Maureen Dowd: Bomb and Switch
Bomb and Switch
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
Wednesday 04 June 2003
Before 9/11, the administration had too little intelligence on Al Qaeda, badly coordinated by clashing officials.
Before the Iraq invasion, the administration had too much intelligence on Saddam, torqued up by conspiring officials.
As Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to make his case for invading Iraq to the U.N. on Feb. 5, a friend of his told me, he had to throw out a couple of hours' worth of sketchy intelligence other Bush officials were trying to stuff into his speech.
U.S. News & World Report reveals this week that when Mr. Powell was rehearsing the case with two dozen officials, he became so frustrated by the dubious intelligence about Saddam that he tossed several pages in the air and declared: "I'm not reading this. This is $%&*#."
First America has no intelligence. Then it has $%&*# intelligence.
So this is progress?
For the first time in history, America is searching for the reason we went to war after the war is over.
As The Times's James Risen reports, a bedrock of the administration's weapons case the National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was seeking nukes is itself being reassessed. The document is at the center of a broad prewar-intelligence review, being conducted by the C.I.A. to see whether the weapons evidence was cooked.
Conservatives are busily offering a bouquet of new justifications for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq that was sold as self-defense against Saddam's poised and thrumming weapons of mass destruction.
Pressed by reporters about whether Tony Blair and President Bush were guilty of hyperbole Mr. Blair's foreign secretary claimed Saddam could deploy chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes Senator John McCain replied, "The American people support what the president did, whether we find those weapons or not, and they did so the day they saw 9- and 10-year-old boys coming out of a prison in Baghdad."
Senator Pete Domenici noted that experts thought that Saddam's overthrow might pave the way for the Middle East road map to work. "For those kind of experts to say that has changed the dynamics in the Middle East, sufficient that we might get peace, seems to me to outweigh all the questions about did we have every bit of evidence that we say we had or not," he said.
In a Vanity Fair interview, Paul Wolfowitz said another "almost unnoticed but huge" reason for war was to promote Middle East peace by allowing the U.S. to take its troops out of Saudi Arabia Osama's b te noir. But it was after the U.S. announced it would pull its troops from Saudi Arabia that a resurgent Qaeda struck a Western compound, killing eight Americans.
And it was after the U.S. tried to intimidate other foes by stomping on Saddam that Iran and North Korea ratcheted up their nukes. Iran and North Korea actually do have scary nuclear programs, but if we express our alarm to the world now, will we be accused of crying Wolfowitz?
A new Pew survey of 21 nations shows a deepening skepticism toward the U.S. "The war had widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance," said Pew's director, Andrew Kohut.
Brits may be more upset with Mr. Blair than Americans are with Mr. Bush because they have the quaint idea that even if you think war was a good idea, you should level with the public about your objectives.
The Bush crowd practiced bait and switch, leaving many Americans with the impression that Saddam was involved in 9/11.
When James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director and current Pentagon adviser, appeared on "Nightline" five days after 9/11 and suggested that America had to strike Iraq for sponsoring terrorism, Ted Koppel rebutted: "Nobody right now is suggesting that Iraq had anything to do with this. In fact, quite the contrary."
Mr. Woolsey replied: "I don't think it matters. I don't think it matters." The Republicans will have to follow the maxim of Robert Moses, the autocratic New York builder who never let public opinion get in the way of his bulldozing: "If the ends don't justify the means, what does?"
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