Man Without Qualities

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Who Thinks They Can Win This Way?

I'm sure that this Associated Press article will draw plenty of comments in and out of the blogosphere today, but it is still amazing:

In his first public defense of prewar intelligence, CIA Director George Tenet said Thursday that US analysts had never claimed Iraq was an imminent threat, the main argument used by President Bush for going to war.

It has now been well documented, although the matter was never really in doubt, that the President did not argue that Iraq was an imminent threat. His State of the Union message, in fact, specifically argued that the United States could not wait until a potential enemy posed an imminent threat. Further, he was seriously criticized for his argument that no imminent threat was needed to justify the Iraq invasion by those (especially many denizens of the green glass she-bang on the East River) who believed that international law only tolerates an invasion in the face of an imminent threat. The President's clear rejection of the principle requiring that an imminent threat be demonstrated was, in turn, the basis of his critics' arguments that he and the United States had rejected international law. All of this has been exhaustively demonstrated in many places - yet here is the AP repeating the canard (link is to a terrific Instapundit wrap-up) while terming an argument never used by the Administration at all as the President's "main argument." Remarkable.

The Spinsanity article linked to above accurately describes how reporters used the term "imminent threat" in questioning of Administration officials such as Ari Fleisher. But those questions used the term "imminent threat" as if it were synonomous with "serious threat" - an ambiguous usage which the AP article weirdly continues to employ:

In the months before the war, Bush and his top aides repeatedly stressed the urgency of stopping Saddam Hussein. In a Sept. 12 speech to the United Nations, he called Saddam's regime "a grave and gathering danger." The next day, he told reporters that Saddam was "a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible." In an Oct. 7, 2002, speech in Ohio, Bush said "the danger is already significant and it only grows worse with time."

Tenet said U.S. intelligence accurately reported that Saddam's regime posed a danger.

Yes, and each an every one of the supposedly damning quotes of President Bush in the AP article is fully consistent with Mr. Tenet's characterization of the CIA approach.

That the Administration's detractors (such as this AP reporter diluting her own credibility and professionalism with this article) are reduced to repeating a demonstrably false characterization of the Administration's justification for war seems, more than anything else, a sign of increasing desperation on their part. But why? Aren't they cheered by those polls showing Senator Kerry leading President Bush in the general election? Or has their delusion not yet extended that far?

I do not believe Mr. Bush is unbeatable in November. But Democrat and media tactics like trotting out discredited misrepresentations of his arguments and challenges to his national guard service record are almost sure to make him so.

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