by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Ali Frick, Benjamin Armbruster, and Matt Duss
Douglas Feith's Blame Game
In a new memoir the Washington Post calls "a massive score-settling work," former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith defends himself from charges that his Pentagon office politicized pre-war Iraq intelligence. Feith blames former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, the CIA, U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, former Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer, and almost everyone else but himself and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for mishandling the run-up to the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation. The Post obtained a 900-page manuscript of Feith's book, entitled, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks, Feith headed up the Office of Special Plans (OSP), which was created "to find evidence...that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States." Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked under Feith in the OSP, characterized the program's purpose as "developing propaganda and pushing...an agenda on Iraq." Kwiatkowski also said that OSP had "developed pretty sophisticated propaganda lines which were fed throughout government, to the Congress, and even internally to the Pentagon" to make the case that Saddam was an imminent threat.
POLITICIZING INTELLIGENCE: In February 2007, the Pentagon's Inspector General concluded that the OSP under Feith had "developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship...that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers" and that Feith's intelligence briefings to the President presented "conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence." Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) stated that the report was "a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DoD policy office" that demonstrated "that intelligence relating to the Iraq/al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq." When asked about the activities of the Office of Special Plans, CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden stated before Congress in May 2006 that he was "not comfortable" with Feith's approach to intelligence analysis. "I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war," Hayden said. "No, sir, I wasn't comfortable." The Senate Intelligence Committee will also soon release a new report criticizing Bush administration officials "for making assertions that failed to reflect disagreements or uncertainties in the underlying intelligence on Iraq." Many of these statements were made based upon analyses produced by Feith's office at the Pentagon, which posited a working relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda and claimed that Saddam was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
A PREDETERMINED INVASION: Feith's account of the lead-up to the Iraq invasion also offers more evidence that President Bush was resolved to invade Iraq, regardless of international opinion and irrespective of whether inspectors found evidence of an Iraqi weapons program. Feith writes that Bush declared "war is inevitable" in a National Security Council meeting in December 2002, even as he continued to insist in public that no decision had been made. On December 31, 2002, Bush said to reporters, "I hope this Iraq situation will be resolved peacefully. ... I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq," and "I hope this can be done peacefully." On Jan. 2, 2003, Bush told reporters that he was "hopeful we won't have to go war." On March 6, 2003, Bush said in a press conference that no decision had been made to use force against Iraq, even though two weeks earlier, he told then-Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar that the U.S. would "be in Baghdad at the end of March."
THE INCOMPETENCE DODGE: Responding to charges that his office "politicized" intelligence, Feith reportedly claims in his book that it was the CIA that was politicizing intelligence by discounting evidence of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. In other words, Feith claims that the CIA was delinquent in ignoring evidence of a relationship that did not, in fact, exist. Feith's charges of failure against those initially responsible for the occupation of Iraq will likely be seized upon by those seeking to cast the war, as Feith does, as a good idea ruined by poor implementation -- a line of argument which has been termed "the incompetence dodge" because it attempts to present the Iraq disaster as a failure of implementation, not of conception. While he has harsh criticisms for many people, the Washington Post notes that Feith treats Rumsfeld "with almost complete admiration."
ADMINISTRATION -- PENTAGON REPORT CONFIRMS NO SADDAM LINK TO AL QAEDA: McClatchy reports that an "exhaustive" Pentagon-sponsored review of "more than 600,000 Iraqi documents" captured after the 2003 invasion "has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network." The full report, set to be released tomorrow, "was essentially completed last year and has been undergoing what one U.S. intelligence official described as a 'painful' declassification review." In September 2002, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that American intelligence had "bulletproof" evidence of links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Earlier that same week, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asserted that "there are some Al Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad." In fact, the Defense Department reported last April that interrogations of deposed Iraqi leaders showed that Hussein's government "did not cooperate" with al Qaeda. The Senate Intelligence Committee's September 2006 report revealed a 2005 CIA assessment declaring that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relations, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward" al Qaeda leader Abu Musam al-Zarqawi and his associates.
ADMINISTRATION -- BUSH UNPOPULARITY PROVIDES FUNDRAISING CHALLENGES FOR PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Southern Methodist University in Dallas recently announced that the university will be home to the George W. Bush presidential library. Bush's "censored" library -- which will also house a partisan institute to "celebrate" Bush's presidency -- is reportedly set to cost over $200 million. But U.S. News reports that "Bush's friends are concerned that he will face serious problems raising" the money needed for the library because his "unpopularity will put a damper on donations" and "the sour economy will limit contributions even more." Moreover, U.S. News notes that "there is the matter of an endowment to keep the library going, which could cost an additional $50 million." Bush recently said that he has not been "focused" on fundraising for his library, but that he would "probably take some foreign money" to cover the library's costs. Indeed, in November 2006, the New York Daily News reported that Bush hoped to get roughly $250 million in "megadonations" from key allies in the Persian Gulf.