Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bush Disagrees

I'm seeing headlines all over the place that "Bush Disagrees with NIE assessment" -- the assessment that notes Iraq has no nuclear weapons program and has not actively worked on one since 2005.

Well, of course he disagrees. Every statement he's made (including some pretty ominous ones about WWIII) has targeted Iran as a serious nuclear threat. Now, I don't dispute that Iran is a dangerous country, but it appears, once again, that Bush simply ignored the real intelligence data and continued on his stated path.
THE PRESIDENT: David, I don't want to contradict an august reporter such as yourself, but I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze. [...] And it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.
I guess hearing that there was "new information" in August and not even asking a few simple questions about it -- in fact, apparently not giving it a second thought for five months -- is acceptable to someone. I guess since it's the Shrub we just shrug and say, well, he's not very inquisitive. I'm sorry, this is considered the proper way to handle things for a US President?
Now, I can appreciate the fact that the president has developed a reputation for lacking intellectual curiosity, but I’m trying to imagine how a scenario like this played out. There was an NIE, it was circulated for months, and Bush was escalating his rhetoric about Iran’s non-existent nuclear program. In August, the Director of National Intelligence told the president, “We have some new information.” At that time, according to NSA Stephen Hadley, the president was told specifically to “stand down.”

In response, Bush not only didn’t ask what this “new information” was, he explicitly ignored the “stand down” recommendation and started talking about “World War III.”
This is becoming almost surreal. And the contradictions of whether Bush received the 'stand down' order and ignored it, or didn't receive it at all (both stories came out of the WH in the last day)...I don't know about you, but I'm just feeling more confident in this administration, aren't you? Dates are flying back and forth furiously, the latest of which entirely contradict Bush's statement (and security advisor Stephen Hadley's assurances) that Bush was briefed on November 28th, even though he had two meetings with Ehud Olmert and discussed the contents of the NIE several days before.

It's not the mismatch of dates and frantic who-knew-what-when that bothers me -- although that is what is going to dominate the story, I'm sure -- it's that it's clear that the President ignored valid intelligence analysis because it disagreed with his stated plan and he would have had to actually adjust his decisions. Nope, can't do that. Must stay the course and sling whatever loaded words and actions are necessary to look like he was right.

So now, the papers are saying that Bush disputes the findings of the intelligence community (which he has carefully and repeatedly "explained" to us required time to correctly analyze the data, and did so between August and December), and he continues to warn that despite all actual evidence to the contrary, we still need to worry about nuclear weapons in Iran. In fact, the rhetoric seems to have gone up a notch.

Of course, this is being presented as a failure of US intelligence, with Bush bravely standing up and talking the big talk, but now being sadly undercut by failures of his own people to give him good information. Sorry, I'm not buying that particular steaming pile again. It's all sounding a little bit too much like the information bandied around before the invasion of Iraq.

There was no failure of US intelligence. The NIE conclusion, that Iran is not actively pursuing nuclear weapons, is entirely correct and intelligent. The failure of intelligence is entirely in the White House.

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