Wealthy Frenchman

Saturday, September 30, 2006

So You Call This Breaking News?

By FRANK RICH

IF your head hurts from listening to the Washington furor over the latest National Intelligence Estimate, by all means tune it out. The entire debate is meaningless except as a damning election-year indicator of just how madly our leaders are fiddling while Iraq burns.

The supposedly shocking key finding in the N.I.E. — that the Iraq war is a boon to terrorism — isn’t remotely news. It first turned up in a classified C.I.A. report leaked to the press in June 2005. It’s also long been visible to the naked eye. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted before any revelations from the N.I.E., found that nearly half the country believes that the Iraq war is increasing the terrorist threat against America and only 12 percent thinks the war is decreasing that threat. Americans don’t have to pore over leaked intelligence documents to learn this. They just have to turn on the television.

Tonight on “60 Minutes,” Bob Woodward will spill another supposedly shocking intelligence finding revealed in his new book: a secret government prediction that the insurgency will grow worse next year. Who’d have thunk it? Given that the insurgency is growing worse every day right now — last week suicide bombings hit a record high in Baghdad — the real surprise would be if the government predicted an armistice. A poll released last week by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that about 6 in 10 Iraqis approved of attacks on American forces. Tardy investigative reporting is hardly needed to figure out that the insurgency is thriving.

“The insurgents know what they are doing,” Mr. Woodward is to say on CBS, according to an advance excerpt. “They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn’t know? The American public.” He accuses the administration of keeping such information out of sight by stamping it “secret.” All this, too, apparently comes as eye-opening news to Mr. Woodward three and a half years into the war; his new book’s title, “State of Denial,” has a self-referential ring to it. But the American public does know the level of violence all too well, and it also knows how the administration tries to cover up its failures.

That’s why long ago a majority of that public judged the war a mistake and Mr. Bush a dissembler. It’s only the variations on the theme that change. When the president declared last month that “the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military is committed to keeping this country together,” reality was once more busily contradicting him. The Los Angeles Times reported that a third of that government wasn’t showing up to parliamentary sessions and that only 1,000 Iraqi soldiers answered the American call for 4,000 reinforcements in the do-or-die battle to secure Baghdad.

Against this ominous reality, the debate over the N.I.E. is but a sideshow: politics as usual on both sides. The president reluctantly declassified what had already been leaked, somehow hoping he could override the bad headlines with Pavlovian repetition of shopworn slogans. (He said America must “stay on the offense” four times in one speech on Friday alone.) Democrats are huffily demanding that the White House release more than a few scraps of the 30-page-plus N.I.E., a debating point with no payoff. The N.I.E. is already six months out of date, and Americans can guess most of it, classified or not. In this war at this late stage, the devil can be found everywhere, not merely in the details.

The facts of Iraq are not in dispute. But the truth is that facts don’t matter anyway to this administration, and that’s what makes this whole N.I.E. debate beside the point. From the start, honest information has never figured into the prosecution of this war. The White House doesn’t care about intelligence, good or bad, classified or unclassified, because it believes it knows best, regardless of what anyone else has to say. The debate over the latest N.I.E. or any yet to leak will not alter that fundamental and self-destructive operating principle. That’s the truly bad news.

This war has now gone on so long that we tend to forget the early history that foretold the present. Yet this is the history we must remember now more than ever, because it keeps repeating itself, with ever more tragic results. In the run-up to the war, it should be recalled, the administration did not even bother to commission an N.I.E., a summary of the latest findings from every American intelligence agency, on Iraq’s weapons.

Why not? The answer can be found in what remains the most revealing Iraq war document leaked to date: the Downing Street memo of July 23, 2002, written eight months before the invasion. In that secret report to the Blair government, the head of British intelligence reported on a trip to Washington, where he learned that the Bush administration was fixing the “intelligence and facts” around the predetermined policy of going to war in Iraq. If we were going to fix the intelligence anyway, there was no need for an N.I.E., except as window dressing, since it might expose the thinness of the administration’s case.

A prewar N.I.E. was hastily (and sloppily) assembled only because Congress demanded it. By the time it was delivered to the Capitol after much stalling, on Oct. 1, 2002, less than two weeks remained before the House and Senate would vote on the Iraq war resolution. “No more than six senators and only a handful of House members got beyond the five-page executive summary,” according to an article last spring in Foreign Affairs by Paul Pillar, the C.I.A. senior analyst for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005. In a White House press briefing after the war started, an official said Condi Rice hadn’t read it at all, leaving that menial duty to her retinue of “experts.”

When one senator who did read the whole N.I.E., the now retired Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, asked that a declassified version be made public so that Americans could reach their own verdicts on the war’s viability, he was rebuffed. Instead the administration released a glossy white paper that trumpeted the N.I.E.’s fictions (“All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons”) but not its doubts about much-hyped evidence like aluminum tubes and uranium from Africa. The only time the president cared about the N.I.E., a document he never wanted, was when he thought it would be politically useful in fighting growing criticism in 2003 that he had manipulated prewar intelligence. Then he authorized his own cherry-picked leaks, which Scooter Libby fed to Mr. Woodward and Judith Miller of The Times. (Neither wrote about it at the time.)

As the insurgency continued to grow in the fall of 2003, the White House again showed scant interest in reality. The American military’s Central Command called for an N.I.E. instead. The existence of this second N.I.E. was only discovered in February of this year by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder Newspapers. It found that the growing violence in Iraq was “fueled by local conditions — not foreign terrorists — and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.” Yet the president ignored that accurate intelligence, refusing to raise troop levels and continuing to argue erroneously that the insurgency was mainly linked to Saddam and Al Qaeda. Three years later, he still makes that case rather than acknowledge that our troops are caught in the cross-fire of a civil war.

Having ignored the facts through each avoidable disaster, the White House won’t change its game plan now. Quite the contrary. Its main ambition seems to be to prop up its artificial reality no matter what the evidence to the contrary. Nowhere could this be better seen than in Ms. Rice’s bizarre behavior after the Bill Clinton-Chris Wallace slapdown on Fox News. Stung by the former president’s charge that the Bush administration did nothing about Al Qaeda in the eight months before 9/11, she couldn’t resist telling The New York Post that his statement was “flatly false.”

But proof of Ms. Rice’s assertion is as nonexistent as Saddam’s W.M.D. As 9/11 approached, both she and Mr. Bush blew off harbingers of the attacks (including a panicked C.I.A. briefer in Crawford, according to Ron Suskind’s “One Percent Doctrine”). The 9/11 commission report, which Ms. Rice cited as a corroborating source for her claims to The Post, in reality “found no indication of any further discussion” about the Qaeda threat among the president and his top aides between the arrival of that fateful Aug. 6 brief (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”) and Sept. 10.

That the secretary of state would rush to defend the indefensible shows where this administration’s priorities are: it’s now every man and woman in the White House for himself and herself in defending the fictions, even four-year-old fictions, that took us into the war and botched its execution. When they talk about staying the course, what they are really talking about is protecting their spin and their reputations. They’ll leave it to the 140,000-plus American troops staying the course in a quagmire to face the facts.

4 Comments:

At 1:09 AM, Blogger LiberalPride said...

As soon as the Bush administration entered the White House in January 2001, they began their PNAC-inspired plan to start a war in Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.

But what about the Bush administration protecting U.S. citizens from Osama bin Laden and his murderous gang of al Qaeda thugs, which was the top priority of the outgoing Clinton administration? What have you been smoking? In Bushmindland, Afghanistan was not Iraq, and Osama bin Laden was not Saddam Hussein.

On entering the White House, the only Bush administration foreign policy was the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.

Thus, the top levels of the incoming Bush administration in early 2001 completely blew off the outgoing Clinton administration officials' briefings that urgently warned of the al Qaeda threat to U.S. lives.

And this "denial" pattern continued relentlessly at the top levels of the Bush administration up until the 9/11 attacks. They had Iraq and Saddam Hussein on their minds...and nothing else mattered...even as intelligence intercepts in the summer of 2001 had top officials in our nation's security agencies screaming at the top bureaucrats in the Bush administration to pay attention.

So, Condi Rice is trying to cover her butt...claiming that she and the Bush administration were just as aggressive as the Clinton administration in addressing the al Qaeda threat before 9/11.

If this were true, then the Bush administration would have been holding cabinet-level counter-terrorism meetings three times a week, or as often as the Clinton administration did, to discuss how top officials could protect U.S. citizens from the al Qaeda threat.

The fact is, the Bush administration held only ONE such meeting, on Sept. 4th, 2001, one week before the 9/11 attacks. A meeting, apparently, at which the urgent intelligence about an impending al Qaeda attack inside the United States wasn't discussed because they were too busy deciding what policy they'd apply to the al Qaeda problem...as long as it wasn't based on Clinton's.

Therefore, what will be the finally judgment of history?

Bush and his administration were so obsessed and fixated on ousting Saddam Hussein once they entered office that they completely blew off the threat from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden...and the 9/11 attacks happened.

3,000 U.S. Citizens died on 9/11 because of this obsession over Iraq, because, you see, if the Bush administration had been holding weekly cabinet-level counter-terrorism meetings as had the Clinton administration, then intelligence information sharing would have occurred at the "principals" level of the Bush administration. This would have led to them "connecting the dots," mobilizing our law enforcement to find and arrest all the 9/11 hijackers and stopping the 9/11 attacks from ever happening.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration's obsession with Saddam Hussein kept this from happening...and 3,000 U.S. citizens on 9/11 died because of this.

This is what history will report when this very sad and tragic chapter in our nation's history is finally chronicled.

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger thewaronterrible said...

An excellent summary of the God-honest truths about the lies and denial in the White House responsible for the largest, most devastating military blunder in history, which is Iraq.
It sickens me to realize that my 14-year old daughter will be saddled with the burden of paying for this disaster, along with many generations to follow.
One other point.
I'm amazed Condi Rice was allowed by the mainstream press to say the 9-11 Commission Report was the definitive authority on the Bush Administration's actions prior to 9-11, but then to go on and flagrantly lie about the report's contents. Why did the media parrot her comments instead of putting in column form what she said verses what the 9-11 Commission really said, i.e. the Bush Administration did not hold a single meeting on Al Queda or OBL between January and September of 2001? Absolutely shocking. The American public deserves to be told when their public officials outright lie to them.

 
At 7:23 AM, Blogger bowncr1212 said...

I have observed the "actions" against the "words" of this pathetic group of neocons since early 2002... I DO NOT believe there is an "on going" threat to America, but I DO BELIEVE they use the "threat" talk to continue their EVIL ILLEGAL plan to weaken America as a Nation and try and convince the masses that they must give up Liberty and forego parts of our Constitution to "keep them safe".

The fact that there was NO follow up attacks, no credible plans for a follow up attack, and not even credible threats of a follow up attack, lead me to my belief. The only "threat" I see is the ERODING of America's reputation and credibility around the world, as our soldiers needlessly DIE, innocent Iraqi's are slaughtered, and some nutty bush cultists who see this mess as a biblical prophecy.

I am not afraid! Bush will FAIL and TRUE AMERICANS will prevail against this evil man g w bush.

I also think Karl Rove is the anthrax mailer!

But that's just my opinion.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger -Argon- said...

When the Cheney Cabal took office, it wasn't just all the Clinton Osamma policies, anti-terrorist plans, that Bush tossed aside as "worthless". Of course, the Iraq war was "pre-ordained" with the PNAC crowd.

Economics is politics in disguise and the "Creative Destruction", Ann Rand, "free market", "free trade", Milton Freedman Chicago School of Wolfawitz, Pearle and Crystal is the economic doctrine that rules our day. One term is neo-liberal economics: I call it "gotch'a Capitalism". We can't just sell a product, pay a decent wage and make a profit. 'We' have to trick you, set a trap, economic "tripwires" of "punitive fees" for the population. Pure Socio-Economic Darwinism. Caveat Emptor - "Let the buyer beware".

When Bush took office, the neo-cons began to systematically destroy, deconstruct or subvert every single program, law, and international agreement made by Clinton AND his predecessors, both Democrat and Republican.

ABM Treaty, Test Ban Treaty, Geneva Conventions: it is a well thought out list, prepared over decades; even before Theodore Roosevelt’s "Trust Busting". All the way back to the Magna Carta, habeas corpus. Better a thousand unjustly punished then let one guilty go free.

This crowd has absolutely no faith in the American Judiciary and relegates the entire Judicial System to only serve its purpose of subjugating the population. Only Jesus forgives, the state doesn’t.

The only carnal sin of the Enron CEO corporate political crowd is getting caught. Government is to be run like a business: into the ground; then, drowned in a bathtub.
The employees left impoverished, their retirements and health insurance so much worthless paper as are the stock certificates in the small investors hands.

We do not have a illegal immigration problem; we have a problem with the Mexican Government, NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, IMF and the 40 odd plutocrat families that control everything and have driven our neighbors economy into the toilet, so that the Mexican general population is so desperate they will do anything to provide for their families.

However; you will not hear the immigration debate framed in such terms, for that is the ultimate fate planned for our own US population. A few Ultra-rich "Lords of the Manor" (or more likely faceless and soulless corporate entities). A few middle-class mercantile families, and a vast underclass in various states of poverty. Economic Fascism (in the classic Mussolini “Corporatism “ sense). http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo85.html
Islamic Fascism? For the life of me I can’t think of any Middle Eastern Corporations/States trying to take over the world, however I can think of several US “based” corporations with intimate ties to the American government and a vice grip on the American taxpayer.
Islamic Fascism is nonsensical Orwellian term meant to “poison the well” of language and de-fang the term.

These are the people and the threat to our liberties the Founding Fathers forewarned. These are the opportunists that Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower warned us about. Men of great zeal and little understanding. From the Strategic Military Analyst: Thomas Barrnet from his question and answer conclusion in one of his Future Force Deployment briefings -"the slums of Brazil and Mexico will become very familiar to the population of the United States". "The role of the US Military will be to enforce America's economic interests". http://www.sandia.gov/ACG/gallery/videos.html

 

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