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April 09, 2006

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Kimball J. Corson

There is something innately offensive about the President being able to declassify information without procedure when its suits him and then classify of keep classified what should be publicly available or contrary information when it does not. Secrecy or the classification system takes on lawless, arbitrary and political aspects in that manner. Note that the President has not declassified all intelligence highly critical of the IER material released or that is substantially supportive of Wilson’s position. This affair strikes me as only so much political games playing. It undermines the integrity of the system, which has been on shaky ground anyway in that regard.

Kimball Corson

Well, it seems we are into more borderline misinformation from the White House, although it may be learning better slowly. The White House Press Officer is refusing to admit or deny the truth of Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker article claiming that plans are afoot to use nuclear bunker buster bombs against Iran’s nuclear sites.

The comment recalls the time the President said there were no plans on his desk to invade Iraq, when in fact he, his staff, cabinet and the pentagon were up to their eyeballs in pre 9/11 planning to attack Iraq again. Information management by the White House has been abysmal, shrouded in secrecy and very lacking in genuine candor.

Frederick Hamilton

Professor Sunstein, The President just acknowledged that he declassified information to better explain his reasons for going to war. As you note, he is within his authority to do that. Kimball, your description of the "lawless" release of classified information doesn't square with Professor Sunstein's assessment that the President's conduct is quite legal. As to the question of why the info was declassified and released, the President explained why. He wanted information available that refuted what Joe Wilson put forth (also discredited by a unanimous report of the Senate Judiciary Committee). That may not satisfy the Bush detractors, but so what. Bush wins election legally. Is our legal President. Can legally declassify what he wants. Got a gripe. Try and impeach him (yawn) or in '08 help elect a President to your liking. That's the beauty of America. Free elections and representative Democracy. More of us wanted Bush than Kerry. Elections matter.

Kimball Corson

The problem, Frederick, is that the President is playing games with classified information in regard to the American public, not that he cannot release it. There is known to be much information still classified that earlier impugned the accuracy of the IER material the President allowed to be released that the President is still keeping classified. That is misleading the public. Now we have Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article posted today about plans in process to attack Iran militarily – with operatives already on the ground in Iran and possibly with nuclear bunker buster bombs being targeted on underground nuclear sites -- and the President is now saying that is just "wild speculation" and Straw is claiming that "is just nuts" while the President’s Press Secretary says “no comment.” Meanwhile the President is tipping his hand about the attack on Iran to like-minded Republican Senators who are also talking. Recall there is also a stalled Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into, inter alia, whether the President manipulated intelligence given to Congress and the American public leading up to the attack on Iraq. I submit the classification system is being abused for political and misinformational ends, not really for national security. The system lacks integrity in the manner of its use. That is my real complaint.

Kimball Corson

Indeed, Bush's assertion through Liddy that Iraq was "trying to procure" uranium is mentioned on the bottom of Page 24 of the 90-page National Intelligence Estimate (or Intelligence Estimate Report, IER). But in an annex attached to the end of that same document, the drafters of the document also said that State Department and other intelligence officials in the CIA considered the uranium allegation "highly dubious."

Bush did not allow release of that information through Liddy because that directly supported, not repudiated Wilson's Op-Ed position. This is what I mean by intelligence manipulation. In this case, the manipulation was to establish justification for going to war against Iraq – remember, Iraq supposedly had "weapons of mass destruction." It is outrageous, especially when one considers that Bush, Cheney and the Pentagon were very busy planning to attack Iraq a second time many months before 9/11. Among other real reasons, Bush Jr. was furious that Saddam had tried to assassinate his father, Bush Sr., after Bush Sr. had tried to have Saddam killed.

Kimball Corson

Be that as it may that I really do not like Bush and clearly wandering off topic, let me put the larger question regarding Iran on the table and discuss it. If we truly believe that Iran seeks nuclear weapons to attack Israel because “Israel must be wiped off the map," as President Ahmadinejad said, quoting Iran's revolutionary leader Ayat Allah Khomeini, and if we believe Iran’s current leadership is suicidal enough to accept the risk of a retaliatory nuclear strike by Israel, then is the use of bunker busting nuclear weaponry in a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear sites and conventional weaponry on other strategic sites by the US unreasonable, assuming such nuclear weaponry is the only assured way of taking out deep and fortified underground Iranian nuclear sites? If you believe President Ahmadinejad is not engaged in idle political rhetoric, is not the alternative of a strike on Israel and its predictable aftermath far worse? Am I the only liberal who believes this is a serious question that needs to be answered or at least analyzed?

