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March 03, 2006

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john

However, in the months leading up to the war, Bush, Cheney, and Cabinet members repeatedly asserted that Saddam was likely to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or to provide such weapons to Al Qaeda or another terrorist group.

What an complete lie. Utterly, utterly false. Can Waas even provide ONE example where Bush said Saddam was "likely" to use WMD or provide them to terrorists?

Sheesh. Why is it that these lying liars like Waas can get away with these lies?

danking70

Now who's cherry-picking intelligence???

Geeze, not this argument again...

Syl

Seems what we're learning about all this old news that's being presented as new news is that Bush.Knew.Everyting!!

The most omniscient guy in the whole wide world!

Furthermore he knew that:

Managing freight terminals = Control of Ports!

A chance of overtopping levees = Certainty of levee breach!

A gathering threat from Saddam = Imminent. Right now! Duck!

And, best of all, Bush knew that the minority of intelligence folks who disagreed re Iraq are the ONLY people he's supposed to listen to!

All these smoking guns are blowing bubbles.

JM Hanes

Do reporters think that there's still anybody left out there who could possibly be hearing this stuff as new? Which iteration are on? What's amusing is that this time they're citing stuff from back before the New York Times declared that mentioning Saddam and Al Qaeda in the same breath was grounds for banishment to the intellectual redlands. On the other hand, recycling is a whole lot easier than actually reporting.

MayBee

They keep reporting it and then call it the issue that keeps dogging President Bush. They do it with Katrina as well.

Lew Clark

Just out! Breaking news! CBS has learned that George and Barbara Bush have a new baby boy. They have decided to name him George. Remember you got this scoop on CBS!

Cecil Turner

Murray's piece is idiotic, and relies on the average reader being too lazy to check the source material. On the aluminum tubes, he spends a lot of time with the caveats, but neglects the basic finding:

Most agencies believe that Saddam's personal interest in and Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors--as well as Iraq's attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools--provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program. [emphasis added]
Which is closer to the truth, Bush claiming the reports said the aluminum tubes were for centrifuge rotors? Or Murray claiming they "cast doubt" on those "key public assertions"? Do you really have to tell lies to make the "Bush lied" case? If so, how good can the case be?

He goes downhill from there. This bit of misdirection was notable:

The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to "extract revenge" for such an assault, according to records and sources.
Horse puckey. The very first line of the assessment is intel-speak for "we don't know":
  • "We have low confidence in our ability to assess when Saddam would use WMD."
Further, the statement in question is the converse of Waas's claim:
  • "Iraq probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge." [Note the absence of Waas's "unlikely" and "except."]
It's particularly galling to see dishonest reporting such as this when we're finally getting a glimpse into the actual goings-on of pre-war Iraqi councils, which make it clear Waas is cherry-picking as well as misrepresenting:
In one particularly chilling passage, the dictator discusses the threat of WMD terrorism to the United States and the difficulty anyone would have tracing it back to a state. With the 2001 anthrax attacks still unsolved, that strikes us as bigger news than the DNI or most editors apparently considered it.

MayBee

Well, you can just wander over to HuffingtonPost and find plenty of people that are reading it as if for the very first time.
Has that officially been acronymed yet?

kim

I suppose Waas and his editors don't think the war was worth fighting. I'd rather see Saddam in the docket, than one of his rockets.
=============================================

kim

I wasn't paying much attention back then, but I remember the tubes being a raging controversy with one part of the government claiming they were for reactors and another that they weren't. 'Secretly briefed', hah. It might have been in the headlines Laura reads to him.
===========================================

kim

Thanks for the Spinsanity link. I've argued that the gradually accumulating evidence post-war that shows that Saddam was an imminent danger demonstrated that Bush was a lucky man even though in the possession of poor information. A step further would be that luck had little to do with it. Players in a game often have knowledge not shown in the stats or the game plan. Bush was right about Saddam. I'm amazed there is still a debate. It points to the credulity of what MSM thinks is their audience. What'll they do when their audience starts to think?
=================================================

PeterUK

An overview of what Saddam Hussein had been up to for two decades vis a vie the Arab Bomb

Sue

When asked why the Bush administration was not releasing more of the documents found in Iraq (the ones Steven Hayes is trying to obtain) the response was they (the news organziations) would cherry pick through it and they would spend most of their time (the administration) debunking the cherrypickings. Makes sense to me. The complaint of cherrypicking by Bush is supported with cherrypicking by, and I use this term losely, news organizations.

Anyone like to join me? I'm about to make a cherry pie...

DaveP.

It occurrs to me that the "Bush knew there were no WMD's" arguement depends on assuming that
A- the CIA was totally incompetent, and that therefore,

B- Bush should've trusted them implicitly.

Steve

Bureaucracies can make the simplest thing difficult.

Fact: Iraq had a covert (ie secret) program to obtain some sort of high tech aluminum tubes that they shouldn't oughta have.

A melange of intel agencies argue over the end use of the tubes. Angels and pinheads.

There is, "uranium enrichment", or "rocket motor development", or "don't have enough info to speculate".

Is any of this definitive? For all we know, these could have been intended for some highly advanced sex toy.

Does the end use matter? If I buy an M60 machine gun without federal registration and tax stamps, it doesn't matter if my "end use" was to hunt bunnies or intimidate my neighbors. Hussein was covertly obtaining a prohibited item. That is a violation of UN the resolutions.

Second, we suspected and now have proof that Hussein was manufacturing missiles with a range in excess of the prescribed UN limit. Another violation of the UN resolution(s).

Third, Hussein was required to prove to the UN inspectors that all of his prohibited weapons, the ones discovered by UN inspectors, had been destroyed. He never did that to the satisfaction of the UN inspectors. Even Hans Blix admitted that. The onus was on Hussein to "prove" that his weapons had been destroyed, a rather low bar he could not meet. Why? It doesn't matter.

None of the preceeding is a "Bush Lie".

The argument about whether these violations constitute the basis for a pre-emptive war is a policy argument. A question of how much risk you are willing to accept. It took 9/11 to bring the risks to the forefront of policy debate. There would never have been public support for invading Iraq without the impetus of 9/11.

Up until 9/10, America was not swaggering about the globe looking for some nation to use as an object lesson in international law enforcement. The "big issue" of the summer of 2001 was stem cell research, not Iraq.

In the middle of 2001, Colin Powell was having a difficult time garnering support for the renewal of the sanctions regime mandated by the UN.

Powell: We need to do something because sanctions are not working very well.

France: But Iraq is a big customer of ours. They buy all sorts of consumer goods from us: Citroen cars, computers, fiber optic cables, Roland anti-aircraft missles, gold plated bathroom fixtures.

