Man Without Qualities

Friday, October 08, 2004

Failure Of Another Kind Of Intelligence

The report by the CIA's Iraq Survey Group and the Senate testimony Wednesday by Charles A. Duelfer, head of the survey group, make claims that President Bush "misled" the public absurd. If the Report is correct, such charges assume that the American President knew more about the Iraq weapons programs than did the Iraqi President's closest aides. For example, the Los Angeles Times, reports:

Shortly before the U.S. bombing and invasion of Iraq last year, Saddam Hussein gathered his top generals together to share what came to them as astonishing news: The weapons that the United States was launching a war to remove did not exist.

"There was plenty of surprise when Saddam said, 'Sorry guys, we don't have any' " weapons of mass destruction to use against the invading forces, a senior U.S. intelligence official said. ....

Far from being misinformed, the report says, Hussein was micromanaging Iraq's weapons policy himself and kept even his most loyal aides from gaining a clear picture of what was going on — and, more important, not going on — with the program.

Moreover, the Duelfer Report makes John Kerry's (current) campaign position that he would not have invaded Iraq based on what we know now not only irrelevant, but grotesque. No President is ever properly held to a "twenty-tweny-hindsight" standard that Senator Kerry is suggesting applies - a suggestion he will, by the way, deeply regret if he is elected in next month.

The proper standard for judging the President is, and always has been: Did the President make the correct decision based on the intelligence he had then? The core of the "Bush lied" assault on the President has been entirely based on the claim that he knew more than he disclosed to the public. But the Duelfer Report says that even Saddam's closest aides did not possess the information the "Bush Lied" crowd claims the President kept to himself.

Even more fundamentally, the Duelfer Report makes charges that American intelligence should have determined what Saddam's closest military aides could not determine - the status of Iraq's weapons programs - also absurd.

In short: If the Duelfer Report is correct, accepting arguments that the President withheld information on the status of Iraq's weapons systems, or that American intelligence misled the government or the world, shows nothing but a failure of another kind of intelligence that is, "smarts."

For the moment, the Democrats and Kerry-Edwards are happy to treat the mainstream media as useful fools and tools, and the mainstream media seem happy to serve those roles (As an author reviewed by the New York Times puts it in a spiritually similar coontext: This is the truth about the beauty of submission.). But as the recent meltdown of Dan Rather indicates, that is a very risky thing for a news media outlet to accept, since the American people do not often experience a failure of that kind of intelligence even when the media lets them down badly. If Mr. Bush is on his game in tonight's debate, the Democrats and Kerry-Edwards should both learn just how risky a game they are playing.

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