Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Taking responsibility while not taking responsibility

Remember how this was gonna be the responsibility administration? Well, we took a big step there today, right?
When we made the decision to go into Iraq, many intelligence agencies around the world judged that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. This judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of governments who did not support my decision to remove Saddam. And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As President, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq -- and I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that.
Right? It's good to see the President taking responsibility, right?

But this is yet another smokescreen, just like after Katrina. Let's look at what Bush really says. He's reforming those intelligence agencies that let him down so bad. Everyone had the same faulty intelligence, so he's reforming the process that gave us that faulty intelligence.

The great trick here is that Bush is trying to get credit for taking responsibility while actually shirking responsibility for the "intelligence failure." He casts the blame on the intelligence agencies and the international community and everybody else for the information the Administration used to justify going to war. But as we know, the Administration was informed repeatedly that the yellowcake claim was bogus, including by the very intelligence agencies he blames for mis-informing him. The U.N. weapons inspectors repeatedly said that they could find no WMDs in Iraq and there were no indications that there were on-going weapons programs. The Administration was informed repeatedly that the sources on which they were relying for intelligence were unreliable and had plenty of reasons to lie about Iraq's programs.

There may have been intelligence failures, but the simple fact is that the Bush Administration lied, manipulated evidence, ignored anything that weighed against the point they wanted to make, and endeavoured mightily to make a clearly baseless link between Iraq, al Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks. Where there were intelligence failures, the Administration exacerbated those by exploiting any faulty evidence that supported their pre-determined conclusions, turning a skeptical eye only on that information that worked against them. That was the failure here and, until Bush takes responsibility for that, he's still just trying to obscure his true failures in the build-up to the war in Iraq.

Update: One other thing. Let's keep in mind that Cheney himself visited CIA headquarters in the run-up to the war to "assist" in intelligence analysis:
...[T]he vice president was at the forefront of a White House campaign... to build the case that Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed a dangerous arsenal of weapons.

Before the war, he traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings... After the war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on faulty information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.

Administration officials acknowledge that Cheney was immersed in Iraq intelligence, and pressed aides repeatedly for information on weapons programs.
Does the plan to reform our intelligence apparatus include sacking the man who put the greatest pressure on the involved agencies to generate intelligence supporting a particular conclusion? Or does it at least include a directive banning the involvement of political operatives in what should be an objective process? Because the biggest failure as we prepared to go into Iraq seems to be not of the process of intelligence gathering or analysis, but the skewing and manipulation of that process in pursuit of the political goals of the Bush Administration.

And another update: Greg Sargent at TAPPED has a post making basically the same point. This is the first mention I've seen (besides myself) of this sneaky rhetorical dodge.

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