Ceding the debate

The new issue of the Weekly Standard makes the Libby case its cover story and the article by Stephen Hayes its centerpiece: “A spooked White House.” Key paragraph:

[I]n one very important sense, the critics are right to assert a connection between the case for war in Iraq and the Fitzgerald inquiry. It is this: For the better part of two years, as the case grew from a routine Justice Department inquiry to an independent investigation conducted by a no-nonsense special prosecutor, the Bush administration gradually ceded the debate over the Iraq war to its harshest critics. These two developments are not coincidental.

The administration long ago gave up making the factual case to support the proposition of Iraq’s centrality to the war on terroristm. Steve details the fruits of his own efforts as a frustrated researcher trying to get at the underlying story that Joseph Wilson and his media friends have done so much to obscure:

There are other documents from Iraq that would help the American public understand the nature of the former Iraqi regime and why a serious war on terror required its removal. Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) documents currently stored in a warehouse in Doha, Qatar, as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s document exploitation project are a case in point. Many of these documents, listed in a database known as HARMONY, have rather provocative titles:

Money Transfers from Iraq to Afghanistan
Secret Meeting with Taliban Group Member and Iraqi Government (Nov. 2000)

Iraqi Effort to Cooperate with Saudi Opposition Groups and Individuals

Order from Saddam to present $25,000 to Palestinian Suicide Bombers’ Families

IIS Reports from Embassy in Paris: Plan to Influence French Stance in UN Security Council

IIS Report on How French Campaigns are Financed

Improvised Explosive Devices Plan

Ricin research and improvement

There are thousands of similar documents. Many have already been authenticated and most are unclassified. That’s worth repeating: Most are unclassified.

Of course, nothing is more important than winning on the ground in Iraq. Demonstrating that we are killing terrorists and making steady progress on the political front will do much to blunt the criticism of the war. But if the White House refuses to challenge its critics, and refuses to explain in detail why Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, and refuses to discuss the flawed intelligence on Iraqi WMD, and refuses to use its tremendous power to remind Americans that Saddam Hussein was, in fact, a threat, then it risks losing the support of those Americans who continue to believe that the Iraq war, despite all of its many costs in blood and money, was worth it.

Among the appropriate companion pieces to Steve’s article in the new issue are Steve’s own “The incredibles” (on Joseph Wilson) and “The White House, the CIA and the Wilsons” (on the chain of events that gave rise to the grand jury leak investigation). Before the underlying story is lost down the memory hole, take the opportunity to review the relevant history in Steve’s important article on the impact of the investigation on the administration.

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