I recently wrote to Ron Fournier protesting his accusation. His response, in an email, was to reiterate that “an objective reading of the events leads to only one conclusion: the administration . . . misinterpreted, distorted and in some cases lied about intelligence.” Although Mr. Fournier referred to “evidence” supporting his view, he did not cite any—and I do not believe there is any.
He did say correctly that “intelligence is never dispositive; it requires analysis and judgment, with the final call and responsibility resting with the president.” It is thus certainly possible to criticize President Bush for having believed what the CIA told him, although it seems to me that any president would have credited such confident assertions by the intelligence community. But to accuse the president of lying us into war must be seen as not only false, but as dangerously defamatory.
The charge is dangerous because it can take on the air of historical fact—with potentially dire consequences. I am reminded of a similarly baseless accusation that helped the Nazis come to power in Germany: that the German army had not really lost World War I, that the soldiers instead had been “stabbed in the back” by politicians.
Sometime in the future, perhaps long after most of us are gone, an American president may need to rely publicly on intelligence reports to support military action.