Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War

The number of American casualties in Iraq is now well more than 2,000, and there is no end in sight. Some two-thirds of Americans, according to the polls, believe the war to have been a mistake. And congressional elections are just around the corner.

What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon — and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.

Confronted by a demoralized army on the battlefield and by growing opposition at home, in 1969 the Nixon administration started withdrawing most of its troops in order to facilitate what it called the "Vietnamization" of the country. The rest of America's forces were pulled out after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a "peace settlement" with Hanoi. As the troops withdrew, they left most of their equipment to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam — which just two years later, after the fall of Saigon, lost all of it to the communists.

Clearly this is not a pleasant model to follow, but no other alternative appears in sight.

Whereas North Vietnam at least had a government with which it was possible to arrange a cease-fire, in Iraq the opponent consists of shadowy groups of terrorists with no central organization or command authority. And whereas in the early 1970s equipment was still relatively plentiful, today's armed forces are the products of a technology-driven revolution in military affairs. Whether that revolution has contributed to anything besides America's national debt is open to debate. What is beyond question, though, is that the new weapons are so few and so expensive that even the world's largest and richest power can afford only to field a relative handful of them.

Therefore, simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.

Handing over their bases or demolishing them if necessary, American forces will have to fall back on Baghdad. From Baghdad they will have to make their way to the southern port city of Basra, and from there back to Kuwait, where the whole misguided adventure began. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, the military was able to carry out the operation in a single night without incurring any casualties. That, however, is not how things will happen in Iraq.

Not only are American forces perhaps 30 times larger, but so is the country they have to traverse. A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge — if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not.

Having been thoroughly devastated by two wars with the United States and a decade of economic sanctions, decades will pass before Iraq can endanger its neighbors again. Yet a complete American withdrawal is not an option; the region, with its vast oil reserves, is simply too important for that. A continued military presence, made up of air, sea and a moderate number of ground forces, will be needed.

First and foremost, such a presence will be needed to counter Iran, which for two decades now has seen the United States as "the Great Satan." Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war — a winner that in the not too distant future is likely to add nuclear warheads to the missiles it already has. In the past, Tehran has often threatened the Gulf States. Now that Iraq is gone, it is hard to see how anybody except the United States can keep the Gulf States, and their oil, out of the mullahs' clutches.

A continued American military presence will be needed also, because a divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets' nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah's name.

The Gulf States apart, the most vulnerable country is Jordan, as evidenced by the recent attacks in Amman. However, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Israel are also likely to feel the impact. Some of these countries, Jordan in particular, are going to require American assistance.

Maintaining an American security presence in the region, not to mention withdrawing forces from Iraq, will involve many complicated problems, military as well as political. Such an endeavor, one would hope, will be handled by a team different from — and more competent than — the one presently in charge of the White House and Pentagon.

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, is author of "Transformation of War" (Free Press, 1991). He is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers.

source: Forward Newspaper Online

Former weapons inspector claims WMD never the issue in Iraq

PM - Tuesday, 29 November , 2005 18:34:00

Reporter: Mark Colvin

MARK COLVIN: The world now knows that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but that hasn't stopped President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney this week from labelling people who accuse them of faking the evidence as 'dishonest,' 'reprehensible,' 'corrupt' and 'shameless.'

They'd no doubt be surprised that they have some qualified support in that from the former weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

It was Mr Ritter who resigned from the UN weapons inspection force UNSCOM in 1998 over his disillusionment with the way the weapons of mass destruction intelligence was being handled.

He spent the following years arguing that the US had manipulated the WMD intelligence, and he still holds that view.

But paradoxically, Scott Ritter told me today that George W Bush and Dick Cheney were right to attack their Democrat critics on the issue.

SCOTT RITTER: In a way, the President and the Vice-President are half-right. I mean, they say that the Democrats are trying to rewrite history when they say that they were deliberately misled by the Bush administration.

I agree with the Bush administration. The Democrats weren't deliberately misled. They knew all along that this was a lie, that the Bush administration was hyping the case for war. They knew that the policy was regime change and they knew that we had no intention of genuinely disarming Iraq. They voted for the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act.

MARK COLVIN: But wasn't there information that was always privileged to the White House and the Pentagon, information about the uranium from Niger, information about the aluminium tubes and so forth?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, remember you're talking about the most current manifestation of this cycle of hyping the Iraqi threat, that of course being the 2002 version of events. But people have forgotten about Bill Clinton's speech before the American people in December 1998 where he made the same case.

What Bush was doing was nothing new. It was just a continuation of a process, an extreme version of a process, of demonization, where, because we had focused on Saddam, because we had made a decision that Saddam must go, we believed that you could say anything negative about Saddam and people would accept it at face value without question.

MARK COLVIN: You say demonization, but isn't it just as plausible to suggest that the shock in the intelligence community after the first Iraq war had been so great to find that they had underestimated Saddam's capabilities, that that shock had been so great that they were determined not to make the same mistake again?

SCOTT RITTER: But again, we could accept that if the policy was one of disarmament. But as I state over and over again, one has to recognise what the true objective was of the Resolution 687 passed by the Security Council in April 1991, what the true objective was from an American perspective. And that was not to disarm Iraq, but rather to use disarmament as a vehicle to contain Saddam Hussein through the continuation of economic sanctions.

MARK COLVIN: What about the theory that Saddam himself really wanted the world to think that he had the weapons of mass destruction and that also was one of the things that clouded their eyes?

SCOTT RITTER: Again, I don't accept that, because they haven't demonstrated the basis for that argument. I mean, we don't have the stunning confession from Saddam; we don't have the documents that back this up. This is sort of a revisionist history trying to articulate some sort of excuse for the intelligence service.

What we do have, though, that paints a clear picture of what the genuine objectives of the intelligence service was are: a) the directives from consecutive presidential administrations, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush, tasking the CIA as their primary objective, vis-a-vis Iraq, the removal of his regime.

This is why when I briefed the director of the CIA in November 1993 about how we had accounted for the totality of Iraq's ballistic missile capabilities we were told by the CIA at that time that they rejected our analysis, that the number of missiles in play was assessed to be 12 to 20 and that number would never change, regardless of what we did.

MARK COLVIN: But was it just the Americans? Because isn't it the case, as one reads, that every Western intelligence service, including for instance the French and the Germans, believed that Saddam was lying about his weapons of mass destruction?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, there's a huge difference then in an assessment that says, 'We don’t believe the Iraqi Government,' and an assessment that says, 'Iraq maintains massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.'

I will concur that every intelligence service in the world had doubts about the veracity of the Iraqi statements, that there was enough reason to distrust the Iraqis, given their past behaviour, and that there was enough doubt cast upon the final disposition of aspects of their programs, so that you couldn't give Iraq a clean bill of health.

But it's incorrect to say that everybody believed Saddam Hussein had these weapons. I can guarantee you, as the person who was running intelligence for the United Nations on the WMD issue in 1998, that as of August 1998 the Israelis for instance believed that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. So did the British, so did the French, so did the Germans, so did the Russians … so did the CIA.

And so, you know, there's something that transpired from 1998 to 2003 that changes. And I would say that it was …

MARK COLVIN: And what was that? Was that the Operation Stovepipe, the creation of a sort of parallel intelligence system …

SCOTT RITTER: Well, correct. I …

MARK COLVIN: … to funnel distorted evidence into the White House?

SCOTT RITTER: Certainly. You take a look at the statements of Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell made in 2001, prior to September 11, where they said that Iraq was contained, that Iraq had been largely disarmed and Iraq posed no threat.

Suddenly September 11th 2001 comes along and the Bush administration exploits the horrific act of terror that transpired and uses it as a vehicle to sell a war with Iraq. And this is where you have the process of stove piping taking place. This is where sound analysis is thrown out and hyped up intelligence is plugged in.

MARK COLVIN: All right, so where does this leave us for now and for the future, and particularly if we look at, say, Iran where the new leadership is looking increasingly extremist?

Is credibility now so shot that the world can't effectively do anything about Iran if it does get weapons of mass destruction?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, the credibility is shot. I mean, this is a problem, because I am someone who's not going to articulate that Iran does not pose a threat. I'm very concerned about Iran. People should be concerned about Iran.

I think Iraq has corrupted, in the minds of much of the world, the notion of a United States that's operating within the framework of legitimate international law.

So it is a big problem, because there may well in fact be a genuine threat emanating from Iran that isn't going to be articulated and recognised in a timely fashion because the world doesn't trust the United States.

MARK COLVIN: Former UNSCOM arms inspector, Scott Ritter.

source: PM

Ex - Powell Aide Criticizes Bush on Iraq


11/29/05 "
New York Times" -- -- WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff says President Bush was ''too aloof, too distant from the details'' of post-war planning, allowing underlings to exploit Bush's detachment and make bad decisions.

In an Associated Press interview Monday, former Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson also said that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees after Sept. 11 arose from a coterie of White House and Pentagon aides who argued that ''the president of the United States is all-powerful,'' and that the Geneva Conventions were irrelevant.

Wilkerson blamed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides. Wilkerson said that Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because ''otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard.''

Wilkerson suggested his former boss may agree with him that Bush was too hands-off about Iraq.

''What he seems to be saying to me now is the president failed to discipline the process the way he should have and that the president is ultimately responsible for this whole mess,'' Wilkerson said.

He said Powell now generally believes it was a good idea to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but may not agree with either the timing or execution of the war. Wilkerson said Powell may have had doubts about the extent of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein but was convinced by then-CIA Director George Tenet and others that the intelligence girding the push toward war was sound.

Powell was widely regarded as a dove to Cheney's and Rumsfeld's hawks, but he made a forceful case for war before the United Nations Security Council in February, 2003, a month before the invasion. At one point, he said Saddam possessed mobile labs to make weapons of mass destruction that were never found.

Wilkerson criticized the CIA and other agencies for allowing mishandled and bogus information to underpin that speech and the whole administration case for war.

He said he has almost, but not quite, concluded that Cheney and others in the administration deliberately ignored evidence of bad intelligence and looked only at what supported their case for war.

A newly declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002 said that an al-Qaida military instructor was probably misleading his interrogators about training that the terror group's members received from Iraq on chemical, biological and radiological weapons. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi reportedly recanted his statements in January 2004.

A presidential intelligence commission also dissected how spy agencies handled an Iraqi refugee who was a German intelligence source. Codenamed Curveball, this man who was a leading source on Iraq's purported mobile biological weapons labs was found to be a fabricator and alcoholic.

On the question of detainees picked up in Afghanistan and other fronts on the war on terror, Wilkerson said Bush heard two sides of an impassioned argument within his administration. Abuse of prisoners, and even the deaths of some who had been interrogated in Afghanistan and elsewhere, have bruised the U.S. image abroad and undermined fragile support for the Iraq war that followed.

Cheney's office, Rumsfeld aides and others argued ''that the president of the United States is all-powerful, that as commander in chief the president of the United States can do anything he damn well pleases,'' Wilkerson said.

On the other side were Powell, others at the State Department and top military brass, and occasionally then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Wilkerson said.

Powell raised frequent and loud objections, his former aide said, once yelling into a telephone at Rumsfeld: ''Donald, don't you understand what you are doing to our image?''

Wilkerson also said he did not disclose to Bob Woodward that administration critic Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, joining the growing list of past and current Bush administration officials who have denied being the Washington Post reporter's source.

source: Information Clearing House

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Where is the Iraq war headed next?

