Hatching Out

“Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.” — Claudius, “I, Claudius”

Every time some new information about the Bushies’ secret activities slips out, I think of that quote.

On tonight’s Hardball, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster reported (rush transcript from Raw Story):


This corroborates this story reported February 13 on Raw Story by Larisa Alexandrovna. In the original story, Alexandrovna wrote,

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame’s work. Their accounts suggest that Plame’s outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.

More background here.

Update: I just watched the re-broadcast of Hardball, and the transcript is accurate. That’s what Schuster said.

Are We Afraid Yet?

The Big Debate today is over how long it will take for Iran to have the bomb.

Years, say analysts quoted in the New York Times.

Western nuclear analysts said yesterday that Tehran lacked the skills, materials and equipment to make good on its immediate nuclear ambitions, even as a senior Iranian official said Iran would defy international pressure and rapidly expand its ability to enrich uranium for fuel.

The official, Muhammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, said Iran would push quickly to put 54,000 centrifuges on line — a vast increase from the 164 the Iranians said Tuesday that they had used to enrich uranium to levels that could fuel a nuclear reactor.

Still, nuclear analysts called the claims exaggerated. They said nothing had changed to alter current estimates of when Iran might be able to make a single nuclear weapon, assuming that is its ultimate goal. The United States government has put that at 5 to 10 years, and some analysts have said it could come as late as 2020.

Andy Grotto at Think Progress explains:

Iran enriched the uranium using a cascade of 164 centrifuges that spin uranium hexafluoride gas at supersonic speed. This process extracts U-235—usable in power reactors and nuclear weapons—from the gas. The enriched uranium that Iran produced cannot be used in a nuclear weapon because it contains just 3.5% U-235, whereas a nuclear weapon typically requires highly-enriched uranium (HEU) that contains more than 90% U-235. Assuming Iran has perfect luck with the centrifuge, it would need to operate this cascade continually for more than five years to produce enough HEU (15-20 kg, roughly the size of a basketball) for a crude nuclear bomb.

To acquire a credible nuclear weapons capability, Iran’s next step is to use this successful experiment as the basis for building a 3,000 centrifuge cascade at Natanz, as Iran has frequently claimed it would do. In theory, such a facility would be capable of producing enough HEU for 2-3 bombs a year. Building such a facility, however, is far more difficult and demanding than operating the 164 centrifuge cascade.

Even if everything goes right, such a facility would not be fully operational until 2009 at the earliest. This is still too soon for comfort, but it does leave significant time for some hard-nosed diplomacy.

Even some rightie bloggers admit that Iran isn’t likely to have the bomb next week. This guy, for example, quotes a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School who said 2009 was the earliest possible date for the mullahs to build an atomic weapon.

And talking about 3,000 or 54,000 centrifuges makes the pre-Iraq invasion hysteria over the aluminum tubes and rumors that Saddam Hussein was trying to build a centrifuge seem all the more rinky-dink, doesn’t it?

Still, there is much talk of cascades and centrifuges on the Blogosphere today. My understanding is that building a whole lot of centrifuges and getting them to work together properly to make weapons-grade material is devilishly difficult and expensive — easier said than done — and also requires vast amounts of uranium and energy. Although I guess an oil nation has that last part licked.

Bottom line — no matter what anybody says, we shouldn’t have to bomb Iran this year. There seems to be general consensus on that point.

At the Washington Post, David Ignatius writes,

The emerging confrontation between the United States and Iran is “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion,” argues Graham Allison, the Harvard University professor who wrote the classic study of President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 showdown with the Soviet Union that narrowly averted nuclear war. If anything, that analogy understates the potential risks here.

That doesn’t sound good.

Allison argues that Bush’s dilemma is similar to the one that confronted Kennedy in 1962. His advisers are telling him that he may face a stark choice — either to acquiesce in the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a dangerous adversary, or risk war to stop that nuclear fait accompli. Hard-liners warned JFK that alternative courses of action would only delay the inevitable day of reckoning, and Bush is probably hearing similar advice now.

Kennedy’s genius was to reject the Cuba options proposed by his advisers, hawk and dove alike, and choose his own peculiar outside-the-box strategy. He issued a deadline but privately delayed it; he answered a first, flexible message from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev but not a second unyielding one; he said he would never take U.S. missiles out of Turkey, as the Soviets were demanding, and then secretly did precisely that. Disaster was avoided because Khrushchev believed Kennedy was willing to risk war — but wanted to avoid it.

