Topic: For policy wonks...
Report Card: George Gets Another Gentleman's-C
The Senate Intelligence Committee report on prewar intelligence is out. It hit the streets Friday morning. If you want to read all 511 pages click here - it's in PDF format but it is free. It's not that bad. Whole chunks are blacked out - redacted, as the say. These parts seem to have something to do with African yellow-cake uranium sales - Niger to Iraq, or not. Given the current investigation of who at the White House leaked a CIA agent's name and blew her cover, to punish the fellow who said the whole thing was a hoax - well, best we not see those sections until the special prosecutor has done his job.
What to make of this big, thick pile of paper?
Well, its seems the reasons we said we had to got to war, against the advice of the UN and most of our traditional allies - not to mention most world opinion - were not supported by the facts of the matter. Of course since then we've said the original reason - that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was an immediate and grave threat to this country - wasn't the REAL reason. It was the ties to al-Qaeda - Iraq was in league with those guys to bring us down. Seems the facts don't support that either. We'll that wasn't the REAL reason. We went to war to liberate the Iraqi people. But they don't seem to like our version of liberation and things are a bit difficult on the ground there. They don't want this kind of liberation? Well, that wasn't the REAL reason we went war. It was set up a representative democracy there, with voting and a free press, and open, utterly deregulated markets - and the nations in the area would then get the idea and toss out their monarchies or theocracies or tribal confederations and jump on the Jeffersonian bandwagon. The Iraq example would transform the region. Well, that doesn't seem to be working out as planned - we're selling this idea and not many folks are buying it, even with our armed troops in their streets and with many, many local folks in prison being treated, to put it mildly, shabbily, and we won't tell them why they are in prison because we don't have to. Guess they just get this democracy thing. They think we're bullies and fools? Doesn't matter. That wasn't the REAL reason we went to war. It was humanitarian - Saddam was a bad man. Yes he was. Did horrible things to his own people. He did. Things are better with him gone. Probably. But that's a mixed bag too.
So this massive Senate Intelligence Committee report is not terribly significant as it is - let me count here - about five rationales behind the times.
Bush did say this -
Ah, did the report this week say he was lying? Many say he was, and many say it is an honest mistake as the facts he had to work with were faulty.
And Bush was careful. Note in the clip from the radio address he didn't say Iraq could hit us in forty-five minutes. He said the British government said that. And there were al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq - in the Ansar al-Islam camp in northern Iraq outside the control of the Baghdad government. He did not say they were even talking to each other (they weren't). So he wasn't lying. Folks mistook geographical proximity for conspiracy. What fools.
But is this clip an example of Bush actually saying we have to go to war now to protect ourselves?
Well, it seems to be. But it has what you might call "wiggle-room." It seems folks just jump to conclusions. Funny thing.
But some of what he says we know now is just not true - but can Bush be held responsible the CIA getting it all wrong, and for each radio listener's stupidity? Hardly - or at least that what the Bush war supporters are saying now.
Still the Senate Intelligence Committee report does presents a real problem for war supporters.
Why? Try this summary from the New York Times> -
So. The first two reasons to do this deed - the reasons that everyone lapped up, before the others were trotted out, one after the other, as the REAL reason we did the deed - well, the first two went down in flames this week.
Here is the Washington Post summary of what the two co-chairs had to say -
Well, actually the Democrat from West Virginia said more.
But otherwise it went pretty well in Iraq.
Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly comments on how this falls out. He says the committee report lays the blame for bad intelligence squarely on the CIA. Points for the war supporters - they love it. Bush is off the hook and they always thought the CIA was foolishly picky about things.
But Drum a also points out - "they've been saying the CIA is too cautious, not too aggressive. What's more, the report also says there was no WMD and no ties to al-Qaeda, which basically knocks the props out from under the entire case for war. The only rationales for war they're left with are either humanitarian grounds or else the neoconnish grounds that a free Iraq will promote a wave of democracy in the Middle East. But even Paul Wolfowitz doesn't pretend that the former was sufficient reason, and the American public has shown no inclination to accept the latter."
Ah, yep. A problem.
His summary - The CIA screwed up, Bush was duped, there were no WMD, no ties to al-Qaeda, and a good chance that Congress wouldn't have authorized the war if they had known all this at the time.
That'll do. No need to read the report.
Oh yeah, here's key part of the New York Times editorial on the report -
Yeah, but that's the New York Times - eastern latte-drinking liberals, all of them.
Out here on the west coast (La-La Land or the Left Coast to some) our own Los Angeles Times this weekend gives us real detail of how this all got so screwed up.
See CIA Was Warned About Defector's Unreliability
Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times July 10, 2004, Page A1 (below the fold)
And the long item goes into great detail. Yes, Curveball, the Iraqi exile who claimed that he had built biological warfare trucks for the Iraqi army later turned out to be the brother of one of Ahmed Chalabi's top aides.
And Colin Powell pounded the UN with the "facts" about this secret fleet of mobile germ weapons factories - with diagrams of just how these Winnebago's of Death were precisely configured, or so we knew. Geez. And we paid Chalabi and his group 340,000 dollars a month for many years for such information.
It seems we wanted this war bad.
What is the administration's defense for all this? Read our words exactly - what you thought, what you assumed, is YOUR problem, not ours? We never said....
That might work. You see it here and there in the conservative opinion pages.
Or this - Reasons one and two for why we went to war are so 2003 - and it's time to move on. Reasons three and four aren't working out. So let's move one. Reason five may still be a good reason. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. We're safer with him gone. Don't worry. Be happy. Americans are a forward-looking optimistic people. Optimism!
And that's what the president has been saying this weekend on the stump in Pennsylvania. And folks cheer, but maybe that's just a reflex - or cognitive dissonance.
There's a lot of that going around.
The war should have been... something else.
Here's a war supporter, Michael Ignatieff, agonizing about it all -
But what about the idea of Bush as victim? Does seeing things that way make things better?
See this from Jerry Bowles -
Yep. And Mark Schmitt - Director of Policy and Research at the Open Society Institute, in New York piles on -
The question is, when will be these final days? Late this year, or four more years down the road?
So the Senate Intelligence Committee report is out. But the polls won't change. Almost every mind is made up. Bush is our hero - or one really scary guy.
Things seem a bit more dicey in the UK at the moment.
Spy Chiefs 'Retract Wmd Intelligence'
James Lyons, The Scotsman - Saturday 10 July 2004 - 10:13pm (UK)
The full Observer report is online here if you want all the details. Basically, Tony's been hung out to dry, just now, this weekend, by MI6 - is own CIA.
If George Tenet, head our CIA, had had the balls to do THAT ... No. Here we know NO ONE crosses the Bush family, or the Rove-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika. (Somehow the term now seems appropriate, if you know your obscure political history.) Tenet resigned.
Then there is this -
Yep, you read that right. A national leader who, seeing he's lost his credibility, knows he's made some mistakes, or at least political misjudgments, knowing he is again going to be shown to be flat-out wrong about some major things... considers resigning! How odd.
What people like about Bush is he never admits he's wrong, whatever the facts. Steady-leadership. No flip-flopping. Bush still believes he has lost no credibility - in fact, he thinks he's gained credibility - and for us all. We do what we say - no matter how stupid, ill conceived or poorly planned. We do what we say. And Bush doesn't listen to pollsters. He leads. Competently, thoughtfully? Perhaps not. But he makes decisions, even if dim-witted ones, and he sticks to them. That's comforting. And bad news? You can take care of those who generate that bad news. Ask Joe Wilson. As his wife, Valerlie Plame. They'll get the idea.
George needs to ring up Tony and explain how to rule.