November 01, 2003

US intelligence is being scapegoated for getting it right on Iraq

Sidney Blumenthal: In advance of the war, Bush (to be precise, Dick Cheney, the de facto prime minister to the distant monarch) viewed the CIA, the state department and other intelligence agencies not simply as uncooperative, but even disloyal, as their analysts continued to sift through information to determine what exactly might be true. For them, this process is at the essence of their professionalism and mission. Yet the strict insistence on the empirical was a threat to the ideological, facts an imminent danger to the doctrine. So those facts had to be suppressed, and those creating contrary evidence had to be marginalised, intimidated or have their reputations tarnished.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1075530,00.html

Bush's other war

US intelligence is being scapegoated for getting it right on Iraq

Sidney Blumenthal
Saturday November 1, 2003
The Guardian

In Baghdad, the Bush administration acts as though it
is astonished by the postwar carnage. Its feigned
shock is a consequence of Washington's intelligence
wars. In fact, not only was it warned of the coming
struggle and its nature - ignoring a $5m state
department report on The Future of Iraq - but Bush
himself signed another document in which that
predictive information is contained.
According to the congressional resolution authorising
the use of military force in Iraq, the administration
is required to submit to the Congress reports of
postwar planning every 60 days. The report, bearing
Bush's signature and dated April 14 - previously
undisclosed but revealed here - declares: "We are
especially concerned that the remnants of the Saddam
Hussein regime will continue to use Iraqi civilian
populations as a shield for its regular and irregular
combat forces or may attack the Iraqi population in an
effort to undermine Coalition goals." Moreover, the
report goes on: "Coalition planners have prepared for
these contingencies, and have designed the military
campaign to minimise civilian casualties and damage to
civilian infrastructure."

Yet, on August 25, as the violence in postwar Iraq
flared, the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld,
claimed that this possibility was not foreseen: "Now
was - did we - was it possible to anticipate that the
battles would take place south of Baghdad and that
then there would be a collapse up north, and there
would be very little killing and capturing of those
folks, because they blended into the countryside and
they're still fighting their war?"

"We read their reports," a senate source told me. "Too
bad they don't read their own reports."

In advance of the war, Bush (to be precise, Dick
Cheney, the de facto prime minister to the distant
monarch) viewed the CIA, the state department and
other intelligence agencies not simply as
uncooperative, but even disloyal, as their analysts
continued to sift through information to determine
what exactly might be true. For them, this process is
at the essence of their professionalism and mission.
Yet the strict insistence on the empirical was a
threat to the ideological, facts an imminent danger to
the doctrine. So those facts had to be suppressed, and
those creating contrary evidence had to be
marginalised, intimidated or have their reputations
tarnished.

Twice, in the run-up to the war, Vice-president Cheney
veered his motorcade to the George HW Bush Center for
Intelligence in Langley, Virginia, where he personally
tried to coerce CIA desk-level analysts to fit their
work to specification.

If the CIA would not serve, it would be trampled. At
the Pentagon, Rumsfeld formed the Office of Special
Plans, a parallel counter-CIA under the direction of
the neoconservative deputy secretary of defence, Paul
Wolfowitz, to "stovepipe" its own version of
intelligence directly to the White House. Its reports
were not to be mingled or shared with the CIA or state
department intelligence for fear of corruption by
scepticism. Instead, the Pentagon's handpicked future
leader of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National
Congress, replaced the CIA as the reliable source of
information, little of which turned out to be true -
though his deceit was consistent with his record.
Chalabi was regarded at the CIA as a mountebank after
he had lured the agency to support his "invasion" of
Iraq in 1995, a tragicomic episode, but one which
hardly discouraged his neoconservative sponsors.

Early last year, before Hans Blix, chief of the UN
team to monitor Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,
embarked on his mission, Wolfowitz ordered a report
from the CIA to show that Blix had been soft on Iraq
in the past and thus to undermine him before he even
began his work. When the CIA reached an opposite
conclusion, Wolfowitz was described by a former state
department official in the Washington Post as having
"hit the ceiling". Then, according to former assistant
secretary of state James Rubin, when Blix met with
Cheney at the White House, the vice-president told him
what would happen if his efforts on WMDs did not
support Bush policy: "We will not hesitate to
discredit you." Blix's brush with Cheney was no
different from the administration's treatment of the
CIA.

Having already decided upon its course in Iraq, the
Bush administration demanded the fabrication of
evidence to fit into an imminent threat. Then,
fulfilling the driven logic of the Bush doctrine,
preemptive action could be taken. Policy a priori
dictated intelligence la carte.

In Bush's Washington, politics is the extension of war
by other means. Rather than seeking to reform any
abuse of intelligence, the Bush administration,
through the Republican-dominated senate intelligence
committee, is 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 meanwhile interviewing senior officials
about a potential criminal conspiracy behind the
public identification of a covert CIA operative - who,
not coincidentally, happens to be the wife of the
former US ambassador Joseph Wilson, author of the
report on the false Niger yellowcake uranium claims
(originating in the Cheney's office). Wilson's
irrefutable documentation was carefully shelved at the
time in order to put16 false words about Saddam
Hussein's nuclear threat in the mouth of George Bush
in his state of the union address.

When it comes to responsibility for the degradation of
intelligence in developing rationales for the war,
Bush is energetically trying not to get the bottom of
anything. While he has asserted the White House is
cooperating with the investigation into the felony of
outing Mrs Wilson, his spokesman has assiduously drawn
a fine line between the legal and the political. After
all, though Karl Rove - the president's political
strategist and senior adviser, indispensable to his re
election campaign - unquestionably called a journalist
to prod him that Mrs. Wilson was "fair game", his
summoning of the furies upon her apparently occurred
after her name was already put into the public arena
by two other unnamed "senior administration
officials".

Rove is not considered to have committed a firing
offence so long as he has merely behaved unethically.
What Bush is not doing - not demanding that his staff
sign affidavits swearing their innocence, or asking
his vice-president point-blank what he knows - is
glaringly obvious. Damaging national security must be
secondary to political necessity.

"It's important to recognise," Wilson remarked to me,
"that the person who decided to make a political point
or that his political agenda was more important than a
national security asset is still there in place. I'm
appalled at the apparent nonchalance shown by the
president."

Now, postwar, the intelligence wars, if anything, have
got more intense. Blame shifting by the administration
is the order of the day. The Republican senate
intelligence committee report will point the finger at
the CIA, but circumspectly not review how Bush used
intelligence. The Democrats, in the senate minority,
forced to act like a fringe group, held unofficial
hearings this week with prominent former CIA agents:
rock-ribbed Republicans who all voted for and even
contributed money to Bush, but expressed their amazed
anger at the assault being waged on the permanent
national security apparatus by the Republican
president whose father's name adorns the building
where they worked. One of them compressed his
disillusionment into the single most resonant word an
intelligence agent can muster: "betrayal".

Sidney Blumenthal is former assistant and senior
adviser to president Clinton and author of The Clinton
Wars. He has been a staff writer on the New Yorker,
Washington Post and New Republic. He will be writing a
regular column on US politics from Washington

sidney_blumenthal@yahoo

Posted by richard at November 1, 2003 07:45 AM