Thursday, February 23, 2006

Time for Another Bushie Reflection

Ok, maybe the cartoon's not entirely fair, I mean Hitler may have been intelligent but that didn't stop him from murdering some 9 million people, and winning military campaigns in the end doesn't matter much if, as it turns out, you in fact lose the war (just ask Robert E. Lee.) But it's sort of nasty enough as cartoons go and right now I'm particularly not happy with regard to G.W. Bush, but then you can legitimately ask, "So what else is not new?". Ok, so this go around I have the time to rant a bit about it and maybe that will make me feel better in the end.

I've been reading a lot in my time off, and, thank God, it's not all school stuff. I'm well into James Risen's "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration" and have just read Paul Pillar's piece in the March/April 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs (Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq). I learned about Pillar from Terry Gross' "Fresh Air", specifically her show for 16 Feb, CIA Terror Expert Charges Politicized Intelligence, where Pillar came on to discuss his Foreign Affairs article. I would say that these three things have resulted in a tipping point for me vis-a-vis how not happy I am with this administration.

Risen, the reporter for the NY Times who was in part responsible for exposing the administration's wiretapping/email reading activities through the NSA, makes an extraordinary case for how the administration and its peons were doing everything they could to make a case for invading Iraq, regardless of however much the evidence supported the fact that Iraq was not a threat to this country. Anyone who's followed this issue knows that the administration was embarrassed when nothing was found in Iraq vis-a-vis weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but hey, anyone can make a mistake, right? Well, it goes beyond that, it goes to the point where there's flat out no reason why the administration should have concluded that such weapons existed at all, and the only reason that the CIA and anyone else out there gave the impression that there was a WMD problem was because the administration wanted one to exist so as to justify what it subsequently went off and did.

Let me be more specific, there was a CIA official by the name of Charlie Allen. Realizing that the CIA knew next to nothing about what was actually going on inside of Iraq he and right before the actual invasion came up with the rather clever idea of asking the American relatives of scientists involved in Iraqi WMD programs to go back to the country and speak to their relatives to find out from them where the programs were at. The relatives were provided very specific questions and in the end some 30 went in and returned. And this is what came from that:

"All of them --- some thirty --- had said the same thing. They all reported to the CIA that the scientists had said that Iraq's programs to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons had long since been abandoned. Charlie Allen's program to use family members to contact dozens of Iraqi scientists had garnered remarkable results and given the CIA an accurate assessment of the abandoned state of Iraq's weapons programs before the U.S. invasion in March 2003." (page 106, Risen)

The end result of this amazing intelligence coup? Well as you might have guessed, it was ignored, flat out ignored, buried, no one in a position to make a difference was briefed on it, and it didn't see the light of day, at least at any point where it may have made any difference in how events transpired vis-a-vis this country and Iraq. Risen doesn't directly blame Bush for this. Rather he points to jealousy within the CIA itself, specifically against Allen and his success, so his information was ignored and now we're in a hole for thousands of American lives, many more Iraqi lives, and how much money I've simply lost track. Indirectly the case can be made against Bush - the fact was he, and those working for him, weren't interested in this sort of information as it didn't support his doing what he wanted to do.

Ok, any kind reader who's gone this far is no doubt saying, "Hey, something of a leap there big guy, I mean if the president wasn't informed why is he responsible for this withholding of information which, had it been known, would have ruined the principle casus belli for this entire adventure?" Well, here's where Pillar's article comes in (not that Risen elsewhere in his book doesn't make enough of a case for this). The following is the summary to the article:

"During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community's former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case."

The Bush administration and it's major cheerleaders, Rumsfeld and Cheney, were doing what they could to shape intelligence to tell the story they wanted it to tell, vice letting the intelligence tell the story on its own. This was most egregiously the case in the Pentagon, specifically under Douglas Feith who organized the "Counter-Terrorism Evaluation Group." Feith's group was responsible for taking the "raw" intelligence mentioned by Pillar, and kneading and squeezing it into what the administration wanted to hear. Feith and his immediate boss Paul Wolfowitz, didn't trust the CIA, didn't trust the professional intelligence analysts, and they were strongly convinced, alas for largely ideological reasons, that the evidence to support what the administration wanted to do was there, it simply needed to be coaxed out and taken out of the hands of CIA naysayers.

So what do we get for all of this? Essentially we were lied to by an administration that:

- manipulated intelligence information that was only used after it was run through an ideological filter

- didn't conduct anywhere near the honest due diligence that, of all things, an invasion of another country would require

- has since changed its tune from entering Iraq because of the danger of WMD to that of exporting democracy to the world, something the American people would not have likely bought into when this whole thing started and the planning for which, if ever this was a serious "export" consideration, was lacking to the point of flat out negligence and ineptitude

- and, lastly, has handed the American people a bill for our folly in Iraq that's continuing to grow daily with no immediate end in sight, and with nothing close to a guarantee that what we get out of this is going to be substantively more in our favor than what we started with. What we do know is that it sure and hell isn't going to result in Osama bin Laden, or most of his followers, being caught - for 200 plus billions of dollars that might have ameliorated the wool being pulled over our eyes by our own officials, but not by much

and, bottom line, we have an administration that's not being held accountable for any of this, which truly stretches the neurons in my brain.

Later I'll rant about taxes, our love affairs with torture, and anything else about Bush that at the time has caught my ire - bet ya can't wait, right?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listed in the Carnival of the Vanities this week at

12:34 AM  

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