The Corner

With Malice Toward Cheney

If you want to witness a massacre on television, take at look at this debate on MSNBC’s Morning Joe between Joe Scarborough and Lawrence O’Donnell over Dick Cheney, Iraq, and weapons of mass destruction. Scarborough uses an avalanche of facts to bury O’Donnell’s contention that Dick Cheney lied about WMD and based the case for war on a “wild guess.”

In addition to all the sources Scarborough cited and who claimed Saddam Hussein possessed WMD — including leading Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, and more – you could add the intelligence agencies of virtually every nation in the world, including those who opposed the Iraq War.

As for O’Donnell’s assertion that none of the members of Congress  Scarborough mentioned had access to the information Dick Cheney had: It is simply false. Mr. O’Donnell may be unfamiliar with something called the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which is considered the authoritative judgment of the intelligence community. The NIE  that was produced in October 2002 was available to every member of Congress — and among its key findings was this:

We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical  and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions. If left unchecked it probably will have a nuclear weapon within this decade.

As Factcheck.org put it, “The NIE . . . says pretty much what Bush and his aides were saying about Iraq’s weapons.”

The Washington Post pointed out what should have been obvious to  O’Donnell: “Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote.”

In addition, both the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a report adopted unanimously by both Republican and Democratic members, as well as the so-called Silberman-Robb report found (in the words of the latter), “no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community’s pre-war assessment of Iraq’s weapons program.”

In other words, Lawrence O’Donnell is thoroughly ignorant; the charges he made were completely and demonstrably false. And they were clearly driven by malice. For Joe Scarborough to have publicly exposed such an angry ideologue was a public service. And for Lawrence O’Donnell, it was a public embarrassment.