LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,...

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOUR AMERICAN GOVERNMENT! It's rarely a surprise to hear that the Bush administration lies, but it's occasionally impressive to read a textured account of how brazen and conscious their deceptions are. And no one is better at offering such retellings than The National Journal's Murray Waas:

Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews.

Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Three months after receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

Maybe I'm just a naive youngster, but the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch sure sound like "intelligence sources" to me. And no one should forget Colin Powell's humiliation at the hands of all this, which is even more abjectly embarrassing when you read:

In mid-September 2002, two weeks before Bush received the October 2002 President's Summary, Tenet informed him that both State and Energy had doubts about the aluminum tubes and that even some within the CIA weren't certain that the tubes were meant for nuclear weapons, according to government records and interviews with two former senior officials.

Official records and interviews with current and former officials also reveal that the president was told that even then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had doubts that the tubes might be used for nuclear weapons.

But if Powell was played, at least he was somewhat complicit in the fall. The American people, now embroiled in a costly and dangerous occupation of Iraq, were offered no such chance for accurate judgment.

--Ezra Klein

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