D.H. Lawrence

I do not know who Kimball Carson is. I have no idea if Kimball is male or female. For all I know, Kimball is the most respected scholar in the world. But I have the sneaking suspicion that Kimball is an unreflective nutball.

I think Professor Sunstein is correct about where the debate is. However, his framework is 1) static and 2) incomplete. This is so because as the case for Sunstein's 2 becomes stronger, critics of the President will slide from claiming 5 to claiming 6, or even 7, which is something more sensational and harder to disprove. As the case for Sunstein's 5 becomes stronger, critics of the President will abandon claiming 2 and instead will claim that the President's critics are unreasonable for not claiming 3 and then note that one could reasonably claim 3, but reasonable minds can differ. It is also possible that facts advancing either 2 or 5 will come to light at the same time, so push and pull might occur simultaneously.

Kimball Corson

Untethered, gratuitous and misaddressed insults aside, I submit, as Sunstein allows, first, that the technical legal authority of the President to selectively declassify is granted and less interesting, and, second, that I have made a substantial case here in all but my last post for an application of proposition 5: that the public is mislead when intelligence is selectively declassified that is directly and in advance of its declassification clearly refuted by other intelligence that is not. Interestingly, as Sunstein defines his categories, if one did not know the facts, proposition 2 could also arguably apply – to correct a public misunderstanding about why the President did something -- suggesting perhaps that Bush did not read the NIE carefully or fully before determining to invade Iraq. But whether he did is irrelevant on the facts and 2 does not apply as I explain below.

However, here I go further and state there was no such reliance by Bush on the NIE, as proposition 2 might suggest. The suggestion to the contrary is a sham and falsehood. The public has been mislead. The NIE is dated October 2002. However, the decision to invade had already made by then. A secret Downing Street British memo, dated July 23, 2002, has been leaked that states the decision had been made to invade Iraq by then and, worse, that “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” The invasion started on March 20, 2003. The NIE was well after the decision to invade had been made and had nothing to do with it. Bush cannot defend his invasion decision by claiming he relied on the NIE because (a) it was refuted by other contemporaneously available and still classified intelligence, and (b) by the date of the NIE Report, Bush had already decided to invade Iraq. It is as the Brits wrote, a situation where Bush had made up his mind and was looking for intelligence and facts to support his decision, i.e., manipulating the intelligence.

In short, proposition 5 applies, not 2. There is no real debate, I submit, between 2 and 5 on the facts as we now know them. I also suggest that at the present time we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and that matters will deteriorate worse for Bush as we learn more in the future.

Another Person Who Thinks Kimball Is A Wack-O

Prof. Sunstein: 2) a declassification decision designed to correct a widespread misunderstanding of why the President did something (a subset of 1), and also fine, and claimed by some of the president's defenders here)

This says nothing about "reliance".

Kimball Corson

Forget your insults, and step up to the plate with credible counterarguments, Gentlemen (woman). And bring your real
name(s) with you.

Kimball Corson

Another Person writes:

“Prof. Sunstein: 2) a declassification decision designed to correct a widespread misunderstanding of why the President did something (a subset of 1), and also fine, and claimed by some of the president's defenders here)
This says nothing about ‘reliance.’"

I respond:

This is feigned naïveté and taking things out of context. In context, the logic runs:
the President released the NIE because it showed Iraq was trying to get nuclear material (WMD) and that is why he invaded Iraq. The “why” in this case entails his reliance. Bush suggests he relied on the NIE in making the decision to invade Iraq. But as I point out that is demonstrably false.

Kimball Carson Is Still A Nutjob

You only reveal what a nutball you are, Kimball.

Let's say at Time 1 Bush decides to go to war with Iraq because Iraq presents threats X, Y and Z. He has reliable information to this effect. Let's further say that at Time 3, the NIE showed that the President's assessment at Time 1 was correct. Let's then say that the President went to war with Iraq at Time 5. Now, at Time 7, when his critics claim that he had no reasonable basis for going to war, it makes perfect sense that the President would show them the NIE, which shows that he decided to go to war on a reasonable basis. As should be obvious, no reliance on the NIE at Time 1 is necessary for Bush to have had a reasonable basis to go to war, even if Time 5 and Time 3 switch places. And even if Time 5 and Time 3 switch places, the NIE shows how reasonable (or unreasonable) that basis at Time 1 was.

Bush does not suggest he relied on the NIE to decide to invade Iraq. He says that the NIE shows that his basis for invading Iraq was reasonable. That does not imply any reliance at Time 1. You are presuming it implies reliance at Time 1 because you are an unreflective nutball.

law.prof

(4) a declassification decision that discloses the name of a CIA agent (almost always a subset of 3), and to say the least, not fine — again, not alleged thus far with respect to the President or Vice President

Huh?

