Sunday, January 25, 2004
Just because you're paranoid...
That said, I think the Bush Administration is in the midst of a large scale operation designed to cushion the blow when they finally admit the obvious -- Iraq didn't have WMDs. Moreover, (this is the conspiracy theory part of it) I think David Kay is playing a crucial role.
This isn't the first time I' ve claimed that the Administration is preparing to admit that WMDs won't be found. What's new is the allegation of a Kay connection. Let me call a few things to your attention:
Kay is being positioned as a dissenting voice, but isn't being treated as one. This began after Cheney's NPR interview last week, in which he claimed to be confident that WMDs would be found. The very next day Kay was giving interviews in which he expressed views that flatly contradicted those of the Vice President, and this fact was trumpeted with headlines saying things like, "Departing Weapons Inspector Disputes Cheney's WMD Claims." This admission felt like a victory to those who opposed the war, and has made Kay a minor hero. Keep in mind, though, that Kay isn't the first person to occupy this role. The difference is that Kay, unlike Paul O'Neill and Joseph Wilson, hasn't been criticized and hasn't been the victim of dirty tricks.
As a dissenting voice, Kay has credibility among Bush's critics. Many Americans, and many more people in the rest of the world, are deeply suspicious of everything said by the Bush Administration. Kay, by admitting that WMDs don't exist, is able to claim integrity for himself that Bush and Cheney will never have. More importantly, Kay is able to locate himself as the privileged source for criticism of the Bush Administration's decision to go to war.
Kay's critique doesn't hurt the Bush Administration. In a series of interviews today, Kay has been suggesting the same master narrative that Cheney was pushing last week. Namely, that the Administration was right to believe that Iraq had WMDs, and that their policy was the only sensible alternative available. Moreover, any fault lies with the 'intelligence community,' rather than the Administration. Kay even told NPR, "I actually think the intelligence community owes the president [an apology] rather than the president owing the American people." And because Kay isn't going to be identified with the Administration anymore, it's politically safe to have him say, "Based on the intelligence that existed, I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat." (emphasis added)
So what you've got, over the last week or so, are the President, the Vice President, David Kay, and Colin Powell all talking about WMDs in ways that seem, on the surface, to be very much at odds. The President defiantly says we were justified, but limits himself to the carefully parsed, 'WMD program related activities.' Cheney sticks to the hard line. Powell appears as the voice of reason among the insiders, admitting the possibility that there may be no stockpiles. And then there's Kay, firmly positioned as an outsider, announcing that he no longer believes that pre-war stockpiles existed. But look a little deeper and they're all saying the same thing.