MARKETING THE WAR….UPDATE….Via Atrios, this is an example of what I was talking about yesterday. It’s a preview of an article in Sunday’s New York Times by Doug Jehl:
A newly declassified memo…shows that an al-Qaeda official in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to this Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002.
….”The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi’s credibility,” Jehl writes. “Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi’s information as ‘credible’ evidence that Iraq was training Al Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.”
On balance, the CIA genuinely appears to have believed that Saddam Hussein was pursuing WMD programs before the war started, but there were also significant doubts and dissents about some of their evidence. In this case it came from the DIA, while in others it came from INR, DOE, Air Force intelligence, or the CIA itself. In all these cases, the doubts were withheld from the public, and that’s the sense in which the Bush administration lied and exaggerated in the runup to war.
Liberals and conservatives alike should have an interest in setting this record straight. Even if you believe the war was justified, and even if you think the balance of the evidence at the time supported the notion that Saddam was actively producing WMD, the fact remains that marketing a war isn’t like marketing a soft drink. Citizens of a democracy should demand an honest accounting of the known facts before committing troops overseas, and the Bush administration didn’t give it to us.
UPDATE: The full New York Times story is here. In addition to the DIA’s skepticism about Libi, the story notes that the CIA itself also harbored some doubts:
At the time of Mr. Powell’s speech, an unclassified statement by the C.I.A. described the reporting, now known to have been from Mr. Libi, as “credible.” But Mr. Levin said he had learned that a classified C.I.A. assessment at the time went on to state that “the source was not in a position to know if any training had taken place.”