Russia: And Iraq is an old ally. Do you have any idea how high the margins are on replacement tank parts? It's almost obscene.

China: He has oil and we need oil. And we'd like nothing more than to exchange some of our manufactured goods and high tech radars for some good ol' "Texas Tea".

Germany: War never solves anything. All that Churchillian rhetoric about standing up to dictators is 20th century thinking. Hussein pays cash in advance, thick wads of $100 bills. Besides, business is business.

Syl

In re all those documents obtained from Afghanistan and Iraq that we aren't seeing we have to understand that one of the problems our govt has is TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

I can understand why they'd be reluctant to release thousands and thousands of items without having looked at them first.

But there aren't enough people/analysts to look at them first!

It's appealing to demand that they be dumped on the internet, but it will never happen.

Is our government too small? We can't have it both ways.

James Stephenson

Saddam was not an idiot. Maybe he did have a use for those pipes. Heck, maybe it was all just a test to see if he could get them with no problem. And if so, then order the real pipes to be used to his centrifuge.

In other words, he was doing a test run on this purchase and it worked simply enough he could then slowly rebuild his nuclear weapon.

Remember Saddam was patient he had all those devices that would take him years to build weapons grade material.

Syl

It's also possible that someone in procurement made a mistake on the specs.

Foo Bar

So nobody here has any problem with Bush and Rice flatly stating, without qualification, that the tubes had a nuclear purpose when they knew 2 of our intelligence agencies disagreed? Can anyone explain to me why it was preferable to state unequivocally that the tubes were for nukes instead of saying something along the lines of "we think there's a good chance they have a nuclear purpose; not all of our intelligence analysts are in agreement but that's the majority opinion" ?

Javani

"So nobody here has any problem with Bush and Rice flatly stating, without qualification, that the tubes had a nuclear purpose when they knew 2 of our intelligence agencies disagreed?"

Friend:

All the experts thought Iraq had WMDs. All of them. Some say it was more the C, some the B, some the N potential, some said there use wasn't "imminent" some not. Some thought it was a casus belli some not. No one said Iraq wasn't a terrorist threat to the United States - overseas, e.g. the Radio Liberty plot, etc. They all thought Iraq had WMDs. The Wilsons too.

The meme battle derives from a political assessment of Bush. The Democrats, having no particular positive policy differences
with Bush assessed that his strong suit was the perception of his "truthfulness." They attacked Bush on WMDs. Bush "made" the intel services say there were WMDs, Cheney blustered around CIA headquarters, Joe Wilson proved something, etc. etc.

You will never have a handle on the debate if you sink into it, rather than observe its structure and the underlying political purpose. In Britain "Blair lied" isn't a viable ongoing meme because Labor's opposing parties are not attacking Blair on truthfulness but on EU policies, etc., important stuff. Why does it persist in the USA? Democrats no.1 strategy is still to continue to run against Bush on the "truthfulness" meme. "Overtopping" a levy becomes "breaching" a levy is the latest episode.

Foo Bar

Javani,

Sure, most people thought he had some WMD, but there was significant disagreement about whether he had an ongoing nuclear program, and the nuclear threat in particular was important in selling the war to the public. At the time, I figured he probably had some chemical weapons left over, but probably wouldn't use them outside his own country unless attacked, so I didn't think that merited invading (certainly not on defense grounds; there was the secondary, altruistic argument, of course). If the U.S. intelligence assessment had been small chemical stashes, but no ongoing bio or nuke program, do you think Bush would have gotten authorization? Maybe, but I doubt it.

You didn't address my question, about why it was preferable to present the tube evidence without qualification when there was internal dissent among analysts. I'd be happy to hear an answer.

owl

OT but at least they have started a new attack. Anyone see the Time article? Poor baby terrorist lied because of mean ole torture. But hey, Time didn't want to be left out of the loop of traitors....(psst they say it is classified info)

Foo Bar

The Spinsanity link quotes from the SOTU to prove that Bush explicitly said the threat is imminent. The quote implies imminence of the threat, though:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.

Imminent means "ready to take place". Imminent doesn't mean "announced beforehand" or "not taking place without fair warning". The Soviet Union, with their ICBMs, was an imminent threat, but that didn't mean Brezhnev was going to give us a heads up before pushing the button to initiate a strike. So that second sentence in that excerpt is not on point.

Bush implied the threat could fully and suddenly emerge. If the threat could suddenly emerge, then it's effectively imminent. What sense would it make sense to say that a threat is not imminent, but might all of a sudden become imminent any day now?

The practical question at hand was whether we needed to invaded right then, in '03. Let's say the counterproposal was to wait a year and see if something else could be worked out. Bush's implication is that we couldn't afford to wait because the nature of the threat could suddenly transition to imminence within that next year. But there's no practical distinction between that and imminence itself.

Jim in Chicago

Shorter foobar:

"Up is down, black is white".

Syl

What's your problem, Foo Bar? You don't like war? Well, neither do we. But, hell, sometimes you have to do it. Nobody has given reasons why we should not have taken Saddam down. There are only nitpicks here and there, but no overarching argument why leaving Saddam in place was the wise thing to do.

danking70

The Iraq War Resolution listed a whole slew of reasons with WMDs as only one.

The problem is that some people can't see past the "stockpile".

clarice

FooBar--reread the article of look up "explicitly".

Foo Bar

Jim in Chicago,

Thanks for the tip re:up and down. I feel much better now that I'm not doing a handstand and the blood isn't rushing to my head :).

Is your comment in regards to my post about imminence, or everything I've said generally? I'll stipulate that my point about "imminent threat" could easily turn into a hairy, semantic argument that could go around in circles, so let's put that aside and focus on my first question. Once again, can anyone explain to me why it was preferable to state unambiguously that the tubes were for nukes when there was internal disagreement on that point, as opposed to making a more tentative statement that acknowledged the disagreement?

Cmon, folks, the whole point of all this chatter is to try to change people's minds. Registered Dem here, but frequent reader of right-leaning blogs. Thanks to Powerline,TM, and Instapundit, I have a much lower opinion of Joe Wilson than I would otherwise, I'm more sympathetic to gun rights, and I agree that the criticism of Bush based on this new Katrina tape is bogusly based on a failure to distinguish between topping and breaching. So here's your chance to convince me that the war was sold more honestly than I currently think it was.

Jon

Javani:

All the experts thought Iraq had WMDs. All of them.

This is untrue, of course. But who cares? You didn't have to be an "expert" to understand there was a very good chance Iraq had nothing. For instance, I made and collected on a $1000 bet that Iraq had no banned weapons. All it took was basic skepticism, reading ability, and knowledge of history.

Jon

my point about "imminent threat" could easily turn into a hairy, semantic argument that could go around in circles

No kidding. I was willing to get involved in such an argument, but only because it was on a bet for $100. (I won.)

