"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Selling the Second Iraq War

The Bush Administration repeatedly told the nation that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The CIA possessed thirty reports indicating Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Tyler Drumhiller, a ranking CIA official, stated that Dr. Rice and President Bush were told in 2002 that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The source was a former Iraqi foreign minister spying for the CIA. Yet Donald Rumsfeld assured his fellow citizens that the WMDs were “in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”

The two Neo Conservative intelligence shops provided President Bush, the Congress, and the public a great number of reasons for attacking Iraq, ranging from Saddam’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction to a fleet of remote controlled drone’s that could reach American cities. George W. Bush told a Cincinnati audience on October 7, 2002 that Iraq might strike the US in league with its terrorist allies. NeoCons in the Bush administration said the problem was that the CIA analysts took too pragmatic a view and were unable to envision the Middle East as it could be. The CIA responded to this pressure by cooking data to help the case that Iraq had WMDs. When the professional intelligence people questioned whether Saddam had WMDs, the administration relied on reports that they did exist offered by “Curveball,” a discredited source provided by the exiled Iraqi National Congress. Iraqi intelligence even offered to permit the CIA to look at any site it named, but the agency showed no interest in taking up the offer. There is evidence that as late as April 2006, President Bush was still convinced that Saddam did have WMDs.

The Bush administration sold the invasion of Iraq to the American people with the claim that Saddam Hussein had close ties to the 9/11 terrorists. For the most part, this was done by mentioning Saddam and the terrorists in the same paragraph rather than by stating outright that Saddam was behind the attack on the US. It was rarely said directly that he had helped Al Qaeda in the attack, but it was argued that he possessed weapons that terrorists could use in future attacks. To leave him in place was to risk another 9-11. Vice President Cheney did directly link Saddam to Al Qaeda long after others moved to mentioning Saddam and Al Qaeda in the same statements without directly linking them. The president was to tell a group of visiting senators, “ F___ Saddam. We’re taking him out. “

The administration talked about “connections” and “lineages” with Al Qaeda. Challenged by a Congressional Committee, Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith sent to the hill a list of unconfirmed reports and rumors, some of which proved Iraq and Al Qaeda were not working together. A 2003 poll revealed that 44% of the American people believed that some of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis. Later, in Iraq, there were reports of American troops mistreating people “as payback for 9/11.” In fact, Saddam did not let Al Qaeda roam Iraq at will, but these terrorists were able to do so after the invasion of Iraq. In, mid-September 2003, the president himself admitted that there was no evidence that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 or that Iraq had close ties to Al Qaeda. This admission came at a time when almost 70% of the American public had come to believe that Saddam was tied to 9/11.

The bipartisan 9/11 commission reported that there was no evidence Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks, and Vice President Dick Cheney immediately denounced the press for reporting this finding. Bush claimed the report supported him because he had said there were “ties” between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Some days later Bush again said Saddam “had terrorist ties.” The commission’s main task was examining what happened on 9/11, and it essentially supported the official story. Led by counsel Alberto Gonzales, the White House lawyers stonewalled the commission at every turn, and Bush and Cheney insisted on being questioned together, and not under oath, ostensibly to keep their story straight. The commission was denied access to detainees and even the House of Representatives’ investigative committee refused to share its findings, claiming “congressional privilege.”

Even before the Neo Conservatives assumed positions of power, they were suspicious of the CIA and military intelligence, seeing these people as timid and “Clintonistas.” They were determined to take these people down a notch or two. They made no secret of questioning the knowledge of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In October 2001, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz created their own intelligence shop called “the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group.” At first it had only two operatives, but they had the advantage of having the ear of people in high places. They could sort through intelligence gathered by others and “cherry pick” a case for attacking Iraq. This operation was headed by David Wurmser and was called the Policy Counter-Terrorism Evaluation Group, which Lt. Colonel Karen Kwaitkowski said “wasn’t intelligence, it was propaganda.” Much of the information Feith and Wurmser relied upon came from the Iraqi National Congress, under Ahmed Chalabi, an organization dependent upon the Department of Defense for funding. Many of its reports later turned out to be fabricated. The Wurmser operation was folded into the Pentagon’s Office of special Plans, and he became Vice President Cheney’s Middle East advisor. The Defense Intelligence Agency strenuously objected to the work of these amateurs. To no avail, CIA director George Tenet objected to the new intelligence operations.

