Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A few of you caught on the Daily Show last night that the White House is on the defensive about pre-war claims regarding WMD in Iraq.

The Bipartisan Senate Select Committee On Intelligence Report "Did Not Find Any Evidence" Of Attempts To Influence Analysts To Change Intelligence. "Conclusion 83. The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities. Conclusion 84. The Committee found no evidence that the Vice President's visits to the Central Intelligence Agency were attempts to pressure analysts, were perceived as intended to pressure analysts by those who participated in the briefings on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, or did pressure analysts to change their assessments." ("Report On The U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq," U.S. Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, 7/7/04, Pg. 284-285)

First off, this is a lie. The Bi-Partisan panel agreed on no such thing, and in fact scolded parts of the administration. The Republican minority opinion did make such a sentence. This factoid really needs to be spread.

Secondly, here’s a favorite pre-war political cartoon of mine that was up where I used to work. By a pretty prominent cartoonist and given good circulation via both the newspapers and email.

We were told there weren’t weapons - we just didn’t want to listen. I can see how the DIA or CIA may disagree with Hans Blix over analyzing intelligence, but who is some random political cartoonist to know better than him that there were weapons there, and mock Blix for not being able to find them? Did he go to Iraq himself and find the weapons that the bumbling UN inspector couldn’t seem to find? Of course not, the cartoonist’s presumption (and everyone who fwded it) simply came from his political leanings. Before the war, the information regarding WMD simply meant a choice between believing the UN Inspector and leaks from CIA analysts, or believing the DIA, administration spokespeople, and Fox News. If you thought the latter groups were going to look objective and thoughtful a few years down the line then you haven’t been paying attention for the past eight years.

Lastly, who cares? Maybe it was exaggerated, maybe not. That’s not the point, because there clearly was some evidence out there that WMD wasn’t an issue even then, and it’s pretty clear now that the Iraq war was a bad/unpopular idea due to the trouble we’ve had in securing the place. Most Americans want out for a variety of reasons (more terrorists, huge costs, military deaths, loss of world standing, distaste for the new Iraqi government) that have little to do with whether or not Iraq had weapons. The people who still support the war really could not care less about the WMD either, and that’s why they keep talking about liberation and “not giving in.” There’s only one small group of people who care about the WMD claims.

Democratic Senators. A group of ambitious politicians who see that their future lies in being an effective critic of the war, but also felt they had to vote for the war for the same reasons of ambition in 2003. Some of them (Edwards) have reconciled this by saying they were wrong; we’ll see how that works out for them. But most of them are unwilling to say they’ve changed their mind (like 40% of the American public has). And so they say it was deception that caused them to make a faulty vote. That’s really sad. Especially because it provides the administration such an effective way of cutting them off at the knees.

I’m certainly sad about how much the American public/media hates a politician who changes their mind. The public and media itself are the height of caprice, but a politician who admits they were wrong or that things have changed is labeled a coward, flip-flopper, opportunistic, etc. Well, all that gets you is a bunch of stubborn, blithe people who get you into wars.

I’m also sad that Hilary wants to run for President, because a world where she stays in the Senate is a pretty good one. As the most visible Democrat since 2000, representing a large and wealthy state with a good guarantee of life long incumbency, a staunch liberal reputation, a compelling feminist life-story, and an overwhelming source of cash, she could be a senatorial powerhouse. Like Ted Kennedy, but not from such privilege and not confined to Massachusetts and jokes about drunk-driving. Can you imagine a better kingmaker to lead the populists in the Senate towards healthcare reform? Instead, she voted for the war and has tried to convince a public she’s moderate. Maybe it will go well, maybe not, but in the platonic-realm sense she has a comparative advantage in being a strong Senator over being elected President. (Admittedly, like Sen. Kennedy, dangling presidential ambitions may just be a way to get press attention and money. But she could do that while being a passionate liberal; it’s the ineffective moderation that kinda proves she’s not looking for a long-term commitment to the Senate.)


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