Friday, April 06, 2007

Shocking News: Brace Yourself

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I was working late last night on a round-up post about Fred Hiatt's over-the-top editorial on Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria, but yesterday's blogbuzz has today been replaced by a new bombshell: a declassified DOD report (a summary of which was released earlier) concluding that there were no significant or operational ties between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda at the time the U.S. invaded in March, 2003.

Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides "all confirmed" that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a declassified Defense Department report released yesterday.

The declassified version of the report, by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, also contains new details about the intelligence community's prewar consensus that the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda figures had only limited contacts, and about its judgments that reports of deeper links were based on dubious or unconfirmed information. The report had been released in summary form in February.

The report's release came on the same day that Vice President Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, repeated his allegation that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq "before we ever launched" the war, under the direction of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist killed last June.

"This is al-Qaeda operating in Iraq," Cheney told Limbaugh's listeners about Zarqawi, who he said had "led the charge for Iraq." Cheney cited the alleged history to illustrate his argument that withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq would "play right into the hands of al-Qaeda."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), who requested the report's declassification, said in a written statement that the complete text demonstrates more fully why the inspector general concluded that a key Pentagon office -- run by then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith -- had inappropriately written intelligence assessments before the March 2003 invasion alleging connections between al-Qaeda and Iraq that the U.S. intelligence consensus disputed.

The report, in a passage previously marked secret, said Feith's office had asserted in a briefing given to Cheney's chief of staff in September 2002 that the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda was "mature" and "symbiotic," marked by shared interests and evidenced by cooperation across 10 categories, including training, financing and logistics.

Instead, the report said, the CIA had concluded in June 2002 that there were few substantiated contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and Iraqi officials and had said that it lacked evidence of a long-term relationship like the ones Iraq had forged with other terrorist groups.

"Overall, the reporting provides no conclusive signs of cooperation on specific terrorist operations," that CIA report said, adding that discussions on the issue were "necessarily speculative."

The CIA had separately concluded that reports of Iraqi training on weapons of mass destruction were "episodic, sketchy, or not corroborated in other channels," the inspector general's report said. It quoted an August 2002 CIA report describing the relationship as more closely resembling "two organizations trying to feel out or exploit each other" rather than cooperating operationally.

The CIA was not alone, the defense report emphasized. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had concluded that year that "available reporting is not firm enough to demonstrate an ongoing relationship" between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda, it said.

But the contrary conclusions reached by Feith's office -- and leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard magazine before the war -- were publicly praised by Cheney as the best source of information on the topic, a circumstance the Pentagon report cites in documenting the impact of what it described as "inappropriate" work.

BooMan has some advice for the U.S. senators who have not yet, but will soon, have to account to the electorate for authorizing this criminal war:

The U.S. Senate is a conservative place by design. Every two years the entire House of Representatives has to face the voters. However, a third of the senators that voted to authorize force against Iraq have, to this day, never had to face the voters. Their turn comes in 2008. Some, like John Edwards, will recant their vote and point to reports like the Pentagon's inspector general's to explain how they were misled. That's fine. Those were difficult times. We had a daily dose of scary terror alerts and our government was telling us to stock up on duct tape, drinking water, and plastic sheeting. 2002: the Year of Fear. The Year of Judith Miller and Scooter Libby. The Year of Douglas Feith and mushroom clouds.

But 2007 is a different time. In 2007 the Senate needs to decide whether what the Bush administration has done to our nation is criminal. And I don't mean low crimes, like lying about furtive and rushed extramarital blow-jobs. I mean the biggest crimes that can be committed. Crimes that lose people their lives, that weaken the national defense, that dishonor our nation for posterity and in the eyes of the world...crimes that benefit a very few well connected people at the cost of long-term financial health of the nation. Crimes against the Constitution, crimes that violate people's rights, that violate our treaty obligations...and with insufficient mitigating justification. The Senate needs to decide this. The House would have little difficulty. They were elected in the fall of 2006 and they more clearly represent the current views of the country.

But the Senate hasn't fully learned the lesson. If they do not learn soon that this administration has dishonored themselves and our nation and must go...the Senate we elect in 2008 will look quite different from the one we have today. Rather than 49 Republicans senators, it may have fewer than 40.

The Republicans can only save their brand name by acting now, preemptively if you will, to rid us of this criminal administration. Just send us the signal. Let us know that the Senate gets it. It's not only the self-serving thing to's the patriotic thing to do.

Bob Owens finds it "interesting" that on the same day the DOD report came out, Dick Cheney told Rush Limbaugh that Al Qaeda was in Iraq before the U.S. invasion:

Folks, unless the Veep has information I don't (which is quite possible), he is possibly conflating two things here.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Zarqawi was a terrorist operating in Iraq by late 2001, and that he was well established prior to the 2003 invasion. There is also no doubt at all that he shared the same radical Sunni Islamist philosophy as al Qaeda. What does not seem to be supported by the report is Zarqawi's direct contact with al Qaeda prior to the 2003 invasion.

