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DETROIT — Four years late and half a trillion dollars short. Why didn’t George Tenet tell us this stuff when it mattered — before we invaded Iraq?

Tenet could have been a hero. He could have changed history. Imagine the scenario: It’s Jan. 18, 2003. Congress has signed off on military action. Tens of thousands of troops are in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, waiting for marching orders. War fever is at a pitch, yet millions of Americans remain unconvinced. At an antiwar rally on the Washington Mall, the Rev. Jesse Jackson steps to the podium to address 200,000 marchers. “It does not stand to reason,” he says as the crowd cheers, “to have an unfinished confrontation with al-Qaida, ignore the Middle East and fast-forward to Iraq.” Then he introduces the next speaker, who is visibly angry and upset. “Now let’s hear from someone who speaks from firsthand knowledge. Ladies and gentleman, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”

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