Rick Ballard

"So here's your chance to convince me that the war was sold more honestly than I currently think it was."

At what point did the President possess the requisite authority granted to him by 'We the People' as embodied in the vote of the legislature? I make it October '02 by the passage of the AUMF.

Subsequent to that point, to whom and for what purpose was the war being "sold"? What actual (rather than speculative) benefit would the President derive from such a "sale"? Would the AUMF become more authoritative and if so based upon what?

Foo Bar

Rick, that's a very reasonable question.

The AUMF vote was October 10 and 11, 2002.

Bush's Cincinnati speech was October 7, 2002.

Condi Rice was on CNN saying the tubes were only really suited for nukes in September, 2002.

Javani

Jon:

"All the experts thought Iraq had WMDs. All of them. This is untrue, of course. But who cares?"

I care. Name one if you are so certain. I'll help you. Blix saying he had "last minute" doubts after years of saying otherwise might be close, but no cigar.

Javani

"You didn't address my question, about why it was preferable to present the tube evidence without qualification when there was internal dissent among analysts. I'd be happy to hear an answer."

OK. I'd rather it not be presented at all if there was significant dispute. I don't know why it was presented. Other things were also presented where there were minor disagreements between the intel services. They make a memo and bargain to a "consensus."

As for the biologicals, for example the missing anthrax, this is "explained" after the war by Dr. Germ that she destroyed it on her own volition without telling the higher ups. Now that story is suspect one way or another!

Jon

I care. Name one if you are so certain.

1. Scott Ritter
2. Rolf Ekeus
3. Israeli officials who discussed this pre-war with hawkish members of the Brookings Institution (who didn't believe them)
4. Ron Cleminson
5. Steve Allinson
6. Russian intelligence
7. members of WINPAC

I respectfully suggest that you consider whether your belief about what all the experts thought may be as flawed as what you believed pre-war about the overall WMD issue.

Foo Bar

OK. I'd rather it not be presented at all if there was significant dispute. I don't know why it was presented.

OK, then! Now, how can we explain it being presented in absolute terms, despite the dispute. I can see 2 hypotheses:

1) Incompetence (Rice, Bush, etc. were informed of the dispute, but forgot about it)

or

2) Maybe just a bit, just a smidgen, just a drop, just a little morsel of something that, while perhaps originating in good intentions and motivated by fervent belief that invasion was the right thing to do for America and Iraq and the world at large and therefore desperately needed to be sold to the public, just might possible be deemed... dishonesty? What's that? Exaggeration? Isn't exaggeration at least a lesser form of dishonesty? How's that? That's just politics? Everbody exaggerates? Glad we're holding public figures to such a high standard when it comes to debating a decision to go to war.

Jon

Foo Bar,

#2 is exactly right. The stupid members of the Bush administration believed what they were saying, but the smarter ones surely saw the situation as you describe. Paul Wolfowitz basically said as much for a 2004 article in Esquire:

When I ask [Wolfowitz] about where the administration is headed, he goes back to the late 1940s and to Democrats like George Marshall and Dean Acheson who laid the foundations of what became the bipartisan consensus for the cold war. He reminds me that Acheson decided to be "clearer than truth" in explaining the communist menace to the American people...
Foo Bar

Jon,

Indeed. Wolfowitz also said in the Atlantic that he "always thought the nuclear thing was overstated", although oddly I don't recall him publicly complaining about any overstatements in the leadup to the war.

Jon

Heh. Yes, I also like the part in that Atlantic article where says he "wasn't convinced about stockpiles." It's a good thing he was so clear about that before the war -- if he hadn't his credibility would really be shot.

Syl

I, personally, didn't believe the nuclear stuff but I was into everything else including chem and bio and ties to terrorism and Saddam being brutal with a history of using wmd's, invading other countries, murdering his own people, and hating America. I also knew he had been thumbing his nose at the UN for years, shooting at our guys patrolling the no-fly zones, and in so many ways breaching the ceasefire agreement (which, btw, lost him his sovereign status).

Saddam had to go. It was only a matter of time before he'd slip something to a terrorist to use with little to no traceback to his regime. He'd already said in an interview that though his regime may not be able to reach us, an individual Arab might.

Two days after 9/11 the American people agreed. In fact more than 70% of Americans beleived Saddam had ties to 9/11 on 9/13/2001!

Americans already believed Saddam was a bad guy and a danger to us long before Bush ever opened his mouth.

Nitpicking at the case for war is nothing more than denial of the already held perceptions of Americans. If you were out of the loop on that, it's not Bush's fault.

Jon

Syl:

hating America

Don't...

Saddam's view of the United States was complicated. He accrued power and prestige far beyond his inherent weight by positioning himself as the only leader to stand up to the last superpower. To the extent that you assume some of the stature of your enemy, Saddam derived prestige from being an enemy of the United States. Conversely, it would have been equally prestigious for him to be an ally of the United State -- and regular entreaties were made, during the last decade to explore this alternative. [emphasis in original]

...be so sure about that.

Saddam did not consider the United States a natural adversary, as he did Iran and Israel, and he hoped that Iraq might again enjoy improved relations with the United States... [emphasis in original]

In a custodial debriefing, Saddam said he wanted to develop better relations with the US over the latter part of the 1990s. He said, however, that he was not given a chance because the US refused to listen to anything Iraq had to say.

In 2004, Charles Duelfer of ISG said that between 1994 and 1998, both he and UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus were approached multiple times by senior Iraqis with the message that Baghdad wanted a dialogue with the United States, and that Iraq was in a position to be Washington's "best friend in the region bar none."

maryrose

Syl;
Excellent arguments. Saddam violated 14 different sanctions. At times his army was shooting at our planes if by chance we entered the no fly zone. Saddam was sending money to suicide bombers in the Middle East. He gassed the Kurds and slaughtered his own people. It was time for him to be taken out. He's still alive-Osama won't be so lucky.

Jon

At times his army was shooting at our planes if by chance we entered the no fly zone.

By CHANCE?

Cecil Turner

The stupid members of the Bush administration believed what they were saying . . .

What a load of manure. The Administration doesn't have a duty clairvoyant who can pick out the truth of intelligence estimates, they have to rely on those who do intel for a living, collected and evaluated by the folks at CIA who are charged with the mission. And here's what those folks said:

High Confidence:
  • Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.
  • We are not detecting portions of these weapons programs.
  • Iraq possesses proscribed chemical and biological weapons and missiles.
  • Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grad fissile material
Moderate Confidence:
  • Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one but is likely to have a weapon by 2007 to 2009. (See INR alternative view, page 84).
Low Confidence
  • When Saddam would use weapons of mass destruction.
  • Whether Saddam would engage in clandestine attacks against the US Homeland.
  • Whether in desperation Saddam would share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qa'ida.
Pretending this was equivocal is nonsense. It wasn't. Even the naysayers at INR said "Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapons-related capabilities." Debating whether that was an adequate casus belli is one thing; pretending it didn't exist is just silly.