Experts then thought that among states which might aid terrorists, Iraq was only the 4th or 5th most dangerous. This new office worked closely with the Office of the Vice President, which functioned as a similar intelligence shop. Cheney’s office and the NeoCons in the Pentagon were the core of what Powell aide General Larry Wilkerson called a “cabal” that took control of US foreign policy. Later, as the second Iraq War approached, Feith strongly adhered to the Neo Conservative belief that no planning would be necessary for the aftermath and said there was “no fucking way” Defense would consult with sister agencies about this.

Later, a Republican Congress found no evidence that CIA and NSA analysts were pressured to turn up evidence the Neo Conservatives wanted, despite the numerous visits of Dick Cheney to Langley. However, NSA analyst Kenneth Ford was the key liaison to the NeoCon intelligence shops and earned their enmity. His report did not justify the invasion of Iraq, and he wrote that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. He was hounded for more than two years and convicted on trumped up charges of having secret documents strewn around his kitchen in a case marked by many strange twists, what appeared to be prosecutorial misconduct, and a tainted jury. When the FBI searched his house without warrants for several hours, they detained him, refused him water, or bathroom privileges. It was even demonstrated that the FBI used an informant and a former parolee to bring one document into his house so they could claim a pretext to search for other documents, which were most probably planted. His case should serve as a warning to other honest intelligence analysts.

Two years after the invasion of Iraq, Lt. General William Odum, former head of the NSA, called this “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.” It was brought about and orchestrated by a relatively small cabal of Neo Conservatives and their nationalist allies. Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are traditional nationalists who have signed Neo Conservative documents and have been making common cause with them. Traditional nationalists like Cheney saw an attack on Iraq as desirable because it would reduce energy problems. The extent to which a concern for a rapidly growing dependence on Arab-controlled hydrocarbons influenced Neo Conservative policy is unclear. By the time of the invasion of Iraq, it was clear that Saudi Arabia could no longer be an American base in the Middle East or America’s main source of Middle Eastern oil. The intense secrecy of the George W. Bush administration prevents making solid judgments and there was intense pressure for all involved to conform to the policy line laid down by Cheney and his ideological confreres. Later, a White House aide told a reporter, ,"It's like working in an insane asylum. People walk around like they're in a trance. We're the dance band on the Titanic, playing out our last songs to people who know the ship is sinking and none of us are going to make it."

The war on terror coupled with aggressive unilateralism in foreign affairs was another aspect of the New Right’s cultural wars. It was designed to restore the old doctrine of Manifest Destiny and remove the deep shame that attended the evacuation of Saigon. It was a frontal attack on all those who thought America was in danger of doing sometime wrong. It would vanquish moral relativism and restore moral authority and the imperial presidency. As the congressional elections of 2002 approached, emphasis shifted from combating Al Qaeda to building support for a strike against Iraq, which had been labeled a terrorist nation. In the presidential election of 2000, Bush frequently talked about removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

The manner in which the nation decided to go to war “cast a dark shadow over the health of the U.S. political institutions and the celebrated system of democratic debate and checks and balances.” Congress gave Bush a blank check authorizing him to move at his discretion. Democrats, fearful of being called soft on terrorism, went along enthusiastically. By not questioning Bush’s run-up to war, the press and electronic media in effect set the public agenda, and the opposition politicians lacked the cour4age to question it.. There was little debate over whether the nation should go to war and critics were not given equal time. As historian Arthur Schlesinger noted, “They were reluctant to add to the low esteem in which they are held by questioning a presidential war.” The war even received the eager support of the “Neo Conservative voice of the [Washington] Post’s editorial page.”

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!