Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post can’t find any evidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about pre-war intelligence that President Bush lied about making the case for war.
In the report’s final section, the committee takes issue with Bush’s statements about Saddam Hussein’s intentions and what the future might have held. But was that really a question of misrepresenting intelligence, or was it a question of judgment that politicians are expected to make?
After all, it was not Bush, but Rockefeller, who said in October 2002: “There has been some debate over how ‘imminent’ a threat Iraq poses. I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat. I also believe after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated…. To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? I do not think we can.”
Rockefeller was reminded of that statement by the committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), who with three other Republican senators filed a minority dissent that includes many other such statements from Democratic senators who had access to the intelligence reports that Bush read. The dissenters assert that they were cut out of the report’s preparation, allowing for a great deal of skewing and partisanship, but that even so, “the reports essentially validate what we have been saying all along: that policymakers’ statements were substantiated by the intelligence.”
Why does it matter, at this late date? The Rockefeller report will not cause a spike in “Bush Lied” mug sales, and the Bond dissent will not lead anyone to scrape the “Bush Lied” bumper sticker off his or her car.
But the phony “Bush lied” story line distracts from the biggest prewar failure: the fact that so much of the intelligence upon which Bush and Rockefeller and everyone else relied turned out to be tragically, catastrophically wrong.
So we’re back to the old scapegoat again; the intelligence community really screwed it up, and, according to the winger talking points, they did it because they really wanted to screw over the Bush administration as a part of a turf war between the various agencies. It had nothing whatsoever to do with politics of the permanent campaign of the Bush administration to regain the imperial powers lost by previous presidents, nor did it have anything to do with President Bush wanting to ensure his legacy as a wartime president, and starting a war based on cooked evidence was the way to do it. In other words, Fred Hiatt knows more about the inner workings of the Bush White House than someone like, oh, say, Scott McClellan, Richard Clarke, or Colin Powell.
Or maybe he’s just doing what every one else who’s been behind the war has been doing all along: making excuses for their lousy judgment and claiming that they were duped, too.