 25, 2003 08:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Do they have the chutzpah....." OF COURSE THEY DO!!! Isn't it patently, blindingly, overwhelmingly OBVIOUS to all but those who are seemingly choosing to be deceived about this Administration? Stonewalling the 9/11 commission/outing Valerie Plame/lying about 9/11 air quality/cooking intel/Sen. Roberts acting as cover-up agent-("Executive not well-served by intelligence")/....and on and on andon.......Is it not clear that the Potemkin Presidency will be propped up by any lie or deceit necessary? Rove needs Bush to be perceived as the straight-talkin', morally resolute, full of honor and integrity leader and anyting that will keep the illusion alive will be fair game. WAKE UP citizens--this crowd has only begun to fight--they will pull out all the stops to keep W in office, so yes...they have the chutzpah for just about anything.

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