Nicholas D. Kristof: White House in Denial
White House in Denial
By Nicholas D. Kristof
New York Times
Friday 13 June 2003
Let me give the White House a hand.
Condoleezza Rice was asked on "Meet the Press" on Sunday about a column of mine from May 6 regarding President Bush's reliance on forged documents to claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. That was not just a case of hyping intelligence, but of asserting something that had already been flatly discredited by an envoy investigating at the behest of the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Ms. Rice acknowledged that the president's information turned out to be "not credible," but insisted that the White House hadn't realized this until after Mr. Bush had cited it in his State of the Union address.
And now an administration official tells The Washington Post that Mr. Cheney's office first learned of its role in the episode by reading that column of mine. Hmm. I have an offer for Mr. Cheney: I'll tell you everything I know about your activities, if you'll tell me all you know.
To help out Ms. Rice and Mr. Cheney, let me offer some more detail about the uranium saga. Piecing the story together from two people directly involved and three others who were briefed on it, the tale begins at the end of 2001, when third-rate forged documents turned up in West Africa purporting to show the sale by Niger to Iraq of tons of "yellowcake" uranium.
Italy's intelligence service obtained the documents and shared them with British spooks, who passed them on to Washington. Mr. Cheney's office got wind of this and asked the C.I.A. to investigate.
The agency chose a former ambassador to Africa to undertake the mission, and that person flew to Niamey, Niger, in the last week of February 2002. This envoy spent one week in Niger, staying at the Sofitel and discussing his findings with the U.S. ambassador to Niger, and then flew back to Washington via Paris.
Immediately upon his return, in early March 2002, this senior envoy briefed the C.I.A. and State Department and reported that the documents were bogus, for two main reasons. First, the documents seemed phony on their face for example, the Niger minister of energy and mines who had signed them had left that position years earlier. Second, an examination of Niger's uranium industry showed that an international consortium controls the yellowcake closely, so the Niger government does not have any yellowcake to sell.
Officials now claim that the C.I.A. inexplicably did not report back to the White House with this envoy's findings and reasoning, or with an assessment of its own that the information was false. I hear something different. My understanding is that while Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may not have told Mr. Bush that the Niger documents were forged, lower C.I.A. officials did tell both the vice president's office and National Security Council staff members. Moreover, I hear from another source that the C.I.A.'s operations side and its counterterrorism center undertook their own investigations of the documents, poking around in Italy and Africa, and also concluded that they were false a judgment that filtered to the top of the C.I.A.
Meanwhile, the State Department's intelligence arm, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, independently came to the exact same conclusion about those documents, according to Greg Thielmann, a former official there. Mr. Thielmann said he was "quite confident" that the conclusion had been passed up to the top of the State Department.
"It was well known throughout the intelligence community that it was a forgery," said Melvin Goodman, a former C.I.A. analyst who is now at the Center for International Policy.
Still, Mr. Tenet and the intelligence agencies were under intense pressure to come up with evidence against Iraq. Ambiguities were lost, and doubters were discouraged from speaking up.
"It was a foregone conclusion that every photo of a trailer truck would be a `mobile bioweapons lab' and every tanker truck would be `filled with weaponized anthrax,' " a former military intelligence officer said. "None of the analysts in military uniform had the option to debate the vice president, secretary of defense and the secretary of state."
I don't believe that the president deliberately lied to the public in an attempt to scare Americans into supporting his war. But it does look as if ideologues in the administration deceived themselves about Iraq's nuclear programs and then deceived the American public as well.
Go to Original
The Coming Downfall of Lying Regimes?
By Wayne Madsen
Tuesday 10 June 2003
You wouldn't know if from listening to the leading Democratic candidates for President, but "Weaponsgate" may ultimately bring about the downfall of the Bush regime and its allies in London, Canberra, and elsewhere. The neo-conservatives may have also finally stirred something in the Fourth Estate, which has suddenly begun challenging the lying echo chambers in the White House and Number 10 Downing Street.
