Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bush on the NIE (or Pathology of a President)

Bush serves up a rare naked lunch: in today's press conference, he quite baldly offered two amazing bits of reasoning related to the Iran-ain't-got-no-stinkin'-nukes National Intelligence Estimate. I summarize.

Q: So it turns out Iran has no nukes. The attack's out, right?

A: The NIE proves that Iran is extremely dangerous and we'll probably have to attack, just as I have always said and believed.*
Q: There's no nukes, but you warned darkly of WWIII. What the hell?

A: I didn't hear about it until last week.

Q: So while you were warning of WWIII, no one from intelligence mentioned that Iran was no danger?

A: Yup. And anyway, this NIE doesn't change anything; Iran is still trying to enrich uranium and bomb soccer moms on their way to pick up groceries.**
A couple things bear mentioning. Bush could not have more clearly described his mental pathology had he been Sigmund Freud. One has belief, which is real, and facts, which must serve the reality of belief. Iran is dangerous because he believes it is; whether they have nukes is wholly beside the point. This has not been in dispute since mid-2003, but rarely have we had such a clear view of it.

Speaking of 2003, the second point is this: Bush's madness is abetted by those who pretend it's not madness. Chief among the enablers are the members of the press corps, who seem to write around the strange insanity of the most powerful man on the planet. It will be interesting to see whether they report this as dire evidence that our president is disconnected from reality, or the usual Bush-said, facts-say formulation.

*Actual exchange:

Q: Mr. President, a new intelligence report says that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, and that it remains frozen. Are you still convinced that Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb? And do the new findings take the military option that you've talked about off the table?

A: Here's what we know. We know that they're still trying to learn how to enrich uranium. We know that enriching uranium is an important step in a country who wants to develop a weapon. We know they had a program.... And so I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program, they halted the program. And the reason why it's a warning signal is that they could restart it. And the thing that would make a restarted program effective and dangerous is the ability to enrich uranium, the knowledge of which could be passed on to a hidden program.

Actual exchange:

Q: On October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat?

A: In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze. Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it's not disinformation. You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real. And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered: If they think it's real, then what does it mean? And it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.

Q: Mr. President, thank you. Just to follow, I understand what you're saying about when you were informed about the NIE. Are you saying at no point while the rhetoric was escalating, as "World War III" was making it into conversation, at no point nobody from your intelligence team or your administration was saying, maybe you want to back it down a little bit?

A: No, nobody ever told me that. Having said -- having laid that out, I still feel strongly that Iran is a danger. Nothing has changed in this NIE that says, okay, why don't we just stop worrying about it. Quite the contrary. I think the NIE makes it clear that Iran needs to be taken seriously as a threat to peace. My opinion hasn't changed.

Now, the Iranians -- the most difficult aspect of developing a weapons program, or as some would say, the long pole in the tent, is enriching uranium. This is a nation -- Iran is a nation that is testing ballistic missiles. And it is a nation that is trying to enrich uranium.


cwilcox said...

HEY! My coppy of "The Puddle Variations" arrived in the mail today! I can't wait to dig into it! You need to put a prominant display ad on this site so others can order it in time for Christmas!

Chuck Butcher said...

Hah, I got mine first - out here in the hinterlands...

I've intro'd it on my blog, now I'm going to keep quiet until I finish.