Bush, Blair on the Downing Street Memo

I didn’t mention it at the time, but I wanted to point out the responses on the Downing Street memo made by Blair and Bush at their joint press conference on Tuesday. See the transcript (and a link to video) at whitehouse.gov: President welcomes British Prime Minister Blair to the White House, which includes the following:


Q Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me. And the fact is we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution, to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn’t do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.

But all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict. As it happened, we weren’t able to do that because — as I think was very clear — there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked, or the way that he acted.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I — you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I’m not sure who “they dropped it out” is, but — I’m not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s nothing farther from the truth.

My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations — or I went to the United Nations. And so it’s — look, both us of didn’t want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It’s the last option. The consequences of committing the military are — are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President is to try to comfort families who’ve lost a loved one in combat. It’s the last option that the President must have — and it’s the last option I know my friend had, as well.

And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a — put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

My own take on this is that they’re not disputing the authenticity of the memo per se, but neither are they confirming its authenticity. In classic spin-control mode, they’re making the strongest case they can while avoiding giving anything away to the other side. For me personally, this raises the status of the memo’s authenticity to the level of having been pretty well established, since if they could dismiss it as not being authentic, that would clearly be a stronger rebuttal of its contents than what they’re giving us (and indeed, this has been the biggest argument in favor of its authenticity since it was first revealed). Since they’re not challenging the memo’s authenticity, they don’t feel they have that option available, ergo, the memo is authentic.

By this interpretation, though, what they’re actually contending in their statements yesterday, without actually being explicit, is that the memo is just wrong: Either the statements made at the meeting and summarized in the memo were summarized inaccurately, or the statements themselves, while they actually were made at the meeting, were factually incorrect in contending that the US has already committed itself to a policy of going to war. As evidence for this, Bush and Blair both cite their subsequent pursuit of a diplomatic solution at the UN as making a prima facie case that they had not, in fact, committed to war at that point.

Which is a pretty artful bit of spin, and serves nicely to shift the emphasis away from the memo itself. They did, in point of fact, go to the UN and work hard to obtain resolutions critical of Iraq’s WMD programs and support of terrorism. The question then becomes whether they did so in good faith, actually seeking to avoid the necessity of war, or did so in bad faith, merely attempting to obtain diplomatic and legal cover for a decision that had already been made. (Note, too, that it’s possible that Blair was legitimately seeking to avoid war, and only Bush who was acting in bad faith. Or, I suppose, vice versa.) As those familiar with legal issues know, proving that someone did something in bad faith is a very difficult task. And again, since they’ve carefully avoided offering any explanation for the memo itself, they (and their supporters) remain free to adopt whatever explanation seems strongest at any given point: either that the memo is not authentic, that its account of what was said at the meeting is inaccurate, or that it is accurate, but that the statements it reports were themselves factually incorrect.

Of course, the memo itself is Exhibit A in the case that the UN efforts were made in bad faith, in that it describes in detail British (though not American) plans to use the UN in order to help with the justification for going to war. But I won’t be holding my breath waiting for some muckraking journalist to point that out, or to ask Bush or Blair to account for the apparent contradiction between the memo’s version of reality and the one they offered at Tuesday’s press conference. Personally, though, I think the memo really is a smoking gun. The available evidence strongly supports the interpretation that it is, in fact, an unvarnished, your-eyes-only account of what the head of MI6 believed in July, 2002, about the Bush administration’s firm-as-of-that-date commitment to go to war. And in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I don’t see any reason to think he was incorrect in believing that. I mean, it’s not like he was retarded or something.

Jonathon Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution also comments on the press conference: Nature’s perfect lying machine. And I have to wonder if the people at democrats.com, who previously offered a $1000 reward for getting Bush to answer Downing Street minutes, are going to reward reporter Steve for popping the question. I’m not sure if Bush’s response qualifies as a clear “yes” or “no”; it’s more like a substantive waffle, which I guess would mean Steve only qualifies for the $500 reward, not the full $1000. Still, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a stick.

