Saturday, September 30, 2006

Playing Politics with the NIE

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is a document prepared for the President and other key government officials. It is the consensus opinion of 16 intelligence agencies, and it represents the working hypotheses of the United States Government.

On Saturday, September 23rd, the New York Times reported on a then-secret NIE, as follows:
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.
This put Dubya in an awkward place. He has been telling us how well things are going, and that the war in Iraq is essential to the overall war on terror. Iraq, he tells us, the central front and now we learn that the intelligence community believes that we are losing the war on that front. Again, from the NIE:
“The war in Iraq has made the terrorist threat worse by providing a focal point for an entire American message that has contributed to the spread and decentralization of Islamic radicalism around the globe. The Iraq war has diverted untold resources from efforts to protect Americans from terrorism and weakened the nation militarily.”
As usual, the White House reaction was to ignore the reality and instead address the P.R. problem. As Billy Crystal might say, “it is better to look marvelous, than to be marvelous.”

King George made a speech in which he commented on the fact that the leak of the NIE was “an indication that we’re getting close to an election.” Speaking at a White House news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Dubya angrily called the leak a political act intended to affect the upcoming midterm elections. “[H]ere we are, coming down the stretch in an election campaign, and it’s on the front page of your newspapers. Isn’t that interesting? Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes,” he said, (forgetting for the moment that a singular subject takes a singular verb.)

There’s nothing new in the Bush party attacking the messenger. Indeed, that is standard fare for this pack of liars. But it is noteworthy nevertheless because it reveals the mindset of the party of Bush. Fundamentally, they do not believe in democracy.

You see, democracy depends on an informed electorate. It presupposes that there is wisdom in the combined judgment of the many. It has faith in people to make good decisions when they know the facts.

King George the Incompetent doesn’t believe any of this. He regards the leaking of information as subversive of democracy because when people collectively making informed, fact based decisions, well, it isn’t always the decisions that the faith based foreign policy community endorses. Give the people information? Nah! Let them eat cake!

All of this would be bad enough, but wait: it gets worse. Remember Bob Woodward? As I said about him Dick Armitage is a Poor Excuse, “Bob Woodward was [formerly] into the whole Fourth Estate as a check on government abuse of power. Now, he’s more into the kissing administration asses to get the scoop, and if necessary keeping the outing of Valerie Wilson on the q.t. to suck up to his handlers.”

Predictably, that sort of behavior made him a darling of the Bush White House. Sure, he was no Judith Miller, but still, he did make the case for the Bushies better than anyone else had. Presumably, it gave him unprecedented access to the people in the White House. Until now. The New York Times (!) broke the story of Washington Post poster boy Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial. Here’s the lede:
The White House ignored an urgent warning in September 2003 from a top Iraq adviser who said that thousands of additional American troops were desperately needed to quell the insurgency there, according to a new book by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter and author. The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war.

The warning is described in “State of Denial,” scheduled for publication on Monday by Simon & Schuster. The book says President Bush’s top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms, but shared a tendency to dismiss as too pessimistic assessments from American commanders and others about the situation in Iraq.
I could point out that King George has told us over and over again that he would listen to his commanders and if they ask for troops he will give them what they wanted. But to do so, I would in effect be pointing out the fact that George W. Bush is a liar.

Of course, Woodward does that in the new book. Here’s Dan Froomkin from a editorial, “Is Woodward calling Bush a liar?”
CBS News reports: “Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward tells Mike Wallace that the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against U.S. troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year. . . .

“According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. . . .

“The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. ‘The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh, no, things are going to get better,’ he tells Wallace. ‘Now there's public, and then there's private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know,’ says Woodward.”
George Bush might say, “Here we are, coming down the stretch in an election campaign, and it’s on the front page of your newspapers.” I wonder: Will he also accuse Bob Woodward of playing politics?

Woodward will be on 60 Minutes tomorrow. Be sure to watch ...

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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