Duhhhh. The "Veep" made a decision long before the war started to believe that Zarqawi was part of Al Qaeda and that Al Qaeda was operating inside Iraq, despite the fact there was no credible evidence to support that conclusion. Bob Owens can call that "possibly conflating two things" if it makes him feel better, but the more accurate explanation is that Cheney is delusional:

Faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, even President Bush has backed off his earlier inflammatory assertions about links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

But Vice President Cheney yesterday, in an interview with right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, continued to stick to his delusional guns.

Cheney told Limbaugh that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was leading al-Qaeda operations in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

"[A]fter we went into Afghanistan and shut him down there, he went to Baghdad, took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq; organized the al-Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene, and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June. He's the guy who arranged the bombing of the Samarra Mosque that precipitated the sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni. This is al-Qaeda operating in Iraq," Cheney said. "And as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq." (Think Progress has the audio clip.)

But Cheney's narrative is wrong from beginning to end. For instance, Zarqawi was not an al-Qaeda member until after the war. Rather, intelligence sources now agree, he was the leader of an unaffiliated terrorist group who occasionally associated with al-Qaeda adherents. And although he worked hard to inflame sectarian violence after the invasion, he certainly didn't start it.

Connecting the dots is not the right's strong suit. Scott Lemieux has more on this:

Shockingly enough, assertions about operational connections between Iraq and Al-Qaeda turn out to be...completely bougus! Who would have thunk it? And just to pre-empt any claims that this is a strawman that nobody ever put forward as a justification for the war anyway, Glenn Reynolds thoughtfully compiled some links at the time to various conservative bloggers (in addition to himself) demanding more attention to Saddam's fictitious connections to Al-Qaeda. I particularly enjoyed reading this one: "STEPHEN F. HAYES wonders why the White House continues to downplay the Saddam / Al Qaeda connection. I've wondered the same thing." Yes, indeed, there was an obvious inference to be made from the fact that the administration (with the exception of the Vice President) largely declined to make direct assertions about Iraq's alleged ties to Al Qaeda although this would have provided an unassailable justification for the war. The fact that Reynolds, Hayes, and other conservative pundits refused to connect the dots is quite remarkable; it's not easier to make more hackish and factually bereft arguments in favor of the war than Bush himself, but some people succeeded.

Jill calls it the One Percent Doctrine: If "there is even a remote possibility -- a one percent possibility -- that something is true, you proceed as if you were 100% certain of its truth."
In other words, you lie. Which is exactly what the top civilians in the Pentagon, along with Dick Cheney in the White House, set out to do. We already know this, but the new DOD report fleshes it out. Within the report, according to an article published today in the Los Angeles Times, is a memo from Paul Wolfowitz to Douglas Feith, dated January 22, 2002 (h/t Down With Tyranny!):

Just four months after the Sept. 11 attacks, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz dashed off a memo to a senior Pentagon colleague, demanding action to identify connections between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda.

"We don't seem to be making much progress pulling together intelligence on links between Iraq and Al Qaeda," Wolfowitz wrote in the Jan. 22, 2002, memo to Douglas J. Feith, the department's No. 3 official.

Using Pentagon jargon for the secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, he added: "We owe SecDef some analysis of this subject. Please give me a recommendation on how best to proceed. Appreciate the short turn-around."

Wolfowitz's memo, released Thursday, is included in a recently declassified report by the Pentagon's inspector general. The memo marked the beginnings of what would become a controversial yearlong Pentagon project supervised by Feith to convince the most senior members of the Bush administration that Hussein and Al Qaeda were linked — a conclusion that was hotly disputed by U.S. intelligence agencies at the time and has been discredited in the years since.

In excerpts released in February, Thomas F. Gimble, the acting inspector general of the Pentagon, criticized the project as an alternative intelligence assessment that was improper. However, Gimble said, the operation was not illegal or unauthorized, because Pentagon directives allowed Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to assign the work.

Many of the activities of the intelligence unit Feith headed are now well-known. But the release of the full inspector general's report provides more detail about how a group of Pentagon officials and on-loan intelligence analysts were able to shunt aside contradictory reports and convince top administration officials that they had powerful evidence of connections between Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda. The 121-page report was released by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and is posted on the senator's website,

No More Mr. Nice Blog thinks these revelations have the perverse effect of triggering The Liars' pathological need to continue lying:

I don't know why we're continually being treated to these post-hoc analyses documenting one or another of the Bush administration's lies or follies about the Iraq war or anything else. Rather than prompt them to admit a mistake, it seems to just encourage them, bringing to mind for them a long past but favored point of time when it seemed the whole world bowed in awe before their mighty threats and pronouncements and upon hearing the latest report they somehow manage to neglect its conclusions and revert to the old tapes, as if suddenly cued by the motel wake-up call or the Manchurian Candidate code word to repeat as if it was still 2001 the broken record mantra spinning around the dusty turntable the various bumper sticker themes of the Glorious War on Terrorism which then still included promises to track down Osama been Forgotten in addition to the bullicose threats building to roll over a grateful, liberated Iraqi nation and its would-be terrorist neighbors.