But, um, Kennedy isn’t the guy plotting the course any more. And Bush and Cheney put together don’t have half the smarts that collected in JFK’s toe jam.

Ignatius continues,

What worries me is that the relevant historical analogy may not be the 1962 war that didn’t happen, but World War I, which did. The march toward war in 1914 resulted from the tight interlocking of alliances, obligations, perceived threats and strategic miscalculations. The British historian Niall Ferguson argued in his book “The Pity of War” that Britain’s decision to enter World War I was a gross error of judgment that cost that nation its empire.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, makes a similar argument about Iran. “I think of war with Iran as the ending of America’s present role in the world,” he told me this week. “Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it’s still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we’ll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world.”

Howard Fineman at Newsweek:

For as long as I’ve known him, Bush has liked to muse aloud about his theory of “political capital.” His dad’s mistake, he told me more than once, was to have not spent the vast political capital he accumulated in 1991 as the “liberator of Kuwait”—a failure that led, in his son’s mind, to Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992.

After the attacks on 9/11, after the successful (and globally popular) obliteration of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and after the midterm congressional elections of 2002, President Bush was sitting in the White House with a colossal pile of military, diplomatic and political capital in front of him. And then he pushed the entire pile to the middle of the poker table and bet it all on his predetermined decision to invade Iraq. I said at the time and still believe that it was one of the most momentous decisions any president had ever made.

Now, and largely as a consequence, Bush finds himself bereft of political capital at precisely the moment when he (and the rest of the world) needs it most. To use his father’s terms (from his 1989 inaugural address), we have neither the will nor the wallet to take care of business in and with the bullies in Iran.

Somebody — it may have been Fineman — said on Countdown last night that we spent our military capital on the wrong I-country.

Fineman goes on to say that the President is boxed in politically because he’s lost credibility with too many voters. He’s boxed in militarily because Iran is, well, not Iraq —

Saddam Hussein was a bellicose character, but Iran has four times the population and several thousand more years of unified national identity. Iran also has big-league ballistic missiles capable of reaching, and ruining, lots of places in the Middle East region, including Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Iran also has millions of Shia allies in Iraq who would regard (and be asked to regard) an attack on Iran as an attack on Shia Islam. One retired general I checked in with (who asked to remain unidentified because he sometimes is called on for counsel by the administration) says that American troops in Iraq—who’ve been working in many ways with the Shiite majority there—would risk coming under attack by them, especially if there was any effort to redeploy them.

Bush is boxed in diplomatically because, frankly, he needs to be able to work with the UN and the IAEA, not shove them around, and Bush and the UN/IAEA have, um, some history. And he’s boxed in economically because starting another war in the Middle East would send oil prices even higher.

I want to go back to what Fineman said about Bush and political capital: His dad’s mistake, he told me more than once, was to have not spent the vast political capital he accumulated in 1991 as the “liberator of Kuwait”—a failure that led, in his son’s mind, to Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992. What Bush never understood is that “political capital” has a limited shelf life whether you spend it or not. Eventually, people start to ask what have you done for me lately? The Bushies seemed to think the free ride they got from 9/11 would last forever; that they could do whatever they wanted for the next seven years. I think only now it’s starting to sink in that the 9/11 boost is over.

I’m also reminded of what Ezra Klein said — “This White House was predicated on the belief that policies didn’t matter, only politics did. That’s been disproven, they’ve found themselves unable to fight failure with photo-ops.” For Bushies, policy is just a continuation of politics by other means. Bush blew his “political capital” on political games instead of substance. And now he’s broke and we’re bleeped.

Judging by past performance, whatever the Bushies choose to do about Iran will be the wrong thing. It may be that the best we can hope for is that nobody starts a war before we can pry the Bushies out of the White House. At least Tehran shouldn’t be able to make a bomb before then.


Quick follow-up to the last post, in which I expressed frustration (cough) at cognitively challenged righties who think newly released Iraqi documents contain evidence of an al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein connection —

John H. at Power Line hypes an undated document that describes the function and duties of the Iraqi intelligence service. The document lists such activities as developing and testing weapons, poisons, and explosives; providing training in “terrorist techniques”; and conducting operations of sabotage and assassination outside Iraq. [Update: I realized after I had posted that the previously “secret” document had been pulled off the web site of the Federation of American Scientists.]

It will not occur to the righties that without knowing how long these documents have been sitting around in a filing cabinet somewhere they don’t exactly prove anything. Righties have a weak grasp of linear time. You’ll remember, for example, how the gassing of the Kurds in 1988 (which the Right and the Reagan-Bush I administrations pretty much ignored in 1988) was repeatedly thrown in our faces as a reason to invade Iraq in 2003 — fifteen years later.