There’s also Cindy Sheehan’s take: Bush on Iraq: “Comforting families” and telling lies. As the mother of a son who died in Iraq, she’s not impressed with Bush’s protestations that he kept war as the last option.

12 Responses to “Bush, Blair on the Downing Street Memo”

  1. Craig Says:

    I don’t recall seeing many arguments that this document wasn’t authentic in terms of recording the author’s perspective of a high-level intelligence briefing. There are thorough counterpoints out there , although this one will likely be dismissed out-of-hand since it questions the importance of the memo.

    I really don’t see the shock value here. If people can put themselves back into that time frame, WITHOUT referring to what they know today, Saddam was playing a years-old game of cat-and-mouse with the UN and its inspectors; there was still a general consensus that Iraq had some level of WMD (for the minimum reason that much of what he was known to have had at one time was still unaccounted for); there was some level of concern of Saddam dealing with terrorist elements, if not in the past, at least potentially in the near future; and the Bush Administration ( and Clinton’s) was well-documented to be in favor of regime change in Iraq in some way.

    Given all this, and the diplomatic track that had to be done to try to appease other world powers through UN resolutions, it seemed obvious to most that the process at that time (ineffective sanctions and Saddam’s Hokey-Pokey games of inspection (put your inspectors in, take your inspectors out, put your inspectors in, and you run them all about”) was never going to produce clear results. Therefore, I would fully expect a President to be preparing a parallel plan for when the end game can be put into action, once sufficient UN resolutions could be approved. Who wants a President who invests totally in one course of action in a time of crisis without anticipating other scenerios and planning accordingly? The obvious political stance that Bush or any other leader would take during all this is that, ‘yes, we will follow through with UN processes and hope for the best, but, at the end of the day, Saddam must go’.

    The fact that the Administration privately held the belief that war would be inevitable, was a very realistic and sober understanding of recent history and of Saddam’s intentions.

    My final thought is that one comment that I read about the wording used about the itelligence being “fixed” around the Policy was that “fixed” in the British english meaning was not “to change or alter something”, but to “bolt it” to the Policy. In other words, support the Policy decision by attaching all the concurring intelligence data to it. Now, this could certainly mean giving lesser credence to conflicting intell, but remember, most reliable world intelligence sources were in basic agreement with each other that Saddam had WMD capabilities. However, this interpretation of “fixing” would NOT mean deliberately altering or distorting the information.

    But, as I am not English, I have no idea if this is an accurate meaning of “fixing” or not.

  2. jbc Says:

    The National Review piece you linked to is interesting, but it’s clearly going out of its way to make the strongest case possible for the Bush side of things. Which is what I’d expect that publication to do, of course.

    I think it’s clear that the intelligence being “fixed around the policy” had the latter meaning you give it in your comment: They weren’t saying the intelligence was being faked. They were saying the intelligence was being used to bolster Bush’s a priori policy decision, with disconfirming details and caveats and expressions of uncertainty being buried and classified and ignored, and anything that made the case stronger being highlighted and burnished and paraded prominently before the world.

    Quoting from your linked-to National Review piece by James Robbins:

    The charge of intelligence fraud (if it is such a charge) has already been investigated and found baseless. And the allegations that the president had already decided to go to war and was thus deceiving the American people are personal opinions based on unsubstantiated impressions from unnamed sources.
    [end quote]

    In the first part of that passage, Robbins is referring to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation of the Iraqi WMD intelligence, the same investigation you cited earlier in your comments on the Downing Street memo, and which I responded to then. The game being played here is one of misconstruing the case against Bush, making it out to be something other than it is, in order to more easily knock it down. As Sen. Rockefeller explained in his “additional view” appended to the committee’s report, the narrow definition of “pressure” refuted by the report is not the thing he pressed for the report to include — and which, by the way, Sen. Roberts agreed to have it include, only to put it off to “phase 2”, the phase 2 he’s now in the process of resisting carrying out. It was “pressure” to have prominent public statements based on cherrypicked pieces of the intelligence being made frequently by everyone from Bush to Cheney to Rice to Rumsfeld. It was pressure to have people like Cheney show up in analyst’s cubicles to question them on their sourcing, to ask them to go over it again, to try one more time to find the evidence of bioweapon production, of nuclear material procurement, of ties to al Qaeda.

