Monday, November 14, 2005

How Big Will Pat Roberts' Nose Get?

If Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is on the up-and-up, cigarettes are a cure for lung cancer. I haven't seen a transcript yet, but based on Roberts' performance on Late Edition on Sunday, it's plain as the nose on the guy's face that his first priority is to protect the White House and himself from blame for the Iraq intelligence manipulation.

This is the same Pat Roberts who chairs the "bipartisan" Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Republicans outnumber Democrats.

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Confusion:

The Committee's Phase One investigation conclusions blast the intelligence community, and contain the sentence:
The committee found no evidence that the [Intelligence Community's] mischaracterization or exaggeration of the intelligence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was the result of political pressure.

If they didn't investigate political pressure in Phase I, why in the world would they include that statement in their conclusions? It's difficult to believe that inserting that sentence wasn't an attempt to preemptively interdict the process of Phase II.

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Over at TomPaine.com, John Prados provides several perceptive insights.
In phase one, the Bush administration sought a definition of “politicization” that was so narrow it prevented the commission from reaching finding any fault.

And you can bet the cost of a tank of gas that if the administration wanted a narrow definition, Pat Roberts moved heaven and earth to make sure they got it.

It's important, Prados says, for the Phase II investigators to have subpoena power to explore the entire context of what went on between policy makers and the intelligence services. That means exploring all the nooks and crannies inhabited by Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton, and the entire cast of neocon characters who publicly advocated the Iraq invasion back in 1998 and who invaded the executive branch in 2002.

I'm not entirely optimistic the Intelligence Committee will be able to do that.

As Prados asserts, Senator Roberts is…
…already attempting to divert the panel from fulfilling its responsibility. The committee’s own press release described the aim of phase two as an inquiry into “whether any influence was brought to bear on anyone to shape their analysis to support policy objectives." To accomplish this, Roberts is arguing that the panel should merely review administration statements in the run-up to war and see if there was intelligence that supported each claim. This minimalist approach would give the Bush administration a free pass for politicizing the analytical process and then cherry-picking the conclusions that fit its needs.

Put another way, the administration and its allies (like Roberts) are trying to erase the past faster than they can accuse their critics of rewriting it.

15 comments:

  1. Jeff:

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the majority of the intelligence leading up to the Iraq war was the same intelligence that led the previous administration to talk about what a threat Hussein was, the same intelligence that led many in Congress to posture on the floor of the Senate or House about what a threat he was, and the same intelligence that led other countries to arrive at the same conclusions we had (heck, even Hans Blix said everyone 'thought' Hussein had the weapons).

    So why would an admin put political presure on the intelligence community to arrive at a conclusion that everyone had already assumed would be the one arrived at? Doesn't make sense.

    In hindsight, it is easy to see where the intel was wrong. At the time, I don't think anyone in the admin, or in Congress, or elsewhere really suspected there was a problem with it. Did they?

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  2. Then why are Roberts and the rest of the neocons trying to block the investigation?

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  3. That's a good point. I don't know. None of it seems to make much sense. I suppose the most reasonable scenario that leaps to mind is this:

    Everyone thought Hussein had all this stuff. Prior to the war, the admin wanted to get all their ducks in a row so they dug a bit deeper into the intelligence, hoping to bolster their case. Instead, they found out that not all of the intelligence was what it was cracked up to be.

    Of course, that gets us back to manipulation of pre-war intelligence. You may well be right.

    Of course the neo-con answer is that no one is trying to block anything. But that doesn't hold true to what I'm seeing.

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  4. I think there's too many people involved, too many layers, to explain it all in simple terms. But yes, I say intel was shaped, repackaged, modified, retrofitted, in some cases manufactured and made into pretzels, etc. to suit various peoples' agendas -- I think that's always gone on to some extent. Just never to this extreme, and never with so many moving (political) parts in action.

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  5. I'd have to do a lot of research to back up my memory of 2.5 years ago, but I clearly recall that commentators on CNN questioned everything that Colin Powell said before the United Nations in the run-up to invasion. No single commentator addressed all of Powell's allegations at one interview; over the course of two or three weeks, one analyst or another disputed different parts of the "evidence".

    For example, does anyone remember how Powell plagiarized a think tank analyst's paper? The paper that was more written more than a year prior to the UN speech? The information that was more than a year out of date and NOT classified?

    Harper's magazine debunked everything in an issue published immediately after Powell's speech. Whether or not you trust Harper's, NOT EVERYONE AGREED that Iraq was a threat.

    If everyone thought that Saddam Hussein had serious stockpiles of chemical weapons, why did the UN and most of Europe oppose the invasion? And why did Powell present such shoddy "evidence"?

    The whole WMD story stinks to high heaven.

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  6. fbg464:22 PM

    rsk:

    The devil, as they say, is in the details.

    You note that the prior administration "talked about" what a threat Saddam was. Talk yes, invade no.

    Take a look at what is usually the neocons' Exhibit "A" for the proposition that "Clinton thought so to", the "Iraq Liberation Act of 1998". It was a PNAC - drafted piece of feel - good legislation forced on Clinton by a Republican congress during the Lewinsky fiasco. I say "feel good" because it specifically PROHIBITED the use of American forces for regime change in Iraq. Rather, it was all about giving some do - re - mi to Chalabi and his exile pals in London.

    As to what the present crowd thought about the intel, we have:

    1. Colin Powell on 2/24/01, stating that Saddam had not developed any significant wmd capability and was unable to project conventional power against his neighbors, and;

    2. The one the only, Condi, who told CNN in July, 2001, how flat on his back Saddam was and how he posed no threat to anybody.

