Saturday, January 31, 2009

How not to run a country

Vanity Fair has an exhaustive and well-done redux of the Bush administration in all its ineptitude.  In case you have been asleep the past eight years and need a primer, or if you just want a refresher on the beginning chapter of  western civilization's self-destruction, read on.  Here's an excerpt (the entire piece is lenghty, but quite worth it):

January 23, 2004 David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons inspector, resigns his position, affirming his belief that no W.M.D. stockpiles will be found in Iraq; the following week he discusses his conclusions at the White House. Nine months later his successor, Charles Duelfer, will conclude officially that Iraq not only did not possess W.M.D. but did not have an active program in place to develop them. The structural supports of Powell’s U.N. presentation begin to crumble.

Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell: Well, [Powell] got a telephone call each time a pillar fell. It was either John [McLaughlin, deputy C.I.A. director], calling Rich [Armitage], and Rich telling him, or it was George [Tenet] or John calling the secretary. And I remember this vividly because he would walk through my door, and his face would grow more morose each time, and he’d say, Another pillar just fell. I said, Which one this time? And, of course, the last one was the mobile biological labs.

Finally, when that call came, the secretary came through the door and said, The last pillar has just collapsed. The mobile biological labs don’t exist. Turned around and went back into his office.

David Kay, chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq: As we turned to the trailers, it was probably—I guess the single biggest shock I had during the entire inspection process, because I’d been powerfully moved by Powell’s statement to the Council. Well, when we started tearing it apart, we discovered it was not based on several sources. It was based on one source, and it was an individual [code-named Curveball] held by German intelligence. They had denied the U.S. the right to directly interview him. And they only passed summaries—and really not very good ones—of their interrogations with him. The Germans had refused to pass us his name even.

As you delved into his character and his claims, none of them bore any truth. The case just fell apart.

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister and vice-chancellor: I was astonished that the Americans used Curveball, really astonished. This was our stuff. But they presented it not in the way we knew it. They presented it as a fact, and not as the way an intelligence assessment is—could be, but could also be a big lie. We don’t know.

April 13, 2004 At a press conference Bush is asked by John Dickerson ofTime to name the biggest mistake he has made since 9/11. Bush is unable to come up with an answer. He replies, “I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it.”

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