“President Bush’s aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from CIA and State and Defense Department officials who warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq, according to three senior administration officials. Instead, Bush embraced predictions of top administration hawks, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney, who predicted Iraqis would joyously greet coalition troops as liberators and that the entire conflict might be over in a matter of weeks, the officials said.”
That’s the devastating lede of Warren Strobel’s piece on the administration meltdown.
At a certain level, of course, we already knew this. Either the president’s chief advisors deliberately kept from him the warnings streaming in from all around (which I doubt) or they convinced him that he could ignore such advice because it came from people who weren’t credible (which I believe happened). (The standard line among the neos and hawks is that the folks at State and CIA are just a bunch of discredited, Arabist, softies — or worse. And any nay-saying from them can be safely ignored.) One might also suspect that he was fully briefed on all the downside potentialities but simply chose to move ahead regardless. But I think that third possibility is highly unlikely.
Whichever is true, for the moment, it’s a secondary matter. What makes this article such big news is the attribution: “three senior administration officials“.
A responsible journalist — and the author, Warren Strobel, definitely qualifies — reserves that classification for a very select group of people: cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, VPs, chiefs of staff, NSC Directors, Communications Directors, press secretaries, senior political advisors, and so forth. It might be squeezed open a bit further maybe. But these three aren’t assistant-deputy-sub-deputies over at Interior or Commerce.
It’s a narrow enough designation that I think you can say clearly that there simply aren’t “three senior administration officials” at the State Department. Indeed, this has all the looks of a story leaked right out of the White House. Presumably, we can scratch Dick Cheney’s name off the list since they finger him as the person most responsible for selling the president a bill of goods. Of course, we said months ago that Cheney was the living, breathing disaster at the heart of this administration. But we’ll get back to that later.
In any case, the attribution is what makes this such a big story. The White House is in such a state of pandemonium and implosion that they are discarding the policy — indeed, they are positively undermining it — in the hopes of insulating the president from the immense fall-out that they can see barreling down the track. Consider also that, saying the president was “out of the loop” — seemingly a family failing — on the central policy of his administration is a devastating admission of incompetence on its own. So that tells you what they think of the consequences of remaining attached to the policy.
If you need some evidence that our country is in some trouble, there it is.