Wrong Again

By Alterman, Eric | The Nation, August 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

Wrong Again


Alterman, Eric, The Nation


Nearly every day brings fresh evidence that the Bush Administration deliberately undermined the security of this nation by misleading us into a costly and potentially ruinous war in Iraq. If Republicans were not in control of Congress, these would be impeachable offenses--far worse than anything Bill Clinton or even Richard Nixon ever did. And yet, by muddying the waters through clever manipulation of the known facts (free of vigorous challenge from the media), the Administration stands a strong chance of getting away with it. With the help of Republican stooge Ralph Nader and his misguided supporters, they may just win their first election.

Take, for example, the Senate Intelligence Committee's recent CIA report. Congress, the White House and most of the mainstream media offer a picture in which US foreign policy was led astray by the feverish fantasies of CIA analysts, every one of whom had been hypnotized into unlearning the difference between "we know," "we suspect" and "this drunk somewhere in Germany told someone ..." Conveniently, George Tenet, the only high-level Clinton-era holdover, was selected to take the fall.

Both Jay Rockefeller and Pat Roberts, the committee's ranking Democrat and Republican, have admitted that if Congress had known then what it knows now, it would not have authorized the Administration to go to war. As Rockefeller observed upon the report's release, as a result of having been led to war under false pretenses, "Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow."

It is thanks in part to the Democrats' weakness in Congress that the Bush Administration has been able to convey the impression of having been (along with Congress and the rest of us) the innocent victim of a CIA misinformation campaign--much easier since the committee postponed its examination of the Administration's prewar hype until after the election. But this misimpression is also a product of the selective amnesia of much of the media that covered the release of the report. In fact, almost everything we have learned about the shoddiness of the case for war was known at the time we were being stampeded into it. As the tireless Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay reported for the Knight Ridder chain back in October 2002, "Intelligence professionals and diplomats ... privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war. These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses [and] ... charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Hussein poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary." The reporters quoted one anonymous official who noted, "Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books.

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