Throughout our conversation, Mr. Feith insisted that this entire IG review was based on a misconception. The IG called the Pentagon briefing on Iraq and al Qaida an “intelligence product.” But none of the staffers (from the policy office) who created or presented the briefing thought of it as anything other than a policy product. And no one who received this briefing understood it as an intelligence product. There were only four top officials who received the briefing: Mssrs. Rumsfeld, Tenet, Hadley and Libby. All four knew Mr. Feith, and knew that the briefers worked for him and for Mr. Wolfowitz. None could mistake the briefing for an intelligence product.
And it’s of a piece with what I wrote for the column this week:
So it’s all OK.
That, at least, is the line being pushed by Feith’s defenders. The conservative New York Sun editorialized that Feith should be dancing with delight:
“The vindication of a public figure engulfed in controversy doesn’t get more dramatic than that of the former undersecretary of defense, Douglas Feith. A report by the Pentagon inspector general issued last week found that the activities by Mr. Feith’s Pentagon Policy office were all legal, and the office’s officials did not mislead the Congress. The report followed years of exceptionally ad hominem attempts by the left to discredit Mr. Feith, accusing him, in effect, of an attempt to mislead the Congress into its war declaration. The new report from the inspector general finds that nothing Mr. Feith did broke the law.”
Not illegal! Fantastic news. That means I and all the other bloggers in my book and all the critics of Feith’s office who were paying attention three years ago and Senators Levin and Rockefeller were completely wrong, and we should hang our heads in shame.
First of all, talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Second, I believe there are quite a few policy makers who would object to the idea that a “policy product” didn’t have to be based on reliable information, that policy, in as ideal a political world as we should expect, shouldn’t be factual and realistic.
This moving of the goalposts doesn’t actually help Feith at all, because even if you accept that the briefing was policy, you’re still left with the fact that the briefing was totally and catastrophically wrong. Which, to my mind, was a bigger problem all along than if it was incorrectly labeled in the Pentagon filing cabinet.
Third, oh my God are we seriously having this argument? Three thousand plus dead, thousands more wounded, the American people about as disgusted with an administration as the people ever get, and we’re having an argument over what the information Feith was feeding the administration to sell the war was called.
On the air yesterday I read Jack K.’s piece that was included in the book, and I think the part I highlighted is worth citing here again:
…so Doug Feith gets to saunter away to lucrative private life, after hammering together a poisonous mixture of misstatements, misrepresentations, half-truths, and fables to engineer Gee Dub’s Grand Iraqi Adventure, subsequent to which he did a major portion of the heavy lifting in post-conquest planning that stands as a stark icon to absolute perfection in incompetence. The darkly grim irony in all of this is that, while Feith moseys off into this personal glimmering sunset, tens of thousands of common folk – butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, the guy down the street – found themselves federalized into full-time combat area duty as National Guard and Reserve members, jerked away from their jobs and families for far longer than they ever could have realistically imagined, while thousands of others were held in or called back to military service under stop-loss provisions when they thought their military commitment was about to be or had been completed. They can’t look up one day from their MRE lunch and decide “for family and personal reasons” that they would like to leave this particular branch of government service.
The only “question” any of the multiple talk show hosts who’ve been interviewing Feith should have asked him is, “You were wrong. Why don’t you just apologize?”
ps. I’ll be on the Coy Barefoot show this afternoon talking more about this. Listen in if you get a chance.