Bush Fails to Reassure

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, February 15, 2007; 4:32 PM

President Bush did nothing at yesterday's news conference to reassure those who think his administration may once again be using faulty intelligence to build a case for war.

Bush spoke in the wake of conflicting, mostly anonymous administration claims of Iranian involvement in arming Iraqis with sophisticated bombs. He did back off from the claim that Teheran was directly responsible.

But what reporters yesterday were essentially asking him, over and over again, CNN's Ed Henry finally asked directly: "What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?"

What was most striking about Bush's responses was not that he didn't provide any such assurances -- it was that he apparently still doesn't feel he needs to.

The president repeatedly swatted down skeptical questions with precisely the kinds of assertions that have lost nearly all credibility.

Just because Bush says "we know" or "I believe" isn't enough anymore.

In spite of claims made by anonymous American officials in Baghdad and then repeated by White House press secretary Tony Snow, Bush said yesterday he isn't sure of direct high-level Iranian involvement in the transfer of arms.

But he proudly wielded a rhetorical question to make it sound like it doesn't matter. Just in case anyone missed it, he said it twice:

"But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?"

And again: "But my point is what's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops."

And yet that's a hugely important distinction. For instance, there are lots of ways those weapons could be ending up in Iraq short of a high-level decision by the Iranian government to send them. ( Spencer Ackerman lists several on TPMMuckraker.)

Asked for provable facts, Bush is once again resorting to the kind of hint-filled speculation that got us into Iraq.


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