No More “Slam Dunks”

Even Congressional Republicans are warning against uncritically marching down the same road to a war in Iran as we did to war in Iraq:

A key House committee issued a stinging critique of U.S. intelligence on Iran yesterday, charging that the CIA and other agencies lack "the ability to acquire essential information necessary to make judgments" on Tehran's nuclear program, its intentions or even its ties to terrorism.

The 29-page report, principally written by a Republican staff member on the House intelligence committee who holds a hard-line view on Iran, fully backs the White House position that the Islamic republic is moving forward with a nuclear weapons program and that it poses a significant danger to the United States. But it chides the intelligence community for not providing enough direct evidence to support that assertion.
In other words, what emanates from The Bush Gut (and, for a change, we’re not talking about farts, but its allegedly infallible intuition) is not evidence in and of itself. Actual proof of what the administration, and others, may suspect is required. What a novel concept.

"American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran's nuclear weapons program" to help policymakers at a critical time, the report's authors say. Information "regarding potential Iranian chemical weapons and biological weapons programs is neither voluminous nor conclusive," and little evidence has been gathered to tie Iran to al-Qaeda and to the recent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, they say.
That sounds so familiar… Ahh, yes. I believe it’s nearly the precise points made before the Iraq war about their weapons program and their ties to al-Qaeda and terrorism. Well, it’s nice to see Congressional Republicans doing their fucking job instead of maligning the American citizens who took up the slack last time around.

[The report] warns the intelligence community to avoid the mistakes made regarding weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war, noting that Iran could easily be engaged in "a denial and deception campaign to exaggerate progress on its nuclear program as Saddam Hussein apparently did concerning his WMD programs."
I just suggested that very possibility to Mr. Shakes not two nights ago. How can we be sure that Ahmadinejad isn’t following the same game plan as Hussein? (Especially when he’s certainly clever enough to notice that the White House is following the same game plan.) I’m not saying I think he is, but decent intelligence is the only way to know for sure. And since “the administration has not attributed its assertions about Iran’s weapons program to US intelligence” but “pointed to years of Iranian concealment and has questioned why a country with as much oil as Iran would need a huge nuclear weapons program”—in other words, is making assumptions based on instinct rather than evidence—the report’s calls to tread cautiously are very welcome indeed.

I don’t deny there’s some logic to the questions being raised by the administration, but logical questions aren’t a substitute for sound evidence. And, you know, the administration sort of precluded my trusting they act on good faith after their misuse of intelligence last time. That they’re not relying on intelligence this time also raises some logical questions about whether they just trying to avoid getting caught manipulating intelligence again, or whether they’re hoping that repeating the same logical-sounding suspicions over and over will suffice in the absence of evidence altogether.

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