The big news this week is that a new National Intelligence Estimate says Iran ceased work toward nuclear weapons in 2003, contradicting everything George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been saying about Iran for the past several years.

We here at (well OK, it’s just me) know the ins and outs of this story can be confusing, so we (by which I mean me) have composed a series of clarifying questions and answers.

Q: This new intelligence estimate means Iran does or does not have nuclear weapons?
A: The new consensus from the U.S. intelligence community is: Iran does not have nuclear weapons.

Q: If Iran stopped working on weapons four years ago, why didn’t we know about it sooner?
A: We did know about it sooner. American intelligence agencies knew last summer.

Q: So why are we just finding out now?
A: Because when National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told Mr. Bush he had new information, Mr. Bush didn’t ask what it was. Or at least that’s what he says.

Q: But Bush and Cheney made all those speeches just a couple weeks ago, saying we had to “avoid World War Three” and threatening “serious consequences” for Iran if they didn’t stop developing nuclear weapons.
A: You’re supposed to ask me a question.

Q: Oh, right. So um… what was up with that?
A: As I said, Mr. Bush didn’t ask what the new intelligence said until just the other day, so he and Mr. Cheney are blameless for their uninformed and reckless statements.

Q: Why didn’t McConnell and the other intelligence types warn Bush and Cheney they were off base?
A: After seven years, people have learned Mr. Bush doesn’t like to be told bad news and Mr. Cheney even less so. Perversely, they seem to consider the fact that Iran is NOT developing nuclear weapons to be “bad news.”

Q: So was Bush lying again, trying to get us into another war?
A: Clearly, it’s not a lie. Mr. Bush deliberately didn’t ask what the “new information” was in August, so he wouldn’t have to “lie.” As “Seinfeld’s” George Costanza said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Q: Didn’t the Iranians tell us they weren’t developing nuclear weapons?
A: Yeah well, that’s what Saddam said about his nuclear and chemical weapons.

Q: But Saddam didn’t have nuclear or chemical weapons, did he?
A: No, he didn’t. Look where it got him.

Q: Are Bush and Cheney retracting all those bellicose statements?
A: No.

Q: Why not?
A: They don’t want to appear weak in front of the Iranians.

Q: They’re not worried about looking stupid?
A: They’re used to that.

Q: What’s the Bush administration’s policy now?
A: Glad you asked. Today in Nebraska, Mr. Bush said, “It is clear from the latest NIE that the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions.” So, essentially, he’s still issuing threats.

Q: Even though he’s been proved wrong?
A: Can’t have these nations just up and trying to build nukes on their own.

Q: What about Pakistan?
A: Don’t change the subject…. uh, how are we doing on time?

Q: We’re fine. What are the presidential candidates saying?
A: The Democrats said it was more distortion from the Bush administration, the Republicans, for the most part, said we have to keep getting tough with Iran. Rudy Giuliani’s senior foreign policy adviser Norman Podhoretz said the new NIE is a plot by the CIA to undermine Mr. Bush and protect the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran.

Q: No way.
A: Way.

Q: Could it get any stranger?
A: Mike Huckabee asked, “What National Intelligence Estimate?”

Q: Get out.
A: True.

Q: If Iran stopped working on The Bomb four years ago, why can’t Bush and Cheney just declare victory and let it go?
A: If they did it for Iran, they’d have to do it for Iraq and next thing you know, there’ll be an outbreak of peace and democracy in the Middle East. The price of oil would drop. No one in the White House wants to see that.

© Mark Floegel 2007

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