Finally, tonight: How "bad" has become "good"

What passes for a "quiet" day in Iraq -- and the news John Negroponte doesn't want Bush to hear.

Published July 21, 2006 4:24PM (EDT)

"Thursday was one of the quietest days in one of the year's bloodiest weeks," the Washington Post reports, "with no single reported attack in Iraq claiming more than 13 lives."

Meanwhile, Ken Silverstein reports in his Harper's blog that Bush administration intelligence czar John Negroponte is blocking work on a new National Intelligence Estimate for Iraq. The reason: Silverstein says that Negroponte "knows that any honest take on the situation would produce an NIE even more pessimistic than the 2004 version."

When the 2004 NIE was leaked to the press, George W. Bush dismissed its dire predictions as "just guessing." "The CIA laid out a -- several scenarios that said life could be lousy; life could be OK; life could be better," Bush said then. The New York Times put it a little differently at the time. Under the worst of the scenarios, the paper said, the NIE predicted that Iraq would see, by the end of 2005, "developments that could lead to civil war."

If that's "just guessing," let's just say that we'd like to take the NIE's authors with us the next time we head to the track. One might be able to debate whether Iraq is in the midst of a civil war now -- after stepping "gingerly" around the question, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that it's time to admit that a "civil war" has begun -- but one can't really dispute the fact that Iraq has seen developments that could lead to one.

Silverstein's sources say that an honest NIE on Iraq would describe the current situation as a civil war, but that "there's a feeling at the top that [using that term] will complicate matters." Negroponte, one source says, "doesn't want the president to have to deal with that."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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