Saturday, November 05, 2005

Selective intelligence: Building the case for war in Iraq

There may not be a smoking gun, at least not yet, but there sure is a lot of smoke. Here's what Douglas Jehl is reporting in Sunday's Times:

A high Qaeda official in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to newly declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document.

The document, an intelligence report from February 2002, said it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, "was intentionally misleading the debriefers" in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda's work with illicit weapons.

The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi's credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi's information as "credible" evidence that Iraq was training Al Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

As I wrote in a recent post on impeachment: "I don't think that building a case for impeachment at the expense of ignoring Bush's conduct of the war makes much sense. The war happened. What's done is done. So focus on what went wrong and who may be to blame for what went wrong... Yes, much of the focus should be returned to the gross mismanagement of the war itself. But there is every reason to believe that the Bush Administration lied or otherwise manipulated the intelligence (i.e., the facts) to advance its case for war in the first place. Is that not serious? Is that not something that should be investigated further?"

So how serious is this latest revelation?

Andrew Sullivan: "Worth emphasizing here: this is not necessarily evidence of deception. It fits into a pattern of insufficient skepticism in advance of the war.

Kevin Drum: "On balance, the CIA genuinely appears to have believed that Saddam Hussein was pursuing WMD programs before the war started, but there were also significant doubts and dissents about some of their evidence... Liberals and conservatives alike should have an interest in setting this record straight. Even if you believe the war was justified, and even if you think the balance of the evidence at the time supported the notion that Saddam was actively producing WMD, the fact remains that marketing a war isn't like marketing a soft drink. Citizens of a democracy should demand an honest accounting of the known facts before committing troops overseas, and the Bush administration didn't give it to us."

As usual, exceptionally well put.

A democracy should demand better of its leaders.

America should demand better of its president.

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See also Editor and Publisher, The Left Coaster, Ezra Klein, War and Piece, and Think Progress -- all excellent posts on this developing (and continuing) story.

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