"Merry Christmas, Mr. President," hissed the men in cloaks as they plunged a dagger into George Bush's back.
America's spooks finally had their revenge. After being forced by the White House in 2002-03 to concoct a farrago of lies about Iraq, and then take the blame for the ensuing fiasco there, the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies struck back this week.
U.S. intelligence chief Mike McConnell made public a bombshell National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report that concluded "with high confidence" Tehran had halted its rudimentary nuclear weapons program in 2003.
If restarted, Iran is unlikely to produce any weapons before 2015.
The new NIE is a devastating, humiliating blow to Bush, Dick Cheney and the neocons who have been fulminating for war against Iran. Only two months ago, Bush warned Americans that Iran's secret nuclear program threatened to ignite World War III.
A 2005 NIE report that billed Iran as a major nuclear threat was based on fabricated evidence supplied to the CIA, just like the bogus Niger uranium story used to justify war against Iraq. Who, one wonders, is behind this disinformation?
Bush was given the new NIE on Iran last August. But for the past four months, Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice have been beating the war drums over Iran when their own massed intelligence agencies have been telling them there was no danger from that country. The White House hid its own intelligence community's findings from the public until the spooks threatened to leak the report.
Ironically, Iran's leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was telling the truth all along when he said Iran was not working on nuclear arms, while Bush & Company were lying through their teeth, just as they have over Iraq and Afghanistan.
This column has been reporting for two years the growing opposition at the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department to Bush/Cheney's plans to launch a war against Iran. I repeatedly heard the term "fifth column" used to describe the fanatical neocon ideologues pressing America into a second Mideast war.
Now, America's national security community is telling the White House to cease and desist before it drags the nation into another foreign catastrophe. While not a coup as in "Seven Days in May," it was the next closest thing.
At the heart of this drama lies the disturbing fact that Bush/Cheney & Co. were simply ignoring their own $40-billion-plus-a-year intelligence community.
TRY ANOTHER SOURCE
When the White House didn't get the answers it wanted on Iran, it turned to Israel, whose renowned intelligence agency, Mossad, became a primary source. Mossad still insists Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2008.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared the NIE report a "blow to the groin." Israel has been straining every sinew to get the U.S. to destroy Iran's growing nuclear infrastructure. Whether Israel, which has a large nuclear arsenal, will attack Iran on its own is uncertain.
This is the final disgrace for Bush & Cheney. Their war propaganda and efforts to suppress the new NIE should constitute grounds for immediate impeachment.
If Bill Clinton could be impeached for lying about oral sex, shouldn't Bush and Cheney face trial for attempting to lie and deceive Americans into yet another war of aggression? Alas, Congress, many of whose members also have been howling for war against Iran, lacks the guts for such action.
America's intelligence has been lousy in the past, and might be wrong again. But UN nuclear inspectors confirm the U.S. findings.
So does SVR, Russia's intelligence agency. Iran's civilian nuclear power program eventually could produce highly enriched uranium for weapons, but there is no sign of Iran developing any long-range delivery capability.
The NIE is likely to release Iran from U.S.-imposed isolation, and undermine the anti-Iran coalition the U.S. was assembling.
It should put the kibosh on Bush's idiotic plans for an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Sanity is slowly returning to Washington.
Eric Margolis writes a regular column for the Toronto Sun.
© 2007 The Toronto Sun