Javani

"OK, then! Now, how can we explain it being presented in absolute terms, despite the dispute. I can see 2 hypotheses:"

I can think up more, so what? You're smart, why are you locked into Bush Lied memes? The problem is bigger, what the intelligence establishments didn't "lie" about but believed.

As for the nuclear issue, pre-war it was seen as the weakest possibility. Turns out in the post war reports it was the strongest, the regime did retain various items and plans and the 400 tons of yellowcake under UN "seal" was retained not for electricity production.

Larry

The onus was on Iraq to document destruction of WMD. They failed. Along with violation of umpteen other UN resolutions and cease-fire agreements, this was full justification to RESUME GWI. Today is 3-3-06, nearly 3 years after the invasion of Iraq. Why are we arguing about whether we should/should not have invaded? The left want to rehash this argument without offering substantive suggestions about what to do NOW! The AUMF lists many, many reasons to take action. I don't give a crusty f*** if Iraq had WMD. We are engaged in a long, global war not of our choosing. If you have nothing constructive to add to the debate, STFU! Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way! Oh wait. You have to win elections in order to lead.

Jon

The Administration doesn't have a duty clairvoyant who can pick out the truth of intelligence estimates, they have to rely on those who do intel for a living, collected and evaluated by the folks at CIA who are charged with the mission.

Yes, exactly as I said: the stupid members of the Bush administration believed what they were saying.

The stupid members of the Bush administration weren't aware of the long history of pressure on the CIA et al to politicize their conclusions, pressure going back at least to the seventies. The smarter ones were well aware of it, because many of them were individually involved in creating the pressure.

This isn't something most people are familiar with, I guess, but it's a very well known story among people who're interested in this general subject. Of all people, Danielle Pletka of AEI even made glancing reference to it in a recent op-ed. It's also one of the reasons I was willing to bet $1000 Iraq didn't have anything.

Anyway, the point is: if you're in the U.S. government and don't know intelligence agencies will slant things to try to please you, you really are too stupid to do your job. (Assuming your job is actually to serve America.)

Jon

Javani:

why are you locked into Bush Lied memes? The problem is bigger, what the intelligence establishments didn't "lie" about but believed.

I agree with this completely. It IS a much bigger problem than Bush. The Clinton administration also lied re Iraq, for instance, although less voluminously. Beyond that, it's also the case that much of America's political elite lives in a fantasy world that they truly believe is real.

the regime did retain various items and plans and the 400 tons of yellowcake under UN "seal" was retained not for electricity production.

This is completely wrong. I know what you think you know, and it's false. In fact, this is a perfect example of the fantasy world many people live in in the U.S. Once again, I respectfully suggest that you consider whether there's some connection between your mistaken beliefs now and your mistaken beliefs before the war.

boris

the stupid members of the Bush administration believed what they were ...

... being told ??? Otherwise your sentence makes no sense. No surprise there though, what you claim is utter crap. After an attack that killed like Pearl Harbor the administration is supposed to second guess the military and intelligence because they're too political ??? And rely on what exactly ...

You're argument lacks coherence.


Foo Bar

Javani,
I guess I'm not that smart (or not very imaginative). What are some of the other hypotheses you have in mind for explaining why the tubes evidence was portrayed as unambiguously as it was?

I wouldn't say that I'm locked into "Bush Lied" memes. I think the far left often overstates its case there, but I do think that in the case of the aluminum tubes, there's a legit criticism.

Again, I learn good stuff from right wing blogs like these, so I'm curious to see if anyone has a strong defense of the tube statements. So far I've read lots of comments that are not squarely on point (e.g., that's just a nitpick, there were lots of other good reasons to invade, even INR thought he had some nuclear program, etc.) but nothing that directly defends the way the administration publicly portrayed the tube evidence.

Doesn't anybody want to refute my scurrilous attack on Bush and Rice head on?


Cecil Turner

Anyway, the point is: if you're in the U.S. government and don't know intelligence agencies will slant things to try to please you, you really are too stupid to do your job.

More silliness. Essentially the same estimates had been floating since 1998 . . . and investigations since have not borne out that interpretation. Per the WaPo said:

Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

boris

explaining why the tubes evidence was portrayed as unambiguously as it was?

Saddam was not allowed to obtain aluminum tubes constructed to specs capable of being used for enrichment. It was a rule he broke. "unambiguously"

Whats the counter argument ???

Ok he broke the rule but it doesen't prove anything ?

Saddam was not entitled to benefit of the doubt. The shooting has already started and his options were compliance on US terms or removal. He went for fake compliance on Euro terms based on bribes. Too bad.

Jon

boris:

You're argument lacks coherence.

It does? I thought I was making a pretty simple point. For instance, the smarter members of Saddam's inner circle understood that when military officers appeared before Saddam and claimed the Iraqi army could fight off America, the officers were lying through their teeth. The stupider members of Saddam's inner circle believed it.

The same phenomenon was true within the U.S. government, although of course to a lesser degree.

Cecil Turner:

Essentially the same estimates had been floating since 1998

Not really accurate, but who cares? Why do you think the Clinton administration wanted to hear something different than the Bush administration?

according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

You mean all the people who claimed Iraq definitely had WMD? Well, I guess if they say something, then it must be true.

Cecil Turner

You mean all the people who claimed Iraq definitely had WMD? Well, I guess if they say something, then it must be true.

I don't recall claiming the Central Intelligence Agency gets everything right. However, if you've got some other definitive source we should depend on for prewar intelligence estimates, please trot it out. I suspect most of us think policy makers ought to refer to CIA intelligence estimates when making decisions. And we ought to hold them to account for failures. Calling Bush a liar because "he f---ed up, he trusted 'em" doesn't make a lot of sense.

boris

the officers were lying through their teeth

Then answer the question ... can't trust the CIA the NSA or the military ... then who ???

Doing prediction using hindsight is a fool's game. In a free country with diversity of opinion someone's bound to have been right looking back. In this situation the number who were even close is vanishingly small.

Now to say "those are the opinions that should have been heeded" is to affirm lack of judgement.

Foo Bar

Saddam was not allowed to obtain aluminum tubes constructed to specs capable of being used for enrichment. It was a rule he broke. "unambiguously"

Boris, DOE and INR didn't think they were suitable for enrichment. Even if there was an official ruling that the specs of the tubes violated a UN agreement (maybe there was; I would be interested to see a link if that's true) that doesn't directly address my point. I'm not disputing that Iraq was in violation of UN resolutions.

