Monday, February 2, 2004

Bush Caves

From the NY Times:

President Bush will establish a bipartisan commission in the next few days to examine American intelligence operations, including a study of possible misjudgments about Iraq’s unconventional weapons, senior administration officials said Sunday. They said the panel would also investigate failures to penetrate secretive governments and stateless groups that could attempt new attacks on the United States.

The president’s decision came after a week of rising pressure on the White House from both Democrats and many ranking Republicans to deal with what the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee has called “egregious” errors that overstated Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and made the country appear far closer to developing nuclear weapons than it actually was.


The pressure to establish such a panel became irresistible after David A. Kay, the former chief weapons inspector, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that “it turns out we were all wrong, probably,” about the perceived Iraqi threat, which was the administration’s basic justification for the war.

The commission will not report back until after the November elections. Some former officials who have been approached about taking part say they believe it may take 18 months or more to reach its conclusions.

“It became clear to the president that he couldn’t sit there and seem uninterested in the fact that the Iraq intel went off the rails,” said one senior official involved in the discussions. “He had to do something, and he chose to enlarge the problem, beyond the Iraq experience.”

Win or lose the election, Bush’s back is up against the wall. If he claims he was misled, he admits that his administration is incompetent. If he tries to foist it off on Clinton, he’s basically admitting that he and the intelligence community was asleep at the wheel for two years. (And if Clinton had invaded Iraq, he would have been impeached twice.) The only hope Bush has that the inevitable leaks will not lead the blame to the Oval Office.

If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be delicious.