Staggering Ineptitude

Via Josh MarshallWarren Strobel and Jonathan Landay write for Knight Ridder,

U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.

Among the warnings, Knight Ridder has learned, was a major study, called a National Intelligence Estimate, completed in October 2003 that concluded that the insurgency was fueled by local conditions – not foreign terrorists- and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.

On the “Bush Policy Decision Process” flow chart, this is the familiar step of “Policy Decisions Made” inside a bubble. And no one with expertise or a diverse point of view is allowed inside the bubble.

The reports received a cool reception from Bush administration policymakers at the White House and the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to the former officials, who discussed them publicly for the first time.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld and others continued to describe the insurgency as a containable threat, posed mainly by former supporters of Saddam Hussein, criminals and non-Iraqi terrorists – even as the U.S. intelligence community was warning otherwise.

Most … incompetent … administration … in … U.S. … history …

Robert Hutchings, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, said the October 2003 study was part of a “steady stream” of dozens of intelligence reports warning Bush and his top lieutenants that the insurgency was intensifying and expanding.

“Frankly, senior officials simply weren’t ready to pay attention to analysis that didn’t conform to their own optimistic scenarios,” Hutchings said in a telephone interview.

Keep in mind Bush’s only response to any questions about his decisions: Trust me.

Old News

The situation in Iraq is so volatile that conflicting spin and news cycles are bumping into each other. By way of illustration, here’s a screen capture taken from Memeorandum this afternoon.

Old News: The violence in Iraq is subsiding.

New News: Um, maybe not.

Old News (yesterday):

The US ambassador said the risk of civil war from last week’s crisis was over. …

… “That crisis is over,” US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad declared.

“I think the country came to the brink of a civil war, but the Iraqis decided that they didn’t want to go down that path, and came together,” the ambassador told CNN. “Clearly the terrorists who plotted that attack wanted to provoke a civil war. It looked quite dangerous in the initial 48 hours, but I believe that the Iraqis decided to come together.”

New News (today):

Attacks in Baghdad, including a car bomb near a Shi’ite mosque, killed at least 60 people on Tuesday and U.S. President George W. Bush told Iraqis who fear civil war that they faced a choice between “chaos or unity”.

As deposed leader Saddam Hussein returned to court after the worst week of sectarian violence since the U.S. invasion, three bombs in quick succession killed 32 people. After dark, a car bomb killed at least 23 near the Shi’ite mosque and a market.

New polls reveal that both the American public and the troops in Iraq are heartily sick of the mess Bush made and want out. This suggests to me that people outside the winger base are not listening to what Bush says any more.

As I mentioned in the last post, a whopping majority are skeptical of the UAE ports deal. Today on television I saw a clip of Bush, with his most condescending smirk, saying “If there was any doubt in my mind or people in my administration’s minds that our ports would be less secure or the American people in danger, this deal wouldn’t go forward.”

In other words … trust me.

Tonight on ABC’s World News Tonight Bush will speak to Elizabeth Vargas in an exclusive interview. Viewers will get to hear Bush flat-out deny there will be a civil war in Iraq. They’ll hear him deny that his low poll numbers concern him — “I’ve got ample capital and I’m using it to spread freedom and to protect the American people.” They’ll hear him say that the UAE port deal will be confirmed after review; the only reason Congress and the American people are concerned is that they don’t know the stuff that he knows.

Personally, I think the boy has completely slipped his tether. He could get away with that “trust me” stuff after 9/11. He’s not getting away with it now. Yet he doesn’t know any other way to relate to the American people.

Seems to me the American people ain’t relatin’ back.

The Bush Policy Flow Chart

Da Big Nooz, from CBS

The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush’s approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Excuse me while I dance about and pump my fist a few times.

The article goes on to say that Bush took a hit on the UAE port deal (7 in 10 Americans are opposed), and he’s still hurting from Katrina (2 out of 3 Americans say he hasn’t respond adequately). Regarding the port deal, whether the deal compromises national security or not, the way the Bushies handled the deal reveals a lot about what’s wrong with the Bush Administration. Thinking about the port deal inspired me to spend at least three minutes painstakingly and meticulously doodling the following flow chart:

The “Bush Policy Decision Process” works as follows: First, the President and a small group of long-time advisers carefully chosen to agree with each other get together inside the bubble and decide on a policy. This is the easy part, especially since no one with expertise or a diverse point of view is allowed inside the bubble.

Next comes a critical decision: Should the White House make this policy known to Congress and the public, or should they keep it secret?

If they choose to make it public, the next step is packaging the policy. The packaging may or may not (probably not, truth be told) be representative of what the policy actually is; the point of the packaging is purely to maximize sales appeal. For example, the Bushies might decide on a policy of maxmimizing timber production in national forests because it would be good for the logging industry. The policy will be packaged as good for the forests. They’ll call it something like the “Healthy Forests Initiative.”

You’ll remember that Andy Card let it slip that the 2002 saber rattling over Iraq was a “marketing campaign.” Later we heard (from where? Maybe someone can remind me.) that the weapons of mass destruction argument was used to build support for invading Iraq because it was the most saleable argument, not because it was the actual reason. In any event, the Bushies have had to repackage the Iraq War at least two or three times, haven’t they?

Now, as part of the marketing campaign, all dissenting opinion must be suppressed. Therefore, anyone who argues against the policy is smeared and ridiculed by the VRWC. The more expertise and logical arguments dissenters might have against the policy, the harder they are smeared. Thanks to a compliant media, this has meant (until recently) most of the public never hears the opposing arguments, just that so-and-so who opposes the policy is an unhinged ultra-liberal Bush-hating Saddam lover who wants to destroy America.

So the policy goes into effect. What if it becomes obvious that the policy is failing? The Bushies go back to the “marketing/smearing” phase, repackage the policy, and issue fresh smears. At the same time, people who had been shut out of the policy-making process except to be allowed to rubber-stamp it (such as “Democrats”) will be blamed for the failure of the policy.

What happens if the policy becomes a resounding success? We haven’t reached that stage with any Bush policy, so anything we say would be speculative. Just thinking about what they might do gives me the willies, though.

If the Bushies choose the “keep it secret” option, and the policy is made public in spite of their best efforts to keep it secret, they switch over to the “marketing/smearing” plan, and the rest of the chart flows along as with the “make it public” option.

In the case of the UAE port deal, they seem to have gotten sloppy. They defaulted to the “keep it secret” procedure even though it wasn’t really secret. When the deal became public and the shit hit the fan, the Bushies hastily switched over to marketing/smearing, but by then they were behind the public opinion curve. And a lot of the people who got caught up in the smear campaign were long-time Bush administration supporters who were astonished at being called unhinged ultra-liberal Bush-hating Saddam lover who wants to destroy America, in so many words.

The Katrina disaster doesn’t fit into the flow chart anywhere, which is why the Bushies don’t know what to do about it. I’ve written before about the many times the Bushies are utterly confounded by problems they hadn’t foreseen, like power blackouts and hurricanes. But responding to an unexpected disaster that cannot be blamed on scarey swarthy foreigners it haaaard. It’s hard to get a good propaganda campaign going before people have already made up their minds the administration is screwing up. And if the disaster is domestic, people will notice fairly quickly that the administration’s efforts aren’t working. Mind-boggling ineptitude is easier to hide if it’s happening in another part of the world; like, say, Iraq.

Unrelated: A gold medal for Wales! Wales beats France in cooking contest! Llongyfarchiadau!