Continuing their story-a-day game plan, the Associated Press today headlines an interview with former State Department official Greg Thielmann. The AP’s lead sentence: “The Bush administration distorted intelligence and presented conjecture as evidence to justify a U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a retired intelligence official who served during the months before the war.”
Thielmann has been saying things like this for a while, actually. As always when retired State Department officials criticize the Administration, his accusations are printed as fact and his own bona fides are never questioned. As a graduate of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson school who worked for Iowa’s left-wing Senator John Culver before going to work at the State Department, where for twenty-five years he specialized in arms control, Thielmann is a pretty good exemplar of why the State Department is such an obstacle to the successful implementation of American foreign policy.
Thielmann does not claim, of course, that when he worked for the government he actually disagreed in writing with the intelligence assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs. His criticisms are merely second-guessing of officials with whom he is at odds poltically.
Beyond his own subjective belief that the Administration was “disingenuous” and “distorted” the intelligence on Iraq, Thielmann admits that “he had presumed Iraq had supplies of chemical and probably biological weapons. He particularly expected U.S. forces to find caches of mustard agent or other chemical weapons left over from Saddam’s old stockpiles.” (We did, in fact, find mustard gas.) Thielmann says he is “genuinely surprised” that we haven’t yet found more chemical and biological weapons. That being the case, his quibbles over the handling of certain specific pieces of intelligence appear to have little or no significance.
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