Friday, March 31, 2006
It's all true. Every bit of it.
What we've been saying about the campaign of deception regarding the Iraq invasion: All true. The new article by Murray Waas
proves it, as if you needed further proof. But if you're still the skeptic, there's your proof.
The evidence has been piling up for the last year, layer after layer of leaked documents and insider disclosures. Each one adds further details, here another lie, there a heretofore unsuspected outrage, and there a baroque twist to the transatlantic conspiracy.
But at a certain stage, merely piling up evidence doesn't serve to satisfy skeptics. They want to know whether the evidence coheres and whether any of it has been interpreted correctly. We're accused by Bush and Blair of taking it 'out of context', and for all the skeptic knows that could be true.
All along I've been pretty sure that I'm not pushing the evidence too far. Interpreting isolated documents is what I do for a living (I'm an ancient historian); knowing how far to press inferences from a given text is the name of the game. Anyway, the new report by Waas confirms that, if anything, I've been too conservative in making these allegations based upon what seem, and are, obvious inferences.
So, first to Murray Waas. It's not that his new report tells us things half as fun as Waas' bombshell on March 2: What Bush was told about Iraq.
That earlier story revealed the contents of brief 'Presidential Summaries' of intelligence that Bush (and his top 'people') got in Oct. 2002 and Jan. 2003. Those contents weren't kind to Bush & Co. For the Summaries shot holes in the administration's false claims about an Iraqi nuclear program (esp. the aluminum tubes). Bush would continue to make those very claims, despite receiving the Summaries.
Beyond that, they also showed that Bush, Rice and others had lied when they said that Bush had never been told of the existence of any doubts about the false WMD claims. That was in the summer of 2003, after Joe Wilson spilled the beans about the Niger forgery. But Bush had been told, and he just went on making the claims anyway. So the March 2nd story was a two-fer: Bush lied before the invasion about the WMD intel, and he lied after the invasion about not having deliberately lied about the intel.
It was the second thing that clinched the case against Bush. He'd managed to squirm free of sustained scrutiny in July 2003 when George Tenet took the blame for having permitted (sic) Bush's speeches to include false and misleading statements. But the Summaries publicized by Waas showed that no excuses could any longer protect our would-be-king from the charge of lying to the public.
That was fun, but why is the new Waas report a big deal? His main point is to demonstrate that the White House flipped its lid in summer 2003 when it discovered that those Summaries might be declassified. Rove warned the other fish in the White House pond that Bush's re-election could be scuttled "if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration," according to Waas. His sources tell him that the decision to keep the Summaries classified was part of an elaborate conspiracy by the WH to conceal the truth about its false WMD claims, at least until the 2004 election was over. The outing of Valerie Plame was just a small part of that conspiracy, though it's come to loom larger.
By this account, everybody of consequence was involved in the coverup in June/July 2003: Bush; Cheney; Libby; Rice; Tenet; Hadley; Fleischer. The people I don't see implicated are Powell and Card, but they could be the ones dropping the dimes.
Well, that is fun too and we can hope that the national media will pick up on one or both of the stories: (a) the lies, or (b) the grand conspiracy to coverup the lies.
In any case, the new Waas report set me to thinking about the quality of my own inferences from the earlier Waas report, which I commented on at the time here
How sensitive is the information that this Summary contradicts Bush's public statements?
But the Bush administration steadfastly continued to refuse to declassify the President's Summary of the NIE, which in the words of one senior official, is the "one document which illustrates what the president knew and when he knew it." The administration also refused to furnish copies of the paper to congressional intelligence committees.
My inference from the repeated
refusal to declassify or communicate the Summaries to Congress was that this information was for Our Dear Leader about as sensitive as anything could get.
Today's report by Waas, about the WH flipping out as it tried to cover up the Summaries, pretty nicely confirms that. (I take it as a given that Waas has the goods, since he is an extremely careful journalist.)
"Presidential knowledge was the ball game," says a former senior government official outside the White House who was personally familiar with the damage-control effort. "The mission was to insulate the president. It was about making it appear that he wasn't in the know. You could do that on Niger. You couldn't do that with the tubes." A Republican political appointee involved in the process, who thought the Bush administration had a constitutional obligation to be more open with Congress, said: "This was about getting past the election."