Another example: The 2003 State of the Union Address — Home of the Sixteen Words — also contained this little gem:

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb

Strictly speaking, the sentence is true. This IAEA fact sheet on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program shows that Iraq was working hard to enrich uranium to make a bomb — before the 1991 Gulf War.

However, if you’ll scroll down the fact sheet page you’ll learn that “As of 16 December 1998” the Iraqi nuclear weapons program was defunct and not going anywhere. You can read an IAEA report (PDF) dated 1999 that says (on page 7): “These verification activities have revealed no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.”

And, of course, at the time Bush delivered the 2003 SOTU, IAEA inspectors had had a few weeks to visit the old Iraqi nuclear weapons sites, and they confirmed that the equipment and stores of yellowcake uranium were sitting unused, the IAEA inspection seals from 1998 still intact.

So, while the IAEA had confirmed that before the Gulf War Saddam had a nuclear weapons program, they also confirmedAll known indigenous facilities capable of producing uranium compounds useful to a nuclear programme were destroyed during the Gulf War.”

Bush left that part out of the 2003 SOTU. It still amazes me this little oversight hasn’t gotten as much attention as the Sixteen Words, since it is a more bare-assed and easily refuted misrepresentation than the African uranium story. The IAEA posts their inspection reports and findings on their bleeping web site. In English. I bet even Douglas Feith could have found them.

(In July 2003, when people were starting to wonder where the WMDs were, it was pointed out to Condi Rice that a lot of their “intelligence” about WMDs was, um, old. And this is what she said:

Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, said Saturday that the question of new evidence vs. old was beside the point. “The question of what is new after 1998 is not an interesting question,” she said. [James Risen, David Sanger, and Thom Shanker, “In Sketchy Data, White House Sought Clues to Gauge Threat,” The New York Times, July 20, 2003]

Perhaps the Bushies should have been a little more … interested.)

I hadn’t meant to ramble on so about the old news. But to get back to the Iraq Intelligence Service documents that J.H. finds so interesting — a document that (for all we know) was drawn up before the Gulf War doesn’t tell us anything about what Saddam Hussein was up to in 2003. [Update: I see a note at the end of the document that says “Maintained by John Pike Updated Wednesday, November 26, 1997.” It was on the web site of the Federation of American Scientists. This is just weird.]

And a document that talks about what the IIS was supposed to be doing doesn’t tell us if they were doing it. Which takes us to another bit of news, reported by Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein pretended to have chemical weapons because, among other reasons, he feared that Israel might attack if it discovered he did not. This is revealed in a recently declassified internal report by the American military.

The report was compiled from many dozens of interviews with senior Iraqi officials and hundreds of documents captured by the American forces during and after the war. …

… “According to Chemical Ali, Hussein was asked about the weapons during a meeting with members of the Revolutionary Command Council. He replied that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) but flatly rejected a suggestion that the regime remove all doubts to the contrary,” the report states. Ali explained that such a declaration could encourage Israel to attack, the report says.

The 100-page report has not been released yet, but some 9,000 words of it are to appear in the next edition of Foreign Affairs Magazine.

A lot of people have speculated that’s what Saddam Hussein was up to, but I don’t know that there’s been anything in the way of corroboration before now. But this I’ve heard before:

Senior Iraqi officials told their interrogators that Hussein had no idea what the true state of the country’s weapons was, because everyone lied to him and refrained from giving him bad news for fear of being executed.

Hussein’s deputy Tariq Aziz told interrogators, “The people in the military industrial commission were liars. They lied to you, and they lied to Hussein. They were always saying they were producing special weapons.”

“A captured military industrial commission annual report of investments from 2002 showed more than 170 research projects. When Hussein asked for updates on the nonexistent projects, they simply faked plans and designs to show progress,” the report says.

I don’t remember where I read that before and I’m not going to take time to hunt around for a link, but I’m sure at least one Iraqi weapons scientist pretty much said the same thing when he was interviewed after the invasion. Perhaps it was the same guy who had the remains of the Iraqi nuclear centrifuge buried in his flower garden.

Update to the Update: As I said in the first update, what might seem to be a translation of an Arabic document said to have been seized in post-invasion Iraq is actually an old report taken from the web site of the Federation of American Scientists. Information in the report appears to have been gleaned from various unclassified sources. It was last updated in 1997. John Hinkeracker of Power Line states in his post that the document was from the FAS, so I can’t accuse him of misrepresenting it — even though he published quotes from FAS under the heading “In Saddam’s Archives.”

