Why Jeb Can’t Answer the Damn Question

Hopefully, if the phone rings at 3am in the White House, Jeb Bush won’t have to give four different answers to whatever questions he gets before he can arrive at one that people won’t reject as ridiculous.

Now, there is a very simple IF>THEN logic to why Jeb was reluctant to say that he wouldn’t have authorized the invasion of Iraq if he had known that Saddam was armed with soggy spit shooters. That works like this:

IF we invaded Iraq based on the faulty assumption that Saddam Hussein was armed with dangerous weapons
THEN everyone who died as a result, died for a mistake.

Jeb understandably did not want to go there, but that’s really putting a whitewash on what actually happened.

When George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq, he hadn’t even received the intelligence on Saddam’s weapons yet.

May 05, 2002

Two months ago, a group of Republican and Democratic Senators went to the White House to meet with Condoleezza Rice, the President’s National Security Adviser. Bush was not scheduled to attend but poked his head in anyway — and soon turned the discussion to Iraq. The President has strong feelings about Saddam Hussein (you might too if the man had tried to assassinate your father, which Saddam attempted to do when former President George Bush visited Kuwait in 1993) and did not try to hide them. He showed little interest in debating what to do about Saddam. Instead, he became notably animated, according to one person in the room, used a vulgar epithet to refer to Saddam and concluded with four words that left no one in doubt about Bush’s intentions: “We’re taking him out.”

This is the sanitized version. What Bush said was, “F*ck Saddam, we’re taking him out.” To date this, two months before May 5th, 2002 was approximately March 5th, 2002. Let’s march forward a little in time.

I’m going to rely on a bit of Bob Woodward’s reporting here, which I do with obvious reservations. But the basics have been corroborated by many other reporters:

As the war planning progressed, on December 21, 2002, [CIA Director George] Tenet and his top deputy, John McLaughlin, went to the White House to brief Bush and Cheney on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Woodward reports.

The president, unimpressed by the presentation of satellite photographs and intercepts, pressed Tenet and McLaughlin, saying their information would not “convince Joe Public” and asking Tenet, “This is the best we’ve got?” Woodward reports.

According to Woodward, Tenet reassured the president that “it’s a slam dunk case” that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

In his CBS interview, Woodward said he “asked the president about this, and he said it was very important to have the CIA director, ‘slam-dunk’ is as I interpreted it, a sure thing, guaranteed.”

About two weeks later, shortly after New Year’s Day 2003, Bush — frustrated with unfruitful U.N. weapons inspections — made up his mind to go to war after consulting with Rice, according to Woodward.

We see some confusion here about what it means to “make up your mind.”

Bush had clearly made up his mind to f*ck Saddam and take him out nine and a half months before he received the CIA’s totally inadequate (as even Bush immediately saw) case for Saddam having weapons of mass destruction.

So, forget about other complications like whether George Tenet really made such a strong assurance or the roles of Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby in orchestrating a pipeline of false intelligence. What we know is that Bush didn’t base his decision to attack on the intelligence, faulty and fabricated or not. When he saw the flimsy case for war, he wasn’t dissuaded.

So, the proper question to ask Jeb is not whether he would have gone to war knowing that the intelligence was bad. The proper question is whether he would have committed our nation to war without even consulting the intelligence.

And the obvious follow-up is, what do you tell the parents, wives, husbands, and children of the people who died for an compulsive act of recklessness?

Intuitively, Jeb understands that you can’t give an inch on this, or the whole thing unravels on you. IF his brother acted the way he did THEN people died in vain.

That’s what happened, and it’s sad and uncomfortable to admit. So, Jeb doesn’t want to talk about it.

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.