Parting Shot: Did so! Did Not! Did So! Did Not!
The speech the president gave on Veterans Day should be old news, except its not. It was covered in these pages here, and that should have been that.
But no, the speech contained the core of the argument that is supposed turn everything around and make those poll numbers go up again. Forget the Veterans - they're not important, or they're dead or whatever. Veterans Day was the day to give a speech attacking the opponents of the administration who said all those awful things about the administration conning everyone in to pointless war that's making thing worse, and to say to the nearly sixty-percent of the population that judges the president as dishonest that well, they're just wrong. Nixon was forced to say, "I am not a crook." Same sort of thing - "So they call me a liar? I'm not."
But if he's seen as a liar then that statement could be a lie, right? The assertion defeats itself. The polls won't change.
From the shooting script of the Blake Edwards movie Charade (1963), this dialog -(Reggie is Audrey Hepburn and Dyle is Cary Grant, in their hotel in Paris) -
And so on and so forth.
In this case, what's the president to do? He's not taking off his "executive privilege" moccasins, after all. What really was decided and how it was decided isn't for the public.
What to do? Keep repeating the assertion, as on Monday, November 14, while leaving town, as in Terence Hunt reports for the Associated Press -
There he goes again. This was repeating the charge in the Veterans Day speech (text here. That was summarized by the New York Times this way - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq policy, accusing them of trying to rewrite history about the decision to go to war, and saying their criticism is undercutting American forces in battle." The Washington Post summary - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq war policy, strongly denying any manipulation of prewar intelligence and accusing his detractors of sending "the wrong signal" to U.S. troops and America's enemies."
So he denied he had manipulated intelligence in order to take the country to war against Iraq - and said that the Democrats in congress had seen the same evidence he had seen, and all those commissions had all said nothing like that happened, and that even the Clinton administration had also seen Iraq as a threat.
Yeah, well, Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank on the front page of Saturday's Post, the day after the speech, suggested he was full of crap, although they said it nicely:
And that "neither assertion is wholly accurate" is to say, what?
These two remind us that the only committee investigating the matter of this pre-war intelligence in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials "mischaracterized intelligence" by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. They haven't even started. That's Phase II - and the Democrats had to shut down the senate November 1st and make everyone meet behind closed doors just to get Pat Roberts, who chairs the committee, to get going. It's been two years or more. (Discussed in these pages here.) Yep, the committee did NOT say the administration manipulated anyone or anything. True enough. They haven't found the time or energy to look into it yet. They haven't said anything about it.
The Post guys also note that Judge Laurence H. Silberman - chairman of Bush's own commission on weapons of mass destruction - said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005, none of this was his business - "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."
So, yes, technically no one has concluded anyone in the administration was playing fast and loose way back when with junk data about how we just had to go to war at that moment. That no investigation has yet covered the issue proves that manipulation never happened?
No wonder this man comes off so badly on "trustworthiness" in the polls. They should poll people who have taken courses in symbolic logic. That poll would be devastating.
And this business about everyone working from the same data - that everyone looked at the same intelligence? The Post points out no president shares the most sensitive intelligence, things like the President's Daily Brief (PDB), with any lawmakers. And too, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress "just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country." No one had time to read it, which was probably the idea. And all the doubts and "maybe this isn't so" stuff wasn't in there anyway. Ah well.
Democrats in Congress seem to be saying that most of what they knew about Iraq before the war came from briefings from the administration and the Pentagon, and now feel they were lied to - consistently and systematically.
Poor babies. Of course you could argue that since the world is made of only fools and knaves, as Swift famously formulated it, the worse things is not to have a good bullshit detector. Everyone lies. That's life. The greater blame goes to the fool who doesn't see the lie - and the greatest blame to the perceptive man who sees the lie and won't say anything for fear of being called unpatriotic or some such thing. Heck, liars are a dime a dozen. You expect that in government.
Of course some tell the truth. The Post drags out a news conference in February 2001 in Egypt with Colin Powell - Secretary of State at the time - saying of the economic sanctions against Iraq were just fine and there was no threat: "Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."