However, Investor’s Business Daily is not so careful. In this articled titled “Declassified Truth” IBD quotes from the 1997 FAS document as if it were something discovered in Saddam’s archives. IBD says the FAS document refutes the claim that Saddam “had no weapons of mass destruction and no terrorist designs outside his own country.” I’m sure a big chunk of the Right Blogosphere will link to this article before the day is over.

These document were released per the direction of John Negroponte, note.

Let’s See How the Righties Bury This One

Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story reports that the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson “caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad.”

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame’s work. Their accounts suggest that Plame’s outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.

I’d like to see this corroborated by other news sources before filing it away as “proven fact.” But we already know, even if righties won’t admit it, that the disclosure of Plame Wilson’s status as a CIA agent damaged American intelligence gathering efforts. Dafna Linzer reported in the Washington Post (October 29, 2005):

More than Valerie Plame’s identity was exposed when her name appeared in a syndicated column in the summer of 2003.

A small Boston company listed as her employer suddenly was shown to be a bogus CIA front, and her alma mater in Belgium discovered it was a favored haunt of an American spy. At Langley, officials in the clandestine service quickly began drawing up a list of contacts and friends, cultivated over more than a decade, to triage any immediate damage.


The CIA has not conducted a formal damage assessment, as is routinely done in cases of espionage and after any legal proceedings have been exhausted.

This is significant, because Bob Woodward claimed on Larry King Live that the CIA had done a damage assessment and found no significant damage. The Right, of course, accepted Woodward’s word as gospel and has also claimed all along that Plame Wilson’s status wasn’t really classified.

Of course, no evidence is solid enough to persuade righties that their Plame Wilson mythology is wrong. Righties will tell you that Plame Wilson’s CIA status was not classified, even though the CIA itself has been saying all along that it was. In the February 13 issue of Newsweek we read “The CIA Leak: Plame Was Still Covert“:

… special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald found that Plame had indeed done “covert work overseas” on counterproliferation matters in the past five years, and the CIA “was making specific efforts to conceal” her identity, according to newly released portions of a judge’s opinion.

Did that settle anything. Of course not. The rightie Byron York of NRO, for example, questions (in some nicely overpadded prose) if the judge actually knew what he was talking about. This gives the Righties a slim reed of an excuse to hang on to their belief in Plame Wilson’s non-classified status. But they will hang on to that reed with everything they’ve got.

If we get corroboration of Alexandrovna’s, watch to see what excuse the righties dig up to ignore it.

See alsoBetrayed by the White House.”

On to Iran

Philip Sherwell of The Telegraph reports that the Pentagon is planning a military blitz of Iran.

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a “last resort” to block Teheran’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt. …

… “This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment,” said a senior Pentagon adviser. “This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.”

The Telegraph also provides a brief history of Iran’s nuclear program, here.

You all remember the “axis of evil” line from the 2002 SOTU speech, I’m sure. The “axis” of dangerous nations was North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Of the three, Iraq was the weakest and least dangerous; naturally, we squandered our military and spoiled diplomatic resources by invading Iraq, leaving the problems in Iran and North Korea to fester.

(For an account of Bush’s serial screwups regarding North Korea see “Blame Bush for North Korea’s Nukes.” Note that you have to scroll past a bunch of junk after the February 10 post to read the rest of it. I don’t have any way to edit the junk out, sorry.)

James Fallows, whose articles on Iraq for the Atlantic Monthly are indispensable reading, wrote in December 2004:

The decisions that a President will have to make about Iran are like those that involve Iraq—but harder. A regime at odds with the United States, and suspected of encouraging Islamic terrorists, is believed to be developing very destructive weapons. In Iran’s case, however, the governmental hostility to the United States is longer-standing (the United States implicitly backed Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s), the ties to terrorist groups are clearer, and the evidence of an ongoing nuclear-weapons program is stronger. Iran is bigger, more powerful, and richer than Iraq, and it enjoys more international legitimacy than Iraq ever did under Saddam Hussein. The motives and goals of Iran’s mullah government have been even harder for U.S. intelligence agencies to understand and predict than Saddam Hussein’s were.

And, most critically, the Shiite clerics in charge of Iraq have developed close ties to the majority Shiite government in Iraq. Indeed, there is a very real danger that Iraq is becoming a puppet of Iran, in spite of Bushie attempts to make it a puppet of the U.S. It is likely a U.S. strike on Iran would set the Iraqi insurgency on fire; even the U.S.-powered Iraqi government would turn against the U.S.

