Over the past few weeks we have been subjected to news coverage of a number of Republican presidential hopefuls stuttering and sputtering in an attempt to answer some version of this hypothetical question:
“Knowing what we know now…would you as president have gone into war with Iraq?”
To me the answer is quite evident. But then I’m not trying to curry favor with the right to win the Republican nomination.
According to the media it took Jeb Bush four times to get it “right.” First yes…then no…then maybe…then no. Current poll frontrunner Marco Rubio chose the path of deflection saying: “the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein.” Jeb is struggling to remain loyal to his brother. Marco is living on another planet.
The problem with this entire line of questioning is the premise of a hypothetical…because we did in fact know then what we know now. We knew that there was no connection between Saddam and 9/11 and that Saddam did NOT possess a nuclear weapon. We know that the Bush administration was well aware of these facts at the time but chose to ignore them in order to make the case for war. We know this because the guy who delivered the intelligence to President George W. Bush told us so.
In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, Michael Morell served as Deputy Chief Director of the CIA. His job at that time was to personally provide the president with the most up-to-date intelligence information that the CIA had and to make certain that the president had a clear understanding of that intelligence. He served as the president’s personal briefer.
Appearing this week on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Mathews” to promote his new book; Morrell said that he advised the president that the CIA had no intelligence to connect Saddam with 9/11 nor was there intelligence to indicate that Saddam had acquired a nuclear weapon.
Mathews then played a news video of Vice President Dick Cheney saying that we had intelligence that Saddam did in fact have a nuclear weapon. Matthews asked Morell if Cheney’s statement was true.” Morell, obviously uncomfortable with the question deflected that his job was just to inform the president of the facts the CIA had gathered not to determine how it was used. Mathews asked again: “Was that a true statement? “No,” Morell said. “That’s not true.”
Mathews then quoted excerpts from Morell’s book where Morell writes that the CIA told the president that there was no connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda “but senior officials, most significantly the Vice President, continued to imply that there was a current connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. This was inconsistent with the analysis but the implications continued, all to the detriment of the American people’s understanding of the truth.”
Morell also implicates the Vice President’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby saying “Libby’s attempt to intimidate a top CIA official was the most blatant attempt to politicize intelligence that I saw in thirty-three years in the business, and it would not be the last attempt by Libby to do so.”
Over the past twelve years we have heard many voices weigh in on the legitimacy of the Iraq war. There are those on the right seeking to defend the Bush administration and those on the left eager to garner a political advantage from what we know now to be one of the worst foreign policy decisions in our history. For me these were all political hacks bearing a huge political agenda on their shoulders.
I have been reluctant to believe the narrative that the Bush administration took us to war on a lie because I found it hard to believe that any person or persons could be capable of sending men and women into harm’s way under false pretenses. In the foggy world of “intelligence” where things are rarely as they seem, the “war was based on faulty intelligence” theory seemed the most plausible.
But I find Mr. Morell’s account to be credible. He has no apparent axe to grind and as the guy in the room he certainly knew the details of what he was delivering to the president. And to those who would question his credibility given his newly published tell all; he could have made easily made a ton of money writing the same book from the other side of the fence. His job was not to advocate a position but to merely deliver the facts: facts which the Bush administrated distorted to make the case for war. One only need consider the lack of WMD’s or nuclear weapons found after the invasion to corroborate that the Bush/Cheney narrative was false. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet and Wolfowitz took us to war on a lie. Can there be a more heinous breech of duty?
There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who would like nothing better than to bring harm to the United States. The intelligence community is charged with sifting through millions upon millions of pieces of data to ferret out those persons and organizations that wish us ill will. It would seem to be a nearly impossible job. A job made all that more difficult when the “evildoers” are roaming the halls of the White House.