Bush and Co. want to spin
Paul Krugman: Feb. 8, 2004
Right 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 current embarrassments.
Let’s start with
the case of the missing WMD. Do you remember when the CIA 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 Jan. 31,
history was revised: See, it's the CIA's fault that the threat was overstated.
Given its warnings, the administration had no choice but to invade.
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 CIA and the State
Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror.'' 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 CIA and the State Department have systematically discredited critical
intelligence about Saddam's regime, including indisputable evidence of its
possession of weapons of mass destruction."
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 WMD 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 DIS (Defense Intelligence Staff) were overruled." All the experts
agreed that the dossier's claims should have been "carefully caveated"; they
And don't forget the Pentagons 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
Jones' 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 Mylorie's book.)
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 Bush said that war had been justified because Saddam "did
not let us in." And this claim was repeated by Sen. 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 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 usual.
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 enough?
Paul Krugman is a columnist for The Now York
Times. Copyright 2004 New York Times News Service. E-mail: