Monday, June 09, 2008

Hold On A Second There, Fred....


Fred Hiatt, apparenlty being unable to construct an honest defense of his own support for the Iraq war or his paper's editorializing in favor of the war, gives us a scathing attack on... bumper stickers.
Search the Internet for "Bush Lied" products, and you will find sites that offer more than a thousand designs. The basic "Bush Lied, People Died" bumper sticker is only the beginning.
He say's it's only the beginning, but for him it's also the end - he provides no further analysis of the anti-war movement, and pretends that if it cannot be proved that Bush intentionally lied or that he had absolutely no intelligence to back up even his most outlandish claim, his case for war must be seen as fully supported by the available evidence.

In choosing not to look past the "beginning" reflected in a bumper sticker slogan, Hiatt personifies the type of dishonesty we're discussing. Focusing on the most extreme case, representing it as typical, and failing to mention overwhelming contrary data? Some people, quite reasonably, would deem that "lying by omission".

After introducing Rockefeller's conclusion,
"In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent," [Rockefeller] said.
Hyatt proceeds to pretend that Rockefeller's own report doesn't support his own description of his own findings. From Hyatt's self-serving synopsis - and yes, his editorial is at least as much about salvaging his own reputation as it is about Bush's - you might think that Rockefeller's report found support in the intelligence for Bush's claims about an Iraq-al-Qaeda partnership, Iraq's supposedly having trained al-Qaeda fighters, or secret meetings between Iraqi intelligence and Muhammad Atta. You might think that the report found that there was support for the Bush Administration's representations about Iraq's chemical weapons production capacity, or underground manufacturing plants. You might believe that the report substantiated Bush's insinuations about an easy, cheap post-war period. To the contrary, the report found that Bush's representations were either unsupported by the available intelligence or did not reflect the uncertainty of the intelligence. And what of the suggestion that Saddam Hussein was prepared to hand WMD's over to terrorists? That was contradicted by the available intelligence. (But supported, contradicted, what's the difference, right?) The report did not explore the work of Bush's White House Iraq Group, which was devoted to spinning intelligence and propagandizing in favor of war.

This degree of deception goes well beyond what Hyatt excuses as speaking "with too much certainty" or failing "to anticipate or prepare the American people for the enormous undertaking in Iraq". Anybody who paid the slightest bit of attention to the build-up of the war could easily see the Bush Administration cherry-picking intelligence in favor of a war that it wanted to launch, whatever the facts or intelligence. They directly attacked anybody who questioned their spin, and dispatched a slate of retired generals to propagandize in favor of war.

Hyatt wants us to pity Bush, whom he paints as having had to decide "when to act on a threat in the inevitable absence of perfect intelligence and how to mobilize popular support for such action, if deemed essential for national security". The problem is, that's not what Bush did, and Hyatt knows it. Bush didn't weigh the intelligence to decide what response to make - he decided what he was going to do, disregarded anything that did not weigh in favor of war on Iraq, stymied efforts to complete weapons inspections and get better evidence, and employed scorched earth tactics against many who dared oppose him.

This was not a contest of good intelligence versus bad - the good intelligence never had a chance. This was a contest of good judgment versus bad, and at the end of the day Hyatt's finger-pointing at the intelligence community cannot overcome the fact that neither he nor President Bush showed good judgment on Iraq.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a more detailed look at some of Hiatt's representations versus what the report actually found.

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