Today, President Bush went on the rhetorical offensive, suggesting that those who are now insisting that alleged manipulation of prewar intelligence by this administration be investigated, are 1) rewriting history and did not suggest this before the war, and 2) that criticism of the war and how we got into it is damaging to America and is being done purely for political gain.
I would like to respond to both of these charges. In the first case, there were many allegations before the war that the intelligence was faulty or was being either exaggerated or manipulated. While there are numerous examples of this, let the best known one make the case-- whatever one may think of the Plame leak, the fact is, it came in response to Joe Wilson questioning the use of intelligence and charging that it was manipulated in the first place. And he was not a 'lone warrior' in this regard. There were plenty of others. However, this is only a small piece of what is wrong with the President's speech. To wit,
In any case, even if the administration HAD fooled everyone by manipulating intelligence, that would be a complete non-sequitur in terms of the question of whether the growing pile of evidence that it was manipulated should be investigated. To suggest today that because some people may have believed intelligence that was intentionally doctored or at least 'cherry picked' with the goal of producing a pre-determined outcome, that therefore the manipulation of intelligence should not be investigated, would be like deciding that because a bank robber got away during the initial pursuit, the police should not look for him later if they get a tip where he might be hiding. If you did something wrong, then it is still wrong after the fact, whether you were successful at it or not.
And according to the article, it was not long after the President finished speaking before this very question was raised by a Republican-- whose status as a veteran should suggest that he knows what he is talking about.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who is weighing a run for president in 2008, has said he agrees with Democrats who are pressing the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to move forward with an investigation into whether the administration manipulated intelligence.
“I was probably the main driver on the Republican side because I thought we needed the answers to whether intelligence was misused, intentionally or unintentionally,” Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald in a story published Friday.
Which brings us to the second point that the President made in his speech.
“The stakes in the global war on terror are too high and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges,”
Now, if the charges are false, then come clean and show us they are. As I mentioned before, there is plenty of evidence that they are true-- and it is the right who is in denial.
Consider for example, Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician with the proverbial nine lives, who was the darling of the Bush administration before the war, when they quoted his wild and unsubstantiated claims about weapons of mass destruction. Chalabi, a master manipulator who gave us the claim that he 'had seen biological weapons in Iraq with my own eyes' at a time when he was not even in Iraq, and who was also responsible for the claim that Saddam could deploy WMD and use them against neighboring countries within forty-five minutes, has since been exposed as a first class charletan (and there was plenty of evidence of his character at the time, ignored by the Bush administration in their rush to war). He is on the lam from a Jordanian court conviction for defrauding a bank of $28 million, and was a double agent, working for Tehran while he was on the payroll of the U.S. government, where he told the Iranians that we had cracked their military code. But despite Mr. Chalabi's sordid past of lies, wildly inflated claims and what would be considered treason if he were an American or did not have 'diplomatic immunity' (he of course has schmoozed his way into a position of power in the new Iraqi government, guaranteeing that corruption will certainly have a place in the New Iraq), he was a featured guest this week at a forum at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. So, it seems to be the right which is willing to conveniently forget the false intelligence (myself, I believe that Mr. Chalabi should be declared a 'persona non-grata' and never be allowed on American soil again). And AEI isn't just some obscure conservative group; I had the opportunity to attend an AEI workshop a few years ago on healthcare (I paid my own way, and came with a really, really open mind, honestly-- and left being more convinced than ever that conservatives were more interesting in vilifying liberal policies (in that case Medicare and Medicaid) than in producing practical solutions that would work for Americans with an income level in the five figure range. However, the keynote speaker at lunch was Tom DeLay (then the house minority whip), and I met several other policymakers at the workshop. So, if these people aren't even willing to admit the truth yet about Ahmed Chalabi, then any hope that the right will clean up its own house and admit to any mistakes-- or worse-- is hopelessly misplaced.
With this sort of total denial or excusing anything on the right, I would therefore suggest that it is the OBLIGATION of those of us on the left to INSIST that it be examined. This is too important to allow it to be swept neatly under the rug. If we don't insist on a thorough investigation then we are not doing the job of the proverbial 'loyal opposition.' It would be better for everyone if we could have an honest and complete investigation without the need to shut down the Senate to inch it forward, but since the right refuses to do their job on this, we must do ours and continue to press for a full accounting.
If the charges now being brought forward by war opponents are indeed knowingly false as the President is claiming, then I will be the first one to insist that those who are making them should be made to answer. After all, isn't that what they are alleging themselves? Carry out both investigations at the same time, if you will. But we KNOW that what we expected to find in Iraq, we didn't find (and that what we did find there, a guerilla war, we didn't expect), so I would suggest that it is in fact too important to our country NOT to find out what went wrong with our prewar intelligence and its use. And if intelligence was manipulated in order to lead us into an unnecessary war, then there should be safeguards put in place to prevent it from ever happening again.