Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Ring of Truth

As we sort through a week of headlines, or the news of the day, we latch onto those stories which for us have the “ring of truth”. For me, this week, the ring of truth shouted loudest in the words of Paul Pillar, who concluded his long career in the CIA by serving as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.

it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized.
Pillar's conclusion scarcely shocks those of us who have believed since even before the Iraq war commenced that the Bush administration was bound and determined to find a justification for an invasion and was perfectly happy to "fix the intelligence and facts around the policy", well before that charge was revealed in the Downing Street Memos. After the invasion but before the Downing Street Memos came Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, which details the observations of former Bush insider, Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill that the Administration's desire to go into Iraq militarily predated even September 11. O'Neill remained loyal to the President, but revealed this as a matter of fact, even as Bush attempted to deny it.

I understand that those with a different political frame of reference won't see the same ring of truth in each of these successive pronouncements, among a slew of others, which I and many, many others do. But it is absurd to suggest that our willingness to accept these charges as true can be explained away by the "liberal media". I know that I have come by my opinion that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al twist the truth to serve their ends far more by listening to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al than by listening to any liberal spin. And it offends me that a subset of the Bush apologists blithely dismiss those of us who object to his policies as traitors. Truly it is shocking that such vituperative writers as Ann Coulter find any voice in the mainstream media rather than being marginalized in fringe publications. Unlike respectful conservative voices, such as we mostly find here on WatchBlog, like Jack Matel of the red column, or in the comments like Sanger to name but a couple, Ms. Coulter shows a consistent inability to critique the message, not the messenger, and would surely be censured if she spewed her venom in our comments. Sure there are immoderate voices on the left for whom the same is true, but they are marginalized on the fringe. But I digress.

Paul Pillar has earned credibility. He stayed with the CIA as long as he did in spite of clear policy disagreements with the Bush administration, I suspect because the cause of protecting us from extremist Islamist elements as well as other threats in the Near East and South Asia was more important than a domestic political dispute. Someone inside the Bush Administration must have recognized his value in spite of his differing politics to have kept him on board. These facts, and Pillar's own reasoned words, such as this speech he gave in 2003, make laughable some right-wing claims that Pillar is a partisan tool of the left. Even conservative PowerLine blogger, Paul Mirengoff, refers to Pillar as his old friend, though he incredibly manages to interpret Pillar's recent comments as vindication for Bush's Iraq policy. Did he really read the same article that I did? Pillar continues:

an acrimonious and highly partisan debate broke out over whether the Bush administration manipulated and misused intelligence in making its case for war. The administration defended itself by pointing out that it was not alone in its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and active weapons programs, however mistaken that view may have been.

In this regard, the Bush administration was quite right: its perception of Saddam's weapons capacities was shared by the Clinton administration, congressional Democrats, and most other Western governments and intelligence services. But in making this defense, the White House also inadvertently pointed out the real problem: intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs did not drive its decision to go to war. A view broadly held in the United States and even more so overseas was that deterrence of Iraq was working, that Saddam was being kept "in his box," and that the best way to deal with the weapons problem was through an aggressive inspections program to supplement the sanctions already in place. That the administration arrived at so different a policy solution indicates that its decision to topple Saddam was driven by other factors -- namely, the desire to shake up the sclerotic power structures of the Middle East and hasten the spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.

If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath. What is most remarkable about prewar U.S. intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policymakers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important U.S. policy decisions in recent decades.

Bush apologists just love to make a big deal of the fact that almost everyone believed Iraq had WMD. They don't understand that it misses the point. Yes, I too thought in 2002 that Saddam was an untrustworthy rogue with likely hidden WMDs of some sort and that preventing him from using them should be the focus of an international effort, hopefully culminating in his removal from power. But military overthrow and occupation, especially over the objections of a majority of our usual allies, seemed foolish on its face.

Pillar again:

Policymakers thus influence which topics intelligence agencies address but not the conclusions that they reach. The intelligence community, meanwhile, limits its judgments to what is happening or what might happen overseas, avoiding policy judgments about what the United States should do in response. ...
The Bush administration's use of intelligence on Iraq did not just blur this distinction; it turned the entire model upside down. The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq. ...

Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war. On the issue that mattered most, the intelligence community judged that Iraq probably was several years away from developing a nuclear weapon. The October 2002 NIE also judged that Saddam was unlikely to use WMD against the United States unless his regime was placed in mortal danger. ...

Before the war, on its own initiative, the intelligence community considered the principal challenges that any postinvasion authority in Iraq would be likely to face. It presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. It projected that a Marshall Plan-type effort would be required to restore the Iraqi economy, despite Iraq's abundant oil resources. It forecast that in a deeply divided Iraqi society, with Sunnis resentful over the loss of their dominant position and Shiites seeking power commensurate with their majority status, there was a significant chance that the groups would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it. And it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks -- including by guerrilla warfare -- unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the first few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam.

Talk about the ring of truth! Bush DID cherry pick intelligence. Loyalist O'Neill told us in 2004 that the decision to invade Iraq was made early. You just can't have it both ways. If you want to defend the invasion, either you claim that the cause justified the clear deception of the American people and Congress, or you claim quite incredibly that people such as Pillar and O'Neill are simply lying.

I am delighted on the one hand that Saddam is now on the wrong side of the law. Very little he has ever said has any ring of truth. But even so, I for one believe this administration must be held to account for its deceptions, and though it is not yet politically viable, impeachment and the subsequent removal of Bush and Cheney from power would be a moderate and patriotic response.

It will be interesting to see what the next several weeks bring. If Thursday's story in the National Journal that it was indeed Cheney who authorized "Scooter" Libby to illegally leak the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to reporters is corroborated, surely pressure for his resignation will be intense. Recycled stories about foiled terrorist plots in Los Angeles or elsewhere notwithstanding, Bush faces mounting bipartisan criticism for the illegal NSA wiretapping. They can try to justify their crimes in the name of national security, but that case is shaky, and the crimes still were crimes. But it won't be our "Geneva Conventions are quaint" Attorney General who will show them the door, and I'm not terribly confident in the Democratic Party's leadership either . No it is up to us the American people to demand that our government follow the laws of the land or else be gone.

Posted by Walker Willingham at February 12, 2006 7:14 PM
Comment #124010

If our government does not follow all its laws in its defenses against terrorism then the terrorist have won. I am sure this would be the
Repubs charge against the Dems if the tables were turned.

Posted by: jack kent at February 12, 2006 8:42 PM
Comment #124014

Bush won Kerry the “war hero” lost. Get over it already. Truth to you liberals is like garlic to a vampire.

Posted by: Thomas at February 12, 2006 8:46 PM
Comment #124016

Bush won Kerry the “war hero” lost. Get over it already. Truth to you liberals is like garlic to a vampire.


Wake up my man, this post has nothing to do with Kerry losing.

Posted by: tree hugger at February 12, 2006 9:00 PM
Comment #124026


This is absolutely the most well researched post I’ve read regarding what we know now of the “pre-war” strategy. I have myself tried to point out most of the same things in the past but you’ve put it all “on the line”.

Stay tuned for the Neo-con attempt to change the facts. Thank you for presenting facts that are undeniable.


Posted by: KansasDem at February 12, 2006 9:32 PM
Comment #124028

“Bush won Kerry the “war hero” lost. Get over it already. Truth to you liberals is like garlic to a vampire.

Posted by: Thomas at February 12, 2006 08:46 PM”

The “my dad’s bigger than your dad” thing has somehow always failed to impress me!


Posted by: KansasDem at February 12, 2006 9:38 PM
Comment #124041

Astute post, Walker. Perhaps the truth will indeed eventually set us free from the ruthless incompetence of this administration.

Speaking of which — yesterday, Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman outlined a political strategy for GOP victory in 2006. His strategy? Portray the Democrats as “too weak to protect the country.”

I’d type more, but I’m laughing too hard. Amazing. Simply…amazing..

