[CHRIS MATTHEWS]: You're the briefer for the president on intelligence, you're the top person to go in and tell him what's going on. You see Cheney make this charge he's got a nuclear bomb and then they make subsequent charges he knew how to deliver it…and nobody raised their hand and said, "No that's not what we told him." [...]Given the magnitude of death and destruction unleashed as a result of those misrepresentations, you have to admire the man's devotion to his own job security. A true hero.
MORELL: As the briefer, my job is to carry CIA's best information and best analysis to the president of the United States and make sure he understands it. My job is to not watch what they're saying on TV.
MATTHEWS: So you're briefing the president on the reasons for war, they're selling the war, using your stuff, saying you made that case when you didn't. So they're using your credibility to make the case for war dishonestly, as you just admitted. [...]Add this to the pile, then. There were many, many Americans that knew at the time that the intelligence being presented to justify the Iraq War was weak or simply fraudulent; the case being made against the war at the time relied on U.N. weapons inspectors, nuclear experts, foreign policy experts and others who regularly piped up to say that assertions about "aluminum tubes" or "yellowcake uranium" or an "Al-Qaeda connection" were simply false. The intelligence community knew it as well, which is why the neoconservative team of Cheney, Rumsfeld and so on quickly began to rely on a separate, less rigorous intelligence pipeline of their own design.
MORELL: On some aspects. On some aspects.
The question of whether or not a candidate would go to war knowing what we know now is moot; nearly all of these people supported the war at the time, because it simply would not do to be seen as weak on terror, whether that terror was real or invented, and so we have a very good idea whether they would have supported the war using known-dubious claims unsupported by intelligence. Because they did that thing.
The more salient question (below the fold):
... would be why each candidate chose to put his faith in the Bush Administration's "interpretation" of that intelligence rather than the many experts loudly disputing those claims. The media's own demand for war no doubt cowed many of them, as well as the consistent post-9/11 branding of dissenters as anything from naive peaceniks to almost-traitors; opposition to the war became rarer the higher up in American circles of power you went, whether in political life or among the pundit class. The political punditry has all but wiped it from their memory, but most of the rest of us remember that speaking out against the notion of an Iraq War or against any of the individual "intelligence" claims being made by the Bush administration could be a career-ending move; both the administration and prominent pro-war pundits were gleeful in their opinion-page lynchings of experts who spoke out. We were in a new age of terrorism, we were told. The old rules of evidence were from "pre-9/11" times. If you wanted to debate whether each of the various claims about Iraq was actually true, well then why don't you move to France with the rest of the cowards.
Nearly all of the current presidential candidates (those that were even around then, that is) handled themselves abysmally, in those times. They allowed themselves to be pushed into war, whether it was (Clinton) due to the apparent presumption that opposing it would be politically devastating or (Jeb Bush) because they were among the staunch believers in the notion of remaking the Middle East through a program of targeted violence. The question to be asked now is what they have learned, and what evidence they can present to us that they have learned. America will no doubt at some future point be the victim of another terrorist attack perpetrated by some violent fringe group in some barely governed region of the globe; will we then go to war in Iran, because they were on our military radar anyway? Will the dissenters again be branded as anti-American for speaking up? Will men and women lose their careers again, even as the planners and strategists and advocates for the expensive, violent, falsely premised, incompetently executed preemptive war sail through unscathed, blaming their opponents for each of the things that went wrong, and piping up with near-identical plans for near-identical interventions supported with near-identical fearmongering in the very same newspapers and for the very same think tanks every last week for a decade afterward?
There is more to answer for than the simplistic question of whether a candidate would support the stupid and catastrophic war given the benefit of hindsight. The embrace of the very same strategists and intelligence-pushers as continued "experts" in the field is, for God's sake, disqualifying—and that should be obvious, and that it is not speaks to the simple cravenness of a media still obsessively convinced that the redemption of those experts, and of their own humiliated column-spaces, is just around the next corner.
Equally important, though, is that the treatment of fellow Americans who did speak up against the fraudulent intelligence was unconscionable. There has been no reckoning for that. There has been no apology from any of the political stalwarts whose sole response to opposition voices was to demonize them. That is considerably more pressing than knowing what you know now. You were not misled by the intelligence, you chose to believe it over all other available evidence, and by dismissing all the other now-vindicated voices.