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Reading The Washington Post piece today on the decision-making process at Komen that led to the cut-off of Planned Parenthood, I was struck by the similarities of this story to the Bush administration's efforts to "shape" intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

In both cases, key players within the relevant organizations were essentially told by those in power, "Find the evidence to support a decision we've already made."

The Post story notes:

The issue took on much greater visibility after Handel was hired, first as a consultant in January 2011, then as senior vice president for public policy, according to former Komen employees.

“Questions about the issue of our involvement with Planned Parenthood significantly ramped up at the time Komen decided to hire Karen,” said John Hammerly, a former senior communications advisor at Komen who left the foundation last summer after a reorganization eliminated his position.

“The requests were from senior leadership, and they increased in terms of asking more detailed questions about the individual affiliates, the amount of each grant, the exact nature of what we were funding and when they were set to expire.”

In this case, Handel, an anti-abortion, religious fundamentalist zealot, and her like-minded cohorts within Koman, were playing the roles occupied by the likes of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and Richard Perle in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

In both cases, sane voices within the power structure told their fanatical leadership the truth: the evidence not only would not support their already-made decisions, it actually contradicted those very decisions.

In the Komen case:

Last spring, the board formed a three-member subcommittee to look into Planned Parenthood funding, according to a former Komen employee.


Participants concluded that cutting off all funds would endanger low-income women who depended on the service. A partial cutoff would only compromise the integrity of the grants process and not be enough to satisfy critics, participants said. Staff members decided to recommend continued funding for Planned Parenthood.


In early April, the board subcommittee held a conference call that included three Komen staff members, including Handel. Handel argued for defunding Planned Parenthood. Staff member Mollie Williams, who oversaw Komen’s community grants, argued to maintain funding. Leslie Aun, a communications official, warned of negative publicity if funding were cut off, according to a former Komen employee.

The consensus of the board subcommittee was to keep the funding, the former employee said.

We all know that Cheney, et. al., were repeatedly told by intelligence agencies that Saddam Hussein had no connection to al Qaeda, and that, despite Cheney's claims to the contrary, there was no reliable evidence that Iraq had WMD. (George Washington University hosts a wonderful archive of source documents on the Bush administration's efforts to drum-up a case for the invasion of Iraq.)

We also know that Cheney formed the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), an unsanctioned entity he, alone, controlled, to give him the answers he wanted -- to craft a case for the invasion based not on hard evidence, but on unsubstantiated claims, unreliable sources and outright fabrications.

Watching Komen CEO Nancy Brinker deliver ever-shifting rationales for the decision to cut off Planned Parenthood suggests that she had her own internal group, not unlike Cheney, that was providing her with trumped up tales to justify Komen's action.

The Komen and Iraq fiascos prove a simple point: Decisions driven by fanatical leadership on ideological grounds while disregarding the actual evidence are very likely to lead to cataclysmic failure.

Fanatics seek to make the evidence fit the action, rather than letting the evidence guide the action.

It represents a toxic anti-intellectualism (see: climate change) that inevitably leads to disaster.


As Gooserock reminds us, below, Komen's effort even included someone with experience dressing up lies in nice clothes to preface the invasion of Iraq. None other than good, ol' Ari Fleischer.

The similarities between the two efforts are striking.

As are the destructive results.

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