    The report makes a big deal of pointing out how analysts should expect that kind of close questioning in the wake of 9/11, and examined in isolation like that, it sounds very reasonable. But here’s the thing: The pressure was all one-sided. The report documents quite clearly that the normal process in the intelligence community whereby assumptions were supposed to be questioned, sources were supposed to be double- and triple-checked, uncertainties and error bars and the extent of unknowns were supposed to be carefully quantified; none of that happened when it needed to. The only time the analysts were grilled is when they produced conclusions that ran counter to the policy (that is, when they depicted Saddam’s WMD and terrorism-related activities in the way that we know now, with the benefit of hindsight, to have been accurate). When the analysts produced the right conclusions (that is, the ones that mistakenly portrayed Saddam as a big threat) they weren’t grilled at all. They were thanked, their conclusions were shuffled to the top of the pile, and they were encouraged to produce more analysis just like that.

    Speaking about the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that was delivered to Congress in October, 2002, Rockefeller’s additional view says, “It is no coincidence that the analytical errors in the Estimate all broke in one direction.” That skewing is even more obvious in the unclassified white paper that Tenet issued four days after the NIE was delivered: It repeated the (already skewed) conclusions of the NIE, but left out all the footnotes and caveats and background, turning statements like, “We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of United Nations resolutions” into “Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction programs in defiance of UN resolutions”. Judgement becomes fact with the stroke of a pen.

    What is clear if you actually read the report (which I’ve now done, actually; pretty much the whole 511 pages of it, because I didn’t want to just be talking out my ass about this), is that the intelligence got worse the higher up in the bureauracracy it went. It was systematically skewed to conform with the “group think” being propagated downward from Bush himself: Saddam was a bad guy, he had to go, and the job of the intelligence community was to provide the evidence that would make it easier to sell the war to the US public and to the world.

    Yeah, like Robbins says, that’s my “personal opinion.” But it’s a personal opinion backed up by reams of evidence, including both the details of the very report he cites (once you consider it in context, rather than playing along with the game that Sen. Roberts played of selectively focusing the investigation on the areas where Bush looked best, and ignoring the areas where he looked worst), as well as the British memo Robbins dismisses as “unsubstantiated impressions from unnamed sources.”

    Yeah, the memo doesn’t substantiate this stuff; it just has Dearlove laying out what he believed to be true, based on his firsthand discussions in Washington with (unnamed, sure) senior members of the Bush administration. And to date, the Bush and Blair people have offered nothing that substantially undercuts the veracity of what the memo says. The fact that they went to the UN afterward doesn’t disprove it; it’s perfectly consistent with it.

    But hey, you go on giving Bush the benefit of the doubt as long as you want; it’s a free country. But to me, you don’t look like someone objectively seeking the truth of this matter. You look like someone selectively picking through the evidence to bolster a pre-existing opinion. In effect, doing exactly the same thing Bush was doing in 2002.

    It isn’t lying, technically speaking. It’s more that you’re just being silly, and vain, and putting yourself in the position of making really crappy decisions that end up blowing up in your face when you run into reality, the real reality, the reality that has no particular willingness to twist itself into knots to match the distorted, self-serving version of it you’ve created in your head.

