Joe Conason's Journal

The CIA's latest assessment of Iraq is not quite the happy news Bush likes to hear.

Published November 13, 2003 9:42PM (EST)

Yes, they told him so -- but he probably didn't hear
The original Philadelphia Inquirer story on the CIA's pessimistic new Iraq assessment is worth reading -- not only for details that stories on the CIA report in other media have omitted, but also for reporter Jonathan Landay's assessment of his sources' motives.

According to Landay, the "bleak" CIA estimate is a thoroughgoing refutation of neoconservative assumptions and policies. Although the report confirms that rapid restoration of Iraqi sovereignty is imperative, it also warns that the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, "has failed to persuade ordinary Iraqis that the occupation is temporary and will lead to a unified, sovereign Iraq." Moreover, "U.S. officials have become deeply frustrated by infighting, nepotism and inaction" within the council (which is chaired by neocon favorite Ahmed Chalabi and "dominated by former exiles with little popular support").

Landay learned about the CIA's findings from "two senior administration officials" who described the report to him shortly after it was completed last Monday. Why? "The speed of the leak suggested that senior policymakers want to make sure the assessment reaches Bush," he reports. "Some senior policymakers have complained of being frustrated in their efforts to provide Bush with analyses of the situation in Iraq that are more somber than the optimistic views of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other hardliners."

That's what happens when the president doesn't read reports (or newspapers). Bush has his own "filter" that brings him happy news.

Also worth perusing is Jefferson Morley's roundup today of foreign press coverage of American troubles in Iraq and the sudden revisions in U.S. policy after Bremer's visit to Washington.

Headlined "How Do You Say 'I Told You So' in French?" the Washington Post column surveys Gallic attitude:

"Amid the rising violence in Iraq, commentators in the international online press see a moment of panicky reckoning for President Bush. And, quelle surprise, guess who's quietly gloating?

"Gilles Dauxerre, editor in chief of Paris-Normandie, a news site in northern France, is blunt. 'The French were right' about Iraq, he declared in a front page editorial yesterday. Not only was the invasion of Iraq a bad idea. It has also proven harmful to the war on terrorism. 'Bush is now stuck,' Dauxerre concluded. 'Persisting in his policy, he inserts himself into a quagmire, while withdrawing would signal an American and Western defeat.'

"With quiet satisfaction, the leftist Paris daily, Le Monde, observed, 'France's point of view on Iraq is no longer taboo in Washington.'

And over in London, the pro-war Daily Telegraph greeted Bush with an editorial urging him to turn over power to Iraqis faster 'or risk a full-scale uprising against the military occupation.' "
[1:30 p.m. PST, November 13, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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