When the Senate Armed Services Committee met last week there was some fascinating testimony from Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble’s. What made it interesting wasn’t just the references to the newly-released portion of the report on pre-war intelligence and how it was used before our pre-emptive strike against Iraq; most observers who weren’t captivated by the administration’s ideological rants had already assumed that Congress and the American people were being played. It was that, finally, much of what was suspected was being openly discussed.
With Democrats in control former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pat Roberts (R. Kansas), was no longer in a position to block release of the final report about how intelligence was used in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. And it wasn’t only that Chairman Carl Levin, (D. Michigan), referred to the Defense Department’s adjunct intelligence unit run out of Douglas Feith’s office as a “Pentagon policy shop.” It was the substance of Mr. Gimble’s testimony before the committee that, while Feith’s activities weren’t illegal his declarations regarding pre-war Iraq “were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community.”
Apparently, Feith’s office emphasized whatever reinforced the administration’s case for war while under-playing doubts expressed by intelligence experts; what some would call “cherry picking”, a charge denied of course by Feith, now retired. The strangest aspect of all this is that an alternate intelligence agency operating out of the Defense Department should have played an over-arching role at such a critical decision-making level and yet been so careless about determining the reliability of its sources.
The comments of Republican Committee members, Chambliss and Sessions were unexpectedly churlish as they testily cross-examined Gimble about his report. Chambliss even remarked that he “…was trying to figure out why we are here” as if such old news wasn’t worth discussing. Never mind that the amplification of the very issues under discussion today by the Defense Department and the White House helped create a wartime mindset in the country back then. As to the character and defense credentials of Chambliss, it should be remembered that he defeated Max Cleland, a triple amputee Vietnam vet, by questioning his patriotism in a nasty campaign that portrayed Cleland as a bin Laden, Saddam Hussein sympathizer – – so much for respecting those who have served the country in battle.
Like Republican members of the committee columnist David Brooks on Friday’s Lehrer Report dismissed the hearing as irrelevant to the current situation in Iraq saying we should move on. But in fact it wouldn’t have become ‘old news’ if Senator Roberts hadn’t held off releasing the report for so long, an indication that it wasn’t considered so inconsequential by the administration, especially around election time. Likewise, Columnist and Fox News contributor, Charles Krauthammer called Senator Levin’s outrage about Feith’s second-tier intelligence “hilarious”, given the CIA’s failure to provide accurate pre-war evaluations regarding Iraq. But Krauthammer’s contention, if not exactly hilarious, is something of a joke because, in fact, Feith and his people never questioned assurances about the existence of WMD or any of the other stated reasons for invasion; their analyses just failed to include CIA reservations about what was reliable information and focused on what most strongly supported the administration’s position.
The reason all this continues to be of concern and why investigations of the sort now being conducted in the new Congress are important is that we are beginning to hear murmurings about Iran that have a disturbingly familiar ring to them. The president’s saber rattling is becoming increasingly strident despite the fact that we remain pinned down in Iraq. In any case it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Iran would have an interest in what is happening right on its border in Iraq. Far stranger, if you think about it, is the fact that the United States is so involved in the affairs of a country half-way around the world – -a tinder box of our creation that threatens to ignite the entire region.
Hopefully, Congress will continue paying close attention to what the White House would have us believe and continue to shed light on what went before; because only by keeping this administration’s failed mission in our sights will we be able to avoid future catastrophes. As has been said, those who ignore the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

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