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Living in Wonderland Doesn't Make It Wonderful

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The President stood at the podium. He had been asked about the National Intelligence Estimate that suggested the Iraq War has worsened our fight against terrorism.

"I think it's naïve," the President responded. "I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm against the American people makes us less safe."

Fair enough. He's the President. He's in a position to know. After all, he gets briefed about this stuff.

It's just...well, it's just that the people who brief him are the 16 spy organizations that put together that NIE. So, the President is calling naïve and mistaken the very people who make him informed enough to call them naive and mistaken.

It's all so confusing. But don't worry, it makes sense in Wonderland.

Like this -

What really upset the President more than anything was...well, not that the Iraq War has made us less-safe, but something else entirely.

"I think it's a bad habit for our government to declassify every time there's a leak,"

Fair enough. He's the President. He's in a position to know. After all, he gets classified documents every day and understands how important it is to get them secret.

It's just that...well, he seems so selective about what classified documents should stay classified. After all, remember that whole pesky deal with outing Valerie Plame? (It was in all the papers.) As the National Journal reported on April 6, the indicted Scooter Libby

"...has testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment to the media to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq".

This gets pretty confusing, too, because - what was that highly classified assessment? Well, according to court papers it was (get this)... a National Intelligence Estimate!

How 'bout them apples? So, let's connect the dots. The President is upset about having to declassify an NIE, although he declassified an NIE only five months earlier. Apparently the difference is...well, no, there isn't any difference. But we're in Wonderland, remember? In Wonderland, the difference is that the first NIE (known in literature circles the "good NIE") helped the President's smear someone he didn't like. This new "bad NIE" was critical of the President.

To be fair to the President, he didn't declassify the full "bad" NIE. According to Press Secretary Tony Snow, Mr. Bush had loftier issues in mind.

"We don't want to place people's lives at risk. We don't want to place sources and methods at risk. We don't want to compromise our ability to work with foreign governments who have been essential in helping prosecute and continue to prosecute the war on terror."

Fair enough. He's the President. He's in a position to know. After all, he knows the jeopardy that intelligence agents are under.

It's just, well...that's the exact description of Valerie Plame who ultimately got outed as a result of the President declassifying the "good NIE." An agent working with foreign governments on the war on terror, put at risk by the report made public.

If you're getting a pounding headache, don't worry. Remember, you're in Wonderland. Take one of those pills.

But forget all that a moment. Because for all the attention drawn to this NIE, something else entirely piqued the President's fascination.

"You know, what's interesting about the NIE?," Mr. Bush asked reporters. "It was an intelligence report done last April. And here we are, coming down the stretch of an election campaign, and it's on the front page of your newspaper. Isn't that interesting? Somebody's taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes."

Actually, yes, that's very interesting. Not as interesting as what's in the report, of course, but still interesting. Not as interesting as "The Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives" or "threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide" - but still interesting.

Or, well...not really as interesting as the President feigns. "I'm shocked! Shocked to find leaking material for political purposes in this establishment!" (Note: It's page 4 of the Karl Rove Guide to Life.)

And in the end, however, we have the ultimate, "Or, well..." George Orwell, that is. Bumfuzzling language so it will appear to make sense. Republicans proudly holding up the NIE, claiming it shows that Iraq is now the center of the terrorist front, so we must increase our efforts there.

Actually, this isn't completely Orwellian. It's more the Lizzie Borden Defense Gambit. Killing your parents and pleading for mercy because you're an orphan.

If Iraq is the center of the terrorist front, it's because we made it that. Increasing our efforts will therefore only increase the terror. And make us all the less safe. As detailed by the NIE created by 16 spy agencies that brief President Bush who called their finding "naïve" based on his knowledge from their briefing him, which he declassified against his better judgment that had declassified another NIE favorable to him, even though it put an agent at risk which is something he says he would never do.

Sometimes, you should leave literature and fantasy to the experts. Because this isn't even a good parody. At least Alice got to leave Wonderland. She was smart enough not to Stay the Course.