What I'm saying is that the administration overstated the certainty that the US intelligence community as a whole had with regard to the appropriateness of the tubes for nuclear purposes. Even if the tubes were formally some sort of violation, State and DOE still thought it was unlikely they were for nukes, yet Bush's and Rice's public statements gave no indication of the disagreement within the intelligence community.

Jim in Chicago

foobar says: "The Spinsanity link quotes from the SOTU to prove that Bush explicitly said the threat is imminent."

Whaaaa?

Is that what you really meant, did you even read the Spinsanity article?


Foo Bar

Jim,

Yeah, there's a missing "not" that should be in front of "imminent" in what I wrote there. My bad.

Cecil Turner

State and DOE still thought it was unlikely they were for nukes, yet Bush's and Rice's public statements gave no indication of the disagreement within the intelligence community.

CIA is responsible for sychronizing those opinions and providing the view of the intelligence community. They said "Most agencies believe that Saddam's personal interest in and Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors . . ." Even the INR caveat claims Saddam was pursuing nukes. Besides, as Boris points up, the emphasis on the tubes was because it was a demonstrable violation of sanctions.

Javani

"This is completely wrong. I know what you think you know, and it's false. In fact, this is a perfect example of the fantasy world many people live in in the U.S."

Wasn't it in the Duelfer report? That the residual capacities and plans, not "weapons", were weighted toward the nuclear opposite (and yes, much smaller) than what the intel thought before the war?

And does that not raise other issues about trusting intel assessments? ;-)

And what do you think about the anthrax story? There was negative "proof" of stockpiles, Iraw didn't account for it. "Significant" "stockpiles" , a lot of it, and the story goes Dr. Germ dumped it all in the desert. Dis she? Did it exist?Anyone test the spot she did so? An obvious question the Duelfer report glossed?

boris

DOE and INR didn't think they were suitable for enrichment.

That's not what I wrote. They were constucted to the specs for making tubes "suitable for enrichment" which was "unambiguously" against the rules.

You apparantly don't want to address that fact and I don't want to address your spin.

PeterUK

There is also the body of opinion that WMD were smuggled out of Iraq into Syria
It is interesting that the Russians,who along with Iraq's other main arms suppliers,China and France were so obdurate in the Security Council,are implicated in the clean up.

Foo Bar

Cecil,

Well, OK, would have been nice if Bush's and Rice's public statements had at least had language along the lines of "Most agencies believe..", don't you think? I personally think "most" is a bit strong there, but even that would have been an improvement over what was actually said. I do not see how the fact that INR thought there was a nuclear program is relevant- the implication seems to be that if there's broad agreement about a general conclusion then it's fine to overstate the confidence in the accuracy of a more specific, supporting assessment. Similarly, re:sanctions violations, I don't see how that justifies overestimating the certainty of the conclusion that they are for nukes.

Javani

"Doesn't anybody want to refute my scurrilous attack on Bush and Rice head on?"

Does Laura know too?

Oh, the tubes. Seems others know more about them than I. I'm returning to measuring and recreating the redacted portions of Fitzgerald's report. So far I've excluded "Schwarzenegger"

PeterUK

"the smarter members of Saddam's inner circle understood that when military officers appeared before Saddam and claimed the Iraqi army could fight off America, the officers were lying through their teeth. The stupider members of Saddam's inner circle believed it."

You were there?

Foo Bar

Boris,

OK, then do you agree that it would have been better for Bush and Rice to say that Iraq was importing tubes whose specs violated sanctions, rather than saying that they were (as Rice said) "only really suited" for nukes?

Jon

Cecil:

And we ought to hold them to account for failures.

But they didn't fail. They (mostly) did exactly what Bush wanted them to do. That's why he gave Tenet the Medal of Freedom.

boris:

Then answer the question ... can't trust the CIA the NSA or the military ... then who ???

That's a good question. This is an extremely difficult problem to fix. However, if you really want to contribute to solving it, I suggest you read the CIA's description of Saddam's regime:

[Regime figures] often did not know the truth. Hence, when they would describe something that is wrong, it is difficult or impossible to know if they are purposely dissembling.

And:

The growth of a culture of lying to superiors hurt policymaking... Lying to superiors was driven by fear of the Regime... Lack of structural checks and balances allowed false information to affect Iraqi decision making with disastrous effects.

Then, consider whether this is, albeit in extremely exaggerated form, similar to the situation in the U.S. today.

maryrose

FOObar;
Break free of the spin and trumped up hyped up falsities of the Left. Join us here in the real world. It's too late for jon.

Jon

PeterUK:

You were there?

I'm going by the Duelfer report and news coverage.

Jon

Join us here in the real world. It's too late for jon.

Excellent! It's just this type of thinking that's allowed me to make a great deal of money betting on this stuff. While its prevalence is bad for this country, I've certainly found it personally profitable ;-)

PeterUK

The Duelfer specifically dealt with the inner workings of the minds of Saddam's subordinates?
Which news groups were present at Saddam's briefings to his military?

Rick Ballard

How much does a front page diarrheaist at Kos get paid? Aside from access to the database?

This crap will win you guys exactly what you deserve in November. Again.

Peter,

Butler and the SCCI were apparently hidden.

boris

they were (as Rice said) "only really suited"

I suppose weapons grade plutonium can be used in nuclear power plants. Does that mean it's unfair to restrict possesion of it? Would it be unfair to use possesion of it as an indication of malicious intent?

Nit picking the words of Bush and Rice and subjecting them to the negative version of Clintonian parsing is typical of your side. Plain speaking is deceitful because nothing in this world is ever cut and dried so it's lying to even imply. If that's your standard then small wonder elections ellude your side.

Cecil Turner

would have been nice if Bush's and Rice's public statements had at least had language along the lines of "Most agencies believe.."

Professional intelligence agencies don't do that, for a very good reason. Qualifying remarks tell the enemy where you have ambiguous intelligence (which helps them figure out where you'll be looking) and makes it easer for their counterintelligence folks. If you look at the Executive Order on classification, the first category of things that may be exempted from automatic declassification are those expected to:

(1) reveal the identity of a confidential human source, or a human intelligence source, or reveal information about the application of an intelligence source or method;
For that reason, qualifying remarks are typically redacted. (And though I can't find it now, I believe there's a perfect example of that in an early release of the NIE where all the qualifying remarks were omitted.)

But they didn't fail. They (mostly) did exactly what Bush wanted them to do. That's why he gave Tenet the Medal of Freedom.

They did a good job in Afghanistan. The NIE is on record for all to judge (gee, why was that declassified?). And your baseless claim they did "what Bush wanted them to do" apparently defies direct contradiction by bipartisan report, so I'll leave you to it.