By Seymour M. Hersh

11/28/05 "
New Yorker" -- -- In recent weeks, there has been widespread speculation that President George W. Bush, confronted by diminishing approval ratings and dissent within his own party, will begin pulling American troops out of Iraq next year. The Administration’s best-case scenario is that the parliamentary election scheduled for December 15th will produce a coalition government that will join the Administration in calling for a withdrawal to begin in the spring. By then, the White House hopes, the new government will be capable of handling the insurgency. In a speech on November 19th, Bush repeated the latest Administration catchphrase: “As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” He added, “When our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.” One sign of the political pressure on the Administration to prepare for a withdrawal came last week, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News that the current level of American troops would not have to be maintained “for very much longer,” because the Iraqis were getting better at fighting the insurgency.

A high-level Pentagon war planner told me, however, that he has seen scant indication that the President would authorize a significant pullout of American troops if he believed that it would impede the war against the insurgency. There are several proposals currently under review by the White House and the Pentagon; the most ambitious calls for American combat forces to be reduced from a hundred and fifty-five thousand troops to fewer than eighty thousand by next fall, with all American forces officially designated “combat” to be pulled out of the area by the summer of 2008. In terms of implementation, the planner said, “the drawdown plans that I’m familiar with are condition-based, event-driven, and not in a specific time frame”—that is, they depend on the ability of a new Iraqi government to defeat the insurgency. (A Pentagon spokesman said that the Administration had not made any decisions and had “no plan to leave, only a plan to complete the mission.”)

A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.

“We’re not planning to diminish the war,” Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me. Clawson’s views often mirror the thinking of the men and women around Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “We just want to change the mix of the forces doing the fighting—Iraqi infantry with American support and greater use of airpower. The rule now is to commit Iraqi forces into combat only in places where they are sure to win. The pace of commitment, and withdrawal, depends on their success in the battlefield.”

He continued, “We want to draw down our forces, but the President is prepared to tough this one out. There is a very deep feeling on his part that the issue of Iraq was settled by the American people at the polling places in 2004.” The war against the insurgency “may end up being a nasty and murderous civil war in Iraq, but we and our allies would still win,” he said. “As long as the Kurds and the Shiites stay on our side, we’re set to go. There’s no sense that the world is caving in. We’re in the middle of a seven-year slog in Iraq, and eighty per cent of the Iraqis are receptive to our message.”

One Pentagon adviser told me, “There are always contingency plans, but why withdraw and take a chance? I don’t think the President will go for it”—until the insurgency is broken. “He’s not going to back off. This is bigger than domestic politics.”

Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.

The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”

There are grave concerns within the military about the capability of the U.S. Army to sustain two or three more years of combat in Iraq. Michael O’Hanlon, a specialist on military issues at the Brookings Institution, told me, “The people in the institutional Army feel they don’t have the luxury of deciding troop levels, or even participating in the debate. They’re planning on staying the course until 2009. I can’t believe the Army thinks that it will happen, because there’s no sustained drive to increase the size of the regular Army.” O’Hanlon noted that “if the President decides to stay the present course in Iraq some troops would be compelled to serve fourth and fifth tours of combat by 2007 and 2008, which could have serious consequences for morale and competency levels.”

Many of the military’s most senior generals are deeply frustrated, but they say nothing in public, because they don’t want to jeopardize their careers. The Administration has “so terrified the generals that they know they won’t go public,” a former defense official said. A retired senior C.I.A. officer with knowledge of Iraq told me that one of his colleagues recently participated in a congressional tour there. The legislators were repeatedly told, in meetings with enlisted men, junior officers, and generals that “things were fucked up.” But in a subsequent teleconference with Rumsfeld, he said, the generals kept those criticisms to themselves.

One person with whom the Pentagon’s top commanders have shared their private views for decades is Representative John Murtha, of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The President and his key aides were enraged when, on November 17th, Murtha gave a speech in the House calling for a withdrawal of troops within six months. The speech was filled with devastating information. For example, Murtha reported that the number of attacks in Iraq has increased from a hundred and fifty a week to more than seven hundred a week in the past year. He said that an estimated fifty thousand American soldiers will suffer “from what I call battle fatigue” in the war, and he said that the Americans were seen as “the common enemy” in Iraq. He also took issue with one of the White House’s claims—that foreign fighters were playing the major role in the insurgency. Murtha said that American soldiers “haven’t captured any in this latest activity”—the continuing battle in western Anbar province, near the border with Syria. “So this idea that they’re coming in from outside, we still think there’s only seven per cent.”

Murtha’s call for a speedy American pullout only seemed to strengthen the White House’s resolve. Administration officials “are beyond angry at him, because he is a serious threat to their policy—both on substance and politically,” the former defense official said. Speaking at the Osan Air Force base, in South Korea, two days after Murtha’s speech, Bush said, “The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. . . . If they’re not stopped, the terrorists will be able to advance their agenda to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, and to break our will and blackmail our government into isolation. I’m going to make you this commitment: this is not going to happen on my watch.”

“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”

Within the military, the prospect of using airpower as a substitute for American troops on the ground has caused great unease. For one thing, Air Force commanders, in particular, have deep-seated objections to the possibility that Iraqis eventually will be responsible for target selection. “Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame someone else?” another senior military planner now on assignment in the Pentagon asked. “Will some Iraqis be targeting on behalf of Al Qaeda, or the insurgency, or the Iranians?”

“It’s a serious business,” retired Air Force General Charles Horner, who was in charge of allied bombing during the 1991 Gulf War, said. “The Air Force has always had concerns about people ordering air strikes who are not Air Force forward air controllers. We need people on active duty to think it out, and they will. There has to be training to be sure that somebody is not trying to get even with somebody else.” (Asked for a comment, the Pentagon spokesman said there were plans in place for such training. He also noted that Iraq had no offensive airpower of its own, and thus would have to rely on the United States for some time.)