Posted by: Mister Magoo at February 12, 2006 10:22 PM
Comment #124069

(slightly O/T)
In the process of surfing for politics, I stumbled into Ace of Spades HQ. Without reading too much of their “mission statement” I got into it with them on the topic of the NSA spying leak. The response was astonishing — a deluge of personal attacks, without any real substance.
Well, it caused me to pause and reflect for a moment. I wondered if maybe libs on this blog (and others) were just responding with similarly kneejerk canned answers, insults, and talking points. So I looked around for a while.
Truth is, there exists here a diversity of viewpoints, all (most) of which have some rationale behind them, and most of which are relatively respectful of each other. There’s some thought here, is what I’m trying to say.
And that’s the core of the thing (and how I bring this back to the original post). To state it another way: some people want to think, others want to believe. Unfortunately, I’m not sure thinkers are in the majority, and by definition there’s no way to talk a believer out of his belief. Not only that, belief is subject to a dangerous morphing that rational thought is not subject to.
Sorry for the O/T

Posted by: jaw dropping at February 12, 2006 11:35 PM
Comment #124079


Posted by: MIGHTYMOUSE at February 13, 2006 12:58 AM
Comment #124168

Well Deadeye Dick Cheney has started shooting other right wing NRA radicals, maybe there’s a god afterall and the American majority can get a good look at the idiot they believe will protect them from Osama Bin Laden. Thanks God!

Posted by: Robinsong at February 13, 2006 7:03 AM
Comment #124192

I’d love to see ALL the dems wear Blaze orange hunting hats and them damn that dog don’t hunt tee shirt to the senate to laugh at the incompetent hunter. Any one else caught the spin of how the old man was at fault because he did’nt announce he was rejioning the group?

Posted by: Chuck Johnson at February 13, 2006 8:27 AM
Comment #124202

Great piece…hits the nail right on the head!

BTW, Thomas, of COURSE Bush won the “election”…his daddy got their buddies at Diebold to rig the voting machines in 4 key states through FiveStar Corp…And Bush was a bigger LIAR than Kerry! As you seem to like the truth, check out the FACTS about your beloved “leader” at

Posted by: capnmike at February 13, 2006 8:48 AM
Comment #124221

Tree Hugger,

Wake up my man, this post has nothing to do with Kerry losing.

Wake up my man, his post has nothing to do with topic.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at February 13, 2006 9:11 AM
Comment #124224

Mine too, I should confess.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at February 13, 2006 9:15 AM
Comment #124235

Why is that people like him can say “Truth to libs is like Garlic to Vampires.” when folks like him won’t admit to crap in a timely manner?

Why is it that every time something embarassing about the Republicans comes out, that it has to be the liberal media’s fault that they’re in trouble, or a liberal plot by people out to see America fail?

Can’t it occasionally be their fault? Can’t they just immediately take responsibility at some point and start working to resolve the issues? Last time I checked, the Republicans were still human. It’s time to stop looking at every bit of negative press as purely a problem of political P.R.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 13, 2006 9:40 AM
Comment #124256

I am not sure why any of us keep charging one another with lies. This article was pretty good analysis of a vary complicated and emotionally charged issue. While I like Ann Coulter and some of her extremes, it’s extremes that can help us find the middle ground. But what confuses me is that I believe President Clinton had the intellegence that Bush used for his justifications to invade Iraq. I think Clinton never acted on this intelligence because he lacked the backbone to do it. But he had trouble with bones anyways; didn’t he?

Posted by: Bill at February 13, 2006 10:27 AM
Comment #124262

Hey Bill,

Did you read the post before you answer? Invading Iraq may have been the most stupid thing that was ever done by this country. Iraq was on it’s way to disintegrating through the blockade. We didn’t have to invade. This was the plan set in motion by George Bush senior. Are you calling him a coward?

Posted by: Max at February 13, 2006 10:44 AM
Comment #124274

Hey Thomas,

This report
has a ring of truth about it to me. Go ahead, call them liars.

Posted by: Max at February 13, 2006 11:10 AM
Comment #124277

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention?”

