POETIC LICENCE: The US’s reason for invading Iraq was based on a lie
Although some administration officials still say that “something will turn up,” the integrity of the “intelligence” on which the administration’s reason for invading Iraq was based is now being questioned even by US lawmakers
The Bush cabal — a small group of policy advisers and analysts in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans — has, over the past year, brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. Their operation was conceived by US Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, one of the most hawkish members of the Bush administration and a diehard supporter of Israel.
This cabal of advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after the events of 9/11, has produced a skein of “intelligence” reviews that have helped to shape — some would say bamboozle — American public opinion and US policy toward Iraq.
According to the well-known American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the cabal relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.
Chalabi left Iraq in 1958 and returned only in April this year, after the US invasion. He was convicted of bank fraud by a Jordanian court in 1992 and sentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison for embezzling 72 million dollars from the now defunct Amaan-based Petra Bank, which he had founded.
After fleeing Jordan, Chalabi was on the CIA’s payroll for years. But the agency cut off his funding when it discovered major discrepancies in his accounting of the money. The State Department, too, then washed its hands of Chalabi.
After the CIA and the State Department dumped him, Chalabi became the blue-eyed boy of the Pentagon, which has been trying to build him up as its candidate to head the interim administration in post-war Iraq. But most Iraqis regard Chalabi as an American stooge.
By the autumn of 2002, according to Hersh, the Pentagon cabal’s intelligence operation rivalled both the CIA and the Pentagon’s own Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), as President George W. Bush’s “main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al-Qaeda.”
Many commentators, including this writer, had been saying for months, before the US invasion of Iraq, that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed no weapons of mass destruction because any such weapons it may have once possessed had been destroyed by UN inspectors in the 1990s.
Also, no connection has ever been established by anybody, including the American intelligence community, between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Yet the Saddam regime’s alleged “possession” of WMD and its supposed “links” to Al Qaeda became the US’s excuse for occupying Iraq. Bush said these weapons of mass destruction “posed a clear and present danger to the security of the United States and its allies.” But if that was the case, where are these weapons?
No trace of any such weapons has been found to date by the 1,000-member team of US weapons inspectors sent into Iraq by the Bush administration in April. After hunting high and low for more than a month, the inspectors have come up empty handed — just as many commentators had predicted. A US army colonel heading the inspection team said last week that the inspectors would be leaving Iraq early next month.
Although some administration officials still say that “something will turn up,” the integrity of the “intelligence” on which the administration’s reason for invading Iraq was based is now being questioned even by US lawmakers and some leading American commentators.
The director of the Special Plans operation in the Pentagon is Abram Shulsky. According to Hersh, he has been working on intelligence and foreign-policy issues for three decades. He was on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the early 1980s and served in the Pentagon under Assistant Secretary of Defence Richard Perle during the Reagan administration.
Like Wolfowitz and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Perle is an ardent supporter of Israel. He is also a board member of the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Because of his ultra hawkish pro-Israeli views and his early advocacy of war against Iraq, Perle is known in some circles as America’s Prince of Darkness,
A few months after the Bush administration took office in January 2001, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld appointed Perle — a long time crony of his — chairman of the Pentagon’s shadowy Defence Policy Board. In March this year, however, Perle was forced to quit as board chairman amid conflict of interest allegations stemming from his defence-related business interests. But his crony Rumsfeld asked Perle to stay on as a board member.
The Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans is overseen by Under-Secretary of Defence William Luti, a retired navy captain. According to Hersh, Luti — like Perle — was an early advocate of military action against Iraq, and as the Bush administration moved towards war, he took on increasingly important responsibilities.
A Pentagon official who works for Luti told Hersh, “I did a job when the intelligence community wasn’t doing theirs. We recognised the fact that they hadn’t done the analysis. We were providing information to Wolfowitz that he hadn’t seen before. The intelligence community is still looking for a mission like they had in the Cold War, when they spoon-fed the policymakers.”
According to a Pentagon adviser who worked with Special Plans, the group was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Rumsfeld, “believed to be true — that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al-Qaeda and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological and possible even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States.”
In fact, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials knew full well that this was not true. They knew Saddam Hussein’s regime had no links to Al Qaeda, just as they knew that Iraq no longer possessed any so-called weapons of mass destruction. When reporters asked Rumsfeld about this last week, he brushed the question aside as being of no “relevance.”
Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s master of propaganda, said that if you tell a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it. Operating on the same principle, the Bush administration launched a propaganda blitz last autumn to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein’s regime did indeed have “links to Al Qaeda.”
The Americans are a gullible people, and the Bush administration’s propaganda campaign was so successful that a poll conducted in February this year showed that 72 per cent of Americans believed it was likely that Saddam Hussein was “personally involved” in the 9/11 attacks, although no evidence whatsoever of such a connection had been presented.