Rick Ballard

Boris,

Ya gotta give it to 'em - no one has ever had a finer nor firmer grasp of the rear view mirror.

Steering by it is sure to lead them somewhere.

Foo Bar

Maryrose,

Thanks very much for the invite! That's very kind of you.

I think I'm almost ready to cross over, but it seems that evil Carl Levin and Barbara Boxer have brainwashed me, and I can't quite seem to grasp why the absolutist statements regarding the tubes were not just (conceivably) unnecessary given the larger case for the war and not just (possibly) noble exaggerations excusable in an ends-justifies-the-means kind of way (in the minds of Bush and Rice) but entirely defensible on their own merits. Maybe my poor, feeble Democrat brain is just not capable of getting it.

By the way, Porter Goss did not exactly offer a full-throated defense of those statements at his confirmation hearing. He sort of wiggled away by saying he didn't know all the facts of the situation, but for what it's worth there was this">http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2004_hr/091404goss.html">this exchange:


Senator LEVIN: And if at the time the intelligence indicated that
there were other uses that were possible, that then to state that
we know that they are really only suited for nuclear purposes
would be an exaggeration in your judgment?

Mr. GOSS: Sir, in a hypothetical sense, that would be an exag-
geration if that were the totality. But in a specific case, in the past,
I simply do not know what people knew or what other information
they had.

Rick Ballard

Afghanistan? You mean the campaign for which Tenet was awarded the medal? The one where CIA assets played a significant role? The one that got a former operations guy elevated to DCI with authority to change a few things? That Afghanistan?

PeterUK

"would have been nice if Bush's and Rice's public statements had at least had language along the lines of "Most agencies believe.."

More accurately,we and the British believe,the Russians,Chinese and the French are lying through their teeth,the Germans say what the French tell them to say,the rest of Europe wishes it would all go away,Canada is looking for an opportunity to stick it to the man and Burkina Faso hasn't a clue....But if we wait to find out the damn things will be whizzing around in some infernal machine.."Do you feel lucky punk..well do ya?"

Jon

javani:

Wasn't it in the Duelfer report? That the residual capacities and plans, not "weapons", were weighted toward the nuclear opposite

I've got to go, but quickly: no. According to the Duelfer report, Iraq had no residual capacities beyond the fact that its nuclear scientists were still alive. Nor did it have any plans, although several regime figures speculated that Saddam would have tried to rebuild a program if conditions returned to those in the eighties. Others say Saddam told them Iraq had no further WMD ambitions if the UN kept up its side of the bargain.

And does that not raise other issues about trusting intel assessments? ;-)

Of course it does. Obviously the Duelfer report spun things in as positive a manner possible for the Bush administration. That makes its weakness all the more remarkable.

And what do you think about the anthrax story? There was negative "proof" of stockpiles, Iraw didn't account for it. "Significant" "stockpiles" , a lot of it, and the story goes Dr. Germ dumped it all in the desert.

First of all, the story is not that Rihab dumped it all in the desert. Much of the anthrax was destroyed by others (at sites UNSCOM had tested and at which they located remnants). Second, Rihab didn't say she dumped it in the desert. She said she dumped it outside of one of Saddam's palaces, which is why she was scared to declare it to UNSCOM. Third, don't fixate on this. It would have made absolutely no sense for Iraq to keep anthrax produced in 1990, because it would have long since decayed into harmless sludge.

Anyway...I would again urge you and others to read the CIA's descriptions of the Saddam regime, and consider how it sounds uncannily like the Bush administration. A powerful country like ours can flee into a fantasy world for a long time. But not forever. And the sooner we take an honest look at ourselves, the less painful waking up will be.

boris

statements regarding the tubes

They were contraband. Not allowed.

"only suited" ...

Big deal, they could have been made into aluminum foil too. So what. The reason they were contraband is because they were made to the specs necessary and "only" necessary for enrichment. Saddam paid lots of money for specs that were illegal and "only suited" for a weapons program.

It's like arguing about Salman Pak. Was it training for hijacking or counter-hijacking? The fact that counter-hijacking was possible does not rebut that hijack training was definate. Either way people played the part of hijackers and they learned something from the experience. Where the antis there for learning or for show? Sept10 folk believe one thing and Sept12 folk believe different.

boris

it sounds uncannily like the Bush administration

That sounds uncannily like BDS.

maryrose

Foobar:
Say it ain't so Levin-Boxer-the Bobbsey twins for what's wrong with the Left. Next you are going to tell me you live in California. Step back from the abyss before it's too late. I'll even provide the rope to pull you back. In this war on terror you have to take the long view. Dems are impatient; they want immediate results; you know like a spoiled child that has to have its own way. In the long run a safer bet is with repubs-we got your back.

PeterUK

Not so fast Jon,you need to explain the origins of this:-
"the smarter members of Saddam's inner circle understood that when military officers appeared before Saddam and claimed the Iraqi army could fight off America, the officers were lying through their teeth. The stupider members of Saddam's inner circle believed it."

Where in the Duelfer Report does this appear,where in the press reports?

Jon

Where in the Duelfer Report does this appear,where in the press reports?

I'm not sure why you're skeptical about this, because it seems completely obvious to me that this is how a regime like Saddam's would be. But in any case, you can start with the Duelfer report's "Regime Strategic Intent" chapter:

Saddam knew his subordinates had a tendency to lie, but his earlier efforts to check their claims by "ground-truthing" them through personal tours of inspection decreased by 1998 as he became more reclusive.

• Tariq Aziz asserts that before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Iraqi military lied to Saddam about its preparedness, which led Saddam to grossly miscalculate Iraq's ability to deter an attack.

• Several sources claim that reporting up the party, government, and military chain of command became less trustworthy before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Key commanders overstated their combat readiness and willingness to fight, and Saddam no longer sought ground truth by visiting units and asking pointed questions as he had during the Iran-Iraq war. He instead relied upon reports by officers who later admitted misleading Saddam about military readiness out of fear for their lives.

• Abd said key Regime members "habitually" concealed from Saddam unpleasant realities of Iraq's industrial and military capabilities and of public opinion. Fear of the loss of position motivated this deception, which continued until the final days of the Regime.

The examples of the stupider members of his regime that I've seen mostly have to do with his sons, but I don't have the time to look them up. If you feel like it, search Nexis for stories of his sons telling people around them that Iraq was going to beat the U.S.

clarice

I think it's Bush' fault. After all intel is like evidence in a criminal proceeding. He should have parachuted in, insinuated himself into Saddam's inner circle and not relied on the piss poor intel of our own and other agencies (including BTW Jordan's and Egypt's).

BTW why do you suppose Saddam's top scientists in the wmd program were systematically assassinated after the invasion?
Thank you for playing rear view mirror.

