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Did Gates Force Bush to Release a Humiliating NIE?

mushroom cloudDespite the best efforts of the Administration and their now demoralized neocon supporters to put a positive spin on the new NIE, including the President’s evasions at this morning’s presser, the most plausible explanation for the NIE’s complete reversal of its 2005 findings is that enough adults in the Pentagon finally told the Bush/Cheney White House to knock off the war talk on Iran. And they did it knowing that the NIE would likely destroy the Administration’s last remaining credibility.

What is yet to be uncovered is how forceful that message must have been to force the regime to expose its own duplicity and incompetence. It’s now clear that publishing the NIE’s key judgments has essentially torpedoed whatever remaining credibility the Administration still had with the Europeans and Russians, with Putin now saying "I told you so." The Administration would have known months ago this hit on their credibility would result, and yet they released this NIE. I doubt it occurred willingly.

This Administration doesn’t admit mistakes or knowingly humiliate itself, so I’m guessing they were forced to humble themselves by someone willing to go to the mat to get this NIE out. Bush 41’s grownups used the Iraq Study Group to try to rescue Bush 43 from his own policies, and they failed. I suspect only Bob Gates’ Pentagon seniors could have pulled this off, and only by threatening to resign. Was there another Comey/Ashcroft event?

Admiral Fallon and others have been outspoken in recent months in their opposition to another war. The Army and Marines are stretched dangerously thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worried about Pakistan. When the senior Generals warned Congress we had no reserves for a serious contingency, and then Pakistan’s nukes became vulnerable, the message must have sunk in. But how did they actually force the regime to humiliate itself?

It is almost impossible to read the NIE as anything other than a stunning confession. The NIE tells us, in effect, that the Bush/Cheney regime has been systematically lying about the threat posed by Iran and could easily have misled a frightened Congress (recall, Kyl-Lieberman) and the country into yet another unwarranted and disastrous war.

Even if one accepts the dubious cover story that new intelligence only recently changed the intelligence community’s prior judgments — Bush said today he only got a heads up in August — it’s an admission that the Bush/Cheney regime, which has firmly controlled every facet of US intelligence since 2003, was dangerously incompetent in analyzing the intelligence information it had before and even more dangerous in threatening war over its unsupported claims. Stephen Hadley’s cover performance yesterday, and Bush’s presser today, only confirmed that the United States still has a disingenuous and dysfunctional national security team.

The neocons have shown an astounding ability to keep their heads from exploding. They’re frantically inventing explanations for the fact that what they adamantly called night is now judged with high confidence to be day. As Attaturk noted this morning, Norman Podhoretz says that no one should trust the folks who write these NIEs, because those CIA spooks are always trying to shaft Bush/Cheney, except when Cheney’s minions fix the facts to fit the policy and are in charge of the NIE, as they still were in 2005. If that’s the neocon’s best argument for being misled by the regime that’s been in charge of the entire intelligence community since 2003, they can have it.

Despite Podhoretz, the emerging neocon delusion assumes the latest NIE is correct, but that it proves that Bush/Cheney were correct to lie us into a war with Iraq, since that crazy act of invading a country that posed no threat to America convinced the Iranians to abandon their previous nuclear weapons program for fear the Bush/Cheney crazies would attack them too. Apart from how appalling this admission is and what it says to the families of 3880 dead and 28,000 wounded US troops — plus a decimated Iraq– there seem to be some minor glitches with this notion:

(1) If the Bush/Cheney crazies would fabricate intelligence to justify regime change in Iraq, even though Saddam had abandoned his WMD programs, they would be equally capable of doing the same thing to impose regime change on Iran;

(2) So the Iranians would not gain anything from actually abandoning their program because of Iraq, while being coy about it and stalling IAEA inspectors, increasing risks of giving the Bush/Cheney crazies cover to attack.

(3) We’re asked to believe that the Bush/Cheney regime remained silent about their huge strategic success in intimidating Iran, while perceptions of their abject failure in Iraq and Afghanistan were allowed to tank the Bush Presidency and the Republican Party.

We shouldn’t waste any time trying to convince the neocons that they’ve been had by their own regime, a regime that has now exposed the neocons as dangerous lunatics. They’re a lost cause. But the American people should have no trouble recognizing that the Bush/Cheney regime is the most incompetent, dishonest and dangerous we’ve ever had, and we can’t be rid of them soon enough.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley