Paul KerrMore on the Bolton/Iraq Intel Debate

I’ll get my .02 in.

The point of the discussion RE: the Niger fiasco is that Bolton was cherry-picking intelligence. He ignored INR’s conclusions on this matter because he wanted to believe something different.

The circus tent known as NRO dutifully defends this practice:

Bolton in many ways was a model consumer of intelligence as undersecretary of State for arms control. He read everything, but never accepted anything without asking probing questions. Intelligence is not received from on high. It is almost always subject to interpretation, and if Bolton brought (appropriately) hawkish assumptions to his reading of the data, some of the analysts with whom he clashed brought different assumptions.

Remember that Bolton’s supporters can’t have it both ways: Bolton cannot be BOTH an astute intelligence consumer AND someone who was misled by the IC. The problem is that Bolton wrongly thought that he had better judgment than his own intel analysts.

For example, Daveed correctly notes that the CIA was still talking up the Niger claim a couple days before the fact sheet went out. However, he falsely claims that INR cleared the fact sheet. According to the Senate report, INR said:

“as you know, INR assesses this reporting as dubious. Policymakers are entitled to leave out the word ‘reported,’ but the INR/SPM would not sign off on such a move.”

Now, it is true that the CIA was inconsistent in its assessment of the Niger data. However, the Senate Intel Committee’s report makes it perfectly clear that information existed which cast doubt on the Niger reporting.

For example, the CIA “widely distributed in routine channels” a March 2002 report detailing what Amb. Joe Wilson found (nothing of consequence) when he visited Niger earlier that year. The CIA also had reports from two other sources who had said pretty much the same thing.

(As an aside, it needs to be acknowledged that the much-maligned Wilson was right .)

A couple of other salient points:

  • Regardless of the state of the intelligence in December 2002, the administration had intelligence by March 2003 which disproved its earlier contentions regarding Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program. If it had waited for the inspectors to finish their job, Washington would have had even stronger proof that Iraq had no program to speak of.
  • Bolton didn’t learn his lesson, as his later battles with the IC (esp. over Syria) make clear.

You’d think the needless deaths of a lot of innocent people would lead hawks to be more humble. But then, you’d think a lot of things…

Comments

  1. Earl Kirkman (History)

    Bolton, being a good Helms disciple, knows that you never let the truth get in the way of dogma. Our enemies are only capable of the most evil, are not capable of misstep or of any motivation other than the worst.

    This is only a small departure from the ‘win-all’ mindset of the admin in all that we see today, from Bolton, to the war that ‘came to us’, to any fact that might dilute the message.

    Don’t mind that man behind the curtain…..

  2. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    I think “WINPAC” is a more accurate description than CIA of the Niger advocates.

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