Sunday August 31, 2008
“F**k it. We're going in.”
Sometimes you come across a disconnect so profound it almost gives you whiplash.
The cover story in this morning’s New York Times Magazine, by Peter Baker, presumably an excerpt from his upcoming book, concerns Bush’s final days in office, and the beginning of the article focuses on the McCain campaign’s attempt to distance itself from this most unpopular president. At the end of the first section, Mark Salter, McCain’s campaign advisor, says this about the President: “You feel bad for the guy if you think about it.” This leads to the first line of the second section:
George Bush does not want anyone feeling bad for him.
Allow me to back up for a second. Yesterday I came across the money portion of Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World. Suskind is writing about all the end-arounds the Bush administration performed in the lead-up to the Iraq war: ignoring George Tenet and the CIA to get the 16 words into the State of the Union address; using the CIA chief of station for Germany to muzzle German fears about the unreliability of Rafid Ahmed, or “Curveball,” who was feeding the administration misinformation about Saddam’s biological weapons operation; and, finally, not just ignoring but actually reversing the findings of the CIA Paris chief, who was told, in a clandestine meeting with Naji Sabri, Saddam’s last foreign minister, that Saddam didn’t possess WMD.
Then Suskind gets to the big one. In a casual conversation with an American intelligence officer in a Washington restaurant, and subsequently confirmed in face-to-face meetings with the former director and current assistant director of MI6, Suskind discovers that the Bush administration knew Saddam didn’t possess WMD before they went to war. They didn’t suspect. They knew.
In the months before the war, it seems a British agent, Michael Shipster, met with the head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush, who confirmed everything we subsequently found to be true: Not just that Saddam didn’t have WMD but why he was unwilling to say so publicly. And it all made sense. Here’s Suskind talking with the unnamed American intelligence officer:
I ask if the intelligence was passed to CIA and the White House.
“Of course. Passed instantly, at the very highest levels.”
“And what did we say,” I ask. “Or, I guess, what did Bush say?”
“He said, Fuck it. We’re going in.”
Don’t know if that’s a direct quote or not. Either way, it’s probably a good thing George Bush doesn’t want anyone feeling bad for him.