LONDON--The British have been doing something so deliciously un-American: looking backward. The Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War is back after its Christmas recess, garnering live TV coverage Tuesday when Tony Blair's still-loyal former spin doctor-in-chief, Alistair Campbell, delivered a rousing display of what "loyalty up" means. Britain, he said as he concluded his testimony, should be proud of what it did in Iraq.
Maybe that's why, as I read Peter Baker's generally admiring NYT Magazine piece on deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, this passage leapt off the computer screen:
Brennan, unhappy, left government in 2005 and went on to write a proposed Op-Ed essay that he titled, "Mr. President, You're Wrong on Iraq." In keeping with CIA rules, he submitted it for classification review by the agency before distributing it to any newspapers for publication. A copy found its way to the White House, where it angered top officials. Brennan ultimately thought better of the article and withdrew it from CIA review, but it was too late to salvage his standing at the White House.
Sounds like hot stuff -- a CIA guy coming out against a President who, by 2005, was blaming the CIA for what we didn't find in Iraq. Surely a reputable journalist like Baker would follow up, ask Brennan (in one of their many reported chats over the last year) what he said in that self-spiked Op-Ed. Maybe he did, but there's no sign of such questioning, nor of any answers it might have elicited, in the long article.
So I'm reviving a department from the early days of Eat the Press: the Fantasy Assignment Desk. If any journalists are reading this, here's your assignment: find out what was in Brennan's 2005 Op-Ed on Iraq. Better yet, find a copy. Ideally, put it in the public conversation in the next few weeks, before the lines form outside the Queen Elizabeth Conference Center for Tony Blair's appearance before the Iraq Inquiry. In my business it's called "timing".