Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Rewriting history: The New York Times editorial page (unsurprisingly) goes to bat for revisionist Democrats with this silliness in today's paper.
The Times charges, that President Bush is the one rewriting history, not their Democrat allies.
Mr. Bush says everyone had the same intelligence he had - Mr. Clinton and his advisers, foreign governments, and members of Congress - and that all of them reached the same conclusions. The only part that is true is that Mr. Bush was working off the same intelligence Mr. Clinton had. But that is scary, not reassuring. The reports about Saddam Hussein's weapons were old, some more than 10 years old. Nothing was fresher than about five years, except reports that later proved to be fanciful.
There's something here the Times editiorialists are willfully glossing over. Can you spot it? The intelligence was old, except for the stuff that wasn't. They had new intelligence but it was "fanciful" -- I'd say it was wrong. But the question is: "Why was all of the new intelligence wrong?" Could it be because Saddam Hussein wasn't abiding by the cease-fire that left him in power after the 1991 Gulf War? Hussein was committed to revealing all of his chemical, nuclear and biological programs to the U.N. -- and he wasn't doing it. We shouldn't have had to count on faulty intelligence -- Hussein was bound by the cease-fire to reveal everything, and he didn't.
Foreign intelligence services did not have full access to American intelligence. But some had dissenting opinions that were ignored or not shown to top American officials. Congress had nothing close to the president's access to intelligence. The National Intelligence Estimate presented to Congress a few days before the vote on war was sanitized to remove dissent and make conjecture seem like fact.
Of course Foreign intelligence services didn't have "full access" to our intelligence. The air must be pretty damn thin up in that ivory tower on 42nd Street. There are always dissenting opinions on intelligence issues. This time they happened to be right, but that doesn't mean that President Bush is a liar because he relied on the consensus opinion. Likewise, the NIE is a consensus document. It was wrong, but it wasn't "sanitized to remove dissent." What good is a document like that to lawmakers if every sentence is followed by "some analysts disagree"?
It's hard to imagine what Mr. Bush means when he says everyone reached the same conclusion. There was indeed a widespread belief that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.
Umm, the second sentence answers the first one -- geniuses.
But Mr. Clinton looked at the data and concluded that inspections and pressure were working - a view we now know was accurate.
Was that before or after Hussein kicked out the inspectors. Pressure? Did that pressure have anything to do with the oil-for-palaces program run by the U.N.?
France, Russia and Germany said war was not justified.
France, Russia and Germany were more concerned about lifting the sanctions altogether so that they could go forward with lucrative oil deals.
Even Britain admitted later that there had been no new evidence about Iraq, just new politics.
New politics? Maybe it had a little something to do with a post-9/11 world when you couldn't be sure that Saddam Hussein wouldn't be willing to fund and equip Islamofascist terrorists and send them stateside. Oops, I've just committed the cardinal sin of linking Iraq, albeit indirectly, with 9/11. I won't say anything more about what James Taranto has called "al Qaeda Which Has Nothing to Do With Iraq in Iraq Which Has Nothing to Do With al Qaeda."
The administration had little company in saying that Iraq was actively trying to build a nuclear weapon. The evidence for this claim was a dubious report about an attempt in 1999 to buy uranium from Niger, later shown to be false, and the infamous aluminum tubes story. That was dismissed at the time by analysts with real expertise.
Still shilling for "Lyin' Joe" Wilson, huh? Apparently the Times editorialists never read the Senate Intelligence Committee report that determined that not only had Iraq made an overture to Nigerian officials to get yellowcake uranium, but that Joseph Wilson's mint-tea "investigation" confirmed it. And, while it is true that the aluminum tubes weren't being used to make uranium, they were being used to build missiles that were in violation of the Gulf War cease-fire agreement.
The Bush administration was also alone in making the absurd claim that Iraq was in league with Al Qaeda and somehow connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Iraq was working with Al Qaeda -- see the aformentioned Taranto witticism and the fact that al-Zarqawi was in Iraq long before the U.S.-led invasion occurred -- that much is true. But President Bush never made the claim, which the Times and others on the left like to throw out, that Iraq was behind 9/11. In fact, when asked about that, President Bush repeatedly has refused to make such a connection.
That was based on two false tales. One was the supposed trip to Prague by Mohamed Atta, a report that was disputed before the war and came from an unreliable drunk. The other was that Iraq trained Qaeda [sic] members in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Before the war, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that this was a deliberate fabrication by an informer.
The Prague trip is also still supported by Czech intelligence. The main evidence against such a trip was that Mohamed Atta's cell phone was still making calls in the U.S. when the Prague meeting occurred. Apparently it was one of those new cell phones that can only be used by the rightful owner after a DNA match is made by pressing a special sensor on the keypad.
I don't know if Saddam Hussein did train Al Qaeda members, but I will once again return to the fact that al-Zarqawi was in Iraq before the invasion occurred, having fled from Afghanistan, and received treatment in an Iraqi hospital. That may not be enough for the Times, but it's enough for me.
Mr. Bush has said in recent days that the first phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation on Iraq found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence. That is true only in the very narrow way the Republicans on the committee insisted on defining pressure: as direct pressure from senior officials to change intelligence. Instead, the Bush administration made what it wanted to hear crystal clear and kept sending reports back to be redone until it got those answers.
So, they weren't pressured to change their views, but they were pressured to change their views because their work kept getting sent back, but no one complained and changed their views anyway. Call it the Mapes standard of professional journalism.
Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence, said in 2003 that there was "significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The C.I.A. ombudsman told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the administration's "hammering" on Iraq intelligence was harder than he had seen in his 32 years at the agency.
Well, considering the CIA has gotten so much wrong for so long -- something that the Times (probably) won't even deny -- maybe the Bush administration was right to hammer on the CIA. In the wake of the Plamegate affair, it's obvious that the CIA doesn't cave to political pressure.
Mr. Bush and other administration officials say they faithfully reported what they had read. But Vice President Dick Cheney presented the Prague meeting as a fact when even the most supportive analysts considered it highly dubious. The administration has still not acknowledged that tales of Iraq coaching Al Qaeda on chemical warfare were considered false, even at the time they were circulated.
Once again, Czech intelligence -- to this day -- stands behind that Prague report. And, if you were really interested in connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda, they were there for anyone interested to see them.
Mr. Cheney was not alone. Remember Condoleezza Rice's infamous "mushroom cloud" comment? And Secretary of State Colin Powell in January 2003, when the rich and powerful met in Davos, Switzerland, and he said, "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?" Mr. Powell ought to have known the report on "special equipment"' - the aluminum tubes - was false. And the uranium story was four years old.
The uranium story was four years old -- but it was true -- and Saddam wasn't supposed to be trying to get the stuff even then. It shows a desire on Saddam Hussein's part not to come clean with the international community and it's why he couldn't be trusted to remain in power.
The Times concludes by calling President Bush a liar and alleging that he is the one trying to rewrite history -- but what can you really expect from a propaganda rag?