DBK is reminded of a friend's crazy old uncle who went to his grave believing there was a country in Africa called Oingo-Boingo:

More and more Dick Cheney resembles some crazy old uncle who won't stop claiming that Oingo-Boingo really is a country in Africa. My good friend Benito had an Uncle Giuseppe, a great guy. I've known Beni since we were freshmen in high school and that's when I met Uncle G, who I knew until he passed away a few years ago. One day a bunch of us were sitting around the dining room table at Beni's place (this must have been twenty years ago) when Uncle G said something about "Oingo-Boingo". We asked Uncle G what that was and he told us it was a country in Africa. We all started laughing because Uncle G insisted it was a real country. We looked it up in a dictionary, in an encyclopedia, and a world almanac and showed him there was no Oingo-Boingo. He wouldn't have any of it. No matter what we said, no matter which texts we showed him, he believed there was a country in Africa named Oingo-Boingo. He believed in Oingo-Boingo until the day he died.

Perhaps Uncle G just had a really dry sense of humor. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Dick Cheney.

Cross-posted at Shakesville.


Joan said...

Hey Kathy!

Don't you think it would be more useful to BEGIN the discussion at the point we all know, which is that the USA and Britain invaded Iraq in an attempt to protect corporate interests in oil? For the past couple years you have been repeating the same thing over and over and over again. And each time you present it as though it is breaking news. We ALREADY know the motivation behind the invasion.

Try discussing the future of American foreign policy now that everyone is well aware it(foreign policy) is based on protecting corporate financial interests. What are the effects of this on domestic policy? Can the Democrats pull the troops out of Iraq when they have been part of this policy any time they have had a president in office? There is much here to discuss. Maybe blogs do not get a lot of support because they are not serving a function. Anyone can point to a story in the Washington Post. Nobody seems interested in discussing the real issue. Anyone can state their opinion, the trick is to start a discussion that is not being adquately addressed.

Take Care

Kathy said...

Joan, I keep telling you, you should start your own blog. You have a lot to say, and it's frustrating to you that I'm not saying it.

Blogger is still free, and they have many great new features.

Give it a try.

Joan said...

Hey Kathy!

Okay, well can you atleast tell me what exactly you are attempting to bring to the table here? I must be missing it. Your blogs are not progressing, they are saying the same thing now that they said a year ago. I guess I am confused why you are staying at the same place.

Take Care

Kathy said...

But Joan, why is it that you think it's appropriate to tell me that I am "staying at the same place," or that "my blog [not "blogs," I only have one blog] is not progressing"?

It's one thing to disagree with my opinions or my stands on the issues I discuss; or to suggest a different way of looking at an issue -- but why would you feel the need to give me unsolicited advice on what you think I should be "accomplishing" with my blog?

I would be the first to say that Liberty Street is not for everyone. Every blogger I know would say their blog is not for everyone. My blog reflects MY interests and views; MY passions; MY sense of what is important. You have been telling me since I started this blog that you "don't understand what [I] am attempting to bring to the table." That should tell you something about whether this blog is giving you something that you find valuable. I think we can agree that it isn't giving you something that you find valuable. But for some reason, you seem to feel that it's my obligation to give you the blog content you would find valuable, rather than you seeking out other blogs that do that, or starting your own blog.

God knows I appreciate loyal readers, and you are one of two readers who have been with me since almost the beginning. But I also do not wish to be harangued and lectured about what I should be "accomplishing" with my blog; what I should be discussing; how I should be discussing it; and whether my blog is "progressing" or not.

It's not your place to do that. It's incredibly inappropriate. And frankly, I'm somewhat astounded that a grown woman who has raised three children and presumably has mature social skills does not get this.

Bottom line: Stop telling me how and what to write at Liberty Street. You have many valuable things to say, and I don't want to lose you as a reader. But that said, I also don't want to desperately hang on to a reader who doesn't "get" and appreciate what I do here. If that reader is you, you should move on.

Joan said...

Hey Kathy!

It could be that we both have different ideas of what a blog is. I guess I saw it as more of a place where the blogger offers her commentary or outlook on the subjects that she raises. I think you would agree with that, but you see it more as offering a reflection of what is on your mind as you go through your day and see different things.

I don't think I have been out of line in critiquing your blog, that is always a reader's perorgative. And I do think my criticism is valid. That being said, I understand that you prefer the current way you are writing your blog and I continue to wish you luck.

By the way, I do not have three grown chidlren, my oldest is eighteen and in university and the younger two are still at home.

Take Care