Posted by: Shoshanna at February 13, 2006 11:28 AM
Comment #124331

Too bad that GW didn’t consult his daddy. His daddy knew that Iraq would be an impossible accomplishment. If I felt like it, I would search for the quote, but I don’t feel like it.

Posted by: womanmarine at February 13, 2006 1:41 PM
Comment #124414

woman marine,

Perhaps this is what you’re thinking of:
Bush 41 comments adressing Gulf War Veterans on Feb. 28, 1999:
“We’re going into Baghdad. We’re going to be an occupying power — America in an Arab land — with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous.”

This comes from my “father knows best” file.

Posted by: KansasDem at February 13, 2006 4:22 PM
Comment #124497

We can only hope that the American Bar Association’s resolution will have an affect on the eavesdropping policy, but I won’t hold my breath. With all the lawyers in Congress, you would think so, though.

Lawyers group slams Bush on eavesdropping

It’s an interesting read.

KansasDem: that’s one of them. Thanks!

Posted by: womanmarine at February 13, 2006 7:29 PM
Comment #124534

Bush won Kerry the “war hero” lost. Get over it already. Truth to you liberals is like garlic to a vampire.

Posted by: Thomas at February 12, 2006 08:46 PM

Another head sucked dry by the unAmerican neo-fascist cult dressed in conservative drag!

Posted by: expatUSA_Indonesia at February 13, 2006 8:34 PM
Comment #124558

I don’t agree with those who say this war was impossible. That’s obviously not the point that Walker’s source made. The sin of the Bush administration wasn’t that it went in and deposed the Dictator. It’s that it bit off more than it was willing to chew, took on a big job it didn’t have the right attitude to do completely and conscientiously. It went in trying to make reality instead of deal with it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 13, 2006 10:01 PM
Comment #124633

Walker, nice piece.

“Another head sucked dry by the unAmerican neo-fascist cult dressed in conservative drag!”

Hey, you should read this article by Glenn Greenwald. It really warms my heart to know that at least some conservatives understand that what we’ve been seeing from Bush’s sycophantic followers is indeed a cult of personality.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 14, 2006 12:36 AM
Comment #124704

Hey, you should read this article by Glenn Greenwald. It really warms my heart to know that at least some conservatives understand that what we’ve been seeing from Bush’s sycophantic followers is indeed a cult of personality.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 14, 2006 12:36 AM

Thanks, I read Greenwald daily! Good stuff.

And here’s another;

Laughing from afar!

Posted by: expatUSA_Indonesia at February 14, 2006 5:51 AM
Comment #124858

Interesting opinion — and the picture totally cracked me up! :^)

Posted by: Adrienne at February 14, 2006 12:30 PM
Comment #124965

“Iraq was on it’s way to disintegrating through the blockade. We didn’t have to invade.”

Posted by: Max at February 13, 2006 10:44 AM Max:


Watch out! That sand you have your head buried in may contain WMD precursors. Smart money says the bulk of the WMDs made it to Syria while the US did the UN shuffle.

The blockade was nothing more than a sieve through which Saddam was getting illicit funds by selling influence and oil certificates to our allies at the UN, France, Germany and Russia. The UN was on the verge of initiating action to remove the blockade prior to the US’s invasion of Iraq. Our splendid allies in Europe were positively salivating at the prospect of reeling in even more dirty money from Saddam after the trading embargo was lifted.

Furthermore, during the entire time that the embargo was in place, Saddam was funneling money to Palestineans terrorists and facilitating training for Al Quiada.

Posted by: goodkingned at February 14, 2006 2:50 PM
Comment #124966

While I like Ann Coulter and some of her extremes, it’s extremes that can help us find the middle ground

The purpose of Coulter and people like her is to keep moving the middle ground further to the right. Things that were considered ridiculous far right wing nonsense, eventually become government policy by this process, like our current voodoo economics.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 14, 2006 2:50 PM
Comment #124980


Unemployment is down. Inflation is not a concern. Tax revenue is up. I’m finally making some money in my mutual funds. If this is voodoo economics, kill a chicken for me.

Posted by: goodkingned at February 14, 2006 3:14 PM
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