Iraq WMD Commission Whitewash
As expected, the President's commission on pre-war intelligence regarding Iraqi's weapons of mass destruction offers a scathing critique of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. (The full report and other commission background can be found here; other Iraq/WMD documents are also available in the Perrspectives Document Library.)
Also as expected, the report essentially absolved the Bush administration of any blame for its policies. The mandate of the panel, led by Oliver North's appellate liberator Judge Lawrence Silberman, did not even include the issue of possible manipulation of the pre-war intelligence to justify the invasion. As Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid noted, "I believe it is essential that we hold both the intelligence agencies and senior policymakers accountable for their actions."
The result? President Bush can claim the "Son of Sam" defense, the national security equivalent of "the dog told me to do it." As the Silberman-Robb reports states:
"The daily intelligence briefings given to you before the Iraq war were flawed...Through attention-grabbing headlines and repetition of questionable data, these briefings overstated the case that Iraq was rebuilding its WMD programs."
There are just no surprises here. Whitewash and obfuscation are the hallmarks of this White House. The report of a panel the President initially opposed, one featuring a post-election deadline and one prohibited from probing the central question of manipulation, produced exactly what the administration wanted.
Perhaps the one important finding of the report is its emphasis on intelligence failures regarding the Iranian and North Korean programs as well. "The flaws we found in the intelligence community's Iraq performance," it said, "are still all too common."
Given that bullet-proof intelligence is essential to the mythical Bush Doctrine's pillar of preventive war, future White House war salesmanship will be on weak ground indeed.