Sunday :: Jun 8, 2003

Colin and Condi Dance Without Addressing the Imminent Threat Rationale


by Steve

Well, the Bushies made the rounds of the TV chatfests this morning to rebut charges that they misled Congress and the American people about the Iraqi WMD threat before the war. But in several cases, it is clear that Colin Powell and Condi Rice are tying their asses to the CIA and George Tenet as a defense for what they said in the months leading up to the war.

And it appears that no member of the enlightened Beltway media pack asked the really tough questions of either: if Saddam posed such an imminent threat as you all claimed that required an immediate invasion, then how could it be that his WMDs are so well concealed, as you allege? If the man had the capability to launch weapons within 45 minutes of an attack, as you claimed, and if you have surveyed hundreds of known sites where such launches would have taken place, and you have found nothing to date, what does that say about the “imminent threat” justification?

On Fox this morning with the useless Tony Snow, Powell was never asked about the imminent threat justification.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: Secretary Powell, the controversy of the week in Washington has to deal with weapons of mass destruction. First I want to play you a little clip of your testimony in February before the United Nations Security Council regarding weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam Hussein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Do you still stand by each of those statements?

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. I spent -- not only have I been studying this for many, many years, but, as I prepared that statement, I worked very closely with the director of central intelligence, George Tenet...

SNOW: Who was sitting right behind you.

POWELL: Sitting right behind me.
That statement was vetted thoroughly by all of the analysts who are responsible for this account. We spent four days and nights out at the CIA, making sure that whatever I said was supported by our intelligence holdings. Because it wasn't the president's credibility and my credibility in line, it was the credibility of the United States of America. And we are sure of what we said, because he does have this kind of capability.

Now, suddenly this week there's a big firestorm about, well, we haven't found anything yet. Well, we are going to intensify our search.
In my statement, I also said they are masters of deception and hiding. So we are sending in an Iraqi survey group of 1,300 people who will be looking in all the places, they'll be exploiting all the documents, they'll be interviewing people.
And I would put before you exhibit A, the mobile biological labs that we have found. Now, people are saying, well, are they truly mobile biological labs? Yes, they are.

And the DCI, George Tenet, director of central intelligence, stands behind that assessment. And my best justification for the fact that they are -- well, he said they were biological labs -- is, if they were not biological labs, I can assure you, the very next morning, the Iraqis would have pulled them out and presented them to UNMOVIC and presented them to the whole international press corps to demonstrate what they were, if they weren't that.

So there was a question as to whether or not you are talking about chemical weapons that are being dispersed or a production facility. And there is a judgment call there.

But the considered judgment and the official judgment of the director of central intelligence, who is the one responsible for gathering all this information and in making a judgment is that they had weapons of mass destruction of the kind that we had described: Nuclear capability, in the form of individuals with the knowledge and the commitment on the part of Saddam Hussein to continue moving toward a nuclear capability, even though he wasn't close to one at the time, we don't believe; chemical weapons and biological facilities of the kind we have demonstrated with this lab.

SNOW: You have talked about making available to Congress information. What about to the American public? When is the public going to see more of the kind of intelligence that led you and other senior White House officials to believe that Saddam had that...

POWELL: Tony, I think we've put out a lot. And my presentation on the 5th of February was unclassified, on television, live around the country and the world. I think the American people got a good, solid assessment. I boiled down what could have been a presentation of many, many hours and days to one hour and roughly 20 minutes, where I presented the best information we had on weapons of mass destruction, on the terrorist activities of this regime, and the human rights abuses of this regime.

And I stand by that presentation, and there is much more information that is available. And I'm sure that, as the intelligence community feels that it is appropriate to declassify this information, it'll be made available to the public. I don't think that the public is as upset about all this or as concerned about this as is the media, which has had a feeding frenzy for the last week.

Those are the sounds of Colin whistling past the graveyard. And those of you who watched Condi Rice’s appearances on Meet the Press and ABC’s This Week today also saw that she was unnerved at the slightest hard questioning from both Tim Russert and George Stephanopolous.

But it is also clear from Walter Pincus’s story in tomorrow’s Washington Post that the Administration has decided to hide behind the intel community.

"The truth of the matter," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press," "is that repeated directors of central intelligence, repeated reports by intelligence agencies around the world, repeated reports by United Nations inspectors asking hard questions of Saddam Hussein, and tremendous efforts by this regime to conceal and hide what it was doing, clearly give a picture of a regime that had weapons of mass destruction and was determined to conceal them."

She said that Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and "the president gets his intelligence from his director of central intelligence." The key judgments of the intelligence community, Rice said on ABC's "This Week," were contained in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that said flatly that "Iraq had weapons of mass destruction" and that Hussein "was continuing to improve his weapons of mass destruction capabilities, that he was hiding these from the world, [and] that there were large, unaccounted-for stockpiles."

Yet even Pincus, who is close to the CIA, immediately pointed out where such a defense had holes.

Although those judgments of the October report were unequivocal, the backup material in a declassified version of it made public Oct. 4 was less definitive. The backup material said that "accounting and current production capabilities strongly suggest that Iraq maintains a stockpile of chemical agents" and not that it possessed such a stockpile. It also said that Iraq "probably" had concealed items "necessary for continuing its CW [chemical warfare] effort" and was rebuilding dual-use equipment that "could" be diverted to weapons production, not that Baghdad was improving its capabilities.

I really think the Bushies plan to pin this on the Intel community if it goes to hell on them. And frankly, watching the British intel guys line up smoking guns to use against Blair if he tries the same thing on them, I can’t for a moment believe that George Tenet will lie to Congress to cover for Rummy.

Steve :: 9:20 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!