Disclosing the name of a CIA agent isn’t alleged with respect to the President or Vice President? Does this remark depend on what the meaning of "name" is, or what the meaning of "dislosing" is?

How about encouraging your subordinates to disclose the identity of a CIA agent? If, as reformulated, Prof. Sunstein thinks that hasn’t been alleged, he must be reading only comments on his own blog, not those out in the real world.

Jeff

Should 4) read "the identity" in place of "the name"?

law.prof

Jeff, you're correct, but if you insert the word "identity" instead of "name" Prof. Sunstein's assertion that nobody has alleged involvement of the VP or President in causing disclosure falls apart.

Is that a possible reason for not using the term "identity"? Deniability?

Kimball J. Corson

At last. An argument, of sorts. I ignore your ad hominem aspersion (except to note that I believe you are violating blog policy with your designation), I make none of my own, and I address your argument.

Your argument is removed from the context and is wrong on the facts, and it contains an internal mistake which reveals that. Bush decided to go to war against Iraq for reasons of his own which are irrelevant to this discussion. Because our attack on Iraq came shortly on the heels 9/11, there was the initial suggestion by the Administration that we were striking back against Al Queda, the group that bombed the World Trade Center, when in fact we had been planning to invade Iraq for many months before 9/11. Also, at the time, there was no known or significant connection between Iraq and Al Queda, As one analyst suggested, attacking Iraq for that reason made no more sense than attacking Mexico. When those arguments became clear, Bush then reverted to the reasons for the attack, which he gave to the British earlier, which were we needed to attack because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, specifically nuclear weapons and biological weapons, and Saddam needed to be deposed because had developed those weapons and would use them.

In fact, as we now clearly understand, Bush had no reliable intelligence to support his position. After exhaustive searches of Iraq, no nuclear weapons or materials were found and no biological weapons were found [but see the aside below on “biological weapons”]. As it became clear Iraq had no WMD, Bush attempted to argue, ‘well, it was trying to get them.’ Enter stage right, the NIE which on page 24 had the suggestion that Saddam tried to buy yellowcake from Niger. Wilson had traveled to Niger to investigate that claim, made a report which was ignored, and then wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times, saying that from his investigation, that claim was bogus, although the Administration continued to rely upon it. Interestingly enough, the same NIE, that on page 24 referred to the yellowcake, also had an annex saying that according to the State Department and other CIA analysts, the reported purchase effort regarding yellowcake had not occurred and that the report section on page 24 could not be relied upon. Bush decided to leak the information on page 24 anyway through Cheney and Liddy to the NY Times, while making no mention of the NIE annex and its contents.

If in fact Bush relied on the page 24 NIE information to attack Iraq, what are we to make of his ignoring or not reading the annex? If in fact and as you suggest he relied on other intelligence on WMD, then why leak a part of the NIE, where the NIE has a refuting annex discrediting the information leaked? If Bush had better intelligence, he should and would have leaked that. In fact, as the exhaustive search of Iraq confirms, there was no other or more credible intelligence to leak, especially if you understand how and why intelligence is leaked. This is the internal or structural reason that your theory is wrong on the facts and demonstrably so using no more than the full NEI itself. Recall that Sunstein framed the analysis in the context of the page 24 NIE leak. You are simply ill or uninformed and making a retreat to an abstract hypothetical to get out of the operating context and not have to face the facts. Many Republicans do that.

On the claimed biological weapons of mass destruction, two small trailers were found that the Bush Administration quickly said were mobile labs to make biological weapons. Bush himself declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.” But that was all that was found in Iraq supposedly regarding WMD. However, after careful inspection by a secret team of fact-finding biological and engineering experts, that contention was squarely refuted in a 122 page report that was shelved and kept secret, as the Administration continued to tout its find, until the report was leaked the other day to the Washington Post and Joby Warrick reported on April 11, 2006, that (a) the trailers were for manufacturing hydrogen for weather balloons, and (b) were not useable for the manufacture of any biological weapons. But the plot thickens, as Warrick interviewed the experts and others. On earlier learning what the report would say when it was finished, the Administration immediately did two things. First, they leaned on the experts to try and get them to change their minds and soften the conclusions of the report. They refused. Second, CIA analysts were then instructed to use an earlier, sketchy, non-expert military assessment to produce a White Paper with contrary and supportive conclusions, which they did in less than 24 hours after the 122 page report was finished. Bush kept the truth secret to enable him to go on touting the find of the trailers as manufacturing facilities of WMD, pointing to the supportive White Paper. Until now. Today, Warrick reports in the Post that the Administration now admits that its assertions about the mobile trailer labs were in error.

