There goes the Axis of Evil.
On Dec. 3, news broke that 16 U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear arms efforts in 2003. You would think the report – known as the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) – would give Bush pause in his push for another war. You’d be wrong.
At a Dec. 4 White House press conference, Bush said, “Iran is dangerous, and the NIE doesn’t do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world. Quite the contrary.”
For years the Bush administration and its neoconservative buddies have been ratcheting the rhetoric against Iran. At an Oct. 17 press conference at the White House, Bush warned that Tehran’s nuclear development could lead to “World War III.” Less than a week later, Vice President Dick Cheney told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a neoconservative think tank, that Iran would face “serious consequences” if it continued to enrich uranium. “Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions,” Cheney said.
These statements were made two months after Adm. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, briefed Bush on the fact that the intelligence agencies were reassessing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and that a change to the intelligence estimate was in the works.
But on Dec. 4, Bush pleaded ignorance, claiming he didn’t receive the new NIE until it was released on Nov. 28. McConnell, Bush claimed, “didn’t tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.”
Rrrright. If Bush, in fact, wasn’t aware of the tentative conclusions that the intelligence community had reached months ago, what does that say about how in touch he is in regard to national security? And if he did know, then he’s lying to the American people. And surely Cheney, who has been fixated on Iran from the get-go, was not out of the loop.
The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh told CNN on Dec. 4 that his sources say Bush knew about the NIE at least two days before the report was released. Hersh told CNN that Bush had a “private discussion” about the NIE with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the Middle East peace summit in Maryland on Nov. 27.
All of this must be frustrating for folks like International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, who has said time and again that no recent evidence exists of an undeclared nuclear weapons program in Iran.
As for the Democratic presidential frontrunners, Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) has rightly been criticized for her September vote to help pass a resolution that declared Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, a measure that many observers agree was introduced to help set the stage for an attack against Iran.
For his part, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has been somewhat more progressive, broaching the apparently radical idea in September that he would talk with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Still, in 2004, Obama told the Chicago Tribune that he would favor bombing Iran if U.N. Security Council pressure and economic sanctions had no effect in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “My instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran,” he said. “And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.”
The Bush administration misled the nation into a war in Iraq. It wanted to mislead us into Iran. It’s time for George W. Bush to holster his guns and ride off into that Wild West sunset only he can see.