    Bush has made a career (literally) out of denying his failures, and this one is the biggest yet: He took a nation to war based on trumped-up evidence, had the evidence turn out to be completely, fabulously wrong, and is doing his best to brazen it out, blaming subordinates in the CIA, blaming the Clinton administration, blaming Saddam, blaming the UN, blaming every single individual on the planet, if need be, except the one person who actually bears the single biggest chunk of responsibility for what happened: himself. And I think you’re letting your own aversion to admitting a mistake take you down the same path.

  3. Craig Says:

    I suppose I will let my worldview and perceptions lead me to be predisposed to a particular view of the issue. A common affliction that everyone who is human will be guilty of. I’ve never said that there weren’t problems with how the Iraq threat was analyzed and judged. It was a series of errors, years in the making. My problem is that Bush haters are not happy with discussing the fact that assessments of Iraq that lead to this conflict were built largely, on ultimately unreliable sources due to a dearth of people in place within Saddam’s circle, or in other knowledgable circles, who could provide solid details, and on photo analysis that can’t definitively confirm the illegal use of dual-purpose equipment or the true activities of suspicious facilities. Again, these are assessments that the bulk of the world’s intelligence sources also agreed with, to a significant extent. So it’s not like Bush’s information was seriously out-of-step with the world’s intelligence community.

    The Haters want to take things 3 or 4 steps beyond this discussion. They insist on a personal and deliberate falsification and fraudulent misrepresentation of the evidence by Bush and his inner circle to purposely lead the Country and the world down a path that was fully known to be patently wrong.

    All this, despite the fact that there was enough misinformation, misjudgements, under-estimations, and ill-advised decisions in this whole thing that deliberate fraud was never necessary to get to where we are today. But people still insist to put this personal “evil manipulator” spin on
    the issue.

    So, as you say, since this is (still) a free Country, you can continue to built your view of Bush’s intentional, immoral culpabliity based upon your impressions of the information available, and I will continue to assess things through my own personal construct of beliefs and understanding.

    You can feel that I’m limited by my own pre-dispositions of critical thinking and personal investment in closely-held beliefs, and to some extent I’m sure I am. But for someone who also has a good deal of personal investment in this matter, I’d be careful about how you judge who is truly “objective” and who isn’t, in debating the details of these issues.

  4. jbc Says:

    Thanks for the advice. Clearly, we all need to watch what we say in this area, lest our own biases lead us to conclusions that are unwarranted by the underlying facts.

    But you’re not really debating the details of this issue with me. You’re skating off into generalities, erecting and then responding to straw-man arguments that are easier for you to refute than the arguments I’m actually raising. In doing so, you appear to be taking your lead from the right-wing media, who take their lead from the Bush team itself. I’m not really surprised by that, though it’s still kind of disappointing. I think you’re capable of better.

    I’m not arguing that there was “a personal and deliberate falsification and fraudulent misrepresentation of the evidence by Bush and his inner circle to purposely lead the Country and the world down a path that was fully known to be patently wrong.” I’m sure there are people out there who are arguing that, but I’m not one of them. Obviously, there was murkiness and uncertainty in what was known about Saddam’s WMD programs and ties to terrorism. What the Bush team did was to conceal the extent of that murkiness and uncertainty, to present the case against Saddam in much more dramatic form than the underlying intelligence justified.

    You like to bring up that Senate Intelligence committee report. Before the next time you bring it up, or link to someone who presents it as supporting the Bush side of this debate, you should read it. It contains 117 conclusions, 116 of which are available in the publicly released version. A lot of the supporting discussion has been redacted by the CIA, but a lot of it is still there. I haven’t actually counted, but I bet at least half of those conclusions give a variation of the following statement: The speech by Bush on such and such a date (or the NIE prepared by the intelligence community, or the Iraq white paper issued by George Tenet, or the presentation by Colin Powell at the UN, or the remarks made in such and such a TV appearance by Dick Cheney…) with respect to the Iraq-Niger uranium intelligence (or the aluminum tubes, or the unmanned aerial vehicles, or the stockpiles of chemical weapons, or the mobile bioweapons labs, or the ties between Saddam and al Qaeda…) seriously misrepresented (overstated, were not justified by, went beyond what was supported by…) the underlying intelligence information.