Blog Policy Should Ban Nutballs With Initials "K.C."

Kimball "Dingbat" Corson: "Bush decided to go to war against Iraq for reasons of his own which are irrelevant to this discussion."

That is your problem. You keep trying to set up this "reliance" theory that has no basis in reality. Bush thought Hussein was a threat. To respond to his critics, Bush pointed out that the NIE showed that Hussein was a threat. That doesn't imply he relied on the NIE in forming the impression that Hussein was a threat. The hypothetical was to illustrate this to you, because you apparently lack the ability to reason. It seems you have yet to reach the age of 7.

Ostensibly Illiterate Corson: "If in fact Bush relied on the page 24 NIE information to attack Iraq, what are we to make of his ignoring or not reading the annex?"

Bush did not rely on the NIE to attack Iraq. There is no reason to suppose he did or even to consider it hypothetically. See my hypothetical.

Crazy Corson: "If Bush had better intelligence, he should and would have leaked that."

Bush thought the NIE was sufficient, because it suggests that Iraq could have acquired nukes. There's no better illustration of threat than that. You are a fool.

Nutty Kimball: "You are simply ill or uninformed and making a retreat to an abstract hypothetical to get out of the operating context and not have to face the facts. Many Republicans do that."

And your rife speculation is the province of moonbat nutballs and conspiracy theorists. I am a registered Democrat and have always been so. By the way, Iraq DID try to purchase yellowcake from Niger. British intelligence stands by its conclusions with good reason: unlike your wild speculation, they're demonstrably true. I am not a Republican, but you are an unreflective nutball.

Another Person Whose Initials Are Not "KC"

Inaccurate Corson: "If in fact and as you suggest he relied on other intelligence on WMD"

I never said "Bush relied on other intelligence". I didn't suggest he relied on other intelligence, either. I didn't, in any way, describe how exactly Bush got the impression that Iraq was a threat. I don't really care.

Oleg Cassini

2) a declassification decision designed to correct a widespread misunderstanding of why the President did something (a subset of 1), and also fine

Conspiracy theorists said "War for oil! Blood for oil!" Bush replied, "No, I did it because he was a threat."

Kimball J. Corson

Ad Hominem Detractors all,

Detractor 1 writes:

"’Bush decided to go to war against Iraq for reasons of his own which are irrelevant to this discussion.’" That is your problem. You keep trying to set up this "reliance" theory that has no basis in reality. Bush thought Hussein was a threat. To respond to his critics, Bush pointed out that the NIE showed that Hussein was a threat. That doesn't imply he relied on the NIE in forming the impression that Hussein was a threat. The hypothetical was to illustrate this to you, because you apparently lack the ability to reason. It seems you have yet to reach the age of 7.

I respond:

My quoted comment was to suggest that we cannot accurately know what was in Bush’s mind, only what he said, did and what intelligence was available to him. If Bush thought Hussien was a threat, one of three situations had to exist: (a) he was hallucinating, (b) God was talking to him, as he says occurs, or (c) he had some intelligence, i.e., information on which he relied to draw that conclusion. In (b) or (c) he was relying. In (a) he was not. If he did not rely on p.24 of the NIE and only presented it as an ex post rationalization, he should have included reference to the annex to be honest with the American public. He did not and was not. Moreover we know, from the British July 23, 2002. Downing Street Memo what Bush told the Brits: “. . . [he] wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. . .” In addition to accusing Bush of manipulating intelligence, this statement would imply (a) or (b), but does exclude reliance on (c), if there were (c) to rely upon. That is the problem. We now know that no nuclear or biological weapons or facilities or materials to produce them were ever found in Iraq (after the most exhaustive search) and the Iraq Survey Group confirmed none of these existed. We know of no reasonable and credible (c) or even (c) that does not meet those standards, except for p. 24 of the NIE, if one did not read the annex. You might be comfortable with (a) or (b) in our President, but I am not. You might comfortable with Bush releasing intelligence favorable to him and withholding intelligence that refutes what he authorized to be released, but I am not. In light of what we now know, there was no (c) on which Bush could have justifiably relied . . . except arguably p. 24 of the NIE, but only if Bush did not bother to read the annex. The truth is Bush was manipulating discredited intelligence when he authorized only p. 24 of the NIE to be released. The bottom line is Bush was relying explicitly or implicitly on some reality reflect in intelligence or (a) or (b) obtain. Any way you cut it, Bush got it wrong and he has not been able to point to any defective intelligence provided to him on which he relied.

Dectractor 1 continues:

"’If in fact Bush relied on the page 24 NIE information to attack Iraq, what are we to make of his ignoring or not reading the annex?’ Bush did not rely on the NIE to attack Iraq. There is no reason to suppose he did or even to consider it hypothetically.”

