“There are a hundred or more people wandering around Washington today who have heard the ‘real stuff,’ as they put it – and despite their professional caution when the obvious question arises, there is one reaction they all feel free to agree on: that nobody who felt shocked, depressed or angry after reading the edited White House transcripts should ever be allowed to hear the actual tapes, except under heavy sedation or locked in the trunk of a car. Only a terminal cynic, they say, can listen for any length of time to the real stuff without feeling a compulsion to do something like drive down to the White House and throw a bag of live rats over the fence.”
– Hunter S. Thompson,
04 July 1973
The document almost reads like satire. “Bush wanted to remove Saddam,” reads the leaked secret British intelligence memo dated 23 July 2002, “through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy? You don’t say.
Plenty of people have been bellowing about this for years now, often risking their own well-being and that of their families in the process. Richard Clarke, former White House Counter-Terrorism Czar, spent a lot of time talking about how the books were being cooked to justify an invasion of Iraq. Tom Maertens, who was National Security Council director for nuclear non-proliferation for both the Clinton and Bush White House, backed up Clarke’s story with his own eyewitness testimony.
Roger Cressey, Clarke’s former deputy, witnessed one of the most damning charges that has been leveled against the administration by Clarke: They blew past al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks, focusing instead on Iraq. Donald Kerrick, a three-star General who served as deputy National Security Advisor under Clinton and stayed for several months in the Bush White House, likewise saw this happening.
Paul O’Neill, former Treasury Secretary for George W. Bush, was afforded a position on the National Security Council because of his job as Treasury Secretary, and sat in on the Iraq invasion planning sessions which were taking place months before the attacks of September 11. Those planning sessions kicked into high gear when the Towers came down.
Greg Thielmann, former Director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Issues in the State Department, watched with shock and awe as the White House rolled out the ‘uranium from Niger’
war justifications that had been so thoroughly debunked. Joseph Wilson, former ambassador and career diplomat, was the one who debunked it.
After Wilson described what he didn’t see in Niger in the New York Times, the White House reached out and crushed his wife’s career. His wife, Valerie Plame, was a deep-cover CIA agent running a network dedicated to tracking any person, group or nation that would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. The White House torpedoed her career and her network as a warning to Wilson, and to any other whistleblower who might come forward.
The most damning testimony regarding “fixing intelligence and facts around the policy” came from Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski worked in the office of Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, and worked specifically with a secretive outfit called the Office of Special Plans. Kwiatkowski’s own words tell her
story: “From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.”
“I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy,” continued Kwiatkowski, “favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies. I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.”
In other words, they fixed the intelligence and facts around the policy. The policy, of course, was invasion.
Each of these people, and others like them who reported similar intelligence book-cooking, were brushed off by the White House, dismissed out of hand as liars, or worse, Democrats. With the leaking of the secret British intelligence memo, however, their reports have been confirmed.
Some other tasty tidbits from the memo:
1. “It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”
Despite the fact that Hussein was considered less of a threat than Iran, North Korea and even Libya, Bush had made up his mind to invade. Wrapping this around the flatly-declared statement that the intelligence and facts were being framed around the ‘policy,’ i.e. the invasion, is damning.
2. “The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.”
The British Attorney General made it clear that the war plan as constituted was illegal. Therefore, other justifications for war were required. “The situation might of course change,” reads the text.
It did. They fabricated WMD evidence to justify self-defense.
3. “The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.”
In many ways, this is the worst of the three. Hans Blix and his inspectors went into Iraq and found no weapons of mass destruction in their searches. Ergo, there was no self-defense justification and no legal basis for war. Yet in order to create the legal and political justification of self-defense, as stated in the memo, Hussein had to be seen as blocking those inspections. He didn’t. In fact, it was the Bush administration that thwarted Blix while stacking hundreds of thousands of troops on the border. At one point, Bush even went so far as to declare that Hussein had actually not allowed the inspectors in, even as Blix and his people were shaking the Iraqi dust off their boots.
Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran CIA analyst, nails it to the door. “It has been a hard learning – that folks tend to believe what they want to believe,” wrote McGovern in an essay regarding this leaked memo. “As long as our evidence, however abundant and persuasive, remained circumstantial, it could not compel belief. It simply is much easier on the psyche to assent to the White House spin machine blaming the Iraq fiasco on bad intelligence than to entertain the notion that we were sold a bill of goods. Well, you can forget circumstantial.”
The butcher’s bill to date: 1,594 American soldiers dead, times ten grievously wounded; over 100,000 Iraqi citizens dead, uncounted more wounded, with a recent upsurge of violence claiming more than 200 lives in the last week alone; a nine-figure pricetag that spirals ever-upwards by the day, mortgaging our children’s future for the profits of the few; no weapons of mass destruction anywhere in Iraq.
We need two exit strategies: one to get our forces out of that country as soon as humanly possible, and the other to get George W. Bush out of the White House and into a cellblock in The Hague. Save a bunk for Mr. Blair, too. Criminals belong in prison.