Speechwriting 101

SPEECHWRITING 101….So how did all this speechwriting stuff really go down, anyway? Here’s a best guess from Ray McGovern, a longtime CIA analyst who is now a part of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:

This stuff doesn?t all get written in one week. It was all throughout the spring and summer that this stuff was being collected. When the decision was made last summer that we will have a war against Iraq, they were casting about. You?ll recall White House Chief of Staff Andy Card saying you don?t market a new product in August. The big blast-off was Cheney?s speech in Nashville, I think it was Nashville anyway, on August 26. He said Iraq was seeking materials for its nuclear program. That set the tone right there.

They looked around after Labor Day and said, ?OK, if we?re going to have this war, we really need to persuade Congress to vote for it. How are we going to do that? Well, let?s do the al Qaeda-Iraq connection. That?s the traumatic one. 9/11 is still a traumatic thing for most Americans. Let?s do that.?

But then they said, ?Oh damn, those folks at CIA don?t buy that, they say there?s no evidence, and we can?t bring them around. We?ve tried every which way and they won?t relent. That won?t work, because if we try that, Congress is going to have these CIA wimps come down, and the next day they?ll undercut us. How about these chemical and biological weapons? We know they don?t have any nuclear weapons, so how about the chemical and biological stuff? Well, damn. We have these other wimps at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and dammit, they won?t come around either. They say there?s no reliable evidence of that, so if we go up to Congress with that, the next day they?ll call the DIA folks in, and the DIA folks will undercut us.?

So they said, ?What have we got? We?ve got those aluminum tubes!? The aluminum tubes, you will remember, were something that came out in late September, the 24th of September. The British and we front-paged it. These were aluminum tubes that were said by Condoleezza Rice as soon as the report came out to be only suitable for use in a nuclear application. This is hardware that they had the dimensions of. So they got that report, and the British played it up, and we played it up. It was front page in the New York Times. Condoleezza Rice said, ?Ah ha! These aluminum tubes are suitable only for uranium-enrichment centrifuges.?

Then they gave the tubes to the Department of Energy labs, and to a person, each one of those nuclear scientists and engineers said, ?Well, if Iraq thinks it can use these dimensions and these specifications of aluminum tubes to build a nuclear program, let ’em do it! Let ’em do it. It?ll never work, and we can?t believe they are so stupid. These must be for conventional rockets.?

And, of course, that?s what they were for, and that?s what the UN determined they were for. So, after Condoleezza Rice?s initial foray into this scientific area, they knew that they couldn?t make that stick, either. So what else did they have?

Well, somebody said, ?How about those reports earlier this year that Iraq was trying to get Uranuim from Niger? Yeah?that was pretty good.? But of course if George Tenet were there, he would have said, ?But we looked at the evidence, and they?re forgeries, they stink to high heaven.? So the question became, ?How long would it take for someone to find out they were forgeries?? The answer was about a day or two. The next question was, ?When do we have to show people this stuff?? The answer was that the IAEA had been after us for a couple of months now to give it to them, but we can probably put them off for three or four months.

So there it was. ?What?s the problem? We?ll take these reports, we?ll use them to brief Congress and to raise the specter of a mushroom cloud. You?ll recall that the President on the 7th of October said, ?Our smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.? Condoleezza Rice said exactly the same thing the next day. Victoria Clarke said exactly the same thing on the 9th of October, and of course the vote came on the 11th of October.

This is part of a long interview, and the whole thing is worth reading. McGovern is pretty unhappy about the politicization of the intelligence agencies under George Bush.

POSTCRIPT: By the way, note that McGovern apparently thinks that CIA knew the Niger documents were forgeries back in October. However, this appears to be just speculation on his part.