I confess: I'm just too gullible.
This morning Post columnist James Hoagland endorses the 'CIA sold the president a bill of goods' defense. Hoagland is willing to concede that the president may have "inflated" the "flawed intelligence that [his] spy bosses and senior aides provided."
But still, he writes, "Credulity, not chicanery, would be the plea, your honor."
As I said, or rather as Hoagland says, the Agency sold the president a bill of goods.
Now, here I am at my favorite cafe, laptop on my knees, latte at the ready, trying to make sense of the world. And this all throws me, because Hoagland spent the last two years telling me that the president and his top aides had to bully the Agency and the rest of the career types in the Intelligence Community and the national security establishment into getting religion on the Iraq threat.
And now I hear it's just the opposite?
For instance, take Hoagland's October 20th, 2002 column ("CIA's New Old Iraq File"). That's where he said that the Agency's record of underestimating the Iraqi threat was so dire that "it is no surprise that Bush has until now relied little on the Langley agency for his information on Iraq. There is simply no way to reconcile what the CIA has said on the record and in leaks with the positions Bush has taken on Iraq."
The column -- which I really recommend you read -- describes how the president and his aides had bullied the analysts at the CIA into finally admitting what a threat Saddam posed. "As President Bush's determination to overthrow the Iraqi dictator has become evident to all, a cultural change has come over the world's most expensive intelligence agency: Some analysts out at Langley are now willing to evaluate incriminating evidence against the Iraqis and call it just that."
A cultural change, indeed.
In that column, and in the ones that followed, Hoagland praised the President's now-notorious October 7th Cincinnati speech as the kind of goods on Saddam that could be wrung from the Intelligence Community when the president asserted sufficient 'leadership.'
So, for instance, a couple weeks later on November 3rd, Hoagland asked where the president got his info about Saddam's ties to al Qaida in the Cincinnati speech? "Sez who?," asked Hoagland, "The answer: Sez the CIA, when pressed to the mat." (Itals added.)
Like so much else in this up-is-down, black-is-white world the president and his backers want us to live in, this new defense doesn't even hold up against the google test. And somehow I imagine that the folks on the inside have access to more evidence and examples than I'm able to track down with my wifi-enabled laptop and a nexis account.
Late Update: And, of course, there's more. This from Hoagland's October 10th, 2002 column ...
A sea change has occurred in official Washington since the president decided last summer that he would soon have to be ready to go to war against Iraq. Public attempts by officials to bury or explain away menacing information about Iraq have largely dried up or gone underground, although the CIA fights a rear-guard action. Now information and intelligence are marshaled to make the case, rather than deflect it.
This is, broadly speaking, political use of information -- no more and no less so than was the previous phase of denial and obfuscation. Bush mobilized facts on Monday to mobilize the nation for a challenge that is no less dangerous for being "largely familiar," as the New York Times labeled Bush's arguments in Tuesday editions.
The State Department and the CIA, institutionally wary and dismissive of the extensive intelligence about Saddam Hussein and his crimes provided by the dissidents of the Iraqi National Congress, had to listen Monday night to the president recite a dossier full of Iraqi National Congress information and insights that have filtered down over the years through the media, the government and academia to the skillful and alert speechwriters on Bush's staff.
Ahh, yes. The INC and the president's speechwriters. Why do we need intelligence agencies when we've got these guys?
The Hoagland archive, truly the gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving ...