Washington — Well, here we are. Our military has just won a smashing victory against a ghastly regime. It is a regime that aided international terror, overtly by rewarding suicide bombers and covertly by liaising with many of the West’s enemies. The horrors perpetrated by the regime are on the front pages of all our newspapers. Now the task is to rebuild a shattered country that has at least as much right to a decent regime as did Germany in the 1940s and Japan, and more recently Kosovo and Bosnia. How goes it?
Look at the other stories on the front pages. Along with the stories of the Hussein tyranny’s torture, rape, mass graves, and larceny come stories that Washington and London doctored intelligence to justify war. The stories show once again the media’s lack of proportion or for that matter memory. They also show that so pathetic is the condition of many Democrats they will exploit American foreign policy for their own partisan gain. On the face of it, the stories that Washington and London doctored intelligence estimates are preposterous. Who can believe that the Bush Administration made false claims about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction so that we might send in an army that would inevitably find there were no weapons of mass destruction? Who can believe that the Administration would confect a scheme that was bound to be exposed?
Apparently Dr. Howard Dean believes it. So apparently do some of the other born blanks now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. But then they also believe that President George W. Bush is as stupid as they considered President Ronald Reagan to be. Yes, Reagan too was accused of putting intelligence to political purposes, namely to end the Cold War. So, Bush mobilized the nation to send in an army to find weapons that he knew were not there. Apparently Dr. Howard Dean believes that Bush expected the American people not to care if the weapons were not discovered.
The campaigning Democrats underestimate not only the President but also the American people. The story that he doctored intelligence estimates is another of those news stories that we call a Black Cat News Story. A Black Cat News Story is a shocking revelation that crosses a politician’s path to jinx his career forever. It is almost always a story without substance but that through constant fortissimo repetition hexes the politician.
It is also a story that pleases partisan opposition. This one puts me in mind of the horror stories confected after Pearl Harbor to prove that President Roosevelt left the Pacific fleet vulnerable to Japanese attack so that he could join the British in World War II. Like the Black Cat News Story now being used against the Bush Administration, historians found that it was without substance. Nonetheless cranks still believe it, and those who believe President Bush knowingly relied on false intelligence to send hundreds of thousands of pilots, sailors and soldiers halfway around the world on a false mission are cranks.
Intelligence estimates are rarely totally factual. They always contain error. That is the nature of intelligence. We shall not know what happened to Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction for a long time. We do know that he had the grisly stuff and that he used it on Iranians and on his own people. We have evidence right now that he possessed contraband weaponry. The United Nations arms inspectors even admit it. The burning question raised up now is precisely what the American and British intelligence community developed as unassailable fact. It is an ignorant question.
The distinguished British historian Paul Johnson avers that intelligence information is always shaky. “One never gets to the bottom of such estimates,” he tells me from his London library. “It includes assertions and counter assertions” from one intelligence bureaucracy to another. “Reading intelligence reports is like reading a detective novel containing no final chapter. All you can do is weigh intelligence reports and guess. You can never be absolutely certain that the reports are completely sound.”
Of course, Johnson is right. Yet we certainly have enough information even now to recognize that our overthrow of Hussein was justified. All the cranks are achieving now is the discrediting of a thoroughly admirable effort. The Bush Administration acted properly with the support of a prudent citizenry. Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose politics I generally oppose, acted heroically without much support at home. He is the first politician I have seen in years who carried out the dictates of his conscience to the peril of his political career. His achievement will be honored by history.