All of the Bush administration’s junkyard dogs are out on the attack, feigning righteous indignation that anyone would suggest that they manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people.

Of course, that is exactly what they did, and a majority of Americans are finally catching on. That doesn’t absolve Congress from lazily going along and giving the president the OK to get American boys killed. The question is, Did the president do it deliberately, or was he just so intent on going to war that his mind automatically cherry-picked the conflicting information? We might never know.

The vice president made multiple trips to the CIA headquarters to "talk" to the analysts. When one veteran CIA man was asked if that was unusual, he said: "No, it’s not unusual. It’s unique. I’ve been here 28 years, and it’s the first time."

Let me give you a quote from Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times. He’s quoted by Scott McConnell in an article that appears in the American Conservative magazine:

"It’s the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite. … I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened," Friedman said. Perhaps that’s true. After all, we do live in a media world.

The president is calling his Democratic critics revisionists. Well, the Democrats are not trying to rewrite history; they’re just trying to get the president to fess up that he played fast and loose with the truth.

What the war-sellers did was not make stuff up out of whole cloth; they just distorted the evidence and ignored all the doubts the intelligence community was expressing. Aluminum tubes, for example, were cited as evidence of Iraq’s nuclear program, but the president and his crowd knew that (1) the State Department intelligence people didn’t believe they were nuclear-related; and (2) the U.N. nuclear experts said they definitely were not suitable for nuclear work.

But Vice President Dick Cheney goes on national television and says, grim-faced, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has reconstituted his nuclear-weapons program and is amassing weapons of mass destruction," etc. and so forth.

They are telling still another whopper when they claim that "everyone agreed there were weapons." No, the French, Russians, Chinese and Germans didn’t agree. That’s why they refused to give Bush the war resolution he and his British lap dog lobbied so hard to get.

When German intelligence told the Bush administration they thought one of the so-called defectors was a loony, the administration ignored German intelligence and passed the defector’s information on as fact. The administration set up a special organization in the Defense Department to short-circuit both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. An Air Force colonel who worked in that office has blown the whistle on the operation.

It’s a bad thing to lie about anything. It’s bad to lie under oath. It’s bad to have sex in the Oval Office. But, in a rational society, it ought to be considered unforgivable to mislead the American people into a war. More than 2,000 young Americans have died in the springtime of their lives, and another 13,000 will carry wounds and scars into what’s left of their futures.

And for what? Let’s review: There is no doubt Saddam Hussein was not trying to build nuclear weapons; he did not possess and was not amassing any other weapons of mass destruction; he had no connection with al-Qaida and was not involved in the attacks against New York and Washington. What he was was a half-mad bloody tyrant writing romance novels and building palaces and monuments to himself. He was not a threat to the U.S.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.