Wednesday, November 23, 2005

President's Daily Bulls**t?

Not very long ago I commented that "the dems" ought to produce evidence that they (and we, the people) were misled into war, and stop making generalized accusations. Well, obviously, someone was listening (not, of course, to me, but to the ever-persuasive siren-song of common sense).

From the National Journal:

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief..." The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

Now, I've got no clue whether the National Journal knows what it's talking about, but if this PDB does exist, it's exactly the sort of smoking gun that would show, without the ability to resort to claims of partisan sniping, that indeed, we were misled - willfully. The administration does not help its case by refusing to release their PDB's. Although, in a sense, its a smart thing to do. Whether or not the September 21st document exists, the administration can claim that this is just another effort from unpatriotic, partisan, paranoid, Area 51-ish lefties who want so badly to see this noble war effort destroyed that they will create the political equivalent to a "magic bullet."

Of course, that strategy would backfire pretty damn severely if anyone actually got their hands on the thing.

(courtesy of Booman Tribune)


At 11:11 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

The only problem with that is that this is the same "intelligence community" that seemed pretty convinced that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

So, hard to take the word as gospel.

And also, this assumes what we know not to be true. That there was one PDB. There's tons of these things. One says, he's got weapons. One says, he doesn't. One says, he's got ties. One says, he doesn't. No one expects the President to hand out every piece of paper drafted by the amorphous "intelligence community."

Not so sure this is the smoking gun you're looking for.

I do have a problem with the search for the smoking gun, but I will have to leave it to Chris Hitchens to explain why, since I'm running out of time:

"For a while, it seemed possible that the sheer reality of battle in Iraq—a keystone state in which we would try the issue of democracy and federalism vs. fascism and jihadism—would simply winnow out the unserious arguments. Those who had jeered at the president for "trying to vindicate his daddy" would blush to recall what they had said, and those who spoke of imminent mushroom clouds would calm down a bit. Those who had fetishized the United Nations would have the grace to see that it had been corrupted and shamed, and those who pointed out that it had been corrupted and shamed would demand that it be reformed rather than overridden. Those who had wanted to lift the punitive sanctions on Iraq because they were so damaging to Iraqis could have allowed that the departure of Saddam was the price they would have to pay for the sanctions to be removed. Those in power who had once supported and armed Saddam might have had the decency to admit it. Those who said that it was impossible, by definition, to have an alliance between Saddamists and fundamentalists might care to notice what they had utterly failed to foresee.

Instead, we have mere taunting. "Liar, liar, pants on fire." "Terrorist sympathizer." It's certainly appalling that Michael Moore should be saying that the Iraqi "insurgents" are the moral equivalent of the minutemen, but my tax dollars don't go to support Moore. My tax dollars do go to pay the salary of Scott McLellan, who ought to be looking for other work after he accused the honorable but simple-minded Rep. Murtha of being a Michael Moore type.

I am not myself trying to split this difference. For reasons that I have explained at length elsewhere, I think that the continuation of the Saddam Hussein regime would have been even more dangerous than the Bush administration has ever claimed. I also think that that regime should have been removed many years before it actually was, which is why the Bush administration is right to remind people of exactly what Democrats used to say when they had the power to do that and did not use it. No, there are two absolutely crucial things that made me a supporter of regime change before Bush, and that will keep me that way whether he fights a competent war or not.

The first of these is the face, and the voice, of Iraqi and Kurdish democrats and secularists. Not only are these people looking at death every day, from the hysterical campaign of murder and sabotage that Baathists and Bin Ladenists mount every day, but they also have to fight a war within the war, against clerical factions and eager foreign-based forces from Turkey or Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia. On this, it is not possible to be morally or politically neutral. And, on this, much of the time at least, American force is exerted on the right side. It is the only force in the region, indeed, that places its bet on the victory and the values of the Iraqis who stand in line to vote. How appalling it would be, at just the moment when "the Arab street" (another dispelled figment that its amen corner should disown) has begun to turn against al-Qaida and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, if those voters should detect an American impulse to fold or "withdraw." A sense of history is more important than an eye to opinion polls or approval ratings. Consult the bankrupt Syrian Baathists if you doubt me.

The problem is, we're not talking about the real consequences or result of Saddam's regime or his ouster. We're name calling. Smoking gun searching. And dwiddling away while the world burns. I think we need to get more serious.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

I'm not looking for a smoking gun, the White House's opposition is. And IF this briefing exists (which, in my post, I'm careful to say is uncertain), then it will certainly be labeled as such.

If, among the other PDB's they're refusing to produce, there is evidentiary support for a link between Iraq and 9-11, then any value that this briefing might have will be pretty inarguably quashed.

But here's the problem I have with your logic re: intelligence. As you've stated it, no intelligence is trustworthy, because everyone is constantly saying different things. This is the proverbial unwinnable argument, and it's one I cannot allow myself to take too seriously, because this same intelligence has also supposedly helped to stop subsequent terrorist attacks, and has largely kept this country safe from enemies, both foreign and domestic. Downgrading the "intelligence community" to the status of amorphous and continually-confused is more than a little extreme. Christopher Hitchens writes well, but your posted quote has me rolling my eyes for one reason: The danger posed by Saddam was NOT "even more dangerous than the Bush administration has ever claimed." Hitchen's himself admits to being a long-time regime-change proponent. That's what this is about, in the end. Actual danger posed by Saddam, minimal.

Your final point, that we're name-calling, is the same one I made not too long ago in a previous post, as you might recall.

But here's the reason that I think its important to note this sort of news - This stops being "name calling" when the possibility exists that the administration ignored solid intelligence in favor of predisposition toward regime-change. It becomes something other than name calling when there exists possible tangible evidence of lying to the American public. It's the difference between calling someone a liar because you don't like what they're saying, and calling someone a thief, because you have proof that they've stolen something.

What's missing here is the proof. Without it, as I've already noted, its meaningless finger-pointing. But with evidence, it's some proof of wrongdoing. A PDB is evidence. If its as useless as you suggest, the president wouldn't get one every day. And if our intelligence was as scattered and terrible as is suggested, we'd have been overrun by our enemies decades ago.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

"simple-minded Rep. Murtha"


At 12:30 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

I'm sure that some Dems were misled, but overall I think they did what they thought was best for their careers and now they want to "cut and run".

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

I think several things, and then I really have to go eat turkey:

1) Intelligence is inherently flawed, not useless. It's based on all sorts of sources of information that need to be analyzed and synthesized. Of course some of it is helpful in keeping us safe. But that does not mean we can rely on it as flawless in all aspects. It's human (generally) and flawed, and some of it is good, some not as reliable, and so forth. All of which is to say, one may be forgiven for feeling like we're not getting our $150 billion worth in intelligence when there was near unanimity that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction from our overpriced spies. That does not mean we're not lucky because some of their work has prevented us from being killed in scores.

2) We'll just have to agree to disagree on the level of threat that Saddam possessed before we took him out. Hitchens and I (as if we've ever conferred), disagree with you on that point. But, like so many other things, we'll never really know what sort of danger he would have posed without taking him out. It's a future that never happened. One can only look at his past acts and extrapolate into the future. It's guess work, and frankly, too easy to argue without making any progress in the matter.

Which brings me to my final point. I'm hungry and am going to get some turkey and nothing anyone says or does will stop me.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all.


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