I respond:

As a matter of fact, you do not know that Bush did not rely on p.24 of the NIE, except based on the inferences I have argued to conclude he did not. Your argument again puts us back to position (a) or (b) or more remotely, some phantom (c) now discredited. Anyway you cut it, Bush looks like a fool.

Detractor 1 again:

"’If Bush had better intelligence, he should and would have leaked that.’"
Bush thought the NIE was sufficient, because it suggests that Iraq could have acquired nukes. There's no better illustration of threat than that. You are a fool.

I respond:

So who is now saying Bush relied on the NIE, after saying he did not. Further,
Bush is the fool if he thought p. 24 of the NIE was sufficient, in light of the NEI annex. The “could have” argument is even more foolish. As Milton Friedman used to say, if we had eggs and if we had bacon, we could have bacon and eggs. Further, the “could have” argument looks even more stupid, under the preemption doctrine, when we knew in fact that in 2002 North Korea and Iran had embryonic nuclear programs in place, but Saddam did not.

Detractor 1 finally writes:

“By the way, Iraq DID try to purchase yellowcake from Niger. British intelligence stands by its conclusions with good reason: unlike your wild speculation, they're demonstrably true.”

I respond:
This statement is misleading or false. The British Butler Report which recounted the alleged yellowcake purchase effort was drafted before the document forgeries on which it was based became disclosed and widely known. By early 2002, before the Iraq invasion, investigations by both the CIA and the State Department had found the underlying documents claiming the attempted purchase to be inaccurate forgeries, just as French intelligence had been contending. Further, Seymour Hersh reported in a March 24, 2002 New Yorker article that the I.A.E.A. investigators concluded that MI6 may have been involved in the creation of the forgeries. There has been something more than speculation that the US may have also been involved here with the British. As Hersh put it: “Forged documents and false accusations have been an element in U.S. and British policy toward Iraq at least since the fall of 1997, after an impasse over U.N. inspections.” MI6’s internal position is the documents on which the yellowcake purchase claim are based are forgeries, but, in an effort to absolve itself of blame, that the Butler Report was appropriate when it was drafted because no one knew that then. It would not surprise me if we later learn that American and British intelligence were both involved with preparation of the forged documents creating the yellowcake purchase attempt, just as Hersh suggests.

Kimball J. Corson

Ostensible Decorator 2, who is probably Decorator 1, writes:

I never said "Bush relied on other intelligence". I didn't suggest he relied on other intelligence, either. I didn't, in any way, describe how exactly Bush got the impression that Iraq was a threat. I don't really care.

I respond:

Again, we have possibilities (a), (b) or (c). But that you don’t care how Bush arrived at his conclusions, might just qualify you to work for this Administration. Do you care that we are mired in Iraq and people are dying because of Bush’s mistaken view that Iraq was a threat?

ron

The professor argues by implication that the motive for the declassification plays an important part in determining its propriety. I agree, particularly as it seems there is little law in the area. If we were to just take a common law approach, it appears that the president's actions, at least as some allege, equates to an intentional, if not malicious, tort and serves no other justification. Typically, such acts aren't privileged or justified in any circumstance. But how does this play out legally? What and where is the crucible where this motive can be discerned and a determination made?

Kimball Corson

Ron's suggestion is very interesting. Some conceptual approach perhaps like his is necessary to bring some integrity to the classification and declassification process. I think that motive for classification or retention of classification as well should likewise be an issue and part of Ron’s suggested framework.

Imagine the situation if, in the future, it could be proved that MI6 and American Intelligence conspired to create false documents to establish the false yellowcake purchase effort from Niger by Saddam and that action later became the basis of the p.24 NIE assessment which Bush then permitted to be leaked, where Bush also knowingly withheld the NIE annex information refuting the incident from the authorized leak and perhaps even knowingly withheld the information on the alleged US involvement in the forgery of the documents creating the false yellowcake purchase effort. Publicly known factual developments are moving in this direction, but too much remains classified, making it clear that Ron’s suggested system or something like it is needed on the classification side as well.

Kimball Corson's Crazy Irrational Circus Is Coming To Town!

Nutball Corson: "If he did not rely on p.24 of the NIE and only presented it as an ex post rationalization, he should have included reference to the annex to be honest with the American public."