    That didn’t happen by accident. As Sen. Rockefeller pointed out, it all broke in the same direction. The closer the intelligence assessments got to Bush, the less professional balance they exhibited, the more certain they became, the more skewed they became in the direction of supporting the Saddam-must-go policy. To believe that that just randomly happened, despite the good-faith efforts by the people in charge to get at the truth of the matter, is akin to believing in the Easter Bunny.

    There was a systematic effort on the part of the Bush team to build international and domestic support for deposing Saddam. Yes, I’m aware that that policy originated during the Clinton administration. It’s not the policy that I’m criticizing. It’s the lengths to which they were willing to go to implement it.

    The Bush team (or at least Bush himself, I’m willing to stipulate) didn’t know that the stuff they were saying was “patently wrong.” For all they knew, it could have been right. But they obviously didn’t really care. It didn’t matter whether they were right or wrong about Saddam’s WMD and ties to terrorists. All that mattered was getting people to think what they wanted them to think, regardless of whether it was true or not.

    Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia entry on “Lie”. I think it’s pretty relevant:

    [begin quote]

    In his book On Bullshit (2005), Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfort suggests that lying and bullshitting are not the same thing. A liar differs from a truth-teller in that the former wants to hide the truth while the latter wants to reveal it; but both are very much aware of what the truth is. A liar must remain mindful of the truth, if only so that he does not inadvertently reveal it. A bullshitter, however, is utterly indifferent to the truth. He would not mind if his statements turn out, by accident, to be true. For example, a bank robber who denies that he robbed the bank is a liar; but a car salesman who assures a buyer, without bother to check, that the car he is trying to sell has been driven only 10,000 miles is a bullshitter. The salesman would not care if it were to turn out that his claim is true after all. He simply does not care what is the truth of the matter.

    [end quote]

    By this definition, the Bush team wasn’t lying about Saddam’s WMD in 2002. They were bullshitting. They were not honestly mistaken. They were at best spectacularly negligent, at worst wilfully dishonest. Either way, what they were saying was bullshit.

    The president of a democracy should not be able to take his country to war based on bullshit. If he does, and his bullshit is subsequently revealed to be such, he should held accountable. But that won’t happen on its own. It is up to citizens to make it happen.

  5. Craig Says:

    But who actually created and authorized the actual overstating, misrepresentation, and concluding that was unsupporting by underlying data? The answer is the management staff and the other senior level representatives of the intelligence community, who were responsible for taking the conclusions and estimations of their underlings and formulate a summary of evidence and an overall set of judgements on what the intell pointed to. Sure, they knew what the Administration expected to hear, and no doubt tailored that assessment to show the best-case evidence of that line of thought. It’s not the way such information and official conclusions are to be reached, by an agency tasked to deliver facts and the highest probabilities of the true nature of a situation, but it’s the reality of how it was done in this case. This faulty process was done by people who, no doubt knew what their “audience” expected to hear, but who also had been prejudiced by years of group think on Iraq WMD capabilities due to reinforced misinformation, flawed data, and shared agreement with others in the world’s intelligence community. (It seems to be conveniently ignored that this view of Iraq was a generally common-held belief throughout the world’s intelligence community.) Conflicting details were rationalized into the margins, while the same level of credible data that happened to fit with the expected conclusions were rationalized into greater probability of correctness. It seems to me that the committee’s conclusions hit upon this internal failure within the CIA time after time. It’s really the same type of dysfunctionality that one sees in the decision-making chain of many corporations around the world. By compromising their mission as an intelligence assessment operation, the CIA crafted the results in such a way that the Bush Administration didn’t have to take a direct hand in altering the conclusions, even if they wanted to. You seem to infer that the Bush Team directly inserted themselves into the assessment process to insure expected results. This isn’t supported by any investigative conclusions, and is simply your take on how the process was prejudiced. Nor is your view that Bush didn’t really care if the conclusions were accurate or not. But that’s okay. This is, of course, your forum for discussing your opinion on things.