The American air war inside Iraq today is perhaps the most significant—and underreported—aspect of the fight against the insurgency. The military authorities in Baghdad and Washington do not provide the press with a daily accounting of missions that Air Force, Navy, and Marine units fly or of the tonnage they drop, as was routinely done during the Vietnam War. One insight into the scope of the bombing in Iraq was supplied by the Marine Corps during the height of the siege of Falluja in the fall of 2004. “With a massive Marine air and ground offensive under way,” a Marine press release said, “Marine close air support continues to put high-tech steel on target. . . . Flying missions day and night for weeks, the fixed wing aircraft of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing are ensuring battlefield success on the front line.” Since the beginning of the war, the press release said, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone had dropped more than five hundred thousand tons of ordnance. “This number is likely to be much higher by the end of operations,” Major Mike Sexton said. In the battle for the city, more than seven hundred Americans were killed or wounded; U.S. officials did not release estimates of civilian dead, but press reports at the time told of women and children killed in the bombardments.

In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased. Most of the targets appear to be in the hostile, predominantly Sunni provinces that surround Baghdad and along the Syrian border. As yet, neither Congress nor the public has engaged in a significant discussion or debate about the air war.

The insurgency operates mainly in crowded urban areas, and Air Force warplanes rely on sophisticated, laser-guided bombs to avoid civilian casualties. These bombs home in on targets that must be “painted,” or illuminated, by laser beams directed by ground units. “The pilot doesn’t identify the target as seen in the pre-brief”—the instructions provided before takeoff—a former high-level intelligence official told me. “The guy with the laser is the targeteer. Not the pilot. Often you get a ‘hot-read’ ”—from a military unit on the ground—“and you drop your bombs with no communication with the guys on the ground. You don’t want to break radio silence. The people on the ground are calling in targets that the pilots can’t verify.” He added, “And we’re going to turn this process over to the Iraqis?”

The second senior military planner told me that there are essentially two types of targeting now being used in Iraq: a deliberate site-selection process that works out of air-operations centers in the region, and “adaptive targeting”—supportive bombing by prepositioned or loitering warplanes that are suddenly alerted to firefights or targets of opportunity by military units on the ground. “The bulk of what we do today is adaptive,” the officer said, “and it’s divorced from any operational air planning. Airpower can be used as a tool of internal political coercion, and my attitude is that I can’t imagine that we will give that power to the Iraqis.”

This military planner added that even today, with Americans doing the targeting, “there is no sense of an air campaign, or a strategic vision. We are just whacking targets—it’s a reversion to the Stone Age. There’s no operational art. That’s what happens when you give targeting to the Army—they hit what the local commander wants to hit.”

One senior Pentagon consultant I spoke to said he was optimistic that “American air will immediately make the Iraqi Army that much better.” But he acknowledged that he, too, had concerns about Iraqi targeting. “We have the most expensive eyes in the sky right now,” the consultant said. “But a lot of Iraqis want to settle old scores. Who is going to have authority to call in air strikes? There’s got to be a behavior-based rule.”

General John Jumper, who retired last month after serving four years as the Air Force chief of staff, was “in favor of certification of those Iraqis who will be allowed to call in strikes,” the Pentagon consultant told me. “I don’t know if it will be approved. The regular Army generals were resisting it to the last breath, despite the fact that they would benefit the most from it.”

A Pentagon consultant with close ties to the officials in the Vice-President’s office and the Pentagon who advocated the war said that the Iraqi penchant for targeting tribal and personal enemies with artillery and mortar fire had created “impatience and resentment” inside the military. He believed that the Air Force’s problems with Iraqi targeting might be addressed by the formation of U.S.-Iraqi transition teams, whose American members would be drawn largely from Special Forces troops. This consultant said that there were plans to integrate between two hundred and three hundred Special Forces members into Iraqi units, which was seen as a compromise aimed at meeting the Air Force’s demand to vet Iraqis who were involved in targeting. But in practice, the consultant added, it meant that “the Special Ops people will soon allow Iraqis to begin calling in the targets.”

Robert Pape, a political-science professor at the University of Chicago, who has written widely on American airpower, and who taught for three years at the Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies, in Alabama, predicted that the air war “will get very ugly” if targeting is turned over to the Iraqis. This would be especially true, he said, if the Iraqis continued to operate as the U.S. Army and Marines have done—plowing through Sunni strongholds on search-and-destroy missions. “If we encourage the Iraqis to clear and hold their own areas, and use airpower to stop the insurgents from penetrating the cleared areas, it could be useful,” Pape said. “The risk is that we will encourage the Iraqis to do search-and-destroy, and they would be less judicious about using airpower—and the violence would go up. More civilians will be killed, which means more insurgents will be created.”

Even American bombing on behalf of an improved, well-trained Iraqi Army would not necessarily be any more successful against the insurgency. “It’s not going to work,” said Andrew Brookes, the former director of airpower studies at the Royal Air Force’s advanced staff college, who is now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London. “Can you put a lid on the insurgency with bombing?” Brookes said. “No. You can concentrate in one area, but the guys will spring up in another town.” The inevitable reliance on Iraqi ground troops’ targeting would also create conflicts. “I don’t see your guys dancing to the tune of someone else,” Brookes said. He added that he and many other experts “don’t believe that airpower is a solution to the problems inside Iraq at all. Replacing boots on the ground with airpower didn’t work in Vietnam, did it?”

The Air Force’s worries have been subordinated, so far, to the political needs of the White House. The Administration’s immediate political goal after the December elections is to show that the day-to-day conduct of the war can be turned over to the newly trained and equipped Iraqi military. It has already planned heavily scripted change-of-command ceremonies, complete with the lowering of American flags at bases and the raising of Iraqi ones.

Some officials in the State Department, the C.I.A., and British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government have settled on their candidate of choice for the December elections—Iyad Allawi, the secular Shiite who served until this spring as Iraq’s interim Prime Minister. They believe that Allawi can gather enough votes in the election to emerge, after a round of political bargaining, as Prime Minister. A former senior British adviser told me that Blair was convinced that Allawi “is the best hope.” The fear is that a government dominated by religious Shiites, many of whom are close to Iran, would give Iran greater political and military influence inside Iraq. Allawi could counter Iran’s influence; also, he would be far more supportive and coöperative if the Bush Administration began a drawdown of American combat forces in the coming year.

Blair has assigned a small team of operatives to provide political help to Allawi, the former adviser told me. He also said that there was talk late this fall, with American concurrence, of urging Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite, to join forces in a coalition with Allawi during the post-election negotiations to form a government. Chalabi, who is notorious for his role in promoting flawed intelligence on weapons of mass destruction before the war, is now a deputy Prime Minister. He and Allawi were bitter rivals while in exile.

A senior United Nations diplomat told me that he was puzzled by the high American and British hopes for Allawi. “I know a lot of people want Allawi, but I think he’s been a terrific disappointment,” the diplomat said. “He doesn’t seem to be building a strong alliance, and at the moment it doesn’t look like he will do very well in the election.”

The second Pentagon consultant told me, “If Allawi becomes Prime Minister, we can say, ‘There’s a moderate, urban, educated leader now in power who does not want to deprive women of their rights.’ He would ask us to leave, but he would allow us to keep Special Forces operations inside Iraq—to keep an American presence the right way. Mission accomplished. A coup for Bush.”

A former high-level intelligence official cautioned that it was probably “too late” for any American withdrawal plan to work without further bloodshed. The constitution approved by Iraqi voters in October “will be interpreted by the Kurds and the Shiites to proceed with their plans for autonomy,” he said. “The Sunnis will continue to believe that if they can get rid of the Americans they can still win. And there still is no credible way to establish security for American troops.”

The fear is that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would inevitably trigger a Sunni-Shiite civil war. In many areas, that war has, in a sense, already begun, and the United States military is being drawn into the sectarian violence. An American Army officer who took part in the assault on Tal Afar, in the north of Iraq, earlier this fall, said that an American infantry brigade was placed in the position of providing a cordon of security around the besieged city for Iraqi forces, most of them Shiites, who were “rounding up any Sunnis on the basis of whatever a Shiite said to them.” The officer went on, “They were killing Sunnis on behalf of the Shiites,” with the active participation of a militia unit led by a retired American Special Forces soldier. “People like me have gotten so downhearted,” the officer added.

Meanwhile, as the debate over troop reductions continues, the covert war in Iraq has expanded in recent months to Syria. A composite American Special Forces team, known as an S.M.U., for “special-mission unit,” has been ordered, under stringent cover, to target suspected supporters of the Iraqi insurgency across the border. (The Pentagon had no comment.) “It’s a powder keg,” the Pentagon consultant said of the tactic. “But, if we hit an insurgent network in Iraq without hitting the guys in Syria who are part of it, the guys in Syria would get away. When you’re fighting an insurgency, you have to strike everywhere—and at once.”

source: Information Clearing House

Monday, November 28, 2005

In Terror Cases, Administration Sets Own Rules


11/27/05 "
New York Times" -- -- When Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced last week that Jose Padilla would be transferred to the federal justice system from military detention, he said almost nothing about the standards the administration used in deciding whether to charge terrorism suspects like Mr. Padilla with crimes or to hold them in military facilities as enemy combatants.

"We take each individual, each case, case by case," Mr. Gonzales said.

The upshot of that approach, underscored by the decision in Mr. Padilla's case, is that no one outside the administration knows just how the determination is made whether to handle a terror suspect as an enemy combatant or as a common criminal, to hold him indefinitely without charges in a military facility or to charge him in court.

Indeed, citing the need to combat terrorism, the administration has argued, with varying degrees of success, that judges should have essentially no role in reviewing its decisions. The change in Mr. Padilla's status, just days before the government's legal papers were due in his appeal to the Supreme Court, suggested to many legal observers that the administration wanted to keep the court out of the case.

"The position of the executive branch," said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University who has consulted with lawyers for several detainees, "is that it can be judge, jury and executioner."

The government says a secret and unilateral decision-making process is necessary because of the nature of the evidence it deals with. Officials described the approach as a practical one that weighs a mix of often-sensitive factors.

"Much thought goes into how and why various tools are used in these often complicated cases," Tasia Scolinos, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said on Friday. "The important thing is for someone not to come away thinking this whole process is arbitrary, which it is not."

Among the factors the government considers, Ms. Scolinos said, are "national security interests, the need to gather intelligence and the best and quickest way to obtain it, the concern about protecting intelligence sources and methods and ongoing information gathering, the ability to use information as evidence in a criminal proceeding, the circumstances of the manner in which the individual was detained, the applicable criminal charges, and classified-evidence issues."

Lawyers for people in terrorism investigations say a list of factors to be considered cannot substitute for bright-line standards announced in advance.

The courts have given the executive branch substantial but not total deference, often holding that the president has the authority to designate enemy combatants but allowing those detained to challenge the factual basis for the administration's determinations. Some courts have suggested that a detainee's citizenship, the place he was captured and whether he was fighting American troops should play a role in how aggressively the courts review enemy-combatant designations.

A look at the half-dozen most prominent terrorism detentions and prosecutions does little to illuminate the standards that have informed the government's decisions.

One American captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan was held in the United States as an enemy combatant. Another was prosecuted as a criminal. One foreigner seized in the United States as a suspected terrorist is being held as an enemy combatant without charges in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Others have been prosecuted for their crimes.

