A young child's palpable, infectious excitement over the imminent arrival of St. Nick on Christmas Eve is touching and charming; an adult who believes in the existence of Santa Claus is sad and not a little bit scary.
The same is true today for those mythical Iraqi WMD's: back in 2003, I and pretty much everyone else in America believed the weapons were there, because George Bush and Colin Powell and everyone else said so. Now, having occupied Iraq for three years, during which two separate reports by Bush appointees concurred that the illicit programs ended in 1998 and our soldiers and inspectors failed to find anything at all, it's only the sad and scary Republicans who insist, all evidence to the contrary, that the weapons and ties to Al Qaeda were real.
We may not have found any banned weapons in Iraq, but we did find some documents. Thousands and thousands -- perhaps millions -- of them. Forty-eight thousand boxes worth. The government is now posting them on the internet in PDF format at the request of Congressional Republicans like Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Pat Roberts of Kansas, with the idea that the American public might be able to find the links that our unreliable behemoth of a bureaucratic government (staffed by Bush appointees, one must point out) has been unable to uncover.
It's not a completely loony idea.
After all, it was the blogosphere that quickly and accurately blew apart Dan Rather's badly forged Bush National Guard records, and I don't think there's a liberal out there who wouldn't argue in favor of a little bit more government transparency. So no, not completely loony at all. Just mostly loony.
"If anyone in the intelligence community thought there was valid information in those documents that supported either of those questions -- WMD or Al Qaeda -- they would have shouted them from the rooftops," a Bush administration official told The New York Times.
Yes, documents have been found indicating weapons possession and programs and Al Qaeda links; but John Negroponte, the Bush-appointed Director of National Intelligence has posted the documents along with an official disclaimer: the government can't vouch for their authenticity. Indeed, intelligence officials told the Times that the papers "include hearsay, disinformation and forgery."
Even intelligence professionals can get things wrong: remember the document alleging Saddam's attempt to purchase uranium from Niger that had been signed by an official who hadn't been in power for ten years at the date of the letter? Now, according to Michael Scheuer, formerly of the CIA, anyone "with a smattering of Arabic" can access the documents and draw "all kinds of crazy conclusions."
To test that assertion, I looked at a couple of the documents myself. Now, my Arabic isn't perfect, but something in section 1075 on page 21 of document 2RAD-2004-600984, innocuously titled "Excerpt from a military training manual," caught my eye.
Again, I'm no fluent speaker of Arabic or any kind of intelligence expert, but this document clearly appears to indicate some kind of "Oil for Sheets" program in which Martha Stewart provided Saddam Hussein with high-quality fabrics that he in turn traded with Al Qaeda operatives in exchange for...well, I can't make that word out, but never mind...and those sheets were then tailored and sold in the black markets of Afghanistan as burqhas. I hope Martha liked prison, because if I'm right, she's going back. But this time, she might be having cell decorating contests at Gitmo.
Seriously, I doubt there is anything in these documents of any use at all. After three years in Iraq, if we haven't found anything there's nothing to find. Unreliable, unsourced, questionable documents aren't going to change that.
If the Republicans want to post some useful documents on the web for Americans to scour over in an effort to uncover long-hidden truths, maybe they could post the notes from Cheney's energy task force meetings.