Friday, February 06, 2004

Short memories

Tenet's sales pitch about the quality of intelligence (measured by the contents of his prewar "estimate" against the now-available evidence "on the ground") simply places in starker relief the need to inquire into the "policy-makers'" use of intelligence rather than its gathering. Besides the obvious misuse by Cheney, Rumsfeld and, most notably, Bush in their public pronouncements, two particular items come to mind, items I'm shocked that I forgot (and so far too have the pundits).

The first was buried in the news during the weeks before the much-hyped appearance by Colin Powell at the UN where he presented a dog-and-pony show to spur the Security Council into voting for an invasion-justifying resolution. The UN inpsectors were on the ground, dutifully chasing from site to site in their white vans, coming up empty, while Blix was complaining to anyone who'd listen that the US wasn't sharing with the inspectors the information that it claimed it had to prove Saddam's noncompliance. Finally, a few days before Powell's UN appearance, the US gave Blix a verbal report of selected sites (I recall that Blix was appalled at such a lax, unorthodox procedure). The conclusion many drew from this sequence was that the US either was unsure of its intelligence or was witholding it so that the inspectors would fail, allowing the US to attack.
The second item followed shortly thereafter, when the inspectors hopped into their vans to follow the leads the US finally handed over. One lead, to a supposed weapons factory in the north of Iraq, turned out to be a crumbling village. Others were equally false, so much so that one of the inspectors called the US intelligence, "garbage."
During all of this time, Scott Ritter, a former US Marine and weapons inspector, was telling us (although the news outlets wouldn't listen) that which we now know: The the WMD Iraq had once possessed had been destroyed or discovered in the weapons inspection regime in the nineties.
If I were Tenet I'd be pissed off too. Bush and his buddies ignored and purposely witheld the caveats and uncertainties in the CIA's estimate in their inexorable march to war and now, as before, they're making him the fallguy.

For another (and a more fluent) presentation of this position, check out this essay in Time Online.

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