    So, the result seems to be this: we both agree that the CIA compromised its primary duty by systematically producing results that promoted biased analysis to reach an expected set of conclusions. The difference is in whether the Bush Administration or the chain of command within the agency directly and actively intervened to corrupt the assessment process.

    You’ve also made judgement on how the Administrative representatives used and further overplayed the conclusions in the course of making their case to the world. They no doubt used starker terms to emphasize their point. But again, these statements are based upon “slam dunk” assertions from a source that was trusted to provide as clear of a picture as possible of the true nature of a given situation. That trust wasn’t warranted in this case.

    Your conclusions aren’t any more reasoned than mine or, at least, many other observers in the matter. Nor are they any less colored by personally-held beliefs, worldviews, and pre-conceived perceptions and filters than mine and many other sincere debaters. Time will no doubt further refine the reality of this issue.

    Chalk it up to another “agree to disagree” point of contention, I suppose.

  6. Craig Says:

    I should also point out that the Rockefeller, Levin, Durbin “additional comments” that you refer to were the Democrats attempt to create what amounted to a partisan assessment of the “Administrative pressure”, with the intent to include it in the public record, since that question was not officially addressed by the Committee. The remaining members of the Committee (Republican) made note of this question in their “additional comments” as well, and as most would also expect, did not see evidence of such an occurance.

    Also note that in most of those conclusions about overstatments and misrepresentations, the connection to those outcomes tended to be from systemic failures, weak management and unsound analysis from within the intelligence agency and network.

  7. jbc Says:

    So, Craig, you honestly believe that Bush isn’t responsible to the decision to go to war based on the Iraqi intelligence?

    Who do you think has been in charge of the executive branch for the last five and a half years? Who appointed the high-level political appointees in whose hands the Iraqi intel morphed from the nuanced, footnoted, cautious assessments it started out as into the misleading, inaccurate bunk that wasn’t worthy of launching an invasion over?

    Who is it who has run the most tightly-controlled top-down administration since Nixon? Who is it who has systematically replaced anyone in his cabinet who shows the slightest hint of independence and objectivity with people whose main qualification is their personal loyalty to Bush? It’s no accident that as you read through the accounts of the intelligence vetting process in the Senate committee report, the agencies that did the best job of pointing out what we now know to have been the flaws in the intelligence were the people in the State Department (headed by Colin Powell, since departed) and the Department of Energy (headed by Spencer Abraham, since departed). Those people understood the importance of resisting groupthink, and giving the professionals a chance to do their jobs. And they were overruled by people like Rumsfeld and Tenet and Rice. And when it turned out that Powell’s and Abraham’s people were right and the toadies were wrong, guess what? The people who were right got shown the door, and the toadies were kept on.

    You talk a lot about how Clinton had the same intelligence. But Clinton didn’t invade and overthrow Saddam Hussein based on that intelligence — because he realized it would be a stupid thing to do. When Clinton dealt with the equivalent situation, he conducted four days of bombing of suspected WMD sites. When he dealt with the possibility of a failed state in the former Yugoslavia, he put together an international military intervention that actually succeeded in its goals, without leading to a predictable quagmire that’s killing 50 soldiers a month and wounding hundreds more while breeding whole generations of anti-American terrorists.

    You talk about how all the rest of the world’s intelligence agencies were wrong on Iraqi WMD, too — but again, _they_ didn’t invade Iraq based on that intelligence, did they? The majority of the UN Security Council favored continuing inspections. They argued that the inspections were working. Blix and el Baradei argued that the inspections were working. And they were right, weren’t they?

    Weren’t they, Craig? The inspections _were_ working. Saddam _didn’t_ have an effective WMD capability. Right? You do still have enough of a connection to reality to acknowledge _that_, right?

