- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 email@example.com
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited