cause and effect

from Newsweek: Cheney's long path to war

Cheney has been susceptible to �cherry-picking,� embracing those snippets of intelligence that support his dark prognosis while discarding others that don�t. He is widely regarded in the intelligence community as an outlier, as a man who always goes for the worst-case �scenario and sometimes overlooks less alarming or at least ambiguous signs. Top intelligence officials reject the suggestion that Cheney has somehow bullied lower-level CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency analysts into telling him what he wants to hear. But they do describe the Office of the Vice President, with its large and assertive staff, as a kind of free-floating power base that at times brushes aside the normal policymaking machinery under national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice. On the road to war, Cheney in effect created a parallel government that became the real power center.

It's an important article, a landmark one (and has been posted to the UNMEDIA list). The essential point here is NOT that Cheney is a lying, master manipulator, but that he has a specific world view that acts as a powerful filter on the information he receives - or even asks for.

The Administration has paid a price in credibility for its attempt to "sell" the war instead of doing what it should have done - make an honest case. A new poll finds:

A growing majority of Americans now has doubts about President Bush's justification for attacking Iraq, but a declining majority still believes it was the right decision, according to a poll released Thursday.

When questioned further, more than one-fourth of the 57 percent who said invading Iraq was right concede that they are not sure it was the best course for the country but support Bush's decision "because he is president." Only 42 percent said the war was the "best thing for America to do."

Despite the growing belief that the president either stretched the truth or knowingly presented false information to justify the war, 77 percent of those surveyed believe the United States has an obligation to continue the job of rebuilding Iraq. That support has slipped, however, from 86 percent in May, just after Bush declared an end to major conflict.
On the decision to attack, those believing it was the right thing to do dropped from 68 percent in May to 57 percent, while the "wrong decision" view grew from 22 to 38 percent.

The declining belief that the war was right might be linked to the growing feeling that Bush was not quite truthful in his reasons for the conflict.

Large majorities of those surveyed said Bush sold the war on the grounds that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), was supporting the al Qaeda terrorist ring and was an imminent threat to the United States. But a total of 72 percent believe the administration presented evidence on WMD it knew was false or "stretched the truth." That total is 60 percent for the claimed link to al Qaeda.

As a result, 56 percent of those surveyed said they "sometimes have doubts" about things Bush says, while 42 percent believe the president is "honest and frank."

The fundamental problem is that "the president and his staff are willfully and consistently ignoring facts that are inconvenient to them, and endangering the security of the United States by doing so." (Kevin Drum)

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