Ron Suskind's new book has earned buzz because of his arresting argument that the Bush administration actually forged evidence to buttress its case for war. I've aired the debate about this, and there are some shrewd skeptics. But part of the book - which is an ambitious attempt to weave all the strands of our current conflict into a unified whole - has received less attention. I'm not sure why, because it's a more damning and much more plausible revelation. The former head of Britain's MI6, Sir Roger Dearlove, confirms to Suskind on the record that both Bush and Blair received late-breaking but excellent first-hand intelligence that Saddam was bluffing on WMDs. A James Bond character, British spy Michael Shipster, secured a real line of information from an Iraqi intelligence chief. Blair had tasked MI6 with getting to the bottom of the WMD question. Suskind's original source, a high-level American intelligence agent, puts it this nway:
"We knew," he says.
That there were no weapons in Iraq."
"Sure," I say, "people suspected. Define knew."
Then the story of Michael Shipster, subsequently confirmed by Dearlove. So if we knew there were no WMDs, why did Bush and Cheney go ahead with the invasion? Wouldn't they have known that the lack of WMDs would retroactively destroy the legitimacy of the war? Here's Dearlove's response:
"The problem," Dearlove says, finally, "was the Cheney crowd was in too much of a hurry, really. Bush never resisted them quite strongly enough." His voice trails off as he looks beyond the Old Chruch to the temples o Washington.
"Yes, it was probably too late, I imagine, for Cheney," he says, about stopping the invasion. "I'm not sure it was too late for Bush."
The story of the Bush administration in a single anecdote? Probably, Dick Cheney has a hell of a lot to answer for.