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November 12, 2005
Post: George Bush Homer Gets Roger Maris Treatment

Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus "analyze" the President's speech last night and try to rebut some of the details, claiming that "asterisks dot" the argument throughout the speech. Already used in the comments here in CQ, Milbank and Pincus -- the latter especially lacking any credibility after his depantsing by Joe Wilson's misinformation campaign -- still can't deny the overall truth of Bush's speech and the despicable hypocrisy at the center of the Democratic Party's campaign to smear him as a liar:

The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.

Milbank and Pincus argue that Bush had access to more information than Congress did, such as the PDBs that he didn't share with many outside the NSA circle, and that Bush's staff overstates the scope of the later Congressional investigations into the use of the intelligence pre-war. Both of these get answered in two pretty simple steps:

1. None of the Security Council nations concluded that Saddam had disarmed, either. Even staunch anti-war voices such as France, Russia, and Germany didn't claim that Saddam had no WMD before the war started. They just argued that sanctions had enough strength to keep him from using them. All three countries have their own intelligence services; did Bush "mislead" them as well? And of course, the sanctions that they insisted we trust turned out to be a smokescreen for those three nations to stuff Saddam's pockets full of cash for opportunities to buy cheap oil for themselves.

2. The intelligence had not changed, but the circumstances did. The Post notes an inconsistent threat analysis on Iraq in the Bush administration but never explains why:

Even within the Bush administration, not everybody consistently viewed Iraq as what Hadley called "an enormous threat." In a news conference in February 2001 in Egypt, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said of the economic sanctions against Hussein's Iraq: "Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."

Note when this assessment was given: one month after taking office. In the first few months of the Bush administration, the policy towards Iraq remained the same as it did during the Clinton administration -- vigourous containment based on the sanctions, with support for humanitarian assistance through the Oil-For-Food program initiated during the Clinton term. Bush had a rushed transition and had hardly begun to go through all the information on Iraq.

So what changed after that? Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 in the worst terrorist attacks in history, and the twelve-year quagmire of Iraq that tied up our military in the region which launched the terrorist impulse had to get resolved one way or the other. No Democrat went on record to say that we should release Saddam from his obligations to disarm and simply allow him to regain complete control once again, I notice. Some argued for a maintenance of the status quo -- a status quo that, post-invasion, we now know had been thoroughly corrupted through the offices of the UN and efforts by our supposed French, German, and Russian allies for kickbacks and cheap oil. Most understood that our military had to take action, and that as long as Saddam Hussein remained in power, he would present a powerful threat on our flank no matter what else we did in Southwest Asia. Strategically, tactically, and politically, the war on terror went through Baghdad -- and Democrats and Republicans alike voted for that very policy in late 2002.

This Post argument does nothing but take small peripheral points out of context and try to spin them into major points of contradiction. It fails to make any point whatsoever, and it especially fails in rebutting the central argument from Bush yesterday. The Democrats had the same intelligence as the Republicans, the British, the French, the Russians, the Germans, and everyone else. They also came to the same conclusions as everyone else, and supported the Bush policies that sprang from those conclusions -- when it was politically beneficial for them to do so. Now that they think they can score a few cheap shots at the President, they claim they got hoodwinked by manipulated intelligence. It's a cowardly and despicable strategy, especially during a war which they voted to start when it suited their purposes, and no amount of anklebiting by Milbank and Pincus can cover that up.

The Post needs to seriously explain why Walter Pincus still works on intelligence stories involving Iraq for the newspaper after his involvement with Joe Wilson. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence clearly shows that Pincus wound up as a dupe, at minimum, for Wilson's leak of disinformation on Niger. At worst, Pincus might have acted as a willing participant in that effort. The Post has never given an explanation of Pincus' role in working with Joe Wilson on that story, nor have they even bothered to investigate it, as far as I'm aware. Until we get an explanation from the Post, any story (and especially "analyses") involving intelligence on Iraq that carries Pincus' byline will automatically be suspect.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 12, 2005 7:54 AM

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» The Washington Post Owes An Explanation from CALIFORNIA YANKEE
At Captain's Quarters, Captain Ed posts that the Washington Post needs to explain why Walter Pincus still works on intelligence stories involving Iraq after his involvement with Joe Wilson. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence clearly shows that... [Read More]

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» WaPo accidentally lets truth slip out in “analysis” piece from The Unalienable Right
In an “analysis” piece (i.e. an editorial snuck onto the front page), The Washington Post let the truth slip out: The administration’s overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had... [Read More]

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