Distorted Intelligence

Wed Nov. 23, 2005 5:21 PM EST

President Bush and Vice President Cheney have gone on the offensive recently, calling out Democrats and moderate Republicans who dare to question the administration's actions in the run up to the Iraq War. Some of Cheney's comments were timed poorly, coming out at the same time as Congressman and veteran John Murtha was making his case for a pull out (or a quasi-pull out, or whatever). Several days later, Cheney spoke at the American Enterprise Institute and said that he respected debate and disagreement, and that Murtha was "a good man, a Marine, a patriot" who was "taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."

But Cheney went on to say this: "What is not legitimate—and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible—is the suggestion by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence."

Considering the National Journal piece by Murray Waas released today, you would hope Vice President Cheney would feel some shame. Citing "government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter," Waas says that President Bush was told only 10 days after the 9/11 attacks that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. In fact, if there was any connection between the two, it took the form of reconnaissance Saddam was doing over the terror group, because he saw it as a threat to his secular regime. Yet the Bush Administration said repeatedly that Al Qaeda and Iraq had significant ties when they were making the case for war. Bush, on September 25, 2002: "You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." Rumsfeld, the next day: "We have what we consider to be credible evidence that Al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts with Iraq who could help them acquire…weapons of mass destruction capabilities."

Perhaps the worst was Cheney. He made the charge that Mohammed Atta had met with a senior official in the Iraqi intelligence service several times, even after the September 21st brief indicated no general connections existed and another briefing (perhaps several) indicated that the specific rendezvous he kept mentioning between Atta and the intelligence officer was discounted by the FBI and CIA. The 9/11 Commission would later write, "We do not believer that such a meeting occurred." More generally, they said, "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

So claims from Democratic senators that the Bush Administration misled the America people and misrepresented evidence are not "dishonest and reprehensible." They are 100%, completely, absolutely true.

The Waas article does further work. It knocks down a couple of the Bush administrations claims about the prewar situation:

(1) The intelligence was to blame. The contents of the report Bush saw on September 21 made their way into a lengthy CIA analysis of Iraq's ties to terrorism. In the end, the information was seen by Bush, Cheney, the national security advisor, the deputy national security advisor, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and others. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the intelligence cannot shoulder all the blame for America's missteps. Some of the intelligence was accurate, but useless to an administration that would have war whether the facts supported it or not.

(2) The Democrats saw the same intelligence that the White House did. The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the September 21st report, the lengthy CIA analysis that followed, and several other briefings the President received. The Administration has refused to provide these documents, even though Bush and Cheney trumpet, over and over and over, the false claim that Congressional Democrats saw the same evidence that the White House did before they voted to go to war.

Cheers to Murray Waas. Good investigative reporting like this makes me (I hope others as well) proud of the press in this country. Bloggers, politicians and just about everyone dogs the media, and yet in the face of an cabalistic power structure headed by George "More Secretive Than Nixon" Bush, we get reporting that reveals the truth. In the end, the second major rational for war has fallen. The first was WMDs (remember those?), the second was that Saddam harbored and conspired with terrorists. Too bad, George. I guess we'll see you in the history books. Your headshot will someday be next to a picture of a helicopter pulling the last evacuee off an embassy rooftop in Iraq.