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Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Tale of Two Headlines

Without a doubt, the big story this week was the National Intelligence Estimate that shot down Bush administration claims that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. The NIE changed the face of American politics immediately and destroyed what was left of neocon credibility. After months and months of frightening people with an atomic Ahmadinejad, Bushies found their scary monster story completely discredited. You can stop hiding under the covers now.

With the entire Middle East narrative changed, Bush found himself playing Baghdad Bob. In the face of plain fact, the president tried to convince us that the old story still worked. The NIE was a warning, he said, the world was still in peril and everyone should be scared, scared, scared. Iran was Germany, Ahmadinejad was Hitler, and Bush was -- I don't know -- Churchill or someone. He sure as hell isn't FDR.

There are probably a lot of reasons why Iran abandoned their nuclear weapons program. Most important among these would be that it was incredibly expensive and more than a little pointless. Iran isn't pursuing nukes because Iran doesn't need nukes. If Iran used a nuke, it's a sure bet they'd be nuked by either the US or Israel -- probably both. It'd be pretty much the same thing as nuking themselves. Why spend that kind of money on a weapon you could never use? Simple pragmatism -- a concept that the neocons clearly don't understand -- probably kept Iran out of the nuclear club.

What has become clear is that the intelligence community and the Pentagon have learned the lesson of Iraq, while the Bush administration has not. This is the tale of two headlines. One demonstrating a sadder, wiser intelligence wing and the other demonstrating just how stubborn, stupid, and unwilling to learn a damned thing the neocons are.

The first headline is from the Los Angeles Times. That headline (at least when it was reprinted in my paper) was "Iran report altered to avoid past mistakes." That story tells how the intelligence community was on track to back up Bush administration claims, but "the earlier drafts were scrapped."

What happened?

As U.S. intelligence officials sought Tuesday to explain the remarkable reversal, they pointed to two factors: the emergence of crucial information over the summer, and a determination to avoid repeating the mistakes that preceded the Iraq war.

According to current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter, the information that surfaced this summer included intercepted conversations of Iranian officials discussing the country's nuclear weapons program, as well as a journal from an Iranian source that documented decisions to shut it down.

The second headline is from Raw Story -- "Neocons believe US intelligence community too timid after Iraq."


Following its botched reports about Iraq's weapons capabilities, the US intelligence community is now too gun-shy to get it right about Iran, according to some hawkish conservatives who have advocated possible military intervention against the country.

Newly declassified portions of a new National Intelligence Estimate -- which indicates that Iran [is] no longer actively developing a nuclear weapon -- are part of an effort by the US intelligence community to avoid a repeat of its mistakes in the run-up to war with Iraq, former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Fox News.

"They're so concerned about overstating the threat in Iraq, that they're overcompensating in the wrong direction," Bolton said. "You know they've changed their estimate on Iran from just two years ago. One has to ask why we should be more inclined to believe this one today than the one two years ago." A 2005 NIE reported Iran was "determined" [to] develop nuclear capability.

I can answer that question which "one has to ask" -- information is cumulative in nature and more time equals more information. If my information tells me that 1+X=Y, I have to guess at the value of Y. If I later find out that 1+2=Y, I can quit guessing. In fact, I have to abandon earlier guesses that were off the mark. That's this new, crazy thing the kids are using these days -- it's called "logic," John.

Once again, we have concrete proof that John Bolton's a freakin' moron. If you were just guessing about that before, you can stop now. Like the intelligence agencies, you now have enough info to call it. The more you know, the more likely you are to be right. Two years are plenty of time for sixteen intelligence agencies to get it right about Iran and we have plenty of evidence aout Bolton.

In fact, we're now learning that, while the intelligence agencies were determined to be right, the neocons were determined to be wrong. Raw Story reports that, although Bush claimed he only found out about the NIE last week, others have been trying to keep it under wraps for a lot longer than that.

...the NIE was no surprise to veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who has been writing about it since November 2006. Hersh told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that he believes the White House deliberately kept the NIE bottled up for over a year because the vice president was dissatisfied with its conclusions.

"At the time I wrote that, there was a tremendous fight about it because Cheney ... did not want to hear this," Hersh recalled. "I think the vice-president has kept his foot on the neck of that report. ... The intelligence we learned about yesterday has been circulating inside this government at the highest levels for the last year -- and probably longer."

As early as July 2006, Hersh had reported that the US military was resisting administration pressure for a bombing campaign in Iran, because "American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities."

Let me repeat that -- "The White House deliberately kept the NIE bottled up for over a year." But Bush claimed he only found out about it last week. This means that Bush is incredibly clueless or he's lying. As I never tire of pointing out, one doesn't preclude the other.

Reality, it seems, has a dovish, liberal bias. Dick Cheney "kept his foot on the neck of that report" because it didn't fit his preconceptions. I say it often, but I'm not sure I say it enough -- the neocons believe they're hard-headed realists. This despite the fact that they're wrong more often than not. They seem incapable of learning, as if they think the power of their beliefs is so strong that it can change reality. For neocons, wishing makes it so. These "realists" are really dreamers.

I could go on and on and on about this, but I'm a wussie, Bush-hatin' liberal -- which is the term applied to actual realists these days. Sooner or later, this realist knows I'm going to lose your attention. You didn't come here to read a freakin' book. So I'll leave you with one more link. Follow it if you're interested.

TIME has a piece explaining the Pentagon's take on the NIE. The headline pretty much tells it all -- "Why the Pentagon Is Happy about the NIE."

In fact, everyone is happy about the NIE -- other than warhead morons. We just found out that the world's a little safer than we were told. Seriously, what's not to like?


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