Further, unlike Iraq, Iran really does have weapons of mass destruction. Fallows wrote that “the Iranian regime would conclude that America was bent on its destruction, and it would have no reason to hold back on any tool of retaliation it could find.” Among other near certainties, Israel would be drawn into all-out war before you could say “ayatollah.” Also,

Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a threatened Iran would have many ways to harm America and its interests. Apart from cross-border disruptions in Iraq, it might form an outright alliance with al-Qaeda to support major new attacks within the United States. It could work with other oil producers to punish America economically. It could, as Hammes warned, apply the logic of “asymmetric,” or “fourth-generation,” warfare, in which a superficially weak adversary avoids a direct challenge to U.S. military power and instead strikes the most vulnerable points in American civilian society, as al-Qaeda did on 9/11. If it thought that the U.S. goal was to install a wholly new regime rather than to change the current regime’s behavior, it would have no incentive for restraint.

And the Pessimist at The Left Coaster warns that other nations — notably China and Russia — are making noises about siding with Iran against us.

In other words, a strike on Iran carries terrible risks, much greater risks than did a strike on Iraq. And we know how that turned out.

There is a possibility that the Pentagon is just saber-rattling to encourage Iran to be more compliant with IAEA weapons inspectors and with the UN Security Council. That would be a sensible thing to do. But the Bushies hate the UN Security Council, and they hate the IAEA even more. You’ll remember that in the buildup to the Iraq invasion, IAEA president Mohamed ElBaradei was telling everyone who would listen that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons capability; was not even close. And he was right. Thus did ElBaradei become Public Enemy #2 to the Bushies, behind Saddam Hussein himself. They hated him so much they had the NSA tap his phone to find evidence against him, as part of an effort to have him replaced at IAEA. As evidence of the high regard in which the Bushies are held, the rest of the world supported ElBaradei, who last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Bushies, for whom every frustration becomes a personal vendetta, would pot-roast their own babies before they’d do anything to help the IAEA and ElBaradei.

On the other hand, Karl may figure he could use Iran to do to the 2006 elections what he accomplished with Iraq in the 2002 elections. The Republican Noise machine will spew out visions of mushroom clouds hovering over American cities, and the Dems will fail to put up a cohesive challenge. Hmmm. Sounds like a plan.

World War III, anyone?

Lies and More Lies

This morning President Bush gave the last of his four speeches explaining the war in Iraq. So I listened and took notes, and gagged, all the time wishing he would please shut up. It was painful.

Today, he said, I want to talk about why we went into iraq, why we stayed in iraq, why we cannot leave iraq until victory is achieved. Then he proceded to spew out the same bullshit he’s been spewing for the past couple of years, cooked down into an impervious toxic soup.

September 11, September 11, and September 11, he said, taught us that we cannot depend on oceans and friendly neighbors to protect us. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.

We had to remove Saddam Hussein because he was a threat to our security, Bush said.

And how, pray tell, was he a threat to our security? He had had weapons of mass destruction, and he had used WMDs. (Yeah, in the distant past. )He had sponsored terrorists (but not al Qaeda), ordered planes patrolling the the no-fly zones to be shot down, he had declared the USA to be his enemy; he had refused to comply with more than a dozen UN resolutions (and this made him a threat to the United States …. how, exactly?).

He deceived international weapons inspectors
(and some of those inspectors have some pretty choice words for you, too, toots), and denied them unconditional access for them to do their job (not exactly what Hans Blix was saying on the eve of the March 2003 invasion).

Get this: The Security Council gave him one final chance, Bush said. He refused to comply. Like the Security Council made the decision to invade? I don’t think so. The US did not choose war, the choice was Saddam Hussein’s. Yeah, right.

My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision,
Bush said. Breathtaking.

Then he went on for awhile about how we’re trying to build a peaceful and propserous Iraq, but those nasty rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists just won’t cooperate. Same stuff as in the last three speeches.

He compared the democratization of Iraq to the democratization of Japan after World War II, a comparison that fails massively on several levels — I’ve been meaning to get around to blogging about that; maybe today or tomorrow. Then he defiled the hallowed name of Harry S Truman by speaking it with his chimp mouth. I gagged some more.

He reintroduced his favorite, and most maddening, straw man — Some say our presence in iraq has made us more vulnerable to terrorism. These people must believe that if we were not in Iraq the terrorists would be leaving us alone.

