09/08/2006: The latest Democrat stunt–hyping intel failures on the eve of the 5th anniversary of September 11–is nothing but partisan grandstanding.
How do I know this? It’s simple: if President Bush deliberately misled America into war in Iraq, then every one of the Senate Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee–including John Kerry and John Edwards (and former Senator Bob Graham)–are criminally liable as willing participants in the deception.
In fact, with respect to prewar intelligence, there are four possibilities:
(1) The Bush Administration completely hoodwinked longstanding members of both House and Senate Intelligence Committees, who had access to the same intelligence reports that Bush had, and who voted for the war on the basis of the same intelligence.
(2) The Bush Administration, CIA Director George Tenet, and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees (both Democrats and Republicans alike, including John Kerry and John Edwards) conspired with the military-industrial complex to lie to the American people to get a war going.
(3) The intelligence was known to be of poor quality, but Intelligence Committee leaders in both houses in both parties–and the White House–lacked the gumption to admit the truth about it. Ergo, they voted for war in a gesture of blind faith that WMDs would be found.
(4) The intelligence was simply errant, and both the President–and both houses of Congress–acted on that flawed intelligence because it reflected the most educated judgment at the time.
If the first possibility is true, then we need impeachment proceedings for the President, Vice President, his entire cabinet (including Rove), and a complete prosecution of the upper echelons of the CIA, DIA, NSA, and the United Nations, after we remove leaders of both houses of Congress for their utter stupidity.
The Democrats have been playing the “Bush is an idiot” game from day one. If Bush pulled off a deception of this magnitude, then what does that say about John Kerry, who had 20 years of experience on the Senate Intelligence Committee? (It’s safe to rule this out. All kidding aside: Bush is underrated in the intellect department, but he’s not that much smarter than Kerry.)
If the second possibility is true, then we need impeachment proceedings for the President, Vice President, his entire cabinet, both houses of Congress (including both parties), and a complete prosecution of the upper echelons of the CIA, DIA, NSA, the United Nations, and the officers and directors of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, Halliburton, and every one of their subcontractors. After all, for this possibility to be true, every one of these parties was a willing participant in a deception that has cost thousands of lives.
If the third possibility is true, then that means neither Bush, nor Cheney, nor Powell, nor Rice, nor Rumsfeld, nor Kerry, nor Kennedy, nor Edwards, nor Graham had the guts to say, “Look, the intel is not good enough.” Fact is, Colin Powell–a four-star general who had many friends who died in Vietnam and was hardly enthusiastic about the war in Iraq–would hardly be one to go along with intelligence he knew to be bad.
I doubt that either the first or second possibilities are true. If they were, it would not make much sense for Democrats to make a stink out of a scandal in which they were willing participants.
For the second possibility to be true, thousands of people–spanning agencies, key offices, and public companies–would have had to keep a secret. They would have been so meticulous to hide e-mail trails, paper trails, phone recordings. In our information age: no way in hell!
I also doubt the third possibility: someone would have sounded the alarm. Sure, Rumsfeld and Rice were hawks. Sure, Cheney and Wolfowitz were hawks. But Colin Powell has never been a yes-man. He could have single-handedly sunk the war effort, and he would be President today.
I’ll put my money on the fourth possibility: what you ultimately have is a sad commentary on the CIA. During the Cold War, they were marginal at best. Sure, they hired the best and brightest, but systemically they failed to see the big picture. They didn’t even see the Soviet empire crumbling. In the Middle East, the intelligence was even worse: every time we started to get a foothold in the Middle East, our agents were captured, tortured, and killed. For nearly 30 years, we have been forced to rely on Jordanians, Israelis, and U.N. personnel for our intelligence. Ergo, we have never had good intel coming out of the Middle East.
Regarding our intelligence system, there are some hard questions we need to ask:
(1) Do the failures in pre-war intelligence reflect a systemic corruption in the CIA and other agencies?