    So what changed? Only one thing -- 9/11. As has been reported in numerous places, Dear Leader was going after Hussein from before he was sworn in.

    And before we all go down the road of "European intelligence services thought he had wmd", ask yourself this: How come we're the only ones there? As Holmes said to Watson, That's the dog that didn't bark.

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  7. fbg46:

    First we need to separate the two issues:

    1) Belief that he had WMDs; and
    2) Using that as a rationale to go to war.

    As I said, the previous admin did believe he had WMDs as well (as did others). My only point with respect to that is that it is difficult to say the Bush people just manufactured this out of air.

    Now, even IF he had WMDs, was this sufficient rationale for war. Previous admin said no to that one, obviously. I'd say no as well. I don't think that's a sufficient justification.

    As for why the UN and others didn't get involved - come on. Do you really believe it was some high moral ground and knowing the truth about WMDs? I doubt it. More likely, it was about politics, oil for food, lucrative contracts, and, in France's case, having a sizable Muslim population whose been causing all kinds of havoc the last few weeks.

    It's never black and white, no matter how much the Dems and GOPers want people to think it is. And hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

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  8. fbg,

    You have links for all that?

    Yes. To high heaven. And it doesn't smell like chocolate ice cream.

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  9. fbg464:55 PM

    rsk:
    As long as we're separating issues, let's separate the following: "WMDs" means biological, chemical and thermonuclear. The people who play in this particular sand box will tell you that the only one of the three that counts, i.e., is a global weapon, is the thermonuclear. Biological and chemical are only theater weapons, and only then on their best days. Too many problems re: delivery, too much chance you'll kill your own side.

    The one thing that everybody knew was that Saddam had no nuclear weapons. The discussion was over when in the future he might get them if left alone. The earliest estimate was 5 years, the most reasonable 10 to 15 . . . if we let him. No one was going to let him have those toys. But did we need to invade to stop him? Don't think so.

    The point: No serious person (including at the time, Powell and Condi) thought Saddam had nukes or anything close to the capability of developing them. It was only after 9/11 that we started to hear about aluminum tubes and yellowcake from Niger . . . and we know how all that turned out.

    As for your argument about generalized UN greed, perfidy, etc.; if that were truly the case, why not just say that the various intel services involved disagreed with the Americas' intelligence assessment and let it go at that? (And we haven't even gotten to the fact that it was UN pressure that got the inspectors back in four months before the invasion.)

    At the end of the day, the argument that Dear Leader in fact believed that Saddam had wmd just can't get around all the inconvenient facts in its way. Look, nobody wants to belive that the Pres of the USA lied to us and the world, but all the evidence available makes that the most logical inference to be drawn -- and we don't know know the half of it yet.

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  10. fbg465:03 PM

    Why Cmdr., funny you should ask:

    The quickest location for the Colin/Condi references is to the free chapter of Ray McGovern's book which is online. (McGovern is a retired CIA type.) I got to it by googling his name and clicked on "Advance Release Chapter of Ray McGovern's new book." The specific references to Powell and Rice are on page 3 of the pdf.

    If you can't find it let me know and I'll forward the chapter.

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  11. fbg46:

    That may well turn out to be the case. I don't think it has been shown yet, at least not to any level of proof I'd like to see before something like impeachment. Right now, it is all based on supposition - trying to second guess what people who have done 'had the known.' There are always multiple explanations. Why did foreign countries not just say their intel disagreed with the U.S.? Probably because it didn't, and they would have egg on their face if the U.S. went in and found something their intelligence said wasn't there. Or perhaps they were already on record when the previous admin was in power in the U.S. and invasion wasn't an issue.

    Near as I can tell, no one seems to have known whether Hussein had chemical or biological weapons (at least, whether he still had them after using chemicals in the 80s). I don't know anyone that thought he had nukes.

    To me, the justification has to lay outside of WMDs to begin with. The admin blew it by going down that route. They should simply have said look - he's violating the terms of the first gulf war cease fire, we've got X number of UN resolutions, and he's a nasty despot who's killed X number of his own people in hideous ways over a 30 year period. That would have sufficed, I think, and saved all the WMD nonsense from blowing up in their face.

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  12. fbg465:22 PM

    rsk:

    You state you argument well argument in the last paragraph of your last post:
    "For me, the justification has to lay . . . from blowing up in their face."

    But that's precisely the point: In the months leading up to the invasion had Dear Leader stated the rationale as straightforwardly as you did in that paragraph, while that might may have enough for you to have okayed an invasion of Iraq I guarantee you it was nowhere near enough for alot of to have done so.

    The further point is that we'll never know how many of us (and our represetatives)would have gone along with the rationale you present because that wasn't the one we in fact were presented with.

    And that leads us to the biggest point of all: The President of the United States isn't supposed to lie his way into a war.

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  13. fbg46:

    I agree with you entirely on that. I doubt the majority of people would have supported a war based on that particular rationale.

    And it may well be that Bush lied his way into going to war. But it may also be, at this point, that he believed the WMD intelligence. I just don't know at this point which is the case.

    If the answer is option 1 (he lied), then he not only ought to be impeached but thrown into prison with everyone else directly involved. But I want to see proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" before I'll go there, that's all.

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  14. fbg465:29 PM

    rsk:

    Message received and understood.

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  15. Thanks for the lengthy contributions/discussions everyone.

    I'm convinced that policy shaped the "final" intelligence. To what extent it did so, and to what extent dissenting opinion was stifled is what I want to know.

    And did anyone do anything criminal, or were the guys at the top just overly focused on justifying the policy?

    Jeff

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