Faith v. Facts


We learned this week from Robert Draper’s new book that the Decider remained convinced until as late as 2006 that Iraq had had WMD right up until the U.S. invasion:

Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs.

Compare and contrast that point of view (article of faith) with what we learned today from Sidney Blumenthal about what President Bush had been told about Iraqi WMD by then-CIA Director George Tenet in the fall of 2002:

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam’s inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

Blumenthal talked to “two former senior CIA officers” who provided accounts of what Tenent briefed to Bush:

“Tenet told me he briefed the president personally,” said one of the former CIA officers. According to Tenet, Bush’s response was to call the information “the same old thing.” Bush insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think. “The president had no interest in the intelligence,” said the CIA officer. The other officer said, “Bush didn’t give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up.”

It’s no surprise that this President is not one to test his beliefs and conclusions against the facts, neither the old facts nor the newly emerging facts. In the strange twilight of the Bush Presidency, the new revelation about what the President was briefed on and when about WMD falls into that category of things we thought we knew but for which we lacked all of the hard evidence.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.