    Bush was just wrong. It was obvious two years ago. It’s been getting more obvious with each new development since then. When are you going to wake up and smell the coffee?

    On your statement that the Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee tried to work in the stuff about administration pressure “since that question was not officially addressed by the Committee,” that’s just flat-out incorrect. In the joint press conference in which Roberts and Rockefeller announced the investigation, held on June 20, 2003, they listed the areas they would investigate, including, “whether any influence was brought to bear on anyone to shape their analysis to support policy objectives.” The question of pressure on analysts is covered in section IX of the report, titled “PRESSURE ON INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY ANALYSTS REGARDING IRAQ’S WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION (WMD) CAPABILITIES.”

    Now, the fact is that Roberts did everything he could to avoid highlighting the reality of the pressure that was placed on the analysts, construing the definition of “pressure” narrowly and doing an aggressive whitewash in the report. But look; the information is all there. In the wake of the Downing Street memo you don’t even have to go looking for it. All the evidence hangs together, and paints a consistent picture of who did what at which stage in the process. The mental contortions you’re going through at this point to try to excuse Bush from responsibility for his actions are just silly.

  8. adam_blust Says:

    Wow. Lots of words. I can’t say that I’ve read all of them, or even most of them. But I did have a slightly shorter take on the whole thing:


  9. Craig Says:

    First of all, I wasn’t specific enough about the “pressure” discussion. The actual partisan assessment by Rockefeller, Levin and Durbin was on the “pressure” they stated as being unaddressed by the full Committee, in terms of how intelligence was being used publicly by the Administration.

    Believe me, I have a firm grip on reality, even if it is being questioned because I am not falling in line with your point of view. It’s just that its hard to argue two points at one time. You’ve argued Bush’s guilt in knowingly influencing, misrepresenting and distorting the intelligence information on pre-war Iraq. Now it appears that you are asking me if the Administration is responsible for taking the Country into war based upon poor information. Well, if you are now taking about the latter case, of course he and his Administration are ulitimately responsible for actions taken under his leadership! He made the decision to go to war and he has had to answer for that, and will continue to. Its an embarrassment that so much of what was expected to be provable was not. Now you may not like or believe some of those answers, such as the fact that the intelligence used and the process in which it was developed was faulty, but your own opinion doesn’t suddenly make it wrong. For all the references to overstatements and distortions regarding the underlying intell analysis that you refer to in the Committee’s conclusions, the fault is still laid mostly on the management and dysfunction embedded within the intelligence agencies.

    I’m hesitate to open any other cans of worms in this whole touchy issue, but I’ll stick my two cents back into the inspection topic. You say they were working, but that argument can only really be made with confidence due to the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. In looking at it with what was understood AT THAT TIME, Saddam was playing a very purposeful, drawn-out game with the world. There was no attempt at TRANSPARENCY in the inspection process. That was the ONLY way a truly credible assessment was going to be made of Iraq real capabilities. Only temporary promises of cooperation, followed by restictions on movements and accusations of inspector’s intentions, followed by the withdrawal of inspectors. The required level of cooperation mandated in the UN resolutions was being blantantly violated. The inspectors, when they could work, weren’t finding much illegal activity, but they also were not getting satisfactory proof of what happened to the huge volume of WMD that was factually known to have existed at one time in the early-to-mid 90’s. And yes, other members of the permanent council in the UN were adament about continued inspections, but more recent developments in the oil-for-food scandal and other revelations have shown the influence that Saddam carried in those governments’ Policies toward his regime.

    You see, I’ll defend Bush, not because I think he was mandated by God, or because I think he is a great President, or because I agree with him on every issue, but because I just don’t see the same level of personal, intentional, immoral guilt in him as others do. Maybe a TRUE smoking gun will someday arise and it will require a change in opinion.

