It’s still relatively early yet in Douglas Feith’s new career of trying to rehabilitate his career, so we can expect many, many more op-eds like this one, with Doug frantically deflecting blame for the costliest foreign policy blunder in modern American history, while simultaneously arguing that it was not a blunder at all:
Mr. Bush decided it was unacceptable to wait while Saddam advanced his biological weapons program or possibly developed a nuclear weapon. The CIA was mistaken, we all now know, in its assessment that we would find chemical and biological weapons stockpiles in Iraq. But after the fall of the regime, intelligence officials did find chemical and biological weapons programs structured so that Iraq could produce stockpiles in three to five weeks. They also found that Saddam was intent on having a nuclear weapon. The CIA was wrong in saying just before the war that his nuclear program was active.
Feith’s current argument about why none of this is his fault — which is no less stunning for being utterly unsurprising — involves simply blaming the CIA for the fact that none of the Bush administration’s claims about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime turned out to be true. Of course, one of the functions of Feith’s Office of Special Plans was to critically re-examine Iraq intelligence produced by the CIA, stripping out the caveats and qualifications in order to help the Bush administration make the case for war.
A February 2007 report by the Pentagon’s inspector general concluded that Feith’s office had “developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments…which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s Phase II report made clear that the Bush administration, working from massaged data produced by Feith’s shop, clearly overstated the the threat in order to create public support for a war that they had already decided was going to happen, for a number of reasons, some unrelated to the supposed threat posed by Saddam.
So, yes, the CIA was wrong. Feith’s shop was even more wrong. Strangely, this is not part of Feith’s narrative.
Reasonable people can disagree about alternative options for dealing with Saddam Hussein after 9/11. What is inarguable, however, is that, regardless of what members of the Bush administration actually believed about the threat represented by Saddam Hussein, they clearly misrepresented the intelligence, and stated conjecture as fact, in order to stoke Americans’ fears and create public support for a radical new doctrine of preventive war. The consequences of their mendacity have been disastrous. This is what Feith’s essay attempts to conceal; this is now his life’s work.