‘Cooking’ and Ignoring Intelligence on Iran

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–


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 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.

3 thoughts on “‘Cooking’ and Ignoring Intelligence on Iran”

  1. Willful ignorance is the worst kind. With cheney, there is enough evidence and logic, that given the push, he could be in prison. On the other hand, trump has decided that he gets to decide how, where, and when the checkers move on the board, the game is unplayable. If the effect was hoped that some sort of peaceful outcome could result, there is no evidence in reality. Unfortunately, US militancy thrives when truth is obfuscated, or hidden outright, that is their stock and trade. They love trump.

  2. The intelligence on Iraq’s weapons, and the severity of the threat was “cooked” by the administration, yet today, it has become gospel that the intelligence services screwed up. Its far more complex than that. Cheney was riding intelligence agencies to produce opinions that supported the administration’s determination to start a war, and cited information farmed by sources outside the review of the intelligence services, by the “office of special plans” and others that was “stove-piped” directly to him, as intelligence was “fixed” around the policy to attack. https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/special-reports/iraq-intelligence/article24446926.html

    Former Senator Bob Graham, then a leader of the Senate intelligence committee, indicated that even with the pressure, there were vigorous dissents in the intelligence community (as well as among other nations’ intelligence services) about the nature and existence of the threat, that Bush suppressed and/or omitted from the non-classified NIE his administration released prior to the invasion, under pressure from the Senate. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/18/AR2005111802397.html

    Even Tenet, during a pathetic effort to justify his own complicity, admitted that the CIA never told the administration that Iraq was an imminent threat to the U.S., contrary to the repeated alarming assertions by Bush, Cheney, Rice and their neo-con cohorts, the only condition that would have justified the invasion under international treaty law to which the U.S. is a party. http://articles.latimes.com/2004/feb/06/world/fg-tenet6

    And now the neocons have yet another ignorant, insecure President who they can manipulate into yet another disastrous war.

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