Sidney Blumenthal | Bush's Other War
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Bush's Other War
By Sidney Blumenthal
Saturday 01 November 2003
US Intelligence is Being Scapegoated for Getting it Right on Iraq
In Baghdad, the Bush administration acts as though it is 0aastonished by the postwar carnage. Its feigned shock is a consequence of 0aWashington's intelligence wars. In fact, not only was it warned of the coming 0astruggle and its nature - ignoring a $5m state department report on The Future 0aof Iraq - but Bush himself signed another document in which that predictive 0ainformation is contained.
According to the congressional resolution authorising the use of 0amilitary force in Iraq, the administration is required to submit to the Congress 0areports of postwar planning every 60 days. The report, bearing Bush's signature 0aand dated April 14 - previously undisclosed but revealed here - declares: "We 0aare especially concerned that the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime will 0acontinue to use Iraqi civilian populations as a shield for its regular and 0airregular combat forces or may attack the Iraqi population in an effort to 0aundermine Coalition goals." Moreover, the report goes on: "Coalition planners 0ahave prepared for these contingencies, and have designed the military campaign 0ato minimise civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure."
Yet, on August 25, as the violence in postwar Iraq flared, the 0asecretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, claimed that this possibility was not 0aforeseen: "Now was - did we - was it possible to anticipate that the battles 0awould take place south of Baghdad and that then there would be a collapse up 0anorth, and there would be very little killing and capturing of those folks, 0abecause they blended into the countryside and they're still fighting their war?"
"We read their reports," a senate source told me. "Too bad they 0adon't read their own reports."
In advance of the war, Bush (to be precise, Dick Cheney, the de 0afacto prime minister to the distant monarch) viewed the CIA, the state 0adepartment and other intelligence agencies not simply as uncooperative, but even 0adisloyal, as their analysts continued to sift through information to determine 0awhat exactly might be true. For them, this process is at the essence of their 0aprofessionalism and mission. Yet the strict insistence on the empirical was a 0athreat to the ideological, facts an imminent danger to the doctrine. So those 0afacts had to be suppressed, and those creating contrary evidence had to be 0amarginalised, intimidated or have their reputations tarnished.
Twice, in the run-up to the war, Vice-president Cheney veered his 0amotorcade to the George HW Bush Center for Intelligence in Langley, Virginia, 0awhere he personally tried to coerce CIA desk-level analysts to fit their work to 0aspecification.
If the CIA would not serve, it would be trampled. At the 0aPentagon, Rumsfeld formed the Office of Special Plans, a parallel counter-CIA 0aunder the direction of the neoconservative deputy secretary of defence, Paul 0aWolfowitz, to "stovepipe" its own version of intelligence directly to the White 0aHouse. Its reports were not to be mingled or shared with the CIA or state 0adepartment intelligence for fear of corruption by scepticism. Instead, the 0aPentagon's handpicked future leader of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National 0aCongress, replaced the CIA as the reliable source of information, little of 0awhich turned out to be true - though his deceit was consistent with his record. 0aChalabi was regarded at the CIA as a mountebank after he had lured the agency to 0asupport his "invasion" of Iraq in 1995, a tragicomic episode, but one which 0ahardly discouraged his neoconservative sponsors.
Early last year, before Hans Blix, chief of the UN team to 0amonitor Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, embarked on his mission, Wolfowitz 0aordered a report from the CIA to show that Blix had been soft on Iraq in the 0apast and thus to undermine him before he even began his work. When the CIA 0areached an opposite conclusion, Wolfowitz was described by a former state 0adepartment official in the Washington Post as having "hit the ceiling". Then, 0aaccording to former assistant secretary of state James Rubin, when Blix met with 0aCheney at the White House, the vice-president told him what would happen if his 0aefforts on WMDs did not support Bush policy: "We will not hesitate to discredit 0ayou." Blix's brush with Cheney was no different from the administration's 0atreatment of the CIA.
Having already decided upon its course in Iraq, the Bush 0aadministration demanded the fabrication of evidence to fit into an imminent 0athreat. Then, fulfilling the driven logic of the Bush doctrine, preemptive 0aaction could be taken. Policy a priori dictated intelligence la carte.
In Bush's Washington, politics is the extension of war by other 0ameans. Rather than seeking to reform any abuse of intelligence, the Bush 0aadministration, through the Republican-dominated senate intelligence committee, 0ais producing a report that will accuse the CIA of giving faulty information.
W hile the CIA is being cast as a scapegoat, FBI agents are 0ameanwhile interviewing senior officials about a potential criminal conspiracy 0abehind the public identification of a covert CIA operative - who, not 0acoincidentally, happens to be the wife of the former US ambassador Joseph 0aWilson, author of the report on the false Niger yellowcake uranium claims (originating in the Cheney's office). Wilson's irrefutable documentation was 0acarefully shelved at the time in order to put16 false words about Saddam 0aHussein's nuclear threat in the mouth of George Bush in his state of the union 0aaddress.
When it comes to responsibility for the degradation of 0aintelligence in developing rationales for the war, Bush is energetically trying 0anot to get the bottom of anything. While he has asserted the White House is 0acooperating with the investigation into the felony of outing Mrs Wilson, his 0aspokesman has assiduously drawn a fine line between the legal and the political. 0aAfter all, though Karl Rove - the president's political strategist and senior 0aadviser, indispensable to his re election campaign - unquestionably called a 0ajournalist to prod him that Mrs. Wilson was "fair game", his summoning of the 0afuries upon her apparently occurred after her name was already put into the 0apublic arena by two other unnamed "senior administration officials".
Rove is not considered to have committed a firing offence so long 0aas he has merely behaved unethically. What Bush is not doing - not demanding 0athat his staff sign affidavits swearing their innocence, or asking his 0avice-president point-blank what he knows - is glaringly obvious. Damaging 0anational security must be secondary to political necessity.
"It's important to recognise," Wilson remarked to me, "that the 0aperson who decided to make a political point or that his political agenda was 0amore important than a national security asset is still there in place. I'm 0aappalled at the apparent nonchalance shown by the president."
Now, postwar, the intelligence wars, if anything, have got more 0aintense. Blame shifting by the administration is the order of the day. The 0aRepublican senate intelligence committee report will point the finger at the 0aCIA, but circumspectly not review how Bush used intelligence. The Democrats, in 0athe senate minority, forced to act like a fringe group, held unofficial hearings 0athis week with prominent former CIA agents: rock-ribbed Republicans who all 0avoted for and even contributed money to Bush, but expressed their amazed anger 0aat the assault being waged on the permanent national security apparatus by the 0aRepublican president whose father's name adorns the building where they worked. 0aOne of them compressed his disillusionment into the single most resonant word an 0aintelligence agent can muster: "betrayal".
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