Most troublesome to those leading the damage-control effort was documentary evidence -- albeit in highly classified government records that they might be able to keep secret -- that the president had been advised that many in the intelligence community believed that the tubes were meant for conventional weapons.
There's nothing particularly remarkable about my inference (which seemed rather obvious given the administration's actions), or the fact that such a banal inference has now been confirmed. My point simply is that it's really not at all impractical to make accurate and even sweeping inferences on the basis of nothing more than a single, detailed text, however brief.
Why does it matter? Our entire picture of the Bush/Blair campaign of deception before the Iraq invasion has been teased out by means of identical operations with various texts. The best of these texts, government documents, are in fact so authoritative and detailed, that we really wouldn't even need to rely on journalist's reports to get an accurate overall view of what went on during the year before the invasion. We could build an accurate picture entirely from documents and the inferences they support.
So how has the ol' business of drawing inferences from pre-war documents been going for us? Well, the best indication that you're on the right track is to have an inference confirmed by new evidence. And that's happened again and again, though I've never taken the trouble to note it explicitly anywhere.
For starters I should point to some of my first posts analyzing the Downing Street memo, like this one here
, from the very night the story broke in Britain.
This leaked minute is utterly damning of the Bush administration and the false case it made for war..."the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"; "spikes in activity" were being engineered in July 2002 to put pressure on Hussein; cynical demands for the return of UN inspectors; and above all, an admission that the case for attacking Hussein was thin. ...
The minute also demonstrates that Blair already had foreseen many of the main lines of opposition that would emerge, and Blair had designed a plan or accepted somebody else's plan to thwart that opposition by maneuvering Saddam Hussein into untenable positions. It is every bit as Machiavellian as one always supposed. ...
In the US, it is hard to guess how this will play. I, for one, am beginning at this very hour to remember the taste and smell of the Watergate era.
Plenty of this turned out to be spot on. By the next day, Americans who learned about the DSM were famously demanding impeachment. Blair had in fact accepted a plan to wrongfoot Hussein; we later learned from other leaked documents that months earlier the British Ambassador to the boy-king and Blair's Foreign Policy Advisor had both urged the adoption
of what came to be known as the 'U.N. route'
In another post on line, written a few hours after the other one, link here
, I stated even more forcefully that the DSM showed the planned appeal to the U.N. for renewed inspections in Iraq was entirely cynical:
The leaked memo shows that Blair's idea was to demand the return of weapons' inspectors; if Hussein refused, that would provide a pretext for war, and if he admitted them then they might find some sort of grounds for war. The memo also indicates that by July 2002 the US military had already stepped up attacks against Iraq for the express purpose of provoking that war outright.
The inference was amply borne out the following month when the Cabinet Office briefing paper
was published. This was essentially the agenda distributed in advance of the July 23rd Cabinet meeting, whose minutes are the Downing Street memo:
It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003.
The inference drawn from the DSM that the "U.N. route" was entirely cynical may not seem especially ambitious. Certainly at the time I didn't think it could reasonably be doubted. Yet in July last year, I encountered an intelligent talk-show host who expressed strong reservations about going along with that inference (she knew the text of the DSM but not evidently the briefing paper). So it's entirely fair to treat it as a contested inference that, like the others, turns out to be right.
As for the inference that "spikes of activity" had to mean provocative air attacks, that too was borne out later by the publication of RAF documents the UK government was forced to reveal
Well, we could spend pleasant hours tracking down more examples of how major and minor inferences drawn from the cache of Iraq-war documents have been confirmed by subsequent publications. No need, I suppose, when the "White House Minutes" from Jan. 31, 2003
have decisively confirmed the most controversial inference from the DSM: That George Bush was determined to invade Iraq for months before the signal was given, all the while he pretended to seek a diplomatic "solution" (to what, exactly?).
So what is there left for an analyst of documents to do? Everything we said last May, it's all true. Every stinking bit of it. I wish instead it were all just a product of my overheated imagination. Sadly, it's all true.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Slouching toward Babylon
The so-called White House minutes that raised a furor in Britain in early February, which I wrote about here
at the time, finally is getting serious attention in the US. Yesterday Don van Natta published a detailed report about it in the New York Times
, which finally set American journalists on the scent. The chatterers on the cable news programs
suddenly began to twitter about the White House minutes. Scott McClellan also got an earful about it at Monday's press briefing
, and refused, ever in character, to answer the questions candidly.
Q Is this memo wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you covered us at that time period.