Foo Bar

Cecil,

The argument that indications of uncertainty in our assessments aid the enemy is the strongest argument I've heard in defense of those statements. I don't quite buy it, but that's at least a head-on argument addressing my complaint.

I don't see how a simple acknowledgment of internal disagreement reveals information "about the application of an intelligence source or method".

Tenet did declassify an NIE before the invasion that gave some indication of disagreement- was that gravely harmful to national security?

I suppose the enemy is helped even by unequivocal statements of what we know about their capabilities- seems like you could extend that argument to argue for not making any public statements at all about their capabilities.

The implication seems to be that the American public doesn't get to receive any indication of the degree of confidence of intelligence assessments- the CIA just aggregates and then states flatly, even if it's actually only 51-49 in favor of the conclusion. These issues are obviously tradeoffs, but the benefits of informing the US public of a simple acknowledgement of disagreement seem to me to outweigh whatever help it may give the enemy.

I gotta go. Sorry to have annoyed (or worse) those of you I ticked off. I do think it's valuable to have a few blogs out there where people of opposing views can mix it up in the comments section- that's one of the things I like about TM's blog.

PeterUK

Oh I'm not sceptical Jon boy,except about your analogy,I know how totalitarian regimes work of old, the Ba'ath were not the first by a long way,but it is good to see you sing for your supper.You can go now.

danking70

Well, at least you said "extremely exaggerated".

LOL!

Foo Bar

Qualifying remarks tell the enemy where you have ambiguous intelligence (which helps them figure out where you'll be looking)

Cecil, if you're claiming that public officials are highly reluctant to reveal areas where we have ambiguous intelligence or where we're looking hard, how do you explain Pentagon officials blabbing to the NYT before the war about a special team set up by Rumsfeld to comb through the raw intelligence gathered by the CIA and other agencies a second time and look for indications of Iraq-Al Qaeda links that the other agencies might have missed?

Wolfowitz was quoted as saying there's ''a phenomenon in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won't, and not see other facts that others will.''

Sounds to me like DOD was announcing to the world that our intelligence on Iraq-Al Qaeda links was ambiguous and that we'll be looking at it some more. Seems like DOD was making clear to the world that there was dissent among the agencies on this issue.

Seems to me like the rule governing whether the administration was inclined to inform the public about dissent on an intelligence question had more to do with whether the majority view supported the case for the war. When the majority view did not favor the idea that there were substantial Iraq/Al Qaeda ties, the administration was more than happy to emphasize dissent and ambiguity.

On top of that, if the tubes intel was characterized unambiguously because any public hedging would tip off the enemy, why didn't Condoleeza Rice make that point when she was getting grilled on this question at her confirmation hearing (here and here) ? Why didn't Porter Goss make that point when he was getting grilled about what he thought about Rice's statement here? That is flabbergastingly incompetent of Rice and Goss not to make that point if it's a valid point.


Foo Bar

By the way, Rick, thanks for the compliment. I am not a Kos front-pager, by the way, but per your diagnosis I have begun taking Kaopectate. Hopefully once it takes effect you'll find my output more solid, although I suspect you'll conclude that the fundamental substance is the same as before :).

And no, I don't get paid for any of this. Compliments like that make it all worthwhile :).

kim

The administration erred on the side of safety, as they should have done and in retrospect, erred correctly. Not surprisingly, really; Saddam's psyche was well understood.
==============================================

Jon

if the tubes intel was characterized unambiguously because any public hedging would tip off the enemy, why didn't Condoleeza Rice make that point when she was getting grilled on this question at her confirmation hearing

Ha. Yes, this is yet another example of one aspect of the acolyte-like behavior you find in people like Cecil regarding their heros. Time and time again, they defend the Bush administration with claims that the Bush administration itself is too embarrassed to make. They're always more Catholic than the Pope.

My favorite instance of this was when Christopher Hitchens examined the Downing Street Memo and learnedly explained that in England the world "fix" has a different meaning than here -- something even BLAIR HIMSELF didn't have the balls to claim.

Cecil Turner

. . . if the tubes intel was characterized unambiguously because any public hedging would tip off the enemy, why didn't Condoleeza Rice make that point when she was getting grilled . . .

I suspect Sec Rice doesn't know why those words disappear when she submits a piece for declassification review. (And she might not even know they disappeared: principals typically read summaries, not source documents.) It's also doubtful she wrote those statements herself, and grilling her on the specifics is likely to turn up some "er, uh" moments. Porter Goss is a different subject, but he wasn't involved in any of those intel productions.

The other problem of course is that it's hard to summarize a lengthy document into a 15-second sound bite. If the public statements had mischaracterized the tone of the NIE, I think you'd have a point, even if they were only cherry-picking the good parts. But personally I think the NIE is every bit as sensational as any of the public statements, and apparently the PDBs were even moreso.

Ha. Yes, this is yet another example of one aspect of the acolyte-like behavior you find in people like Cecil regarding their heros.

Nice. And back to the basic point, Rice isn't an intelligence specialist (nor even a professional diplomat), expecting her to be an expert on something like this isn't on.

Jon

Rice isn't an intelligence specialist (nor even a professional diplomat)

Well, certainly her tenure as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State tends to bear that out.

In any case, I'm amused that you think it's too much to ask of high government officials that they actually know what they're talking about before they make completely definitive statements about life and death. Perhaps we both could get behind a requirement that they always wear bright red tshirts saying: "DON'T BELIEVE A SINGLE WORD I SAY."

I'd also think you might wonder why Rice (and the rest of the Bush administration) never, ever went back to qualify these "mistakes" of theirs unless forced to. I guess that's another one of the things only highly-trained intelligence specialists know how to do.

And finally: when you said, above, that the "NIE is on record for all to judge" were you referring to the Iraq NIE?

Cecil Turner

Well, certainly her tenure as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State tends to bear that out.

Dude, either you revel in non-sequiturs, or you don't know what the terms "intelligence specialist" or "professional diplomat" mean (though, to be fair, I probably should've used "career diplomat"). In any event, you're exhausting my patience for silliness. If you've got a point, please make it.

Foo Bar

I suspect Sec Rice doesn't know why those words disappear when she submits a piece for declassification review

You're making it sound like this is only a question of an official speech or document the text of which Rice did not control.

What about her September 8 appearance on CNN? First of all, the NIE didn't even exist yet , so its "sensationalistic" nature can't be used to excuse her (note that the NIE was produced only at the request of Democratic Senators). Secondly, Rice has admitted that she was aware of the dispute over the tubes at the time she made that CNN appearance and used the unequivocal "only really suited" language.

It's not like she was reading directly from the text of a speech; she was in control of what was coming out of her mouth in an informal, talk-show setting like that.

