"Fool me -- you can't get fooled again"

The right wants more alarmist intelligence on Iran.

Published August 24, 2006 2:08PM (EDT)

From the "Where Have We Heard This Before?" Department, the New York Times reports that some Bush administration officials and other Republicans are upset with the intelligence community for failing to issue "more ominous warnings" about the threat they think Iran poses to the United States.

"The people in the community are unwilling to make judgment calls and don't know how to link anything together," one senior official complains. "We're not in a court of law. When they say there is 'no evidence,' you have to ask them what they mean, what is the meaning of the term 'evidence'?"

Funny, but when we hear the words "no evidence," we think of International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei, who warned before the war in Iraq began that his inspectors had found "no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq." We think of Charles Duelfer, who reported after the war began that his inspectors had found no evidence that Iraq was making concerted efforts to rebuild WMD, that Iraq had hidden WMD in Syria or that Iraq had the mobile weapons labs the Bush administration had warned us about. We think of the 9/11 Commission, which found there was "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein collaborated with al-Qaida on any attacks on the United States.

And when we read the New York Times' report this morning, we thought of a story we read in the Los Angeles Times back in March 2003. "On the eve of a possible war in Iraq," it said, "a question looms increasingly large: If U.S. intelligence is so good, why are United Nations experts still unable to confirm that Saddam Hussein is actively concealing and producing illegal weapons?"

George W. Bush talks a lot about the "lessons of 9/11." We'd like to hear a little more about the "lessons of Iraq." One of them, we'd think, would be that you don't go to war -- no matter how badly you'd like to -- if the intelligence isn't there to support it. That's the polite and, we'd think, pretty much unassailable way to put it. Matthew Yglesias takes the snarkier route today. Republican hawks are "rightly" concerned about the state of intelligence on Iran, he says. "After all, last time there was a dispute like that, the alarmist politicians were completely vindicated and the skeptics in the intelligence community definitively refuted. You all remember that. Right? Right?"

By Tim Grieve

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

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