The arrogance displayed by the Bush regime, somewhat surprising since it gained power through a fraudulent election process, is what may result in its eventual undoing. Bush may or may not ever realize how he was ill served by the neo-con blight that took root within his administration, particularly within the Department of Defense. But the historians and scholars, who will look back on what turned the tide for a supposedly "popular" war president, will point to the self-described "cabal" whose lies brought about a credibility gap unseen in the United States since the days of Watergate. In fact, Bush's "Weaponsgate" will be viewed as a more serious scandal than Watergate because 1) U.S. and allied military personnel were killed and injured as a result of the caper; 2) Innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, died in a needless military adventure; and 3) the political effects of the scandal extended far beyond U.S. shores to the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, and other countries.
Other effects of Weaponsgate are already apparent. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the majordomo of the neo-cons within the Pentagon, cannot find anyone to take the place of outgoing Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki. Generals Tommy Franks and Shinseki's vice chief, General John "Jack" Keane, want no part of the job. After winning a lightning war against Iraq, Franks suddenly announced his retirement. He and Keane witnessed how Rumsfeld and his coterie of advisers and consultants, who never once lifted a weapon in the defense of their country, constantly ignored and publicly abused Shinseki. Army Secretar y and retired General Tom White resigned after a number of clashes with Rumsfeld and his cabal. The Commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, Lt. Gen. James Conway, said he was surprised that he encountered no chemical weapons in Iraq.
Perhaps Conway was surprised because that is what the neo-cons wanted him and his fellow Marines to believe. Conway and his troops were merely additional victims of "Weaponsgate." Paul Wolfowitz, a chief neo-con cabalist, let the cat out of the bag in Singapore when he said that everyone could agree on a cause of war being Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. That would be the common denominator in justifying an attack, whether or not such weapons could ever be found. Wolfowitz also stated that Iraq's swimming on a "sea of oil" was the reason it had to be attacked and not, for example, North Korea. The fact that weapons of mass destruction are actually possessed by North Korea, a country lacking any significant natural resources, is of no concern to the neo-cons. Oil was and is the bottom line in Iraq. Sometimes, even the liars trip up and actually tell the truth. But only in a world where the neo-cons have enjoyed a stranglehold on the corporate media can Wolfowitz's supporters claim he was misquoted and the K's Guardian be forced to print a clarification, one step short of a retraction. Congenital liars like Wolfowitz should never be given the benefit of the doubt on any issue..
Bush's Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, who has had his own problem with recognizing the truth, was obviously concerned how the history books will treat him. He decided to leave his post mid-term rather than face the music over his repeated distortions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as a casus belli. Other Bush administration officials, political and career, have also jumped off what appears to be a rapidly sinking ship of state. They include Richard Haass, who as the director for policy planning, was number three at the State Department; Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency administrator; Rand Beers, the senior National Security Council director for counter-terrorism; Charlotte Beers, the State Department chief for International Public Diplomacy (who was said to have resigned for -- get this bit of Soviet-style spin -- "health reasons"), and State Department career Foreign Service officers John H. Brown, John Brady Kiesling, and Mary A. Wright.
Then there was the sudden firing of retired General Jay Garner as U.S. viceroy of Iraq. He was "outed" as having past associations with the neo-cons, especially the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). But when Garner started to show some independence in Baghdad, especially with regard to handing over some power to Iraqis, he was quickly sacked and replaced by Paul Bremer, a former Heritage Foundation flunky and Kissinger Associates director who was obviously more in tune with the ideological bent of the neo-cons. In a Pentagon where the civilian neo-cons don't trust the uniformed flag rank officers, Garner likely became a threat, a potential Trojan horse who had to be replaced by someone whose loyalty was beyond question.
The most dramatic revolt against George W. Bush and Tony Blair can be seen from the high-level leaks of classified information from the top levels of American and British intelligence. Just consider that the United States has never experienced such repeated leaks of classified information since the years of the spies in the 1980s, a time when a number of intelligence employees were caught selling U.S. secrets to the Russians and Israelis. Yet, the current leaks are not acts of treason, but acts of unbridled patriotism.