    This whole Bush thing is just too close to your core beliefs and you have too much personal investment in it, for anyone to try to challenge it (or even defend their differing opinion, for that matter). You admit your “obsession” with him on numerous occasions. I can admire your strength of convictions, but in the future I’ll try to refrain from engaging in too direct of a defense of Bush, since I know it won’t be productive for anyone.

  10. jbc Says:

    I still think you’re mischaracterizing my position to give you an easier target; I’m not insisting that Bush knowingly manipulated the analysis, because he didn’t have to. Again, like I explained before, he wasn’t lying, technically; he was bulllshitting. For all he knew Saddam _did_ have WMD. But he didn’t bother to make sure, or even be honest (with the world, the people of the US, or himself) about the limits of what he did and didn’t know. He just had his people spin it aggressively, in a way that, as it turns out, was really irresponsible, in that it ended up making a false case for war.

    I’m sure he would have preferred if the UN had come on-board with stronger condemnation of Saddam, so he could have gone in like his father did in 1991, with a real international mandate. In that sense, his going to the UN wasn’t just some kind of act. But I think it’s really obvious at this point that he was dead set on going to war one way or the other, and that the idea that Saddam was being given “one last chance” in the summer of 2002 isn’t supported by the evidence.

    Bush played the diplomatic game with Saddam at the UN, and basically lost. He lost when Hans Blix gave reports saying that Saddam was cooperating and the inspection process was working (not the initial reports, but the last one, I mean). Bush not only wasn’t able to swing a Security Council vote authorizing an invasion, he wasn’t even able to put together a simple majority. So he backed away and just said, in effect, “screw it; I’m invading anyway.”

    Now, that’s classic Bush, and on a certain level it’s admirable. The man of action, going it alone, taking on the bad guys and sticking to his guns. But the thing that makes it admirable is this: He’s taking the responsibility on himself. So 75% to 85% of the rest of the world is telling him it’s a mistake; he’s going to do it anyway, and when it’s done, and he’s proven right, he’ll get all the accolades that such an action deserves. It’s the risk he’s taking that makes it admirable.

    But the flip side is this: If you have three quarters of the world telling you you’re wrong to do something, and they won’t support it, that they don’t believe the evidence you’re citing is as bad as you say it is, that the outcome you say you’ll achieve will be as easy to achieve as you say it willl be, that the costs will be higher and the benefits lower than you’re saying, and you choose to ignore them and go in anyway, that’s fine, and it’s admirable that you’re willing to take that risk, but it’s your baby. If you’re right, you’re a hero and everyone else apologizes and acknowledges that you were right all along. But if you’re wrong, it’s all on you. You don’t get to blame the other guys.

    In this case, what has happened is that on pretty much every point of contention, Bush has turned out to be wrong and his critics have turned out to be right. So this is the part where the rest of the world (and his critics at home, like me), get to say, “we told you so.” And Bush, if he wants to make any kind of claim to the moral stature he was so proud to wrap himself in back when he was brazening it out in the face of world’s disagreement, needs to admit that they were right and he was wrong, and be contrite and say he’ll do a better job of listening to them next time.

    He’s not doing that. Instead, he’s acting like a whiny little kid who’s been caught having broken the cookie jar, and is pointing his fingers at everyone else in the room, saying, “Yeah, but Jimmy took a cookie! And Freddy was taking them, too; I _saw_ him! And I wasn’t the only one saying the cookie jar wouldn’t break; everyone believed that!”

    Anyway, I don’t want to chase you away or prevent you from offering your opinion just because I happen to disagree with it. I’m sorry I’ve let my zeal on this point get so bad that it’s turning you off from participating. I’m still interested in hearing what you think about this stuff, and will try to go easier on the fire and brimstone in the future. Thanks for being willing to engage as much as you have.

  11. Robert Says:

    Lets Nuke IRAQ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The Batsrards Deserve No less!!!!!!!

  12. Rise Against Says:

    Way to contribute to the dialogue there fuckface.

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