Washington Post Points Out Bush's Veteran's Day Lies
Yikes. The Washington Post takes the two central pillars of the White House’s recent pushback strategy over Iraq and kicks the sh*t out of them in a Page One in Saturday’s edition. The story, written by Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank, has all the markings of an Agency scud fired directly back at the White House.
President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.
Neither assertion is wholly accurate.
Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, briefing reporters Thursday, countered "the notion that somehow this administration manipulated the intelligence." He said that "those people who have looked at that issue, some committees on the Hill in Congress, and also the Silberman-Robb Commission, have concluded it did not happen."
But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."
Bush, in Pennsylvania yesterday, was more precise, but he still implied that it had been proved that the administration did not manipulate intelligence, saying that those who suggest the administration "manipulated the intelligence" are "fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments."
In the same speech, Bush asserted that "more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power." Giving a preview of Bush's speech, Hadley had said that "we all looked at the same intelligence."
But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.
In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.
(W)ithin 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."
Bush, in his speech Friday, said that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." But in trying to set the record straight, he asserted: "When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support."
The October 2002 joint resolution authorized the use of force in Iraq, but it did not directly mention the removal of Hussein from power.
The resolution voiced support for diplomatic efforts to enforce "all relevant Security Council resolutions," and for using the armed forces to enforce the resolutions and defend "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."
The Post’s story was far more direct and willing to fact check the president than this limp-wristed piece by the NYT’s Richard Stevenson, who seems content to take Scotty McClellan's dictation. But at least the Post is willing to point out Bush’s lies now, and their editors are letting those stories get on the front page, unlike the days leading up to the war.
Look, the White House is returning out of desperation to a Rovian attack strategy directly at the Democrats on Iraq. It will be critical for Reid and Pelosi to answer every charge and attack with a counterattack. Fire must be returned with facts and withering return fire. Voters no longer trust Bush, and the Democrats need to capitalize on that.