TPM highlights the Pentagon report declassified this week about Doug Feith and his Special Plans. I talked a little yesterday about the report and the Feith book on the Lynn Rivers Show, but there’s a portion of this TPM post I wanted to pull out and discuss:
In the slide, the briefer complains about the lofty standard of proof of the intelligence community, which had led to a consensus that Iraq and al Qaeda did not have a significant relationship — as opposed to the “mature, symbiotic relationship” touted by Feith’s shop in one slide. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” the slide reads. After all, this was only a case for war.
And just to see it for yourself, in this slide Feith’s office pushes the widely discredited claim that 9/11 attacker Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraq spy in 2000.
What I kept seeing yesterday, reading the report, is the desperation of people within the Bush administration and civilian leadership at the Pentagon to find something, anything with which to make the case for war. On page 34 of the declassified report (linked at the TPM entry above), there’s a memo to Feith from Wolfowitz dated Jan. 22, 2002 that reads:
We don’t seem to be making much progress pulling together intelligence on links between Iraq and Al Qaida.
We owe SecDef some analysis of the subject.
Please give me a recommendation on how best to proceed.
Appreciate the short turn-around. Thanks.
And reading that, I started to see how Feith could imagine the report actually exonerated him. I mean, he was being pressured from above here. It’s not like he cooked up all this stuff himself and pushed it on the President, right? He did what he was told to do! If you’re telling yourself the story in your head about how you’re really a wronged soul and a forgotten hero, and these guys are about nothing if not exculpatory self-aggrandizement, you take that kind of information and you say, “It wasn’t just me, so I’m okay.”
Except that, look, these are grown-ups, theoretically. At any moment, if Feith didn’t think what was happening was appropriate and right, he could have sacked up, said “I have nothing to give you,” and quit. I’ve been watching the parade of newly en-conscienced Republicans on TV since January with a growing sense of amusement and dread. The former because they actually think somebody’s gonna buy their schtick, the latter because people might forget they were humping Bush’s leg enthusiastically while he was popular and had his Rubber Stamp Congress behind him and actually believe this crap.
These guys would have us believe none of them could, at any point, have said, “Look, shove your lies, this isn’t the way to do things.” It’s not that I don’t want to see the higher-ups punished, I very much do. But we need to remember that in this country, any one of them could have said “Stop.” If they didn’t, if they kept on, like Feith, feeding the administration the bullshit it was asking for, that’s not exactly a feather in anybody’s cap. That may be a reason but it’s not an excuse.