ight now America is going through an Orwellian
moment. On both the foreign policy and the fiscal fronts, the Bush
administration is trying to rewrite history, to explain away its
Let's start with the case of the missing W.M.D. Do you remember
when the C.I.A. was reviled by hawks because its analysts were
reluctant to present a sufficiently alarming picture of the Iraqi
threat? Your memories are no longer operative. On or about last
Saturday, history was revised: see, it's the C.I.A.'s fault that the
threat was overstated. Given its warnings, the administration had no
choice but to invade.
A tip from Joshua Marshall, of www.talkingpointsmemo.com, led me
to a stark reminder of how different the story line used to be. Last
year Laurie Mylroie published a book titled "Bush vs. the Beltway:
How the C.I.A. and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on
Terror." Ms. Mylroie's book came with an encomium from Richard
Perle; she's known to be close to Paul Wolfowitz and to Dick
Cheney's chief of staff. According to the jacket copy, "Mylroie
describes how the C.I.A. and the State Department have
systematically discredited critical intelligence about Saddam's
regime, including indisputable evidence of its possession of weapons
of mass destruction."
Currently serving intelligence officials may deny that they faced
any pressure — after what happened to Valerie Plame, what would you
do in their place? — but former officials tell a different story.
The latest revelation is from Britain. Brian Jones, who was the
Ministry of Defense's top W.M.D. analyst when Tony Blair assembled
his case for war, says that the crucial dossier used to make that
case didn't reflect the views of the professionals: "The expert
intelligence experts of the D.I.S. [Defense Intelligence Staff] were
overruled." All the experts agreed that the dossier's claims should
have been "carefully caveated"; they weren't.
And don't forget the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, created
specifically to offer a more alarming picture of the Iraq threat
than the intelligence professionals were willing to provide.
Can all these awkward facts be whited out of the historical
record? Probably. Almost surely, President Bush's handpicked "independent"
commission won't investigate the Office of Special Plans. Like Lord
Hutton in Britain — who chose to disregard Mr. Jones's testimony —
it will brush aside evidence that intelligence professionals were
pressured. It will focus only on intelligence mistakes, not on the
fact that the experts, while wrong, weren't nearly wrong enough to
satisfy their political masters. (Among those mentioned as possible
members of the commission is James Woolsey, who wrote one of the
blurbs for Ms. Mylroie's book.)
And if top political figures have their way, there will be
further rewriting to come. You may remember that Saddam gave in to
U.N. demands that he allow inspectors to roam Iraq, looking for
banned weapons. But your memories may soon be invalid. Recently Mr.
Bush said that war had been justified because Saddam "did not let us
in." And this claim was repeated by Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of
the Senate Intelligence Committee: "Why on earth didn't [Saddam] let
the inspectors in and avoid the war?"
Now let's turn to the administration's other big embarrassment,
the budget deficit.
The fiscal 2005 budget report admits that this year's expected
$521 billion deficit belies the rosy forecasts of 2001. But the
report offers an explanation: stuff happens. "Today's budget
deficits are the unavoidable result of the revenue erosion from the
stock market collapse that began in early 2000, an economy
recovering from recession and a nation confronting serious security
threats." Sure, the administration was wrong — but so was
The trouble is that accepting that excuse requires forgetting a
lot of recent history. By February 2002, when the administration
released its fiscal 2003 budget, all of the bad news — the bursting
of the bubble, the recession, and, yes, 9/11 — had already happened.
Yet that budget projected only a $14 billion deficit this year, and
a return to surpluses next year. Why did that forecast turn out so
wrong? Because administration officials fudged the facts, as
I'd like to think that the administration's crass efforts to
rewrite history will backfire, that the media and the informed
public won't let officials get away with this. Have we finally had