Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bush's malfeasance: The politicization of intelligence and the fabricated case for war in Iraq

We now know, from the mouth of Scooter Libby and the pen of Murray Waas, that Vice President Cheney and other top White House officials authorized the leaking of classified information in order to defend the Bush Administration's fabricated case for war in Iraq.

But what really went on before the war, before all those desperate leaks? How did the Bush Administration fabricate a case for war?

In an important piece in Foreign Affairs, Paul R. Pillar* argues that "the Bush administration disregarded the [intelligence] community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case".

In other words: "The Bush administration deviated from the professional standard not only in using policy to drive intelligence, but also in aggressively using intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war. This meant selectively adducing data -- 'cherry-picking' -- rather than using the intelligence community's own analytic judgments. In fact, key portions of the administration's case explicitly rejected those judgments."

Pillar's piece is quite long, and much of it focuses in a rather detached, wonkish way on "the intelligence-policy relationship," but it's one of those must-reads that shouldn't be missed. I highly recommend it.

(See also Steve Clemons at The Washington Note.)


*Who is Paul R. Pillar? Well: "PAUL R. PILLAR is on the faculty of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. Concluding a long career in the Central Intelligence Agency, he served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005."

Which means that he knows a hell of a lot more about all this than I do.

Yes, he reveals what many of us have long suspected, or known about from other sources -- yes, he may have some personal and/or institutional ax to grind -- and, no, those on the other side, those who preach Bush's ultimate infallibility, whether they themselves actually believe in it or not, won't be persuaded, won't admit that the case for war was built on the politicization of intelligence, the manipulation of evidence, at least not publicly -- but his argument and the evidence he provides to support it serve to remind us of, and indeed to prove, Bush's ultimate malfeasance as president and commander-in-chief.

Bush sent American men and women to Iraq to kill and to die for what amounted to a fabricated cause, a cause build around false pretenses. I do not bemoan Saddam's removal from power, nor do I necessarily reject efforts to spread democracy to the far corners of the globe, but can those ends, real or elusive, possibly justify so many thousands of deaths? Is it right to ask someone to kill or to die for a lie? Is it right to ask someone to kill or to die for a fabricated cause?

War, the Iraq War or any other, may or may not be justifiable, may or may not be necessary, if not desired. But the American people need to know the truth before their elected leaders, their representatives, the embodiments of their political will, send them off to fight some foreign war. Bush could have made an honest case and presented it to the American people for their consideration. He could even have done so persuasively. That would have been real democratic leadership. Instead, he lied and dodged and manipulated and started a war that no one outside his cadre of inner-circle loyalists really know anything about.

And so it continues...

Will Bush ever be held accountable? I refer not necessarily to impeachment, but to the history books. Surely future historians will write the truth. Surely future generations of Americans will come to learn of Bush's malfeasance.

Or will they only ever know the spin, the partisan lies that are told to prop up Bush's catastrophic presidency?

It isn't too late. The truth may yet win out.

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  • Because Democrats believe impeachment to be politically untenable and Republicans simply lose too much through the process, it appears likely that Bush will not be held accountable in that fashion, but history is another story, or is it? History is written by the winners and without impeachment, Bush will leave office a winner and perhaps even pass the torch to a fellow Republican. He seems particularly attentive to his legacy, which he believes will be sealed if his great experiment in Iraq ends well, or at least continues along and dies an ugly death on someone else’s watch. Bush has never been held accountable for his failures and I fear he won’t have to answer for this one either.

    By Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door, at 2:11 PM  

  • Good points, LGND. Impeachment is unlikely, even with more and more coming out about how the White House authorized leaks of classified intelligence, not to mention various other presidential misdeeds.

    But I'm not sure Bush will leave office as a "winner". We'll have to see about that. A lot depends on '06 and '08, as well as on what happens in Iraq. And we'll see how the economy does over the next few years, too.

    Whatever else happens, I just want Bush to be held accoutable for once. He seems to have avoided it his entire life.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 5:32 PM  

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