Urbin Report

Friday, November 04, 2005

A review...

The Wall Street Journal points out:

• In July 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan 500-page report that found numerous failures of intelligence gathering and analysis. As for the Bush Administration's role, "The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," (our emphasis).

• The Butler Report, published by the British in July 2004, similarly found no evidence of "deliberate distortion," although it too found much to criticize in the quality of prewar intelligence.

• The March 2005 Robb-Silberman report on WMD intelligence was equally categorical, finding "no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. . . .analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments."

• Finally, last Friday, there was Mr. Fitzgerald: "This indictment's not about the propriety of the war, and people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who are--have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel."

In short, everyone who has looked into the question of whether the Bush Administration lied about intelligence, distorted intelligence, or pressured intelligence agencies to produce assessments that would support a supposedly pre-baked decision to invade Iraq has come up with the same answer: No, no, no and no.
Everyone, that is, except Joseph Wilson IV. He first became the Democrats' darling in July 2003, when he published an op-ed claiming he'd debunked Mr. Bush's "16 words" on Iraqi attempts to purchase African yellowcake and that the Administration had distorted the evidence about Saddam's weapons programs to fit its agenda. This Wilson tale fit the "lied us into war" narrative so well that he was adopted by the John Kerry presidential campaign.

Only to be dropped faster than a Paris Hilton boyfriend after the Senate Intelligence and Butler reports were published. Those reports clearly showed that, while Saddam had probably not purchased yellowcake from Niger, the dictator had almost certainly tried--and that Mr. Wilson's own briefing of the CIA after his mission supported that conclusion. Mr. Wilson somehow omitted that fact from his public accounts at the time.

He also omitted to explain why the CIA had sent him to Niger: His wife, who worked at the CIA, had suggested his name for the trip, a fact Mr. Wilson also denied, but which has also since been proven. In other words, the only real support there has ever been for the "Bush lied" storyline came from a man who is himself a demonstrable liar.