In three high-profile terrorism cases, the government obtained convictions in federal court. Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen, pleaded guilty to taking part in the conspiracy that led to the Sept. 11 attacks and faces the death penalty. Richard C. Reid, who is British, pleaded guilty to trying to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic with bombs in his shoes and is serving a life term. And John Walker Lindh, the California man who pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban, is serving 20 years.

In three other cases, the administration designated terrorism suspects as enemy combatants who may be detained by the military indefinitely without charge. One, Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen of Saudi descent, was released and sent to Saudi Arabia after the Supreme Court gave him the right to contest the government's claims. A second American, Mr. Padilla, was transferred to the custody of the Justice Department last week.

The only remaining enemy combatant known to be detained in the United States, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, traveled the same road as Mr. Padilla, but in the opposite direction. "Al-Marri is precisely the flipside of Padilla," said Lawrence S. Lustberg, one of Mr. Marri's lawyers.

After 16 months of criminal proceedings on fraud charges, and less than a month before Mr. Marri's trial was to start in July 2003, President Bush designated him an enemy combatant. Mr. Marri, a Qatari who had been working on a master's degree at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., was immediately transferred into military custody and moved to the Navy brig in Charleston.

John Yoo, a former Justice Department official who is now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said two issues tended to determine how the government proceeded.

"The main factors that will determine how you will be charged," Mr. Yoo said, "are, one, how strong your link to Al Qaeda is and, two, whether you have any actionable intelligence that will prevent an attack on the United States."

Jonathan M. Freiman, one of Mr. Padilla's lawyers, questioned that, saying the administration's decisions had often seemed to be reactions to actual and anticipated court decisions.

"The government continues to be more focused on protecting its strategies than allowing them to be subjected to legal review," Mr. Freiman said.

In the indictment unsealed Tuesday, Mr. Padilla was not charged with some of the most serious accusations against him, including plotting to explode a radioactive device, because the evidence needed to prove the case had been obtained through harsh questioning of two senior members of Al Qaeda, current and former government officials have said. The statements might not have been admissible in court and could have exposed classified information, the officials said.

The Moussaoui case was also complicated by his lawyers' demands that they be given access to potentially exculpatory evidence that the government said had to be kept secret for reasons of national security.

The mere possibility of being named an enemy combatant, coupled with the difficulty of divining the standards the administration uses in choosing whom to call one, can affect the decisions of defendants in criminal plea negotiations.

"In the case of John Walker Lindh," said his lawyer, James J. Brosnahan, "there was a suggestion that even if we got an acquittal that he could be declared an unlawful combatant, that he could be a Padilla."

Indeed, the plea agreement Mr. Lindh signed contains an unusual provision. "For the rest of the defendant's natural life," it says, "should the government determine that the defendant has engaged in" one of more than a score of crimes of terrorism, "the United States may immediately invoke any right it has at that time to capture and detain the defendant as an unlawful enemy combatant."

Mr. Freiman said he, too, had been told that the government reserved the right to detain Mr. Padilla again should he be acquitted.

Arguably, it may sometimes be preferable for a defendant to be held as an enemy combatant rather than being prosecuted. Mr. Lindh's case, for instance, is at least superficially similar to that of Mr. Hamdi, another American captured in Afghanistan. But Mr. Hamdi is free after three years of confinement, though he had to relinquish his American citizenship. Mr. Lindh is in the early part of his 20-year sentence.

The government has not offered an explanation for the disparate treatment of the cases.

Mr. Marri's detention, on the other hand, is potentially lifelong. Though he has not been convicted of a crime, said Jonathan Hafetz, one of his lawyers, the conditions in the Charleston brig are as bad or worse than those in the toughest high-security prisons.

"He has been in solitary confinement for two and a half years," Mr. Hafetz said of Mr. Marri. "He hasn't spoken to or seen his wife and five children since he was designated an enemy combatant" in June 2003. "There's no news, no books, nothing."

This year, the same South Carolina federal judge heard challenges from Mr. Padilla and Mr. Marri. In July, the judge, Henry F. Floyd, ruled that the administration was authorized to detain Mr. Marri. Four months earlier, the judge had reached the opposite conclusion in Mr. Padilla's case.

The difference, he said, was that Mr. Padilla was an American citizen.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., reversed the ruling in the Padilla case. The administration's decision last week to charge Mr. Padilla and try to moot his appeal of the Fourth Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court may have been driven by its desire to maintain a helpful precedent in the circuit where it brings many of its terrorism cases.

"They are seeking to keep their options open," said David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown, "by avoiding Supreme Court review in the Padilla case. It lets them keep standing the Fourth Circuit decision."

In Mr. Hamdi's Supreme Court case last year, the four justices who joined Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's controlling opinion used a narrow definition of "enemy combatant," saying, at least for purposes of that case, that it meant someone "carrying a weapon against American troops on a foreign battlefield."

The government has proposed a much broader definition.

"The term 'enemy combatant,' " according to a Defense Department order last year, includes anyone "part of or supporting Taliban or Al Qaeda forces or associated forces."

In a hearing in December in a case brought by detainees imprisoned in the naval facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a judge questioned a Justice Department official about the limits of that definition. The official, Brian D. Boyle, said the hostilities in question were global and might continue for generations.

The judge, Joyce Hens Green of the Federal District Court in Washington, asked a series of hypothetical questions about who might be detained as an enemy combatant under the government's definition.

What about "a little old lady in Switzerland who writes checks to what she thinks is a charitable organization that helps orphans in Afghanistan but really is a front to finance Al Qaeda activities?" she asked.

And what about a resident of Dublin "who teaches English to the son of a person the C.I.A. knows to be a member of Al Qaeda?"

And "what about a Wall Street Journal reporter, working in Afghanistan, who knows the exact location of Osama bin Laden but does not reveal it to the United States government in order to protect her source?"

Mr. Boyle said the military had the power to detain all three people as enemy combatants.

