George Will

Rachel Lapp: You said we'd be safe in Philadelphia!
John Book: Well I was wrong!

-- "Witness" (1985)

WASHINGTON -- In that movie about an Amish woman and her child who become accidentally entangled in drug-related police corruption, she is reassured by the detective's assessment, which turns out to have been spectacularly mistaken. However, her trust in him, and the essence of his character -- trustworthiness, which is not the same as infallibility -- are established by four forthright words. A John Book Moment would serve the Bush administration.

Mature Americans understand that to govern is to choose, always on the basis of imperfect information. So why is it so difficult for the Bush administration to candidly acknowledge and discuss what Americans are not unnerved to learn -- that much prewar intelligence about weapons of mass destruction was wrong?

``My colleagues," said Secretary of State Colin Powell as he began -- with CIA Director George Tenet seated behind him -- his Feb. 5 exposition to the U.N. Security Council of U.S. evidence of Iraqi WMDs, ``every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources." But asked last Sunday on ``This Week" whether, 172 days after the fall of Baghdad, the failure to find WMDs had caused him to reconsider what counts as ``solid intelligence," Powell said: ``No."

He said, ``We didn't put anything forward that we didn't believe was solid. But it was the product of the intelligence community." That is unresponsive to the pertinent question: How have we subsequently revised our criteria for judging solid intelligence?

Powell told the Security Council that ``in mid-December, weapons experts at one facility were replaced by Iraqi intelligence agents who were to deceive inspectors about the work that was being done there." (emphasis added) And ``in the middle of January, experts at one facility that was related to weapons of mass destruction, (emphasis added) those experts had been ordered to stay home from work to avoid the inspectors." Asked if those two sites have been visited by U.S. forces since the fall of Saddam's regime, Powell said he, too, is waiting for weapons expert David Kay's report.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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