The question has to be asked: Why were journalists slow once again to get the significance of the story? It has been nearly two months since the contents of the WHM were divulged in the U.K. by reputable news organizations. The NYT article is reasonably good, there can no gripes about journalists following up upon it. But it tells us relatively little of consequence that we did not already know from the British reports. The import of the document was always apparent: It destroys the only remotely credible defense against the Downing Street memo, that Blair's cabinet ministers did not actually know what Bush's intentions were regarding Iraq.
It is not as if all
American journalists fell down on the job. The Christian Science Moniter, San Diego Union Tribune, and Chicago Sun-Times quickly printed good articles on the British reports; the Associated Press produced a major story. Even USA Today on-line had the sense to connect the new minutes to the DSM (and to the campaign we had to wage last spring to convince them to report about it). The immediate reaction in the American press to the British reports was so encouraging that I concluded no media campaign would be needed this time. But then the story just died on the vine.
It's a shame that journalists have never gotten in the habit, or have forgotten to visit sites like DowningStreetMemo.com, where people who are interested in disseminating real news take the trouble to sort out what is important and why. You'd think it would make their work easier. But then so would reading a few British newspapers, which I manage to find the time to do.
The real absurdity of the situation is underlined by the reaction now to the NYT article. How is this, suddenly, news
? Why are so many American journalists evidently unaware that this document was thoroughly vetted and discussed weeks ago? And perhaps they don't remember last spring, when we were writing to journalists urging them to report on the original Downing Street memo, that many in the media insisted that it was already old news
only a few weeks after its publication.
Do American journalists really require an invitation from the NYT to take a major story seriously? For nearly two months I have been trying every which way, though so far in vain, to get a hold of the full text of the WHM...recognizing (as we all did) the significance of such a document from inside the White House. So what the heck have the professional journalists been doing? And why haven't they been doing it?
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Iraq Options, 4 years on: "None currently exists"
Four years ago, two memos were prepared to help Tony Blair chart the path to war. One of them read in part
A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers advice, non[e] currently exists. This makes moving quickly to invade legally very difficult.
That ought to have been the end of that. But, oddly, it was not. The road to Baghdad is strewn with documents recording in painful detail the stupidity, arrogance, and deceit of Blair and Bush. Neither man has ever acknowledged the substance of these memos and minutes, much less explained themselves to the world. Instead, they've rebuffed all attempts to get answers. Recall the Downing-Street-Memo petition signed by hundreds of thousands, delivered by Rep. Conyers, and never answered.
For our part, we should remain equally adamant in pursuit of the truth. On this anniversary, it's worth reminding ourselves about how shocking the leaked documents truly are.
You'll find transcriptions and PDFs of the two memos, dated March 8, 2002, here at DowningStreetMemo.com. So much information came out so quickly last June that much of it was poorly digested. I feel justified in highlighting some of this material again, if only so we don't forget.
Today I'll analyze the first of the two documents, Iraq: Options Paper. It exhaustively explores 35 points about possible British policies toward Iraq.
It begins with the observation that Bush is intent on "regime change". It ends by noting that no legal justification exists for invading Iraq. In between, the two options it notably overlooks are the possibilities of taking a view independent of Bush, and of leaving Iraq alone.
Here is the Summary of the Options Paper. As far as our authors are concerned, there are only two main options; the first, containment, merits little discussion because, evidently, it doesn't amount to "regime change". The other option, you won't be surprised to learn, is war. It merits a lot of discussion, because it is the option that George Bush favors. Regrettably, there is as yet no excuse for invading Iraq. At least half a year of planning will be needed before one can be found.
Since 1991, our objective has been to re-integrate a law-abiding Iraq which does not possess WMD or threaten its neighbors, into the international community. Implicitly, this cannot occur with Saddam Hussein in power. As at least worst opinion, we have supported a policy of containment which has been partially successful. However:
- Despite sanctions, Iraq continues to develop WMD,. although our intelligence is poor. Saddam has used WMD in the past and could do so again if his regime were threatened, though there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD; and
- Saddam's brutal regime remains in power and destablises the Arab and wider Islamic world.
We have two options. We could toughen the existing containment policy. This would increase the pressure on Saddanm [sic]. It would not reintegrate Iraq into the international community.
The US administration has lot faith in containment and is now considering regime change. The end states could either be a Sunni strongman or a representative government.
