Tuesday, February 03, 2004
More on WMDs
The only fault I see with the current left-wing orthodoxy on this point is their insistence on seeing the Administration as 'struggling' or 'reeling' in trying to 'come to grips with' the political fallout of Kay's stated conclusion that there are no WMDs to be found.
My own preferred narrative is that the Administration is engaging in a well thought out and well coordinated effort to cushion the political blow of the inevitable WMD admission. They've got the terrain mapped, and they chose their path long before Kay started talking.
Some caveats. First, my view is more than a touch paranoid. It seems odd that the Administration could be that smart about politics while being so stupid about everything else. Second, it could be that the blogopunditocratic elites do see a great Rovish conspiracy here but choose, for super-sophisticated propagandistic reasons, not to say anything about it.
Fair enough. Still, it seems to me that it's better to overestimate Bush than to underestimate him.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't prefer to have evidence for my view.
This story from The Observer fits very well into my narrative. According to the article, it was well known as early as last May that no significant stockpiles of WMDs would be found.
There are problems with the Observer's story. It claims to rely on various anonymous sources, but only describes one such source, 'a very senior US intelligence official serving during the war against Iraq with an intimate knowledge of the search for Iraq's WMD.' The only named source for the information is former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright, who is quoted as saying, "it was known in May." Albright is credible because of his, 'close contacts in both the world of weapons inspection and intelligence,' but having contacts isn't the same as having documents.
All the same, it seems right to say that the main contention of the Observer report is accurate, namely, that the Administration has known for some time that WMDs were unlikely to be found. (That much seemed implicit in Kay's preliminary report)
It's possible that the Administration had this information but didn't want to believe it. In fact, I think that's likely, and that it explains things like Cheney's continued insistence that those trailers were biological weapons factories.
But it's a step beyond this to the conclusion that the Administration didn't consider the possibility that the snark hunters might come home empty handed.
The first possibility requires you to believe that the Administration lives in a paranoid conservative fantasyland. The second requires you to believe both that they live in a paranoid conservative fantasyland AND that they don't understand politics.