panic and cash payoutsBecause it sure looks like the cockroaches are starting to scatter.
While most senior Bush administration officials are still sticking with the company line that Iraq is a big country and they need more time to look for those elusive “weapons of mass destruction,” reporters and others are becoming skeptical as that excuse drags into its third month.
Adding to the pressure is a mounting campaign by former spy-agency officials who say that Rumsfeld’s Pentagon bypassed normal procedures to set up a more politically motivated review (and slanting) of intelligence information — a criticism that is apparently being echoed by current CIA and Defense Dept. analysts in official complaints filed internally and anonymous leaks to reporters.
Amid the rising chorus of questions, some folks in the war-hawk crowd are starting to get antsy and improvising on the script. Some optimistic freelancers are pushing the amusingly desperate line that, hey, Saddam Hussein himself counts as a “weapon of mass destruction” (of course, they can’t find him either so far, but that’s another story.) Joshua Marshall says the excuse he’s hearing in private conversations is that WMD really weren’t the intended focus of the war; the argument was only made to keep the State Department happy. This is more or less the claim that Asst. Defense Sect. Paul Wolfowitz began to float publicly last week.
Meanwhile, Bush himself has wandered off the reservation in a different direction, claiming that finding two mobile laboratories which might have been usable for making unconventional weapons is close enough for government work, as the saying goes. Unfortunately, no one around Dubya tested this response for unintentional comedic value, as poor Ari Fleischer found out when he tried it out in a press briefing:
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is indeed satisfied with the intelligence that he received. And I think that’s borne out by the fact that, just as Secretary Powell described at the United Nations, we have found the bio trucks that can be used only for the purpose of producing biological weapons. That’s proof-perfect that the intelligence in that regard was right on target.(The questions were asked by the infamously cantankerous reporter Helen Thomas, who in her 80s has apparently decided that she’s too old to give a damn about propriety . . . bless her!)
Q We go to war for two trucks?
MR. FLEISCHER: I’m sorry?
Q You would go to war from the finding of two trucks?
It’s not really necessary at this point to quibble over the fact that the “bio truck” evidence is =http://slate.msn.com/id/2083760much flimsier than the White House claims[/url], or gossip about reports that Colin Powell didn’t buy the WMD story he tried to sell to the United Nations.
The point is, these guys are clearly starting to panic. They know they don’t have a good story to tell about Iraq’s supposed weapons programs — and what’s worse for them, they’re realizing they won’t ever have a good story to tell. It should be entertaining to watch this unfold.