Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 9, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

SENATE INTELLIGENCE REPORT....The Senate Intelligence Committee report on prewar intelligence is out, and it presents a real problem for war supporters. Before I get into that, though, here's a summary of what the report says. Here's the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency greatly overestimated the danger presented by deadly unconventional weapons in Iraq because of runaway assumptions that were never sufficiently challenged, the Senate Intelligence Committee said today.

In a long-awaited report that goes to the heart of President Bush's rationale for going to war against Iraq, the committee said that prewar assessments of Saddam Hussein's supposed arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and his desire to have nuclear weapons, were wildly off the mark.

....On one important point, the committee found the C.I.A.'s conclusions reasonable that there had been no significant ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda terrorists.

And this from the Washington Post:

Asked if he believed Congress would have authorized the use of force against Iraq had it known the weakness of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, [Republican chairman Pat] Roberts said, "I do not know."...."I think it would have been argued differently," he said. "I think perhaps the battle plan would have been different."

Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va), the committee's vice chairman, said categorically that Congress would have rejected going to war in Iraq if not for the faulty intelligence.

So here's the problem: the committee report lays the blame for bad intel squarely on the CIA, and war supporters are all in favor of this. Not only have they been berating the CIA for years anyway, but it also gets Bush off the hook for hyping the WMD intelligence. That's good.

What's not so good is that 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.

So: the CIA screwed up, Bush was duped, there was 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. Overall, my guess is that war supporters pretty much have to reject the committee's findings. Either that or play a tricky game of claiming that they got it right on some stuff and wrong on other stuff.

Expect mud to be slung soon. Pat Roberts is not likely to be a very popular Republican for the next few weeks.

Kevin Drum 2:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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