Before I respond to this quotation, and to conform it to the context of our discussion so it becomes relevant to our discussion, I will insert choice language to this quote before answering it. To that effect:

Nutball Corson: "If he did not rely on p.24 of the NIE [at Time 1 of my conceptual framework, i.e., when Bush was " forming the impression that Hussein was a threat"] and only presented it as an ex post rationalization [i.e., "at Time 7, when his critics claim that he had no reasonable basis for going to war, it makes perfect sense that the President would show them the NIE"; "To respond to his critics, Bush pointed out that the NIE showed that Hussein was a threat. That doesn't imply he relied on the NIE in forming the impression that Hussein was a threat (at Time 1)."] he should have included reference to the annex to be honest with the American public."

Whether Bush ought have disclosed what was in the annex depends on his purpose for declassifying the NIE. My claim is that President Bush's decision to declassify part of the NIE was "2) a declassification decision designed to correct a widespread misunderstanding of why the President did something (a subset of 1), and also fine". What was the nature of this misunderstanding? I think Oleg Cassini above explains it quite succinctly: "Conspiracy theorists said 'War for oil! Blood for oil!' Bush replied, 'No, I did it because he was a threat.'" In that light, unless you can prove Bush went to war so as to steal Iraq's oil, you are making a false statement when you call him dishonest, Kimball. (You are also a moonbat conspiracy nut.)

Fallacies of Irrelevance Corson: "Do you care that we are mired in Iraq and people are dying because of Bush’s mistaken view that Iraq was a threat?"

I am unclear which people you refer to as dying. Does your figure exclude Iraqi civilians? Does it include people who pledge fealty to al-Qaeda? Are you referring to the approximately 2600 American soldiers out of the approximately 160,000 that are in the region to deal with Iraq? I suppose that depends on what you mean by "mired". Is a less than 2% chance of death for our troops a "mire"? Vietnam was considered a "quagmire," but the chance of death for American troops was considerably higher by several orders of magnitude. Does your term "mire" include both Iraq and Vietnam? How would you distinguish between the two contexts? I am also uncertain what you mean by "because of". Are your blaming Bush for the deaths of Iraqi civilians who attempt to vote during elections? I also dispute that Bush was wrong that Iraq was not a threat. Kuwait and Israel and Kurdish Iraqis would probably agree that Iraq was a threat.

Conspiracy Theorist Corson: "It would not surprise me if we later learn that American and British intelligence were both involved with preparation of the forged documents creating the yellowcake purchase attempt, just as Hersh suggests."

Here I will quote Bill Keller, Editorial Editor of the New York Times: "Mr. Hersh is a reporter with a memorable record of scoops. We read his work with interest, and on several occasions have chased his information onto our own front page. But I think the record establishes that Mr. Hersh, too, is not infallible. And like many investigative reporters, especially those who deal in the secretive realm of national security, he depends heavily on anonymous sources whose information is hard to independently verify." He said this in response to the question, "Why is it that important stories that are initially reported in other publications are frequently not reported in the Times for a few days? The most recent example is Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker about preparations within the Pentagon for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Despite the fact that it is front-page news in Britain and was the lead story on public radio this morning, I didn't see any mention of it in today's Times." Mr. Keller is essentially making the same point that I am making in reply to your rife speculation, Kimball: no reasonable person would trust conspiracy theories.

"Y2K and Avian Flu Are Here!" Corson: "So who is now saying Bush relied on the NIE, after saying he did not."

I never stated that Bush relied on the NIE at Time 1, in forming his impression that Iraq posed a threat.

Hypocrite Corson: "The 'could have' argument is even more foolish."

Then your entire analysis is foolish, because "My quoted comment was to suggest that we cannot accurately know what was in Bush’s mind, only what he said, did and what intelligence was available to him." Your entire analysis is a conceptual one designed to reveal and test what Bush likely could have thought and been motivated to do.

Incoherent Corson: "Further, the 'could have' argument looks even more stupid, under the preemption doctrine, when we knew in fact that in 2002 North Korea and Iran had embryonic nuclear programs in place, but Saddam did not."

Where in the official statement of the preemption doctrine -- which I am sure you have a pdf. of on your computer desktop -- does it say that North Korea must be attacked prior to Iraq is attacked? I will note only that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq were all mentioned as part of the "Axis of Evil". Invading Iraq was much easier to do than invading Iran or North Korea would have been to do. Perhaps Bush decided to invade the easiest of the three to invade so as to scare the others into compliance. Perhaps it did not work, or perhaps it is working, but the results can only be definitively analyzed at some point in the future by historians or commentators with greater access to facts, and less need for wanton speculation, than crazy nutbags named Kimball Corson who post on this comments thread.

Crazy Nutbag: "[Y]ou do not know that Bush did not rely on p.24 of the NIE, except based on the inferences I have argued to conclude he did not."