Never mind that no one in politics, media, or the blogosphere — surely no one with two brain cells to rub together — actually makes that argument. But Bush carried his straw man further, reminding us of every act al Qaeda has perpetrated since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And of September 11, several times.

Finally (finally!) he got around to sniping at those who — irresponsibly — claim that intelligence was manipulated, or that he had misled us into war. Those people saw the same intelligence I did, Bush LIED, and they authorized the invasion of Iraq. Those people changing their minds is just pure politics.

Wow. Lots of presidents have lied to the American people — most of ’em, actually, at one time or another — but I’m not aware of any other president who has been such a bare-assed, consistent liar even after he’s been caught lying.

The audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC applauded a few times and seemed friendly enough, but Bush didn’t take questions this time.

I’ll keep my eye out for a transcript.

Update: Transcript here. Don’t read on a full stomach.

Return of the Sixteen Words

Tom Hamburger, Peter Wallsten and Bob Drogin write in the Los Angeles Times,

More than a year before President Bush declared in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Africa, the French spy service began repeatedly warning the CIA in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation.

The previously undisclosed exchanges between the U.S. and the French, described by the retired chief of the French counter-intelligence service and a former CIA official during interviews last week, came on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002.

How many variations of this story have we seen so far? Newly undisclosed documents reveal that X warned the Bush Administration that intelligence Y wasn’t true, but the Bush Administration went ahead and used Y in their arguments for invading Iraq.

The repeated warnings from France’s Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure, DGSE, did not prevent the Bush administration from making the case aggressively that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons materials.

It was not the first time a foreign government tried but failed to warn U.S. officials off of dubious prewar intelligence. In the notorious “Curveball” case, an Iraqi who defected to Germany claimed to have knowledge of Iraq’s biological weapons. Bush and other U.S. officials repeatedly cited Curveball’s claims even as German intelligence officials argued that he was unstable, unreliable and incorrect.

Yeah, but Bill Clinton believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction back in 1998, so that means the invasion was kosher. Somehow.

Gawd, I’m tired of this.

Word Bombs

An editorial in today’s New York Sun attempts to refute yesterday’s Frank Rich column. In this effort the Sun has compiled an impessive amount of verbiage, complete with nouns, verbs, prepositional phrases, and several direct and indirect objects. And righties are linking to the Sun in the simple faith that somewhere in that alphabet soup there must be some real arguments against Rich.

Not exactly. Let’s take a look (below the fold)… Continue reading

Germany: About That Intelligence …

While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments related to Iraq’s weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. — President George W. Bush, November 11, 2005

We’ve already discussed the reason the bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure regarding WMDs — they weren’t looking for it. That’s why the Senate Dems closed the Senate down a few days ago. They were trying to pressure the Republicans in charge to get off their butts and start looking.

As they say … duh.

Now, let’s go on to the part about the world intelligence community agreeing with Bush’s assessment. Bob Drogin and John Goetz write in today’s Los Angeles Times that Germany tried to warn the U.S. about funky intelligence before the Iraq invasion.

The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein’s suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Five senior officials from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball’s information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball’s accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Mischaracterized. Nice.

Curveball was the chief source of inaccurate prewar U.S. accusations that Baghdad had biological weapons, a commission appointed by Bush reported this year. The commission did not interview Curveball, who still insists his story was true, or the German officials who handled his case.

Sounds like the commission missed some spots.

An investigation by The Times based on interviews since May with about 30 current and former intelligence officials in the U.S., Germany, England, Iraq and the United Nations, as well as other experts, shows that U.S. bungling in the Curveball case was worse than official reports have disclosed.

The White House, for example, ignored evidence gathered by United Nations weapons inspectors shortly before the war that disproved Curveball’s account. Bush and his aides issued increasingly dire warnings about Iraq’s biological weapons before the war even though intelligence from Curveball had not changed in two years.

At the Central Intelligence Agency, officials embraced Curveball’s account even though they could not confirm it or interview him until a year after the invasion. They ignored multiple warnings about his reliability before the war, punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion.

The Germans say Curveball is mentally and emotionally unstable. And they say they told the U.S. that his stories about WMDs in Iraq were, at the very least, dubious.

The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball’s case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball’s claims as a justification for war.

“We were shocked,” the official said. “Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven…. It was not hard intelligence.”

This is a long story that I haven’t read all the way through yet, but I ‘spect we’ll be hearing more about this in the next few days.

Related link: “What I Knew Before the Invasion” by Bob Graham