In January, Judge Green allowed the detainees' court challenges to their confinement to proceed. Another judge on her court reached the opposite conclusion, and an appeal from the two decisions is pending.

source: Information Clearing House

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The long march of Dick Cheney

For his entire career, he sought untrammeled power. The Bush presidency and 9/11 finally gave it to him -- and he's not about to give it up.

By Sidney Blumenthal

11/25/05 "" -- -- The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy. Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power. When it matters, the regular operations of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department have been sidelined.

Richard Nixon is the model, but with modifications. In the Nixon administration, the president was the prime mover, present at the creation of his own options, attentive to detail, and conscious of their consequences. In the Cheney administration, the president is volatile but passive, firm but malleable, presiding but absent. Once his complicity has been arranged, a closely held "cabal" -- as Lawrence Wilkerson, once chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, calls it -- wields control.

Within the White House, the office of the vice president is the strategic center. The National Security Council has been demoted to enabler and implementer. Systems of off-line operations have been laid to evade professional analysis and a responsible chain of command. Those who attempt to fulfill their duties in the old ways have been humiliated when necessary, fired, retired early or shunted aside. In their place, acolytes and careerists indistinguishable from true believers in their eagerness have been elevated.

The collapse of sections of the façade shielding Cheney from public view has not inhibited him. His former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, appears to be withholding information about the vice president's actions in the Plame affair from the special prosecutor. While Bush has declaimed, "We do not torture," Cheney lobbied the Senate to stop it from prohibiting torture.

At the same time, Cheney has taken the lead in defending the administration from charges that it twisted intelligence to justify the Iraq war and misled the Congress even as new stories underscore the legitimacy of the charges.

Former Sen. Bob Graham has revealed, in a Nov. 20 article in the Washington Post, that the condensed version of the National Intelligence Estimate titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs" that was submitted to the Senate days before it voted on the Iraq war resolution "represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed [WMD], avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version." The condensed version also contained the falsehood that Saddam Hussein was seeking "weapons-grade fissile material from abroad."

The administration relied for key information in the NIE on an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball. According to a Nov. 20 report in the Los Angeles Times, it had learned from German intelligence beforehand that Curveball was completely untrustworthy and his claims fabricated. Yet Bush, Cheney and, most notably, Powell in his prewar performance before the United Nations, which he now calls the biggest "blot" on his record and about which he insists he was "deceived," touted Curveball's disinformation.

In two speeches over the past week Cheney has called congressional critics "dishonest," "shameless" and "reprehensible." He ridiculed their claim that they did not have the same intelligence as the administration. "These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence materials. They are known to have a high opinion of their own analytical capabilities." Lambasting them for historical "revisionism," he repeatedly invoked Sept. 11. "We were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001 -- and the terrorists hit us anyway," he said.

The day after Cheney's most recent speech, the National Journal reported that the president's daily briefing prepared by the CIA 10 days after Sept. 11, 2001, indicated that there was no connection between Saddam and the terrorist attacks. Of course, the 9/11 Commission had made the same point in its report.

Even though experts and pundits contradict his talking points, Cheney presents them with characteristic assurance. His rhetoric is like a paving truck that will flatten obstacles. Cheney remains undeterred; he has no recourse. He will not run for president in 2008. He is defending more than the Bush record; he is defending the culmination of his career. Cheney's alliances, ideas, antagonisms and tactics have accumulated for decades.

Cheney is a master bureaucrat, proficient in the White House, the agencies and departments, and Congress. The many offices Cheney has held add up to an extraordinary résumé. His competence and measured manner are often mistaken for moderation. Among those who have misjudged Cheney are military men -- Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft and Wilkerson, who lacked a sense of him as a political man in full. As a result, they expressed surprise at their discovery of the ideological hard man. Scowcroft told the New Yorker recently that Cheney was not the Cheney he once knew. But Scowcroft and the other military men rose by working through regular channels; they were trained to respect established authority. They are at a disadvantage in internal political battles with those operating by different rules of warfare. Their realism does not account for radicalism within the U.S. government.

Nixon's resignation in the Watergate scandal thwarted his designs for an unchecked imperial presidency. It was in that White House that Cheney gained his formative experience as the assistant to Nixon's counselor, Donald Rumsfeld. When Gerald Ford acceded to the presidency, he summoned Rumsfeld from his posting as NATO ambassador to become his chief of staff. Rumsfeld, in turn, brought back his former deputy, Cheney.

From Nixon, they learned the application of ruthlessness and the harsh lesson of failure. Under Ford, Rumsfeld designated Cheney as his surrogate on intelligence matters. During the immediate aftermath of Watergate, Congress investigated past CIA abuses, and the press was filled with revelations. In May 1975, Seymour Hersh reported in the New York Times on how the CIA had sought to recover a sunken Soviet submarine with a deep-sea mining vessel called the Glomar Explorer, built by Howard Hughes. When Hersh's article appeared, Cheney wrote memos laying out options ranging from indicting Hersh or getting a search warrant for Hersh's apartment to suing the Times and pressuring its owners "to discourage the NYT and other publications from similar action." "In the end," writes James Mann, in his indispensable book, "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet," "Cheney and the White House decided to back off after the intelligence community decided its work had not been significantly damaged."

Rumsfeld and Cheney quickly gained control of the White House staff, edging out Ford's old aides. From this base, they waged bureaucratic war on Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger, a colossus of foreign policy, who occupied the posts of both secretary of state and national security advisor. Rumsfeld and Cheney were the right wing of the Ford administration, opposed to the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, and they operated by stealthy internal maneuver. The Secret Service gave Cheney the code name "Backseat."