Either you maintain your argument, or you reject it. If you maintain it, then I can concede you one of your facts, in which case there is no point of disagreement and your quote here is irrational and incoherent. If you reject it, then you have contradicted yourself, and disproven your entire argument.

Foolish Carson: "Anyway you cut it, Bush looks like a fool."

At least he knows the virtue of consistency in his arguments; Bush is less of a fool than you.



Kimball Corson

Nameless writes:

“. . . Whether Bush ought have disclosed what was in the annex depends on his purpose for declassifying the NIE. My claim is that President Bush's decision to declassify part of the NIE was ‘2) a declassification decision designed to correct a widespread misunderstanding of why the President did something (a subset of 1), and also fine.’ What was the nature of this misunderstanding?”

I respond:

Credible argument does not permit quotations out of context, especially where the full context refutes the portion quoted. That is just intellectually dishonest, regardless of one’s motive for doing so. It becomes especially so, if the portion quoted was created by the fraudulent action of the same Administration, a point not yet fully established.

Nameless again:

“I think Oleg Cassini above explains it quite succinctly: "Conspiracy theorists said 'War for oil! Blood for oil!' Bush replied, 'No, I did it because he was a threat.'" In that light, unless you can prove Bush went to war so as to steal Iraq's oil, you are making a false statement when you call him dishonest, Kimball.”

I respond:

You are confused. I said Bush is dishonest because he quoted the p. 24 portion of the NIE out of context, ignoring the annex which refutes the portion he quoted. I have said nothing about oil. With respect to why Bush put us in a war with Iraq, I have only said that if Bush thought Saddam was a threat, either he was (a) hallucinating, (b) hearing the voice of God (which some would say is the same thing) or (c) he based his view on some informational perception on which he was relying. That is my position, which you do not address. You likewise do not address my contention that, after exhaustive searching and evaluation of all intelligence, there is nothing known to establish Saddam as a threat except the refuted and possibly fraudulent p.24 NIE excerpt. Believe me, if Bush had something better, he would have leaked that instead.

Nameless once again:

“‘Do you care that we are mired in Iraq and people are dying because of Bush’s mistaken view that Iraq was a threat?’ I am unclear which people you refer to as dying. Does your figure exclude Iraqi civilians? Does it include people who pledge fealty to al-Qaeda? Are you referring to the approximately 2600 American soldiers out of the approximately 160,000 that are in the region to deal with Iraq?

I respond:

My concern is the death of anyone, arguably excluding insurgent Sunni/al-Quaeda, but I have a problem excluding even them because we are an armed force occupying their territory. Yes, I include the Arab civilian body count, which we ignore and do not report. I also include dead American and coalition forces. Every one counts. Also, referring just to American troops in Iraq, I believe the correct numbers are 2,72 dead, 17,269 injured and 130,000 to 132,000 in country. We have an effort afoot in Afghanistan as well and reconnaissance teams in Iran now as well (I have a friend who is there now).

Nameless again:

“I suppose that depends on what you mean by "mired". Is a less than 2% chance of death for our troops a "mire"? Vietnam was considered a "quagmire," but the chance of death for American troops was considerably higher by several orders of magnitude. Does your term "mire" include both Iraq and Vietnam? How would you distinguish between the two contexts? I am also uncertain what you mean by "because of". Are your blaming Bush for the deaths of Iraqi civilians who attempt to vote during elections? I also dispute that Bush was wrong that Iraq was not a threat. Kuwait and Israel and Kurdish Iraqis would probably agree that Iraq was a threat.”

I respond:

By mired in Iraq I refer to our past Congressional appropriations of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars for just the war in Iraq, with the prospect of a half a trillion before we finish, the deaths and injuries of too many for too little, with the prospect of many more to come, our low chance of defeating the insurgents, the increased prospects for civil war between the Sunni and the Shiites in Iraq, the dim prospect for democracy, the likelihood of an emerged government that is (a) a theocracy and (b) highly sympathetic to Iran, our next enemy de jour. We are locked into more financial losses, more deaths and worsening prospects as each day passes and we are gaining nothing or next to it. That is what I mean by mired.
No, I do not blame Bush for those killed during elections, but I do genuinely think Bush was wrong to believe Iraq was a serious threat and to invade it.

Nameless writes:

"’It would not surprise me if we later learn that American and British intelligence were both involved with preparation of the forged documents creating the yellowcake purchase attempt, just as Hersh suggests." Here I will quote Bill Keller, Editorial Editor of the New York Times: "Mr. Hersh is a reporter with a memorable record of scoops. We read his work with interest, and on several occasions have chased his information onto our own front page. But I think the record establishes that Mr. Hersh, too, is not infallible. And like many investigative reporters, especially those who deal in the secretive realm of national security, he depends heavily on anonymous sources whose information is hard to independently verify." He said this in response to the question, "Why is it that important stories that are initially reported in other publications are frequently not reported in the Times for a few days? The most recent example is Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker about preparations within the Pentagon for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Despite the fact that it is front-page news in Britain and was the lead story on public radio this morning, I didn't see any mention of it in today's Times." Mr. Keller is essentially making the same point that I am making in reply to your rife speculation, Kimball: no reasonable person would trust conspiracy theories.”

