Saturday, April 30, 2005

News From Iraq

I haven't been commenting much lately on the Iraqi fiasco, so I thought it might be fun to take a few minutes and review what is happening.

About three weeks or so ago, I heard and read a spate of stories indicating that the administration was cautiously optimistic about events in Iraq. Even this week, General Myers said, "I think we are winning, okay. I think we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time."

One of the problems from the get-go in Iraq is that there was never a clear picture of what "winning" meant. On Thursday, after three months of haggling, the Iraqis formed a new Shiite-dominated government (is that winning?). The move was greeted by a series of attacks by Sunni "insurgents."

The Pentagon did admit that attacks are at the same level as one year ago. But, hey, no worries mate! Rummy says that all we have here are "a relatively small number of people who have weapons and who have money and who are determined to try to prevent democracy from going forward." Well, I feel better now, don't you?

Over the past month, the daily total has edged up to about 50 or 60 attacks, and some analysts are concerned that the culprits are Sunnis, who may be hardening in their opposition to a "democratically elected" Shiite government. Indeed, the words "civil war" are now being uttered in Iraq.

The new government has excluded Sunnis from top cabinet positions and is promising a de-Baathification of government, but they were able to find a prominent spot for neocon favorite Ahmad Chalabi. You remember Chalabi, right? He's the guy who gave the Pentagon false information about mythical Iraqi WMDs and leaked intelligence to Iran. Well, he will now act as deputy prime minister and acting oil minister.

So it looks like there are two plausible scenarios in Iraq, as there have been from the beginning. Either the state completely collapses into civil war, creating a breeding ground for all sorts of unsavory characters, or Iraq becomes a Shiite-controlled regime, closely aligned with their Iranian co-religionists. In either case, have our efforts in Iraq enhanced U. S. security or advanced the national interest in any way?

Meanwhile, the evidence continues to mount that Americans were deceived leading up to the war. The Iraq Survey Group released a final report this week and not only didn't Iraq possess WMDs, but apparently they didn't ship them off to Syria, either. I hope someone over at Fox News knows how to read and they pass this information on to their viewers.

There was also an interesting tidbit from Vincent Cannistaro, the former CIA head of counterterrorism operations and intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan. Cannistraro says, "there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the analysts" to produce intelligence favorable to the administration's strained claims.

The point is that it’s being taken as conventional wisdom that there really wasn’t any pressure by policy makers on the analytical process itself. And that’s just simply not true. It’s simply not true because analysts, generally, are like anyone else. They are concerned about their careers, their futures. Many of them are ambitious. If they understand that a dissenting opinion against the conventional policy wisdom is heard, that it’s going to affect their careers. There was a chilled environment in which to express any kind of opposite opinion.

Not only that, there wasn’t very much of a receptiveness at the senior levels of the CIA — at George Tenet’s level, for example, because he was a very political director. And he was very concerned about getting along with the administration. He was formerly a Democrat, appointed by a Democratic President and he had to stay on in a Republican administration. And he had to compete with a secretary of defense, Rumsfeld, who really didn’t want the CIA playing a large role in the intelligence community, and wanted to supplant that role. So, George had a more political bent. He wanted to get along, and therefore he had to play along. And “playing along” really meant to sustain the conceptions of the policy makers — particularly at the Pentagon and the vice president’s office — that Saddam Hussein was a real and imminent danger.

To do that, you had to accept some of these alarming reports that kept coming in, being fed by Ahmed Chalabi and his INC group. In many cases, the information was fabricated. Information, for example, about an alleged attempt by Saddam Hussein to acquire nuclear material, uranium, from Niger. This, we know now, was all based on fabricated documents. But it’s not clear yet — either from this report, or from any other report — who fabricated the documents.

The documents were fabricated by supporters of the policy in the United States. The policy being that you had to invade Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and you had to do it soon to avoid the catastrophe that would be produced by Saddam Hussein’s use of alleged weapons of mass destruction.

When asked specifically about the forged Niger documents, Cannistraro said that while he didn't want to comment specifically, there was some evidence that forgeries were spawned here in the U.S. Hmm, maybe they've taken up counterfeiting over at the American Enterprise Institute.


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