March 03, 2006
Like the melting Antarctic ice sheets, the ground on which George W. Bush has to stand just receded even more.
It has been demonstrated for some time now that the intelligence the president and other administration officials publicly referred to in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq was in every case wrong, questionable, or at best “weak.” It has been shown that he had made the decision to invade Iraq months before March 2003, all the while claiming that his mind had not been made up. We know he never cared about U.N. inspections or U.N. permission to invade.
“But,” say many in Bush’s cargo cult. “none of this matters if he was acting in good faith to protect the nation.”
So much for that. We now know, thanks to Murray Waas’ incredible reporting, that Bush was repeatedly informed that Iraq did not present a direct threat to the United States, not by one or two state department bureaucrats under Colin Powell, but in the form of a unified National Intelligence Estimate. Moreover, the one-page executive summaries of the NIE, prepared specifically for Bush to highlight the issues deemed most important by the intelligence community, specifically warned about the debatable nature of claims on Iraq’s nuclear program.
Bush, in the presence of CIA Director George Tenet, read the summaries that were handed to him in early October 2002, stating that the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were, in the estimates of technical experts, not suitable for use in developing nuclear weapons. One week later, in Cincinnati , he claimed that they were.
From the spring of 2002 up until January 2003, Bush was told Iraq did not present a threat to the United States. The one-page summary given to Bush in January 2003 focused specifically on whether—in the combined opinion of U.S. intelligence community—Saddam Hussein was likely to launch an unprovoked attack on the United States. The unanimous decision, from the CIA, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the State Department’s Intelligence And Research, was that it was unlikely—unless “ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime.”
On January 28th, 2003, in his State of the Union, Bush claimed otherwise. Now we know he was lying to the American people and to Congress. As was then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice when she claimed in July of 2003, that “. . . doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or to me.” We know that the “one document which illustrates what the president knew and when he knew it” proves otherwise.
In my mind, this also plugs the last hole needed in the legal question of whether Bush’s lies present an impeachable offense. Three recent documents have clarified and concentrated the question. Rep. John Conyer’s staff published an analysis of the manipulation of pre-war intelligence that gathers the monumental, enfuriating evidence in one place. The new book published by the Center For Constitutional Rights, entitled Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush, presents the legal language necessary. A recent essay by Lewis Lapham in Harper’s makes the overall argument. All include the caveat that Bush may not have been informed of intelligence debates, which might factor into whether or not he is culpable for not mentioning them. Now we know.