Friday, November 25, 2005

Past Service is just that

Listened a little to John McCain on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC radio this morning. Lehrer and McCain talked about the intelligence leading upto the Iraq war. McCain continues to insist that he sees nothing except honest mistakes.

This following is from memory, you'll have to google to find it all -

- Uranium : There have been the forged documents claiming that Saddam was attempting to purchase processed uranium ore from Niger; these are apparently such crude forgeries that non-experts can easily discover that fact; yet even the President referred to this "fact".

- Terrorism : The intelligence agencies warned the Administration that the information captured al Qaeda operative al Libi was providing was not true. While the Czech intelligence agency thought that the terrorist Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi official in Prague around April 8, 2001, US intelligence thinks it is wrong; credit card and phone records and the lack of any travel records lead them to believe that Atta spent the entire April 2001 in the US. Yet the Vice President repeatedly referred to these as facts linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

- Iraqi Defectors : The "defectors" - all linked to Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi party - all proved to have been telling lies. Either the US intelligence knew it, or we are told, e.g., ( I think the Los Angeles Times tells us) that the Germans were warning the US that the information was wrong, and that the sources were not credible. Yet that information was used as evidence for the war.

- US Analysts : US analysts were uncertain or dissented. For instance, the famous aluminum tubes that supposedly were for centrifuges for uranium enrichment, were rather early on said to be really not suitable for that purpose, but rather for rocket casings.

I think the list is longer and will grow. We know from the Downing Street memo that the Administration was engaged in fixing the intelligence around the policy.

So how do we explain McCain?

Here is the point - yes McCain is a war hero and patriot; but his early sacrifices for his country do not mean that he has retained the moral clarity and the courage of his youth. The same is true, e.g., of John Kerry, who did not run away from battle in Vietnam, nor in the anti-war movement when he returned from Vietnam; but who was most craven during the 2004 Presidential campaign. The same thought occurred to me watching the last hour of debate over the resolution the Republicans offered in the House as a counter to John Murtha. The last person to speak was a Republican war hero from Texas ( I don't recall his name); he had twice the decorations of anyone - yet he spoke the same old lines about the war in Iraq, which, no matter what you think about the intelligence - honest mistakes or deliberate deception - is simply unsupportable with what we know today.

People age, lose the courage of their convictions or grow tired of the fight. Sadly, I also think that those who remain true to themselves are the ones we never hear about. To become a McCain or a Kerry, this quality of truth is subtly eroded, no doubt always for the greater good. We see the same degeneration in Colin Powell who let his optimism and loyalty overweigh any devotion to the truth. Such is the cost of power.

Update: Steven Clemons has a collection of information. #5, article by Senators Reed and Levin, is particularly important, because it contrasts what US intelligence was saying on a particular date, as per recently declassified documents, with what the Administration was saying. I don't think McCain can spout out the Republican talking points, and retain any claim to being an honest Joe.

Update2: Paul Krugman