Even for someone who has been carrying the Bush administration’s water for the past several years, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt’s attempt to spin the conclusions of the Phase II report on prewar intelligence is pretty astonishing.
In defending the administration’s misrepresentation of intelligence in making their case for the Iraq war — and, by extension, his own paper’s decision to support that war — Hiatt does with the report what the Bush administration did with the intelligence: Cherry picks statements supportive of his argument while neglecting qualifying or disconfirming information.
Hiatt quotes the report’s conclusion that, on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, the president’s statements “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates.” The report continues, however, that the administration “did not convey substantial disagreements that existed in the intelligence community.” Why did Fred leave that part out? And why does he do this throughout the item?
On weapons of mass destruction overall…? “Generally substantiated by intelligence information.”
The report continues:
…though many statements made regarding ongoing production prior to late 2002 reflected a higher level of certainty than the intelligence judgments themselves.
Statements regarding Iraq’s contacts with al-Qaeda “were substantiated by intelligence information.”
The report continues:
However, policymakers’ statements did not accurately convey the intelligence of the nature of these contacts, and left the impression that the contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation or support of Al Qa’ida.[...]
Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State that Iraq and Al Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided Al Qa’ida with weapons training, were no substantiated by the intelligence.
Contrary to Hiatt’s suggestion that the body of the report actually contradicts its summary — a favorite neocon tactic, as they know most people won’t bother to read the body of the report (Unfortunately for Fred, I’m paid to do this) — the report’s findings clearly support Committee Chairman Rockefeller’s statement that, “in making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent.”
The bottom line is that members of the Bush administration stated as fact many things which were, at best, only suggested by intelligence. They did this in order to gin up public support for a war which they had already decided was going to happen, regardless. One can claim, I suppose, that the administration’s determination to go to war was made in good faith, but one simply cannot claim this about the administration’s public arguments for that war.