Saturday, July 12, 2003

Should Tenet resign?

Perhaps. But it's evident that Bush should, too -- or be impeached.

While it was CIA Director George Tenet's job to keep Bush from deliberately misleading the nation (if such a thing were possible), it was even more Bush's job to not deliberately mislead the nation. And from all the information we have available, the administration itself concocted a scheme to deliberate mislead the nation, and pushed hard to get the CIA's "stamp of approval" on Bush's words to maintain "plausible deniability". Even now, the President cynically compounds his crime by "forgiving" Tenet.

Police who deliberately or incompetently fail to stop crime are responsible for their inaction. But that doesn't absolve criminals from their crimes in the first place, now does it?

The CIA didn't put the bogus information into the State Of The Union speech. They didn't feed the President false intelligence. Rather, they failed to stop a scheme to mislead us. That's quite a different matter, and while still a grave matter, not one for which Tenet should take the fall -- at least, not alone.

The bottom line is that we have a Chief Executive who deliberately misled the American People into a war that cost the lives of hundreds of coalition troops and thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians. If ever there were an impeachable offense, that's it. The Press, the Congress and the American People have a civic and/or Constitutional duty to hold him accountable.
False through and through

Looks like the adminstration is playing its part admirably, asserting that Bush has "complete confidence" in George Tenet and the CIA.

Of course he does. They gave him a free pass to deliberately mislead the nation. What more could you ask for in an intelligence agency?

How very generous of Dubya...
Right back where we started

What a whirlwind 48 hours it's been. First, we learn that Bush knew that claims regarding Iraq seeking to purchase nuclear weapons material from Africa were unsupported, and evidence for it was likely bogus. We learn that the CIA informed the White House that the evidence was bad, and that it doubted British evidence on the subject, too.

Then, Bush avoids the issue by saying the CIA cleared his statements. He doesn't acknowledge or deny that the information conveyed by his speech was known to be unsupported; he doesn't deny attempting to mislead the American People. Rather, he shifts the blame, saying the CIA said he could say what he said. Condoleeza Rice adds to the situation by claiming the information was "factually correct".

Finally, George Tenet issues a long, carefully-worded statement in which he takes blame for not stopping the White House from including the information it included. While the claim that the British had reported that Iraq attempted to procure uranium from Africa was "technically true" and "factually correct", it was highly misleading.

So here's where we are, now: The White House was evidently told the information was not credible. Wanting to include the information anyway, it concocts the idea of saying the British have published the information. Moreover, it does so in a highly misleading (and technically, factually untrue) manner by saying the "British have learned that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Africa..."

Which is exactly where we were before Tenet's statement.

From what we know now, it's evident that the White House misled the nation deliberately. They knowingly created a false impression with a highly misleading statement regarding bogus information about the threat our nation faced. And that false impression helped to propel the nation into a needless war -- exactly as the White House intended.

What's worse, the excuses they've used since the war were demonstrated to be out-and-out lies by Tenet's statement.

Will our press follow up on this story, or will they continue to print articles saying (incorrectly) that the CIA has now taken the blame for the false information? Time will tell...

Friday, July 11, 2003

A distinction without a difference

Looks like the new tack for defense is offense: the Bush administration is now attempting to deflect criticism directly onto CIA Director George Tenet:

"The CIA cleared the speech. The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety," [National Security Advisor Condoleeza] Rice said, en route to Uganda.

"If the CIA -- the director of central intelligence -- had said, 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone," Rice said.

Still, note what's not being said in the above: they're not denying they knew the statement was not backed up by evidence. Instead, they're simply saying the CIA let the speech go forward. It remains to be seen whether the CIA, and specifically Tenet, will allow this to stand. Word is that much of the CIA's analyses were ignored in the runup to the Iraq War. But as things stand, this is a distinction without a difference: Rice's comments, above, are not actually in conflict with the damning reports we've been seeing. Which makes this "he did it, too!" defense seem all the more desperate.

Interesting times in which we live, huh?

Well, OK. We were just a bit premature.

Word is screaming through the blogosphere and the real world that the media has finally called Bush on his "Yellowcake" lie. This, per CBS news:

Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2003

Senior administration officials tell CBS News the President’s mistaken claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address -- despite objections from the CIA.

Before the speech was delivered, the portions dealing with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were checked with the CIA for accuracy, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

CIA officials warned members of the President’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” Mr. Bush said.

The statement was technically correct, since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a presidential address information its own CIA had explicitly warned might not be true.

One might be left with the impression from the above that the White House could fall back on the idea that it was just trusting British intelligence to which the CIA had no access. Unfortunately, the Associated Press has this:

U.S. intelligence officials had doubts about the quality of a British intelligence report alleging Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa in the weeks just before and after President Bush made the allegation in his State of the Union address in January, senior U.S. officials said Thursday.

The officials said those doubts were expressed to British officials and across several agencies of the federal government before Bush gave his speech.

CBS, ABC and CNN reported that CIA officials who saw a draft of Bush's speech even questioned whether his statement was too strong given the quality of the British intelligence but the remark was left in provided it was attributed to the British.

