Sunday, September 10, 2006

Completely topical question

But on the eve of the 5th anniversary of 9/11, this is the state of our national leadership (via Think Progress):

WALLACE: I want to discuss just one area, the issue of whether Iraq helped Al Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction. Here’s what the President said in October of 2002.

[BUSH VIDEO]: We’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making, in poisons, and deadly gases.

WALLACE: And in March 2003, just before the invasion, you said, talking about Iraq, “a very strong link to training Al Qaeda in chemical and biological techniques.” Secretary Rice, a Senate committee has just revealed that in February of 2002, months before the President spoke, more than a year, 13 months before you spoke, that the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded this, and let’s put it up on the screen: “Iraq is unlikely to have provided bin Laden any useful CB, that’s chemical or biological, knowledge or assistance.” Didn’t you and the President ignore intelligence that contradicted your case?

RICE: What the President and I and other administration officials relied on and — you simply rely on the Director of Central Intelligence. George Tenet gave that very testimony, that there were ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime going back for a decade. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission talked about contacts between the two. We know that Zarqawi was running a poisons network in Iraq. We know that Zarqawi ordered the killing of an American diplomat in Jordan from Iraq. There were ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Now, are we learning more now that we have access to people like Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services? Of course. We’re going to learn more.

WALLACE: Secretary Rice, this report — if I may, this report isn’t now. This isn’t after the fact. This was a Defense Intelligence Agency report in 2002. Two questions. First of all, did you know about that report before you made your statement?

RICE: Chris, we relied on the reports of the National Intelligence Office, the NIO, and of the DCI. That’s what the President and his central decisionmakers rely on.

WALLACE: Did you know about this report?

RICE: There are conflicting intelligence reports all the time. That’s why we have an intelligence system that brings those together into a unified assessment by the intelligence committee of what — community of what we’re looking at. That particular report I don’t remember seeing.
Pay careful attention to what Rice says there at the end. Essentially, it is that government is big, the amount of information is overwhelming, and just because they are in charge, doesn't mean they can be expected to get things right.

Imagine hearing that from your doctor, your lawyer, your bulding contractor. As a lawyer I used to work for often reminded me: "They [the clients] aren't paying us to be wrong." It's a harsh standard, but it's the standard of a professional. Would you excuse your doctor for not knowing the latest information about medical treatments or diagnoses? Would you excuse your lawyer for not knowing the latest case law? When all you have to sell is your expertise, there is no room for excuses.

As Athenae says: "Governing is a job." Unless, apparently, you're in the Bush Administration.

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