Wednesday, July 14, 2004

War: CIA...Ya See I Aint Kiddin'

Kevin Drum keeps his eye on the ball and reminds us that any screw-ups by the CIA aren't what really led us into an unnecessary war: the time we invaded Iraq none of this mattered. Remember, UN inspectors re-entered Iraq three months before the invasion and found nothing there except a handful of missiles that violated UN limits by a few miles. Saddam destroyed them. The United States provided the inspectors with detailed intel on where to find Iraq's WMD stockpiles. No dice: every single followup turned out to be a wild goose chase. Hans Blix's team searched everywhere, including Saddam's palaces. Nothing.

Before the invasion, France and several other countries made proposals for even more intrusive inspections: thousand of inspectors backed up by military units. George Bush turned them all down. The fact is that by March 2003 we didn't have to rely on CIA estimates or on the estimates of any other intelligence agency. We had been on the ground in Iraq for months and there was nothing there. There was nothing there and we knew it.

Did the CIA screw up? Probably. Did it matter? No. George Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 not because he was convinced Iraq had WMD, but because he was becoming scared that Iraq didn't have WMD and that further inspections would prove it beyond any doubt. Facts on the ground have never been allowed to interfere with George Bush's worldview, and he wasn't about to take the chance that they might interfere with his war.

Whatever faults the CIA has, let's not blame them for the war in Iraq. We all know exactly whose mistake it was.

Insight like this is why I hold Kevin in pretty high regard. He brings us back to perhaps the most important point that really does trump all the arguments back and forth about who-mislead-who and what intel was wrong. This nitpicking and finger-pointing is based on the Fall of 2002 and the 2003 SOTU address—all of that was water under the bridge by the time we invaded. Inspections were clearly not revealing any violations and Bush was not going to get his war on if we waited for Saddam to get caught by the UN. So he didn't want to wait. I don't think it gets any more clear-cut that Bush started a War of Choice not a War of Necessity. Kerry needs to figure out a way to make that point clear. He hasn't done it yet.

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