The leaks from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), CIA, State Department, and other agencies are testimony to the deep divisions within the Bush administration over the phony war on Iraq. Intelligence agencies that are often at odds with one another over policy have united like never before in blowing the whistle on the neo-con agenda. The Bush administration lied flat out over the Iraqi WMDs and Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. It's just that simple. Career intelligence officers, who know the penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, are showing more courage than most of the Democrats in Congress who seem more fearful of the neo-cons and their supporters than in exposing "Weaponsgate."
The most recent classified disclosure was a DIA report on chemical weapons that concluded that there "was no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has or will establish its chemical agent production facilities."
On June 8, the Bush administration paraded its usual shills, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, before the Sunday talking head shows. Rice and Powell said they based their claims that Iraq had WMDs on an October 1, 2002 national intelligence "white paper." But that paper stated that Iraq had a capability to produce chemical weapons within its chemical industry, not that it was producing such weapons. Hans Blix recently said the so-called intelligence passed to him by the Bush regime was useless for his own UN weapons inspection team in its search for WMDs in Iraq. It now appears that all the so-called U.S. and British "intelligence" was nothing more than a collection of neo-con propaganda and disinformation. In the face of incessantly probing questions on CBS's "Face the Nation," Rice, in her school marm-like best, could only keep repeating that "there are still bad people in Iraq." Bad people? Is this the best terminology we can get from a PhD in International Studies? Or is that the phraseology she uses in explaining foreign policy matters to Bush? The latter explanation seems more likely.
Last March, a classified State Department report, prepared by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and titled "Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes," countered neo-con claims that a democracy in Iraq would foster democracy throughout the Middle East. The report, dated February 26, 2003, concluded that democracy would be difficult to achieve in Iraq, electoral democracy in Iraq would be exploited by anti-American elements, and that the idea that other Middle East nations would be transformed into democracies is not credible. So far, all those predictions have come true. Iraq is currently an American protectorate lacking even fundamental human services, anti-American Shi'as in the south are increasingly venting their anger at U.S. occupiers, and far from extending democracy throughout the Middle East, Mauritania's Arab pro-American government barely survived a military coup attempt by Islamist and pro-Iraqi elements in the counry's armed forces. So much for the Middle East "domino theory" concocted by Richard Perle and his American Enterprise Institute clones and parroted by Bush in a speech before the right-wing "think tank" the same day the State Department prepared its opposite report.
In another slap at the neo-cons, who have supported the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi, the CIA leaked a classified report about their favorite Iraqi. The report, which surfaced in April 2003, concluded that Chalabi had little popular support among the Iraqi people. No wonder then that it is Chalabi who appears to be the source for all the bogus intelligence about Iraqi WMDs, Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaeda, Iraqi purchases of uranium from Niger, and other false flag intelligence. Chalabi, who is as big a liar as his neo-con friends, hoped to lull American intelligence into believing him over seasoned Middle East intelligence hands. No one but Rumsfeld; former CIA Director James Woolsey (who has taken hundreds of thousands of consulting dollars from Chalabi over the years); Wolfowitz; Doug Feith; America's new monitor for the Middle East peace road map, John Wolf; and their comrades were taken in by Chalabi, a wanted scofflaw from justice in Jordan.
One day the names Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Woolsey, and Chalabi will become as familiar to students of "Weaponsgate" as the names Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Liddy, Mitchell, and Stans are familiar to those who study Watergate. And in a very interesting nexus between the two scandals, Richard Nixon's former counselor John W. Dean has written that Bush's lying about the reasons for the United States to go to war is an impeachable offense.
For those who are looking for the straw that broke the camel's back in "Weaponsgate" they need not look any farther than Number 10 Downing Street. The troubles that Tony Blair are now experiencing may be a harbinger for things to come in Washington. Blair is in deep trouble and he knows it. After returning from the G-8 summit in Evian, France, Blair was reported by The Obsever to be running around Number 10 in a pathetic panic. In a moment of temporary insanity, which must have been precious to people who loathe Blair, the toothy Prime Minister was pacing about his residence and yelling that people needed to get a grip on what was happening. One of Blair's aides had to comfort Blair and convince him that his advisers were on his side. Blair must have had thoughts of John Major getting ready stick it to Margaret Thatcher or of Brutus getting ready to plunge a knife into the back of Julius Caesar. Blair's political opponents within his own Labor party had seized on his government's use of a "dodgy dossier" on Iraqi WMDs to support the attack on Iraq as an example of Blair's deceit. The dossier, titled "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation," was based on a 12-year-old PhD thesis culled from the Internet and the bogus Chalabi documents about Nigerien uranium.