Tre [sic] three options for achieving regime change are:
- covert support to opposition groups to mount an uprising/coup;
- air support for opposition groups to mount an uprising/coup; and
- a full-scale ground campaign.
These are not mutually exclusive. Options 1 and/or 2 would be natural precursors to Option 3. the greater investment of Western forces, the greater our control over Iraq's future, but the greater the cost and the longer we woul [sic] need to stay. the only certain means to remove Saddam and his elite is to invade and impose a new government. But this could involve nation building over many years. [...]
A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers advice, non currently exists. This makes moving quickly to invade legally very difficult. We should therefore consider a staged approach, establishing international support, building up pressure on Saddam and developing military plans. There is a lead time of about 6 months to a ground offensive.
In the main body of the Paper, where the option of containment is briefly examined, we find this:
the return of UN weapons inspectors would allow greater scrutiny of Iraqi programmes and of Iraqi forces in general. If they found significant evidence of WMD, were expelled or, in face of an ultimatum, not re-admitted in the first place, then this could provide legal justification for large-scale military action (see below).
In other words, even a nominally peaceful option ultimately facilitates war. But this interlude on containment turns out to be but a daydream. It is rudely interrupted by a short, sharp section on "US VIEWS".
The US has lost confidence in containment. Some in government want Saddam removed. The success of Operation Enduring Freedom, distrust of UN sanctions and inspection regimes, and unfinished business from 1991 are all factors. Washington believes the legal basis for an attack on Iraq already exists. Nor will it necessarily be governed by wider political factors. The US may be willing to work with a much smaller coalition than we think desirable.
The U.S. view? 'Damn the facts.' It would be otiose to observe that we continue to pay dearly for that view.
Perhaps the most laughable part of the Paper comes when the Brits consider what kind of Iraqi government they'd like to install, after "regime change". Remember, these are supposed to represent the wiser and less reckless half of the coalition. The Brits foresee just two options. Quite. And these are (a) a Sunni strongman, possibly getting out of control, or (b)
a representative broadly democratic government. This would be Sunni-led but within a federal structure, the Kurds would be guaranteed autonomy and the Shia fair access to government.
Curious how, by the only two options possible, the minority Sunnis continue to dominate Iraq. I would love to know what reasons were given for rejecting options (c) chaos, (d) ethnic cleansing, (e) fragmentation, and (f) Iranian domination. But I digress; those aren't actually mentioned in the Paper.
The second half of the Paper examines military options somewhat breathlessly. The longest section of the Paper, forecasting a ground invasion, peters out inconclusively
At this stage we need to wait to see which option or combination of options may be favoured by the US government.
Nothing in this Paper is truer or better spoken. The legal question, which logically ought to have been posed first, instead comes last. Here is the gist of the legal case for war. And it is a case for war, not for peace; it is a strategy to obtain war, not an assessment of all "LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS". It also betrays the influence of Dick Cheney ("robus[t]").
29 In the judgement of the JIC there is no recent evidence of Iraq complicity with international terrorism. There is therefore no justification for action against Iraq based on action in self-defence [...]
30 Currently, offensive military action against Iraq can only be justified if Iraq is held to be in breach of the Gulf War ceasefire resolution, 687. [...]
32 For the P5 and the majority of the Council to take the view that Iraq was in breach of 687:
- they would need to be convinced that Iraq was in breach of its obligations regarding WMD, and ballistic missiles. Such proof would need to be incontrovertible and of large-scale activity. Current intelligence is insufficiently robus [sic] to meet this criterion. [...]
- if P5 unity could be obtained, Iraq refused to readmit UN inspectors after a clear ultimatum by the UN Security Council; or
- the UN inspectors were re-admitted to Iraq and found sufficient evidence of WMD activity or were again expelled trying to do so.
The Paper's CONCLUSION is not a restatement of it's findings or concerns. Instead, tellingly, it describes how to get the anticipated war off to a good start. The critical thing, evidently, is a good propaganda campaign.
34 To launch such a campaign would require a staged approach:
- winding up the pressure: increasing the pressure on Saddam [...]
- careful planning: detailed military planning [...]
- coalition building: [...]
- incentives: [...]
- tackling other regional issues: [...]
*sensitising the public: a media campaign to warm of the dangers that Saddam poses and to prepare public opinion both in the UK and abroad.
