Thursday, November 03, 2005
Deconstructing Brooks - the Neo-Con smear of Harry Reid
Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 08:56:53 AM PDT
Today, David Brooks maligns Sen. Harry Reid by childishly painting him as a paranoid nutcase who doesn’t understand that which all true Republicans (and their courtesans in the punditocracy) now perceive as a received truth: If a Democrat ever claimed that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s, then the Bush administration couldn’t have fixed the intelligence in making their case for the Iraqi War.
- ellinton's diary :: ::
How dare Reid demand that we investigate how the administration used – or misused – intelligence in the run up to the war! He must be crazy; for that matter, Pat Roberts must be as well! After all, Roberts promised his Intelligence Committee would look into this after the 2004 elections – doesn’t he understand that the point is moot because Bill Clinton once said Saddam had WMD?
Of course, it’s lost on Brooks that Clinton said this in 1998, in the run-up to a military action Brooks has apparently never heard of: Operation Desert Fox. An operation that actually succeeded in containing Saddam and didn’t cost one American life. But you wouldn’t know that from reading Brooks – nor would you know the context in which his cherry-picked statements from Democrats are presented. So let’s put David to the test:
Do the quotes from Democrats he cobbled together let Bush off the hook for going to war over WMD’s?
Let’s start with Clinton – Brooks quotes him as saying:
Reid now knows that as far back as 1998, Karl Rove was beaming microwaves into Bill Clinton's fillings to get him to exaggerate the intelligence on Iraq. In that year, Clinton argued, "Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions ... and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons."
Here’s the original quote, from February 17, 1998, in context:
It is obvious that there is an attempt here, based on the whole history of this operation since 1991, to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the missiles to deliver them, and the feed stocks necessary to produce them.
The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons.
Now, against that background, let us remember the past here. It is against that background that we have repeatedly and unambiguously made clear our preference for a diplomatic solution.
The inspection system works. The inspection system has worked in the face of lies, stonewalling, obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. The people who have done that work deserve the thanks of civilized people throughout the world.
It has worked. That is all we want. And if we can find a diplomatic way to do what has to be done, to do what he promised to do at the end of the Gulf War, to do what should have been done within 15 days within 15 days of the agreement at the end of the Gulf War, if we can find a diplomatic way to do that, that is by far our preference.
But to be a genuine solution, and not simply one that glosses over the remaining problem, a diplomatic solution must include or meet a clear, immutable, reasonable, simple standard.
Iraq must agree and soon, to free, full, unfettered access to these sites anywhere in the country. There can be no dilution or diminishment of the integrity of the inspection system that UNSCOM has put in place.
First, let’s again acknowledge that this quote is from 1998 – BEFORE Desert Fox crippled Saddam’s WMD capabilities. This makes this statement IRRELEVENT to the Bush case for war that started in 2002.
Further, Clinton specifically called for international inspections with “…free, full, and unfettered access…” Only in the mind of David Brooks can this quote be misconstrued as supporting the Bush case for war.
Unfortunately, three other quotes Brooks cites – those of Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, and Sandy Berger – are also presented in the same mendacious fashion. Brooks won’t come clean with his readers about the context of these statements: they were made before Desert Fox, they were made in support of a limited military action, and they had NOTHING to do with the case Bush made for the current war.
Not to fear, however: Brooks also quotes former Clinton officials who opined during the Bush administration. Here, for example, is Brooks’ remix of Richard Einhorn:
This is why in 2001, a Clinton assistant secretary of state, Robert Einhorn, said at a Congressional hearing, "Today, or at most within a few months, Iraq could launch missile attacks with chemical or biological weapons against its neighbors."
But here’s what Einhorn said about inspections in the SAME testimony:
There are steps we can take now to address the Iraqi WMD threat. We can put in place smarter sanctions that can help shore up international support for retaining restrictions on sensitive Iraqi imports. We can seek to minimize illicit Iraqi oil revenues, urge tighter monitoring of trade at Iraq’s borders, press supplier governments to adopt more rigorous scrutiny and control over exports to Iraq, and work with other governments to interdict sensitive cargoes headed to Iraq when we receive information about such shipments. And if Iraq agrees to admit U.N. inspectors on terms provided for in existing Security Council resolutions, we can give our full support to that resumed verification effort, while stressing to the other P-5 members the need to be resolute and unified in the face of any Iraqi failure to provide full cooperation.