The revolt against Blair should serve as a warning for Bush. Just consider what is happening in Britain. Blair has been abandoned by some of his most senior government officials, including former Leader of the House of Commons Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and former International Development Minister Clare Short, in addition to a number of lesser Cabinet officials. Over 70 of Blair's Labor members of the House of Commons are in open revolt against his duplicity. No wonder Godric Smith, Blair's official spokesman, announced his resignation the same day that Ari Fleischer was announcing his departure in Washington. The wheels are coming off the transatlantic neo-con wagon. New Labor and the "Compassionate Conservative" Republican Party have been shown to be total ruses. Their war policies and global domination goals have been thoroughly exposed as neo-fascist manifestations of the teachings of neo-con philosopher Leo Strauss.
But Blair faces an even more serious revolt from his intelligence officials. Blair's use of bogus intelligence to claim that Britain had only a 45-minute warning prior to an Iraqi chem-bio attack reportedly resulted in the threatened resignations of the heads of MI-6 and MI-5, Sir Richard Dearlove and Eliza Manningham-Buller, respectively, And there was the leak of a January 31, 2003 Top Secret memo from the National Security Agency to its Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) counterpart, which asked for British help in electronically snooping on members and non-members of the UN Security Council to determine their stance on America's anti-Iraq UN resolution. That memo was reportedly leaked with a wink and an nod from the highest levels of British intelligence.
The public row in Britain has forced Alastair Campbell, Blair's own Karl Rove-like spinmeister, to apologize to the British Security Services for combining their intelligence material with the bogus material it used in developing the Iraqi WMDs dossier. However, some of Blair's advisers seem willing to go down with their Prime Minister faster than the deck hands on the Titanic. Blair's new House of Commons leader John Reid, a former member of the British Communist Party, ranted that "rogue elements" within the intelligence services were leaking classified information to bring down the government. Reid also stated that for all anyone knew, the leaks were coming from some "man in a pub." Such are the cynical words from a government on the brink of collapse.
Blair is not the only "Coalition of the Willing" partner beginning to get nervous. Australian Prime Minister John Howard is distancing himself from the forged and phony intelligence on Iraqi WMDs, claiming his intelligence services took at face value what was presented by the Americans and British. Denmark, which has very little tolerance for lying Prime Ministers, is opening up an parliamentary investigation of why Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen lied about the Iraqi WMDs. Bush's allies in Spain and Italy face similar inquiries. Blair, who appears to be heading for an ignoble British-style heave-ho, is sticking to the lie but with an interesting caveat. At a June 10 news conference, Blair restated the canard, "There is not a shred of evidence that we have doctored or manipulated intelligence." But then he added, "that would be absolutely gross if we did so." Blair may be entering the typical "let's look for a scapegoat" phase. He won't be successful. The intelligence services won't let him get away with it. He and his supporters will have to pay the price for lying to the British people. Barring a miracle, Blair's days in office appear to be numbered.
And what of Bush saying the United States will help its friends and punish its foes? Well, it seems that Mr. Bush cannot be trusted to take care of his friends. Iceland was one of the country's that signed up to Bush's so-called "coalition." How has Bush repaid the North Atlantic nation? By writing a letter to Iceland's Prime Minister stating that the United States will, after 46 years of providing for the NATO nation's defense, pull its military forces from the soon-to-be defenseless island state.
The Icelandic Prime Minister, like his colleagues in Denmark, Australia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, has found out the hard way of what price is paid for aligning with a dishonest and illegal regime. They will suffer the consequences. However, the leaders of France, Germany, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Ireland, Belgium, South Africa, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and the other countries who withstood constant berating from Washington and the American ambassadors accredited to them, can take heart in the fact that they were correct all along. They will reap the electoral benefits of their stance while they see their pro-American colleagues take the consequential and inevitable electoral fall.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of the forthcoming book, "America's Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II."
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