35 The US should be encouraged to consult widely on its plans.
This paper makes gruesome reading. With cold calculation, the Blair government examined bellicose options toward Iraq, and dismissed nearly all others. For all the raw cunning on display, it portrays blindspots so large the eye can barely encompass them unaided.
And with supreme hypocrisy, the Paper proclaims Britain's objective to be
the reintegration of a law-abiding Iraq which does not possess WMD or threaten its neighbours, into the international community.
¿That and continued Sunni domination under a British Protectorate?
For many of us, the most pressing question now is: What options do we have left? The Iraq of today is a world turned upside down. It is too easy to forget, as Iraqi society unravels strand by strand, as American and British blunder is compounded by blunder, as horror is piled upon horror, that the world was turned upside down more than four years ago by people such as those who composed this document.
The whirlwind we face is the one they sowed in secret. The options left, if there are any good ones left, are only those that the planners of this debacle permitted to exist with their cunning and guile.
I'd like to believe that we might now, at long last, still choose wisely. But who should make that choice? Those who stand beside the wreckage, who cannot even bring themselves to comment on how it came to pass?
Friday, March 03, 2006
White House documents prove that Bush deceived the nation
The fine investigative reporter at the National Journal, Murray Waas, has revealed further documentary evidence that George Bush, his Vice President, and closest advisors engaged in a campaign of deception in the months before the invasion of Iraq. Those who've been following the Downing Street memo story may remember that, when it first appeared, many apologists for the President were heard to say that it was not really decisive; that critics were guilty of reading too much into it; that it was not the "smoking gun" (ever elusive). Since then, a small mountain of documents and supporting testimony has piled up, always pointing in the same direction...toward a conspiracy, on both sides of the Atlantic, to deceive the public about whether Saddam Hussein was in fact known to be a threat.
Now we learn about some of the most embarrassing documents of all, intelligence reports created for George Bush himself. In his new report, Waas reveals the existence of two Presidential Summaries given to Bush by George Tenet, in Oct. 2002 and Jan. 2003. These Summaries were based upon National Intelligence Estimates that shot holes in the case for war that the administration had been making.
Bush and his minions, like Condoleezza Rice, have always insisted that Bush simply did not know that various intelligence agencies had expressed doubts about these matters. The information, they claim, was buried so deep in the NIEs that it went unremarked. Therefore, by this account, Bush did not lie to the nation. He was just woefully underinformed about the state of the evidence (which, you'll recall, he expressed certainty about).
The idea was always ludicrous, even though plenty of people have pretended to believe it. In any case, Bush and Cheney have been busted now. Bush not only received these one-page Summaries of the NIEs, he also read them in Tenet's presence. These Summaries highlighted the very doubts in question, and one of them flatly contradicted a key part of Bush's case for attacking Iraq.
The article at National Journal
is very much worth reading in full. Although scandals galore now circle the White House like jets around a snow-bound O'Hare airport, jostling for attention, this one has the potential to shatter the remaining shreds of Bush's credibility among his few remaining die-hard supporters.
What are these Presidential Summaries? The first, in Oct. 2002, advised Bush that several agencies strongly dissented from the claims that his administration had already been making about intercepted aluminum tubes. In fact, a second Memo that circulated in January among high-ranking members of the Administration repeated the earlier warning that the aluminum tubes could not be assumed to be part of a nuclear weapons program.
The one-page October 2002 President's Summary specifically told Bush that although "most agencies judge" that the use of the aluminum tubes was "related to a uranium enrichment effort... INR and DOE believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons uses."
The lengthier NIE -- more than 90 pages -- contained significantly more detail describing the disagreement between the CIA and the Pentagon's DIA on one hand, which believed that the tubes were meant for centrifuges, and State's INR and the Energy Department, which believed that they were meant for artillery shells. Administration officials had said that the president would not have read the full-length paper....
But the one-page summary, several senior government officials said in interviews, was written specifically for Bush, was handed to the president by then-CIA Director George Tenet, and was read in Tenet's presence.
In addition, Rice, Cheney, and dozens of other high-level Bush administration policy makers received a highly classified intelligence assessment, known as a Senior Executive Memorandum, on the aluminum tubes issue. Circulated on January 10, 2003, the memo was titled "Questions on Why Iraq Is Procuring Aluminum Tubes and What the IAEA Has Found to Date."
