Friday, July 18, 2003

Bush's crumbling credibility

Apologists for President Bush have repeatedly argued that he did not know the Niger documents were forgeries before referencing them in the State of the Union. But what is becoming more clear is that Bush’s ideologically driven administration persisted in its habit of accepting information that it agreed with without question, and dismissed information that it disagreed with regardless of its merit and authenticity. We have seen that in Bush’s economic estimates where info that went against the Republican tax cut mantra was chunked down the memory hole. We saw it in the environmental reports that were purged of scientific data showing evidence of global warming. And now we see it very clearly in the intelligence gathered in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Today, the Washington Post reports that the Bush administration had access to the forged Niger documents more than three months before Bush’s State of the Union speech. This was in addition to the first-hand report from a U.S. diplomat who debunked the Niger story almost a year earlier.

”The documents, which officials said appeared to be of "dubious authenticity," were distributed to the CIA and other agencies within days. But the U.S. government waited four months to turn them over to United Nations weapons inspectors who had been demanding to see evidence of U.S. and British claims that Iraq's attempted purchase of uranium oxide violated U.N. resolutions and was among the reasons to go to war.”

An AP story today reports that the White House is attempting to make excuses by claiming that even though some agencies had accessed the forged documents, the CIA did not get around to analyzing them until after the president made his speech.

”The White House sought to bolster its case as U.S. officials said that documents alleging Iraq sought uranium from Africa were obtained months before Bush cited them in making his case for war. But intelligence analysts did not look at them closely enough to know they were forgeries until after Bush had made the claim, U.S. officials say.”

This is bunk. Further down in the story an intelligence official says the reason the CIA had not formally analyzed the documents at that time is because they had already determined they were bogus.

”The official suggested analyzing the documents was not a top priority at the time because the CIA had already investigated their substance.”

This is no doubt why the CIA included the “footnote” in the National Intelligence Estimate that the White House is citing today.

“The material released by the White House also included a "footnote" by the State Department that said "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are...highly dubious."

Bush has already lost credibility around the globe and, as more people begin to pay attention, he is losing it here at home as well.

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