The other problem of course is that it's hard to summarize a lengthy document into a 15-second sound bite


Here's what Powell said at the UN:

Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.

Pretty shady of him to lump DOE and INR in with the Iraqis (and drop the "U.S." descriptor for those 2 groups of experts), but he at least he acknowledged the dispute. How hard was that? Did you need to be an expert say something like that? Took right around 15 seconds when I read it aloud. Do you need to be an expert to grasp the concept of the *existence* of a dispute between experts?

If the public statements had mischaracterized the tone of the NIE, I think you'd have a point

Again, even if you think the overall conclusion about nukes was close to unequivocal, that doesn't justify inflating the certainty of a more specific, supporting assessment.

And she might not even know they disappeared: principals typically read summaries, not source documents

Well, the whole point of the Waas story was that the president himself got a one-page summary which mentioned the dispute over the tubes, somewhere around the time he made the Cincinnati speech (it's not clear whether it was before or after), so it seems these disputes to manage to filter up to those summaries, and again, Rice has admitted she was aware of the dispute at the time of her September 2002 CNN appearance.


TM

On the tubes question - Is it safe to come out and admit that, not alone among politicians, Bush does not always preserve nuance? Maybe not, since I can see the whole argument unfolding before me: Isn't "exaggerating" morally comparable to "lying", and isn't lying about going to war much worse than all the other exagerations politicos (and humans!) have dropped on us over the years?

Groan.

Although, having groaned, I continue to hope that Dems will focus on what we should have done in 2003, rather than on what we ought to do in 2006.

Meanwhile, as to the evolution in the assessment of the Iraq threat suggested by Jon, here are the publicly available CIA WMD reports for 1998, 2000, and 2002 for Iraq.

The 2002 report does put a much greater emphasis on the nuclear threat, mainly by making it the first topic and offering several paragraphs of history.

Anyway, here is the 1998 blurb on Iraq's nuclear threat:

We assess that Iraq continues to hide documentation, and probably some equipment, relating to key aspects of past nuclear activities. After years of Iraqi denials, the IAEA was able to get Iraq to admit to a far more advanced nuclear weapons program and a project based on advanced uranium enrichment technology. However, Baghdad continues to withhold significant information about enrichment techniques, foreign procurement, and weapons design.

Here is 2000:

We believe that Iraq has probably continued low-level theoretical R&D associated with its nuclear program. A sufficient source of fissile material remains Iraq's most significant obstacle to being able to produce a nuclear weapon.

And after the history, here is 2002:

In the absence of inspections, however, most analysts assess that Iraq is working to reconstitute its nuclear program—unraveling the IAEA's hard-earned accomplishments.

Iraq retained its cadre of nuclear scientists and technicians, its program documentation, and sufficient dual-use manufacturing capabilities to support a reconstituted nuclear weapons program. Iraqi media have reported numerous meetings between Saddam and nuclear scientists over the past two years, signaling Baghdad's continuing interest in reviving a nuclear program.

Iraq's expanding international trade provided growing access to nuclear-related technology and materials and potential access to foreign nuclear expertise. An increase in dual-use procurement activity in recent years may be supporting a reconstituted nuclear weapons program. The acquisition of sufficient fissile material is Iraq's principal hurdle in developing a nuclear weapon. Iraq is unlikely to produce indigenously enough weapons-grade material for a deliverable nuclear device until the last half of this decade. Baghdad could produce a nuclear weapon within a year if it were able to procure weapons-grade fissile material abroad.

This is interesting - "Baghdad could produce a nuclear weapon within a year if it were able to procure weapons-grade fissile material abroad", echoing the 2000 report. Does it go without saying that neither aluminum tubes nor Nigerien yellowcake have anything to do with "weapons-grade fissile material"?

TM

I was willing to get involved in such an argument, but only because it was on a bet for $100.

Folks who follow the link will see that he had the wind at his back - the question as posed was, "It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."

Daniel Drezner finally ruled that it was not a *complete* fabrication; had the point in dispute been phrased as "it is an exaggeration", or even "a gross exaggeration", the outcome may have been different.

Its years later, and Drezner's comments are closed, but his decision hinged on an interpretation of the 2001 Strategy and its passage on "imminent threat" that I think is, at a minimum, disputable.

From Drezner:

1) Schwarz is correct to point out that the administration redefined imminent threat in its 2001 National Security Strategy. As Schwarz quoted:

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction -- weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.

So, the Bush administration's concept of imminent threat encompassed more situations than prior definitions.

To which I would say - either the new strategy said that the definition of "imminent threat" needs to be expanded to include ongoing invisible threats, or it said that the concept that "imminent threat" justifies pre-emptive action needs to be supplemented by the recognition of ongoing invisible threats, which may also justify pre-emptive action.

In my world, words do not mean what I choose - I would say that "imminent threat" means what it always did, and the new strategy supplemented the concept.

But I was not in that debate.

Here is a longer excerpt from the strategy:

For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction—weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.

The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.

Emp. added. There are lots of odd word choices that can't be explained if the Admin has simply re-defined "iminent threat". What, for example, is an "emerging threat"?

What does "while dangers gather" mean? Surely the danger is there, if it is imminent.

Well, FooBar had this problem as well - by his logic, if a doctor says, "Lose twenty pounds, or you are at risk of a heart attck", the threat is imminent.

Hmm, what FooBar said:

Bush implied the threat could fully and suddenly emerge. If the threat could suddenly emerge, then it's effectively imminent. What sense would it make sense to say that a threat is not imminent, but might all of a sudden become imminent any day now?
kim

Nobody is aojecting to 'erred correctly'? Another factor: Bush is a demonstrably lucky man. You know what they say about luck, right? Was that the 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration? No, that was another lady being good.
==========================================

Foo Bar

On the tubes question - Is it safe to come out and admit that, not alone among politicians, Bush does not always preserve nuance?

Well, TM, all through this thread all I've been doing is trying to make a very specific, limited point: it would have been preferable for Bush and Rice to acknowlege the dispute over the tubes (i.e., preserve nuance) in their public statements. I'm not sure, but could that be a concession (albeit a concession followed by a groan, shrug, and roll-of-the-eyes) on the part of the proprietor of the blog?

By the way, it's not like I'm clamoring for impeachment, but I don't see how the suggestion that it's a somewhat serious matter that there was some suppression of the ambiguity of intel that made the case for war is something to be met with a groan. But I am just an idiot Democrat blinded by seething Bush-rage, so it's probably beyond my powers of comprehension.

Also, I agree the Dems need to get better about putting forth a positive program for the country, but I must also note that search for closure on public debate on the administration's use and portrayal of WMD intelligence might be furthered along if Senator Roberts and his commission were ever to produce the report on the subject that he has promised.

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Wilson/Plame