So, this whole 'imminent' thing is getting ugly. Stephen Hayes in the Weekly Standard nicely sums up why liberals should not have gotten involved in that mess in the first place. He says:

It should not be terribly surprising or newsworthy even that the CIA never deemed Iraq an imminent threat. If agency analysts had ever concluded that an attack from Iraq was "about to occur" or "impending," to use the dictionary definition of imminent, it's fair to assume that they would have told the president forthwith, rather than holding the information for inclusion in a periodic assessment of threats. And the president would not have taken 18 months to act to protect the nation.

Yeah, no duh. Obviously that's not what people mean when they say 'imminent' in this case.

I know someone would have a field day with the fine points of this, but the question here is over the degree of imminence, i.e., are we talking the degree of imminence implied in the 2002 CIA intelligence estimate, which mentioned the possibility of WMD stockpiles, but put serious disclaimers on those finding? Or the degree of imminence expressed in the 2003 State of the Union, Colin Powell's trip to the UN, etc? Because, um, there were no disclaimers on those.

And later:

Many of the same people who criticized the Bush administration before the war for moving against a threat that was not imminent are today blaming the administration for supposedly having claimed that Iraq posed an imminent threat.

See, the rub here is that when people said to Bush, this threat is not imminent, they weren't using it as he does in his 2003 state of the Union:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

He's saying the threat is not immediate. That we don't have reliable intelligence that Saddam is sending a nuke our way at this very moment. When you get away from 'immediate' and into 'imminent' (again, at least in the way those silly words have been used in this silly debate) we then have to include probabilities in addition to capabilities and compare it to cost. Although Hayes is playing fun games with the word 'imminent' the position he refers to is consistent: many examined the threat, listened to the questions raised about the priority evidence being raised, compared it to other pressing threats and measured it against cost, and decided no, this was not a threat we should raise to the 'imminent' spot at the very top of our list. This is not the single most pressing threat we have by a long shot. Now, those same people are saying the reasons we suspected the administration's case was overstated all along have been proven right.


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