IT’S THE CIA’S FAULT!….Atrios is right: the nonstop David Kay interview-athon over the past week has provoked a massive sigh of relief from the war party. After months of squirming over the lack of WMD in Iraq, they have finally been handed their definitive talking point: it was all the CIA’s fault. The CIA screwed up the intelligence and led a peaceloving president down the garden path to war.

Bollocks. As Matt Yglesias says, if that was the case “then why did Dick Cheney need to create an entire parallel intelligence apparatus under Doug Feith dedicated exclusively to explaining why the CIA was underestimating Iraq’s WMD capacity?” Feith’s group was known as the Office of Special Plans, and Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker article from last May is probably the definitive explanation of how Feith and Cheney used the OSP to hijack the intelligence process. If you haven’t read his piece you should do so right now. Here’s the nut:

A Pentagon adviser who has worked with Special Plans dismissed any criticism of the operation as little more than bureaucratic whining. ?Shulsky and Luti won the policy debate,? the adviser said. ?They beat ?em?they cleaned up against State and the C.I.A. There?s no mystery why they won?because they were more effective in making their argument. Luti is smarter than the opposition. Wolfowitz is smarter. They out-argued them. It was a fair fight. They persuaded the President of the need to make a new security policy. Those who lose are so good at trying to undercut those who won.? He added, ?I?d love to be the historian who writes the story of how this small group of eight or nine people made the case and won.?

Yes, I’d love to be that historian too.

The hell of it is that Republicans might very well get away with blaming the CIA. After all, the CIA did screw up. They really did report that Iraq probably had both WMD stocks and active programs.

But probably wasn’t good enough, and Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld quite clearly ran roughshod over the career analysts in order to provide ironclad assurances that all this stuff existed. Hopefully Jay Rockefeller and the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee can follow up on this memo ? which in retrospect looks positively milquetoastian ? and demand a real investigation that looks into both the CIA and the White House. The plain fact is that both of them screwed up and both should be held accountable.

The White House has so far sucessfully stonewalled the House, the Senate, the Kean Commission, the folks who want Cheney’s energy task force files, and every other serious attempt to find out what happened both before and after 9/11. By all means the CIA’s role should be investigated, but unless the rot in the White House is also investigated it will be nothing more than a whitewash. It’s time for some hardball, Senator Daschle.