Yes, Einhorn was for “regime change,” but he was also for inspections. And, to speak directly to Brooks’ argument, does Einhorn believe that there are grounds for the investigation of the failure/fixing of intelligence?
Einhorn believes that the most basic intelligence assumptions on Iraq were misguided. 'In retrospect it did not really make sense for Iraq to hold on to large stocks of WMD over a decade to obsolescing junk, when it could meet the letter of the law required by UN resolutions, have sanctions lifted, and covertly develop what you might call a just-in-time WMD capability.
'I am talking about missiles just below the nominal range permitted that could be upgraded quickly, and dual-use facilities that could quickly be turned into a capability for producing chemical and biological weapons.
'What is so remarkable is that it became very quickly apparent in the post-war interviews with scientists and other officials, that no one even admitted that even plans such as those existed.
'In our intelligence community there was simply not a lot of incentive to second-guess the casual assumptions of a decade about Iraq. No one was asked to offer alternative explanations for what they were seeing... to second-guess what had become conventional wisdom.'
Does this sound like a man who doesn’t think the second phase of the Intelligence Committee’s investigation is needed?
Brooks also quotes Kenneth Pollack, he of the now (in)famous The Gathering Storm, a tome that neo-cons used to make the case for war with Iraq:
This is why the Clinton National Security Council staffer Kenneth Pollack has written, "The U.S. Intelligence Community's belief toward the end of the Clinton administration [was] that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and was close to acquiring nuclear weapons.
Wow, sounds bad. Pollack couldn’t possibly think now that the Bush administration was fixing the intelligence – could he (January 8, 2004)?
And on the political side, there's no question that there were some Bush administration officials who played fast and loose with the intelligence of weapons of mass destruction, who took what, it turns out to have been, exaggerated estimates from the intelligence community and then further embellished on them when they were presenting the case in public.
Nice try, David – even Pollack demonstrates that there is a justification for Reid’s call to finish what the Intelligence Committee only started. Brooks’ smoking gun, however, must be this quote from the neo-con’s favorite whipping boy, Al Gore:
This is why in 2002 Al Gore declared that Saddam Hussein "has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Again, here’s the full quote, in context:
Moreover, if we quickly succeed in a war against the weakened and depleted fourth rate military of Iraq and then quickly abandon that nation as President Bush has abandoned Afghanistan after quickly defeating a fifth rate military there, the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam. We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.
We have no evidence, however, that he has shared any of those weapons with terrorist group(s). However, if Iraq came to resemble Afghanistan - with no central authority but instead local and regional warlords with porous borders and infiltrating members of Al Qaeda than these widely dispersed supplies of weapons of mass destruction might well come into the hands of terrorist groups.
If we end the war in Iraq, the way we ended the war in Afghanistan, we could easily be worse off than we are today. When Secretary Rumsfield was asked recently about what our responsibility for restabilizing Iraq would be in an aftermath of an invasion, he said, "that's for the Iraqis to come together and decide.
Gore was DIRECTLY contracting the claim the administration was making at the time – that Saddam was sharing his WMD’s with terrorists. But somehow this quote proves Harry Reid is off his rocker.
Brooks’ article is just the latest iteration of a neo-con fiction that the right is desperately trying to sell the American public: “The Democrats supported the war, because they thought Saddam had WMD’s as well – and they had the same access to the same intelligence that the Bush Administration did.”
Let me use Brooks’ own technique against him – here’s Kenneth Pollack again:
The President is responsible for serving the entire nation… Only the Administration has access to all the information available to various agencies of the US government – and withholding or downplaying some of that information for its own purposes is a betrayal of that responsibility.
David, Harry Reid does not “sit(s) alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m.”
Harry Reid stands and leads a party that will not put politics above national security.
Harry Reid will not accept the fictions perpetrated by the neo-cons regarding the run-up to this war – fictions sold primarily through the pages of YOUR OWN NEWSPAPER.
Harry Reid stands and demands that the loss of over 2000 American lives be explained.
Harry Reid stands with millions of us who want the truth.