In other words, Bush was explicitly told not only that the CIA's information was not credible, but also that the British intel was likely not credible, either. Yet, Bush chose to state the accusation unequivocally. In essence, the CIA said, "go ahead and say the British think this, but don't blame us when it comes back to haunt you".

Folks, this is a very, very serious situation. We now have confirmation that the President of the United States lied to the American People regarding the danger posed by Iraq.

It remains to be seen how this will play out, but I for one think things have just gotten critical for the administration. There are a lot more lies to be profiled, after all...

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Talk about cahones

From a story on CNN currently:

On Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, Democrats are stepping up their criticism of President Bush on Iraq, sensing what they believe to be a vulnerability in the administration's rationale for the war that ousted Saddam Hussein from power.

. . .

Republicans say the criticism springs from a Democratic desire to make some headway in the upcoming 2004 election.

"The Democrats have been playing politics," said Ed Gillespie, chairman-elect of the Republican National Committee.

First of all, the lead-in for the CNN story is insulting. The legitimate question is not why Democrats are criticizing Bush; rather, it's "why aren't the Republicans criticizing him, too?"

Second, let's be clear about this. We're not talking about something blatantly, stupidly partisan like attempting to impeach a sitting president because he got some in the Oval Office, then lied about it to protect his reputation. We're talking about nothing less than the very real possibility that the President of the United States willfully misled Congress and the American People into war -- a war in which thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops died; a war which cost us tremendously in political capital around the world; a war in which we are still bogged down, and probably will be for the forseeable future.

The civic and Constitutional duty of all Americans, and especially all lawmakers, to get to the bottom of the issue is crystal clear.

Gillespie's sentiment is laughably ironic, under the circumstances, and hopefully self-refuting for most people. But if not, here it is spelled out: it is the effort to defend Bush regardless of what he does, not the effort to see justice done and duty to Country upheld, that is "playing politics", Mr. Gillespie. Just as you overreached during the Clinton years, so too your blind right-wing ideology and desire for power are leading you to over-reach now. Your own obvious partisanship is leading to your irrelevancy.

The right thing would be for RNC'ers to cut Bush loose. But they think they see more political advantage in supporting a man potentially guilty of a high crime in office, because he's their best shot at power. And it's obvious.

So, I invite Ed Gillespie and his fellow Bush apologists to continue their comments -- it only hurts their credibility. Democrats aren't cowed any more by hypocritical whines of "partisanship" from Gillespie's ilk, and the more they defend the indefensible, the worse it will be for them and theirs.

Keep it up, bud; if trends continue, soon you won't be able to win elections for "town dog catcher".

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Apologies and a retraction...

The previous story was evidently based upon bad information. It seems that Capital Hill Blue's source was a con artist (Doug Thompson, the site's proprietor, has posted a retraction). Although I think the current credible evidence (as reported in the mainstream media) is plenty damning for the President, I retract my prior post, and apologize to any and all who bought the story because I brought it to their attention. It's an important lesson regarding accuracy of sources and healthy skepticism...

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Top-Priority Breaking News: confirmation that Bush lied to Congress and the American People

This story on Today's Capital Hill Blue leaves no remaining doubt that Bush knowingly misled the country into war. He knew the evidence was bogus, but included it anyway in his case for war (delivered explicitly in his State of the Union address):

An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address.

"The report had already been discredited," said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. "This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings."

Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said.

"He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could," Wilkinson said. "He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country."

People, that's all she wrote. This administration, from top to bottom, knew the evidence on Iraqi WMD was bogus, and explicitly used it anyway to convince Congress and the American People that immediate war was necessary.

Using any reasonable standard, President Bush should be impeached immediately, and his administration removed from office. Any in the GOP who, at this point, put partisanship over their duty to country should likewise be removed from office.

UPDATE: As there has been considerable controversy over the reliability of Capital Hill Blue's reporting (in this and other matters), I'm going to modify my comments above with a "we'll wait and see" approach. Others have rightly been skeptical of this particular source (unfortunately, I was unaware, at the time I originally posted regarding this issue, of CHB's storied past).

That is not to say this story can be called "inaccurate" or "fabricated" at this point. Doug Thompson, proprietor of the CHB site, has strongly defended his story; moreover, much of CHB's reporting has a history of acceptable accuracy and relying upon mainstream sources. Furthermore, he named his source.

The report has been forwarded on to major news media for confirmation. If there's anything to it, I would imagine we'll find out soon enough.

And, of course, the accuracy or inaccuracy of this story should not be construed to impact, in any way, other material which has been revealed in recent days (including the administration's furious backpedaling on the issue of the African uranium story). It is easy to see Bush doing exactly as Mr. Thompson's alleged source claimed; in fact, other reporting by intelligence officials have said much the same thing: that Bush was absolutely determined to go to war, and his administration "adjusted" the facts to fit the case.

Time will tell. One thing's for sure, though: the people who were against the Iraq war have been proven right in spectacular fashion.

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