Originally appeared on The American Conservative.
The president’s interview on Face the Nation this morning contained some remarkable revisionism on his part on the Iraq war:
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to move on here but I should say your intel chiefs do say Iran’s abiding by that nuclear deal. I know you think it’s a bad deal, but–
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I disagree with them. I’m- I’m- by the way–
MARGARET BRENNAN: You disagree with that assessment?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: –I have intel people, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree. President Bush had intel people that said Saddam Hussein–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: –in Iraq had nuclear weapons- had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? Those intel people didn’t know what the hell they were doing, and they got us tied up in a war that we should have never been in. And we’ve spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East and we have lost lives–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you trust your national security adviser John Bolton because he worked in the Bush administration?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I do, and I respect John and John is not one of the people that happened to be testifying or on.
Trump’s belated criticism of the Iraq war was one of the things that seemed to set him apart from most other Republican candidates on foreign policy during the 2016 primaries, so it is telling that he is now regurgitating the pro-war dead-ender narrative that “faulty intelligence” was to blame for the war. No doubt that is thanks in no small part to Bolton, who remains as supportive of the Iraq war now as he was sixteen years ago. Few people have less credibility on matters of nonproliferation and disarmament than Bolton, so of course Trump trusts him above everyone else. No wonder the president is shredding every nonproliferation and arms control agreement we have left.
The Bush administration manipulated, cherry-picked, and misrepresented the intelligence they received to build a case for invasion and regime change that the evidence never supported. It was not “the intel people” who claimed Saddam Hussein had or would soon have nuclear weapons. Dick Cheney and Condi “Smoking Gun in the Form of a Mushroom Cloud” Rice were chief among those responsible for promoting that particular lie. Bolton was and still is one of the biggest supporters of the war and the distortions and lies that led to it. Now Bolton and Trump are seeking to the do same with Iran by spreading lies that Iran has “nuclear ambitions” and will have nuclear weapons within a decade. Once again, it is the president and his appointees who are to blame for terrible policy decisions that Trump has made by ignoring the evidence.
Nicholas Miller makes the same observation:
Trump says he doesn't trust the IC on Iran because they were wrong on Iraq. But the lesson of Iraq isn't that the IC is always wrong: it's that the White House shouldn't distort evidence and pressure the IC to support its policy. This is exactly what Trump is now doing on Iran. pic.twitter.com/lV4wdMz3ZP
— Nicholas Miller (@Nick_L_Miller) February 3, 2019
Trump is publicly casting doubt on the assessment of the nuclear deal in order to defend his terrible decision to withdraw from the JCPOA last year, but he also wants to create the impression that Iran is in violation of the agreement to justify his bankrupt policy towards Iran now. Because Iran has committed no violations on the JCPOA, Trump just pretends that they exist and ignores the mountain of evidence that says he is wrong. Trump isn’t even bothering to “cook” the intelligence he receives. He just dismisses it and chooses to believe in his fantasy instead.
Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.