Just who is rewriting history? No one noticed at the time?
And the "smoking gun" October 2002 joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq never did mention the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and occupying the country. It was in support for "diplomatic efforts" to enforce "all relevant Security Council resolutions," and for using the armed forces to enforce the resolutions and defend "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."
These guys didn't even vote for the war and occupation. One might mention that, but of course Kerry did and got smashed in the media as a flip-flopper.
Ah, he should have known - they should have known. Had they never dealt with a Texan before?
But then there's more.
What you also hear in the new offensive from the White House is much more of the charge that everyone thought there was a real big threat - all foreign governments and even the previous administration said so. This is the "Don't blame us - we were all wrong!" argument, the one where "we" excludes Scott Ritter and Hans Blix of course.
That argument relies on everyone having an amazingly bad memory or short attention span, or whatever. Juan Cole in his collection of such things notes, from the BBC in mid-February 2003, this -
And Cole notes reports like this - the Russians were even more skeptical.
Just who is rewriting history? (By the way, Juan Cole's site Informed Comment is blocked in Iraq and Afghanistan - our guys cannot get to it.)
But then there's more - evidence that if there ever is an official inquiry in "manipulating" things there's a bit to explain.
There's just leaving things out - like how the Osama dude had flatly prohibited any al Qaeda operatives from cooperating with that heretical secular Arab nationalist, Saddam Hussein. We had that from informants. We had on record. That never got into any intelligence report, but the 9/11 Commission found it. Oops.
And as mentioned in these pages last week - here, section two, and in the Juan Cole roundup - there's the case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. The man who was the source of all the lies about Iraq training al-Qaeda operatives, even though the Defense Intelligence Agency and other high-level intelligence operatives had already dismissed this information as unreliable. Well, as Newsweek reported, this was a test case to see what we could get from torture - the fellow spent some time in Cairo. Didn't work out.
Add this. No supporting evidence. Cole: "It should be noted that no money traces showed al-Qaeda funds coming from Iraq. No captured al-Qaeda fighters had been trained in Iraq. There was no intelligence that in any way corroborated al-Libi's story. And, it was directly contradicted by two of his superiors."
But Powell took it to the UN, after all the times the administration hyped it. Cole has all the citations.
Kevin Drum more here in a nifty table - "a list of five key dissents about administration claims, all of which were circulated before the war but kept under wraps until after the war." He lists this liar, and the famous "Curveball," and the aluminum tubes that turned out to be something else, the hypothetical yellowcake from Niger, and those drone planes that we coming. It's all there, as a preliminary list.
And he adds this:
Yeah, and they're still at it.
As mentioned last weekend, it was Glenn Reynolds, one of the most influential voices on the right, who said this -
Yeah, but who's lying?
James Walcott notes the idea, that all this wanting the truth stuff is unpatriotic, is spreading, and not working -
Could that be so?
Does Josh Marshall speak for America here? -
Oh my, that's a bit overwrought, but then, Nixon only had to say "I am not a crook" and feel desperate. The smart-ass kid from Texas has to say, over and over, "I did NOT con you into a war using bullshit, and hiding things from you, and now your kids are dead, but you bought the crap so it's your fault." Nixon had it easy. They're now calling the frat-boy bully a liar to his face, and bringing up just why they're saying that.
One suspect he resents that, and resents that saying the clear facts really mean nothing is getting nowhere. Were they that hard on him a Yale when he turned in an embarrassingly dumb-ass paper, as he did quite often as many have mentioned? There he could laugh it off - he was the son of a famous Yale father and Yale grandfather so what were they going to do?
Well, he has his base of screw-them-all wannabe bullies, but that has its limitations, as Ron Brownstein explains here -
And that will tick off his base.
The man cannot be very happy. And now it's even harder to start another war to fix it all.
Note: Digby at Hullabaloo on how to discuss this all with your conservative friends, an excerpt from a longer item -