On Monday, one or more “senior intelligence officials”, speaking “on condition of anonymity” leaked secret information to the nation’s two major newspapers. The Bush administration, which has stated it’s intention to pursue leakers vigorously, hasn’t said a word about these leaks.
The two stories went out in the Tuesday editions and were met by immediate interest from conservative pundits who retold, by and large, the obvious narrative. That narrative being that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would hand Anbar to Al Qaeda, that any hopes of getting Iran to help stabilize Iraq were misplaced because that nation was not acting in good faith, that pulling U.S. troops out anytime soon would be a disaster.
Then, hours after the stories broke and just as the blogs and pundits talking up the narrative peaked…
…Bush used his world-stage speech in Latvia to say that a withdrawal from Iraq would hand a safe haven to Al Qaeda and that Iran couldn’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith since it was meddling in Iraq already – and so U.S. troops would stay until the mission was accomplished.
And still no-one made the obvious connection. That these “leaks” were deliberate administration manipulation of the media to set the narrative for Bush’s speech.
The official leaks and arranged stories fit the usual Bush administration pattern. They are almost supernaturally prescient in their timing – as they would be since their timing is arranged to suit the White House. They don’t actually tell outright falsehoods, but instead point up and highlight those areas the White House wants highlighted while glossing over any contrary opinions. And most importantly of all, no-one in the mainstream media is willing to call them for what they are.
This past Veterans Day weekend, according to my sources, almost the entire Bush national security team gathered for an unpublicized two-day meeting. The topic: Iraq. The purpose of the meeting was to come up with a consensus position on a new path forward. Among those attending were President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor Stephen Hadley, outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
Numerous policy options were put forward at the meeting, which revolved around a strategy paper prepared by Hadley and drawn from his recent trip to Baghdad.