I respond:

This charge against Hersh is not new and it is not without validity on occasion, although Hersh has been accurate and cutting edge on many, many more occasions. The problem in this day and age is too much is classified to protect the guilty and too many in government fear retaliation for talking even when the information is not classified. Note that the Generals speaking out against Rumsfeld are all retired. In this type of situation, anonymous sources are about all reporters have to rely on. The more credible of them seek multiple such sources before running their stories, but the sources are still anonymous, just as Liddy was until he released the Times reporter, Judith Miller, to speak. Too much is shrouded with secrecy to protect the guilty. We do the best we can, so handicapped. The classification/declassification system needs drastic reform, which is my main point on this thread.

Nameless again:

“. . .I never stated that Bush relied on the NIE at Time 1, in forming his impression that Iraq posed a threat.”

I respond:

Either he was relying on something to form his impression or he was hallucinating or hearing God’s voice. We know, from what I have argued, that he did not rely on p. 24 of the NIE.

Nameless writes:

“’My quoted comment was to suggest that we cannot accurately know what was in Bush’s mind, only what he said, did and what intelligence was available to him.’ Your entire analysis is a conceptual one designed to reveal and test what Bush likely could have thought and been motivated to do.

I respond:

Just the opposite. We cannot ever know what went on in Bush’s head. We can only know what he said, did, the intelligence available to him and the facts learned and work from there. I have therefore focused on what he said, did, that intelligence and the facts we have learned. That is reasonable. What is unreasonable is to conjecture what he thought.

Nameless again:

"’Further, the 'could have' argument looks even more stupid, under the preemption doctrine, when we knew in fact that in 2002 North Korea and Iran had embryonic nuclear programs in place, but Saddam did not.’ Where in the official statement of the preemption doctrine . . . does it say that North Korea must be attacked prior to Iraq is attacked? I will note only that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq were all mentioned as part of the "Axis of Evil". Invading Iraq was much easier to do than invading Iran or North Korea would have been to do. Perhaps Bush decided to invade the easiest of the three to invade so as to scare the others into compliance. Perhaps it did not work, or perhaps it is working, but the results can only be definitively analyzed at some point in the future by historians or commentators with greater access to facts . . .”

I respond:

There is, of course, as you suggest, no mandate to attack North Korea or Iran first under the preemption doctrine and to be sure, Iraq was the easiest, but if we had attacked North Korea earlier, before it had an arsenal of nuclear weapons, instead of Iraq then or later, we might have avoided Korea, as a member of the Axis of Evil, from having nuclear weapons it can or will be able to use against us (assuming the necessary rocket technology). In fact, Iraq was a non-player, consumed with its own internal problems, but apparently we needed some Arab country to attach after 9/11, although Iran might have been a better choice. The best choice I think would have been to just have serious air strikes against al-Queda encampments and training facilities and suspected or potential WMD sites most anywhere in the Arab world, excluding Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps some others. That would have a good deterrent effect, I think. To be sure, as information becomes declassified, we will know more in the future. The problem for me is I do not trust Bush in the here and now to do what is in our best interest or even come close to it or to use the classification system appropriately.

Nameless writes:

"[Y]ou do not know that Bush did not rely on p.24 of the NIE, except based on the inferences I have argued to conclude he did not." Either you maintain your argument, or you reject it. If you maintain it, then I can concede you one of your facts, in which case there is no point of disagreement and your quote here is irrational and incoherent. If you reject it, then you have contradicted yourself, and disproved your entire argument.

I respond:

We disagree. I do not believe Bush relied on p.24 of the NIE in forming his “impression,” as you call it, that Iraq was a threat for the reasons I have stated. The timing is off. Also, as I have stated earlier either Bush relied on some intelligence or he hallucinated or heard God’s voice. We now know there were no WMD or facilities or materials to produce them in Iraq. Therefore, there could have been credible, accurate intelligence to the contrary. That leaves bad or trumped up intelligence or hallucinating or God’s voice. Anyway you cut it, the Bush Administration looks like a bunch of inept fools.

Nameless writes:

“At least he knows the virtue of consistency in his arguments; Bush is less of a fool than you.”

I respond:

We disagree.

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