House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the CIA "misled" her about
What difference does it make, in the grand scheme of things,
whether Pelosi is telling the truth? Maybe the CIA did; maybe the CIA did
not. So what? Well, it makes a great deal of difference and not only
because if true, the CIA didn't just "mislead" Pelosi but also committed a
People like Pelosi, who once supported waterboarding just
like the folks who once supported the war now attempt to rewrite history.
The country turned against former President George W. Bush and
Republicans because of the war in Iraq. Yes, many Americans reversed their
previous support of the war because of its unexpectedly high human and
monetary costs. Yes, many turned against the war because, in its early
stages, Iraq seemed on the verge of civil war. To many, the toppling of
dictator Saddam Hussein backfired and made America less, not more, safe.
|FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO INFLUENTIAL NEWSLETTER|
Every weekday NewsAndOpinion.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.
But what turned growing unease over the war into outright
disdain for Bush? As to the case for war the assumption that Saddam
possessed weapons of mass destruction many Americans feel flat-out lied
This brings us to waterboarding.
Like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, waterboarding serves as a
metaphor for the former President's alleged deceitfulness and villainy.
Pelosi denounces waterboarding as torture, yet another outrage by the lying,
scheming, manipulative Bush administration.
Pelosi, at first, said she knew absolutely nothing about the
administration's use of this "enhanced interrogation technique." The CIA
disputes this. But by her own admission, the agency told her that it was
considering using waterboarding. Wasn't that enough
for the speaker to have thundered her disapproval? What about a letter of
protest to the Bush White House? What about moving to cut off funds to
prevent the agency from employing a technique that she purportedly finds so
The CIA pushed back. The agency said that it informed Pelosi,
who received briefings, that it not only intended to use waterboarding but,
in fact, had used waterboarding. Former CIA Director
Porter Goss said that the CIA provided accurate information to Pelosi. Goss
further said that the only objection during the briefing was the concern as
to whether the CIA was going far enough.
Current CIA Director Leon Panetta agreed with Goss. In a memo to
CIA employees, Panetta said, "CIA officers briefed truthfully on the
interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had
been employed.'" Panetta also wrote: "Our task is to tell it like it is
even if that's not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national
security depends on it."
Now, the retreat.
Before declaring in a news conference that she no longer wants
to stress the matter, Pelosi praised the CIA. Pelosi
said, "My criticism of the manner in which the Bush Administration did not
appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the
intelligence community who work to keep our country safe." Does her respect
extend to former CIA head George Tenet? Tenet served under former Presidents
Clinton and Bush. As for believing Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass
destruction, Tenet described the case as a "slam-dunk." Does she now
"respect" that he made that assertion in good faith?
So, what does all of this tell us?
It tells us that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, most
Americans including the Democratic leadership in Congress wanted to
prevent another attack. Despite their newfound "outrage" over torture,
people like Speaker Nancy Pelosi understood, accepted and even encouraged
harsh interrogation techniques to prevent another attack.
As to the case for war, all 16 intelligence agencies
concluded at the highest level of probability that Saddam Hussein
possessed those stockpiles. Yet people like Sen. Ted Kennedy said things
like "week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie." And
many Americans especially those predisposed to believe the worst of the
Bush administration completely bought it. "Bush lied, people died" became
a refrain uttered endlessly by Bush haters.
But Bush didn't lie and the Democrats know it. Indeed, to
extricate herself from Torture-gate, Pelosi now compliments the CIA, the
very agency Bush relied on in making the case for war.
But public opinion turned against the war. Then waterboarding
became "torture." And Bush became not simply a commander in chief who, in
good faith, relied on near unanimous but faulty intelligence. He became, as
then-Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "a loser" and "a liar."