The paper included discussion regarding the fact that the INR, Energy, and the United Nations atomic energy watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, all believed that Iraq was using the aluminum tubes for conventional weapons programs.
So the defense thus far against the charge of lying, that Bush was too lazy or foolish to read the full NIE about the very grounds for war that he was trumpeting, now becomes irrelevant. For those who've forgetten, it was only a few days after reading this Presidential Summary that Bush said, in a speech in Cincinnati
Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahedeen' -- his nuclear holy warriors.... Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
I write this from Cincinnati, where these words still hang like diesel fumes over the city. They still turn my stomach, as I walk to and from work every day. During the fall and winter of 2002/2003, Bush administration officials continued to make similar claims about the notorious aluminum tubes (some of which Waas documents). As I remarked to friends at the time, those claims gradually backed away ever so slightly from the initial claims of absolute certainty that the tubes could be used ONLY for a nuclear centrifuge. It was clear even at the time that Bush & Co. were under pressure to admit that the tubes's existence proved nothing, yet they were unwilling to do more than admit a small possibility that the tubes could
have other uses.
Many of us suspected
that the President was being intellectually dishonest. The earlier release of the NIE should have proven beyond reasonable doubt that was exactly what the administration was up to. In any case these Presidential Summaries now confirm it decisively. George Bush deliberately lied, in Cincinnati as elsewhere, and he was joined by Cheney, Powell, Rice, and others.
How sensitive is the revelation that this Summary absolutely contradicts Bush's public statements in the run up to war?
But the Bush administration steadfastly continued to refuse to declassify the President's Summary of the NIE, which in the words of one senior official, is the "one document which illustrates what the president knew and when he knew it." The administration also refused to furnish copies of the paper to congressional intelligence committees.
You may perhaps recall that when those words were uttered by Howard Baker in Senate hearings about Nixon, they were intended to throw up a roadblock on the path toward impeachment. The idea was that it would prove virtually impossible, once the Senate began pursuing that path, to find decisive evidence regarding what Nixon and knew and when
, so as to pin him down. It didn't turn out that way, but at the moment it appeared to be the best possible stalling tactic. Yet here, a generation later but still suffering under the rule of many of those same rascals, we have documentary evidence of what Bush knew and when he knew it.
As for the second Presidential Summary we now know Bush received, in January 2003, it advised the President that ALL intelligence agencies agreed that it was highly improbable that Saddam Hussein was remotely likely to attack the United States except if he thought the U.S. was about to topple him from power
. As Waas also points out, other senior members of the administration as well as some Congressmen received similar briefings.
According to interviews and records, Bush personally read the one-page summary in Tenet's presence during the morning intelligence briefing, and the two spoke about it at some length. Sources familiar with the summary said it was highly significant that the president was informed that it was the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence agencies participating in the production of the January 2003 NIE that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the U.S. unless Iraq was attacked first.
Cheney received virtually the same intelligence information, according to the same records and interviews. The president's summaries have been shared with the vice president as a matter of course during the Bush presidency.
The conclusion among intelligence agencies that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the United States unless attacked first was also outlined in Senior Executive Intelligence Briefs, highly classified daily intelligence papers distributed to several hundred executive branch officials and to the congressional intelligence oversight committees.
During the second half of 2002, the president and vice president repeatedly cited the threat from Saddam in their public statements.
Indeed, last year when I drew up an overview of the development of the Administration's rhetoric about Iraq
for this website, I identified 10 distinct phases. Of these, Phase 4 was that period in which Bush Co. raised the level of alarm about Iraqi WMD claims by focusing on the imminent threat that Hussein posed to attack the US (and the rest of the world). As far as I could see, this Phase began around the start of February, 2003.
What this underlines, I think, is that the administration's propaganda began to focus to an extraordinary degree on Saddam Hussein's alleged intentions to attack the U.S. in the two months before our invasion of Iraq--and this occured shortly after Bush read and discussed a Presidential Summary that stated as flatly as possible that no such intention was perceptible to any of our intelligence agencies.
The White House declined to comment for this story. In a statement, Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council said, "The president of the United States has talked about this matter directly, as have a myriad of other administration officials. At this juncture, we have nothing to add to that body of information."
When you've lied your way into a deep dark hole, there comes a time when it makes some sense to shut up. Don't let us shut up about these revelations. They're potentially quite important for public perception of the President.
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