Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Syria Bringing Out The Worst

What is worse- lying about intelligence or minimizing the Holocaust?

Both were on display on Monday's Piers Morgan Live on CNN.   Morgan began questioning his guests by asking Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense for President GWB, "how much responsibility do you feel -- it's very tricky question this, but I'm going to throw at you anyway. For the lack of trust in this Administration's claims about chemical weapons used by Assad and people saying what is all because of alliance of Iraq?"  Wolfowitz responded

No Piers, they were no lies, everybody saw the same intelligence and a lot of people changed their tune about it afterwards. The real point is look, people are concerned not because of the intelligent I think so much as they're concerned about the possibility of American casualties and on that point I would actually agree with Secretary Kerry who says there's -- this is not Iraq, it's not Afghanistan.

Everybody saw the same intelligence.   Last week, however, Sidney Blumenthal wrote in Salon

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam’s inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD...

On April 23, 2006, CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. “We continued to validate him the whole way through,” said Drumheller. “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.”

Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller’s account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri’s intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.

Instead, said the former officials, the information was distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that Saddam did have WMD programs. That false and restructured report was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the cause for war.

Secretary of State Powell, in preparation for his presentation of evidence of Saddam’s WMD to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, spent days at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and had Tenet sit directly behind him as a sign of credibility. But Tenet, according to the sources, never told Powell about existing intelligence that there were no WMD, and Powell’s speech was later revealed to be a series of falsehoods.

Both the French intelligence service and the CIA paid Sabri hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least $200,000 in the case of the CIA) to give them documents on Saddam’s WMD programs. “The information detailed that Saddam may have wished to have a program, that his engineers had told him they could build a nuclear weapon within two years if they had fissile material, which they didn’t, and that they had no chemical or biological weapons,” one of the former CIA officers told me.

On the eve of Sabri’s appearance at the United Nations in September 2002 to present Saddam’s case, the officer in charge of this operation met in New York with a “cutout” who had debriefed Sabri for the CIA. Then the officer flew to Washington, where he met with CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, who was “excited” about the report. Nonetheless, McLaughlin expressed his reservations. He said that Sabri’s information was at odds with “our best source.” That source was code-named “Curveball,” later exposed as a fabricator, con man and former Iraqi taxi driver posing as a chemical engineer.

The next day, Sept. 18, Tenet briefed Bush on Sabri. “Tenet told me he briefed the president personally,” said one of the former CIA officers. According to Tenet, Bush’s response was to call the information “the same old thing.” Bush insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think. “The president had no interest in the intelligence,” said the CIA officer. The other officer said, “Bush didn’t give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up.”

It is one of the lingering urban myths of President Bush's Iraq policy that no one knew and no one could have known.  However, the evidence was there but had to be manipulated, ignored, or suppressed. CIA deputy director John McLaughlin saw the intelligence.  Deputy Director George Tenet saw the intelligence. President Bush saw the intelligence.  But Secretary of State Colin Powell and Congress did not see the intelligence, and National Security Advisor Wolfowitz says "everybody saw the intelligence."  (Blumenthal doesn't mention National Security Advisor Mushroom Cloud Rice, who may have not been considered important enough to tell the truth to, or to be lied to.)

Persistent, too, is the urge to compare to the Holocaust whatever one particular dislikes.  It should not be surprising that this old chestnut was raised by Joe Lieberman (interviewed with Woflowitz), who disingenuously created the loathsome term "Jewish-American."   Thankfully, we have no "Catholic-American" or "Protestant-American" (does not sound quite right, does it?). As God  reminded us in The Last Testament- A Memoir:  "breaking news from Mt. Sinai:  Judaism is a religion."

And on Monday, Lieberman went Holocaust on us, which is a new low for him (or maybe not).   Morgan had shown video of Secretary of State Kerry nearly incoherently arguing

The real issue here is whether or not the Congress is going to stand up for international norms with respect to dictators that have only been broken twice until Assad, Hitler, and Saddam Hussein.

Very short term effort that degrades this capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's civil war. That is exactly what we're talking about doing. Unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.

That was over the top.    Bringing up Hitler to urge Congress "to stand up for international norms with respect to dictators" was nearly absurd, given that Assad has nowhere near the designs on his region that Adolph Hitler had.  But American politicians have claimed for the past fifty years that failure to take military action in a particular instance is akin to Neville Chamberlain's sell-out at Munich, popularly referred to as "appeasement."

Nevertheless, the former Connecticut senator took it a step further when, responding to Morgan's criticism of Kerry's remark as nearly ambiguous, he maintained

Well, I'm sure John Kerry wishes he hadn't said unbelievably small. I noticed that in the briefing that Tony Blinken, the Deputy of National Security adviser gave this afternoon, he described that an attack as being limited and -- but the size of that's much a better phraseology. But I'll tell you Secretary Kerry had a point that we've been challenged here, not just by the use of gas which links Bashar al- Assad to Adolf Hitler. But by all that happened during the '30s as the US particularly watch drawn by isolation at some back, watched Hitler and the facets (ph) of move forward, and finally come in at a late hour and think out decisively.

Lieberman not only agreed with the Secretary of State but additionally gave a nod and a wink to the Holocaust when he pointed to "all that happened during the '30s."  It may be only a difference in degree, but a difference of degree in winter (perhaps from 31 to 30) can mean the difference between clouds and a blizzard.

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