On Tuesday, President Bush declassified a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism, asserting that the document bolsters the administration’s arguments concerning the war on terror. Earlier this week, a public leak of the document seemed to suggest a harsh rebuke of the Iraq war and its aftermath. But yesterday administration officials argued that, taken in a broader context, the document confirms the success of many of its policies.
While many bloggers jumped predictably towards their respective poles of opinion, at least a few voices in the middle were making themselves heard.
“True, the NIE does support a couple of Bush administration positions,” remarks the Elfin Ethicist. “It does suggest that withdrawing American troops from Iraq could make the problem even worse, while political reform in the Middle East would eventually reduce the threat. On both of these positions, I have always agreed with the president in broad outline — and even the Democrats generally agree with the president on the second point, despite disagreeing over methods.”
“But this does not change the fact that the National Intelligence Estimate says that the invasion of Iraq has given strength to global jihad,” adds the Elfin Ethicist.
“In one sense, this answers the questions about what exactly the intelligence community meant by its assertion that the war was ‘fueling terrorism,’” writes Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum at Political Animal. “However, because only the NIE’s key judgments were declassified, these are still nothing but assertions. Without seeing the context, analysis, and dissenting opinions that shaped them, there’s nothing to assess. You either accept the intelligence community’s expertise or you don’t.”
Others, however, were quick to find blame. For many conservatives, it fell squarely on the shoulders of the New York Times and other media outlets for allegedly mischaracterizing the report’s conclusions.
“It should be very troublesome to people in this country that the rest of a classified document has to be released to counter the ill effects of an illegally leaked portion of that document,” asserts Blue Crab Boulevard. “Is this really how we want this country operated? We want rogue elements in the government, unelected officials, to intervene in partisan politics with selective leaks?”
Adds Hugh Hewitt: “The Times’ reporters and editors that ran Sunday’s stories were either chumps who got played by anti-Bush leakers, or purposefully deceptive agenda journalists from the anti-Bush fanatics division.”
While right-leaning bloggers continued to wallop their media punching bag, many liberals directed their fury at a similarly familiar target.
“The thing I can’t fathom is what possessed Bush to make this document public AND to claim that it is was going to be a really happy and peppy assessment,” writes AmericaBlog. “Granted, he may not have read the thing — it was, after all, a full three pages (and there were no pictures). But seriously, he must have read the thing — how did he get off thinking he could just lie about it, and then release it three hours later, like nobody would notice?”
Trying to stay a little more positive, one pundit was convinced that he found the good guys.
“Two things are clear,” writes Mr. D Talk. “One, there is broad consensus amongst the intelligence community that Iraq is a foreign policy disaster; and two, the leaking of this report now demonstrates that there are forces within that community who wish to alter the outcome of the election and weaken the Bush administration.”
Concludes the blogger: “They are patriots.”