If this is true, who will investigate that? How will offenders be punished? How can they receive trials without disclosing critical intelligence?
How can we make the system accountable? Who will oversee the agencies? How will the overseers be determined? Are they Congressmen/women? Are they appointees? To whom are they accountable?
(2) Do the failures in pre-war intelligence reflect a systemic incompetence in our intelligence network?
If this is true, what is the current CIA director doing to rectify the problem? What is the President doing to ensure that the CIA director is held properly accountable? Are these problems specific to the CIA? Are they reflected in the DIA? The NSA? What is the Secretary of Defense doing to address these shortcomings? How long has he been aware of the problem? How is improvement even being measured?
(3) If the quality of pre-war intelligence was knowable, then what factors led key leaders–from the House to the Senate to the White House–to fail to discern the lack of quality?
Unfortunately, we have some serious problems of any of the above are true:
(1) Any investigation of the CIA, DIA, or any of our intelligence agencies, may be fruitless. These guys know how to destroy evidence. They know how to cover their tracks. They know how to blackmail witnesses and even investigators. They know how to get key people to commit “suicide” by shooting themselves six times in the head. Finding out what people knew, when they knew it, and what they did with it will be the case from hell. Kenneth Starr wonâ€™t even touch that one. (Look at the Able Danger fiasco: many team members have come forward, but the DIA has destroyed everything that points to their failures.)
(2) Getting the White House–or key members of either house of Congress–to admit to dropping the ball will be like taking a red steak from a hungry tiger.
That leaves us with the question: what can you and I do about this? Every two years, we vote on Representatives. Every four years, we vote on a President and Vice President. Every Six years, we vote on Senators. They all promise to create this program and that program, make us more prosperous, protect us from enemies, minimize unemployment, bring peace to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, yada yada yada.
Representatives are usually effective for two terms, before they get absorbed into the system. After that, they become part of a nasty system run by lobbyists for every interest you could ever imagine. Senators are effective for one term, before they succumb to the same disease.
Presidents, on the other hand, have it even worse. While they are limited to two terms, they have to serve the broad interests of the American people (not one particular state or district). They also have to make critical national security decisions based on information given to them filtered through many layers of bureaucracy and spun by various civil servants who were not elected and cannot be fired.
Typically, a President will have three or four key strategic goals that he sets out to accomplish. Everything else becomes a bargaining chip toward achieving those three or four goals.
The Carter Presidency failed because Carter didn’t have an objective, except to not be like Nixon (although he gets an honorable mention for the Egypt-Israel peace deal).
Reagan succeeded on economics, and winning the Cold War. Unfortunately, Islammunism spawned on his watch.
Bush 41 failed because he had no specific objectives, except to be successful. This is why his Presidency failed in spite of a military victory. Meanwhile, Islammunism spread on his watch.
Clinton had partial successes: free trade and welfare reform. The Internet handed him a large amount of economic prosperity that saved him from impeachment. But Islammunists attacked America with impunity on his watch.
Bush 43, like Clinton, has had some success. On the economic front, he kept a very bad situation from becoming Great Depression II. His response to the September 11 attacks was exemplary. In Iraq, we are winning, but he his not doing a good job getting the news home.
However, our intelligence system is a disaster and it is now up to him to provide an appropriate response. Doing this will require him to admit that he made the case for war–and executed the war–based on flawed intelligence. This can be done while maintaining the legitimacy of the war in Iraq–there are plenty of non-WMD reasons for justifying that war–but it must be done to effect significant changes in the intelligence community.
It will cost Bush some political capital, but he will gain far more in the long run. Fact is, neither party in Congress will tackle the intelligence system. Only a President bold enough to face the failures can do this.
This is an opportunity to embrace greatness. By pushing spending cuts, knocking some heads on immigration, highlighting our success in Iraq, and cleaning up our intelligence agencies, Bush can go down as a great President.
Otherwise, he will go down as another Clinton: great potential, destroyed by lack of courage.