Horner: He’s only the U.S. President

Dr. Tim Horner

We can’t and shouldn’t blame President Bush for the faulty intelligence that was given to him by the CIA. After all, he had to trust them and he was acting in good faith when he said the things he said. If he was wrong about Iraq, it was because of faulty intelligence. He is not omniscient. He was doing the best he could with the info he had. If we are looking for someone to blame for this debacle in Iraq, don’t look to the president. Look to the CIA!

This makes a lot of sense, right? But does it? As we begin to embrace the reality that we sent our men and women into a military operation that was justified with overestimation, hype and just plain bad intelligence, we are seeing a new spin emerge. The race is now on to pass this hot potato to someone other than the president. Whatever you do, don’t blame President Bush. This latest tactic confirms three things:

1) If everyone had been fooled, then I might be more understanding of this situation. But from the very start there were voices who questioned the values and integrity of his intelligence (both kinds) concerning the war. There were plenty of people – whole countries in fact – who were trying to slow down this march to war. Did Bush bring these “people” into the loop to balance their scrutiny with his conviction? No he did not. You need to remember, our president is proud of the fact that he does not read newspapers or consult outside news sources. He has his ‘people’ read for him and tell him what is important to know. How efficient. Did he reject these contrary voices and opposing nations because they were weak, spineless or French? Was it because they were “against” us? When your friends tell you not to drive, they are not doing it to make you look foolish; they are doing it because they are trying to save you from yourself. But intoxicated by fear and the exhilaration of vengeance, he took the keys and is still driving. And we are still dying.

2) The fact that this administration is already starting to point fingers away from the White House says a lot. Only time will tell if our commander-in-chief will take full responsibility for his words and actions even if he felt misled. Allowing Congress to appoint the committee to investigate the run-up to the war would have been a sign that he was confident that the facts would “prove that we were right.” Instead, he has hand-picked this committee. Why did he have to do that? But perhaps it goes even deeper than that. There are even signs that President Bush knew that the intelligence about Iraq was being amplified. In fact, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently found that the administration “systematically misrepresented the threat” from Iraq. For example, the administration knew that the African Yellow Cake from Niger was bogus information and it was thrown out by Powell himself, yet it was put back into the president’s 2003 State of the Union Address. And what did President Bush do when it was proven to be false? He blamed his tools (CIA). That is not a trait we need in a president. It is what kids do to keep their allowance coming in.

3) Lastly – and I hope that we learn this lesson once and for all – it is a difficult business to justify a preemptive war based on intelligence. If this was the best we could do, if everyone in the chain thought that this was credible, reliable and trustworthy, then what does this say about intelligence in general? It says that it is never good enough when compared with the cost of human lives. That is the fundamental problem with preemptive war. It is based on a gamble.

Even if Iraq had nuclear capabilities and WMD, there was no proof that they would use it on us. No proof. Ever. We should never invent our enemies based on guesswork. This is the stuff of paranoia. But that is just what we did.