I think I need to restate this conclusion in a few ways. It's a good time to do so, given the President's recent speech where he says, "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," and ""These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will."
Firstly, some of what the President said was, well, rewriting history. Once again, it was indirectly claimed the Silbermann-Robb Commission found there was no political manipulation of intelligence, so any claims of "misleading" is wrong, to wit:
"Bush, in Pennsylvania yesterday, was more precise, but he still implied that it had been proved that the administration did not manipulate intelligence, saying that those who suggest the administration "manipulated the intelligence" are "fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments."
This is, at best, deeply irresponsible to say and at worst a lie. Once again:
And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry." (italics added)
One of my favorite authors is Harlan Ellison. You probably know him best for writing "City on the Edge of Forever", a classic Star Trek episode. It led to a huge, public feud between him and Gene Roddenberry, because Gene continually claimed the original script was badly written and had to be saved. (There happens to be a book about this from Harlan, and if you like well written rage, check it out - but buy it through the side link please!) Now, Gene once made a claim that the episode was, as originally written, far too expensive to shoot (not true) and that Harlan had Scotty dealing drugs (also not true). Harlan, at the time attempting to make peace, contacted Gene and mentioned those facts were wrong. Gene said oops, and promised he'd not make those claims again.
He did so for the next twenty years or so.
There comes a time when a mistake morphs into a lie. Bush and the Republicans are there in the claims of vindication from the Silberman-Robb Commission. I can allow one or two errors, but continual ones means they don't want to tell the truth here. You also have to ask why they're so desperate to claim they've been cleared.
The President also claimed that Congress saw the exact same intelligence he did, and therefore any claims he and others twisted intelligence can't be true:
In the same speech, Bush asserted that "more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."
Except once again, reality tells a different story:
But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers.
In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE.
That last point is the most important. As we've seen, there were a lot of people saying the intelligence was iffy, badly sourced, and plain wrong - such as the claims of Iraq training al-Qaeda in chemical weapons, to name just one. But those doubts were not reported to Congress. So, if the person telling you information leaves out doubts about said information, he can't claim you saw the same stuff he did. When you cherry-pick what you tell people, you can fairly easily get them to vote how you want them to.
Taking this into account, and remembering how frantically people of the Administration tried to link al-Qaeda and Iraq, and how Cheney and Rice drastically overstated the nuclear reach of Iraq against the intelligence estimates, and how 9/11 was always somehow close to Iraq in all pre-war speeches, and how they are desperate to claim they've been exonerated...
I've come to the it probably started out as groupthink, and perhaps for a good defense reason overall - change in the Middle East, taking out a possible danger, what have you - but at some point it seems the people in charge decided to make sure everyone thought they way they did through misdirection, selective presentation of intelligence, falsely dramatic claims, and using intelligence they knew was weak. The mistakes, possibly innocently, made at the beginning have now evolved into a lie to justify the mistakes. They chose to present intelligence to the American people in a deceptive way, painting iffy information as rock solid. They chose to leave off doubts and questions in the information supplied to Congress. They chose to link al-Qaeda and 9/11 in all speeches about Iraq.
The groupthink turned into a lie to justify the groupthink. They've become Gene Roddenberry, misstating stuff over and over to make themselves look good.