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November 28, 2005

Kinsley vs. Kinsley

Last July Michael Kinsley said that the belief that the Bushies fixed the intelligence about Iraq to justify a previously-made policy decision to attack Iraq was a "paranoid theory":

No Smoking Gun : After about the 200th e-mail from a stranger demanding that I cease my personal coverup of something called the Downing Street Memo, I decided to read it.... I don't buy the fuss. Nevertheless, I am enjoying it.... Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability....

It's a report on a meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and some aides... the head of British foreign intelligence (identified, John Le Carre-style, simply as "C")... reported that "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy...."

There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that [Bush] had actually declared this intention [to attack Iraq]. Even if "Washington" meant actual administration decision makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, C is saying only that these people believe that war is how events will play out.... [I]f "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"... [that is] a scandal.... But C offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo. Nor does the memo assert that actual decision makers had told him they were fixing the facts. Although the prose is not exactly crystalline, it seems to be saying only that "Washington" had reached that conclusion...

Today Kinsley changes his tune and says that the Bushies' arguments that intelligence was not fixed around the policy are transparently false:

The Phony War Against the Critics : [Cheney] hurling adjectives like an ape hurling coconuts.... "Dishonest." "Reprehensible." "Corrupt." "Shameless."... morally outraged.... Cheney and others insist that Bush couldn't possibly have misled anyone... everybody had assumed for years... that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.... But this indignation is belied by Cheney's own remarks in the 2000 election.... Cheney was happy to agree with Bush that Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction would be a good enough reason to "take him out." But he did not assume that Hussein already had such weapons. And he certainly did not assume that this view was the general consensus. "We'll have to see if that happens," he said. "It's unfortunate we find ourselves in a position where we don't know for sure what might be transpiring inside Iraq. I certainly hope he's not regenerating that kind of capability."

If you're looking for revisionist history... [g]oogle up Cheney's bitter critique, in the 2000 campaign, of President Bill Clinton's military initiatives, specifically the need for more burden sharing by allies and a sharply defined "exit strategy." At the time, there were about 11,000 American troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, working alongside about 55,000 from allied countries. If only!...

Kinsley-of-the-summer is calling Kinsley-of-the-fall paranoid. Kinsley-of-the-fall is calling Kinsley-of-the-summer hopelessly gullible. All this is fine--crossing the aisle when evidence convinces you that your previous position is wrong is a good thing.

But may I ask for a little self-knowledge? It's important that you explain not only why but that you have crossed the aisle. As adjectives go, Kinsley's "paranoid" is in the same league as Cheney's "dishonest" and "shameless." Kinsley would be more credible today if he would apologize--to Mark Danner http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18131 and others--for having signed up last summer as an enthusiastic coconut-flinging wingsoldier in Richard Cheney's circular firing squad of flying attack monkeys.

Posted by DeLong at November 28, 2005 12:39 PM