In 1975, Rumsfeld and Cheney stage-managed a Cabinet purge called the "Halloween massacre" that made Rumsfeld secretary of defense and Cheney White House chief of staff. Kissinger, forced to surrender control of the National Security Council, angrily drafted a letter of resignation (which he never submitted). Rumsfeld and Cheney helped convince Ford, who faced a challenge for the Republican nomination from Ronald Reagan, that he needed to shore up his support on the right and that Rockefeller was a political liability. Rockefeller felt compelled to announce he would not be Ford's running mate. Upset at the end of his ambition, Rockefeller charged that Rumsfeld intended to become vice president himself. In fact, Rumsfeld had contemplated running for president in the future and undoubtedly would have accepted a vice presidential nod.

In the meantime, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld undermined the negotiations for a new Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty being conducted by Kissinger. Fighting off Reagan's attacks during the Republican primaries, Ford was pressured by Cheney to adopt his foreign policy views, which amounted to a self-repudiation. At the Republican Party Convention, acting as Ford's representative, Cheney engineered the adoption of Reagan's foreign policy plank in the platform. By doing so he preempted an open debate and split. Privately, Ford, Kissinger and Rockefeller were infuriated.

As part of the Halloween massacre Rumsfeld and Cheney pushed out CIA director William Colby and replaced him with George H.W. Bush, then the U.S. plenipotentiary to China. The CIA had been uncooperative with the Rumsfeld/Cheney anti-détente campaign. Instead of producing intelligence reports simply showing an urgent Soviet military buildup, the CIA issued complex analyses that were filled with qualifications. Its National Intelligence Estimate on the Soviet threat contained numerous caveats, dissents and contradictory opinions. From the conservative point of view, the CIA was guilty of groupthink, unwilling to challenge its own premises and hostile to conservative ideas.

The new CIA director was prompted to authorize an alternative unit outside the CIA to challenge the agency's intelligence on Soviet intentions. Bush was more compliant in the political winds than his predecessor. Consisting of a host of conservatives, the unit was called Team B. A young aide from the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Paul Wolfowitz, was selected to represent Rumsfeld's interest and served as coauthor of Team B's report. The report was single-minded in its conclusion about the Soviet buildup and cleansed of contrary intelligence. It was fundamentally a political tool in the struggle for control of the Republican Party, intended to destroy détente and aimed particularly at Kissinger. Both Ford and Kissinger took pains to dismiss Team B and its effort. (Later, Team B's report was revealed to be wildly off the mark about the scope and capability of the Soviet military.)

With Ford's defeat, Team B became the kernel of the Committee on the Present Danger, a conservative group that attacked President Carter for weakness on the Soviet threat. The growing strength of the right thwarted ratification of SALT II, setting the stage for Reagan's nomination and election.

Elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, Cheney became the Republican leader on the House Intelligence Committee, where he consistently fought congressional oversight and limits on presidential authority. When Congress investigated the Iran-Contra scandal (the creation of an illegal, privately funded, offshore U.S. foreign policy initiative), Cheney was the crucial administration defender. At every turn, he blocked the Democrats and prevented them from questioning Vice President Bush. Under his leadership, not a single House Republican signed the special investigating committee's final report charging "secrecy, deception and disdain for law." Instead, the Republicans issued their own report claiming there had been no major wrongdoing.

The origin of Cheney's alliance with the neoconservatives goes back to his instrumental support for Team B. Upon being appointed secretary of defense by the elder Bush, he kept on Wolfowitz as undersecretary. And Wolfowitz kept on his deputy, his former student at the University of Chicago, Scooter Libby. Earlier, Wolfowitz and Libby had written a document expressing suspicion of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalizing perestroika and warning against making deals with him, a document that President Reagan ignored as he made an arms control agreement and proclaimed that the Cold War was ending.

During the Gulf War, Secretary of Defense Cheney clashed with Gen. Colin Powell. At one point, he admonished Powell, who had been Reagan's national security advisor, "Colin, you're chairman of the Joint Chiefs ... so stick to military matters." During the run-up to the war, Cheney set up a secret unit in the Pentagon to develop an alternative war plan, his own version of Team B. "Set up a team, and don't tell Powell or anybody else," Cheney ordered Wolfowitz. The plan was called Operation Scorpion. "While Powell was out of town, visiting Saudi Arabia, Cheney -- again, without telling Powell -- took the civilian-drafted plan, Operation Scorpion, to the White House and presented it to the president and the national security adviser," writes Mann in his book. Bush, however, rejected it as too risky. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was enraged at Cheney's presumption. "Put a civilian in charge of professional military men and before long he's no longer satisfied with setting policy but wants to outgeneral the generals," he wrote in his memoir. After Operation Scorpion was rejected, Cheney urged Bush to go to war without congressional approval, a notion the elder Bush dismissed.

After the Gulf War victory, in 1992, Cheney approved a new "Defense Planning Guidance" advocating U.S. unilateralism in the post-Cold War, a document whose final draft was written by Libby. Cheney assumed Republican rule for the indefinite future.

One week after Bill Clinton's inauguration, on Jan. 27, 1993, Cheney appeared on "Larry King Live," where he declared his interest in running for the presidency. "Obviously," he said, "it's something I'll take a look at ... Obviously, I've worked for three presidents and watched two others up close, and so it is an idea that has occurred to me." For two years, he quietly campaigned in Republican circles, but discovered little enthusiasm. He was less well known than he imagined and less magnetic in person than his former titles suggested. On Aug. 10, 1995, he held a news conference at the headquarters of the Halliburton Co. in Dallas, announcing he would become its chief executive officer. "When I made the decision earlier this year not to run for president, not to seek the White House, that really was a decision to wrap up my political career and move on to other things," he said.

But in 2000, Cheney surfaced in the role of party elder, above the fray, willing to serve as the man who would help Gov. George W. Bush determine who should be his running mate. Prospective candidates turned over to him all sensitive material about themselves, financial, political and personal. Once he had collected it, he decided that he should be the vice presidential candidate himself. Bush said he had previously thought of the idea and happily accepted. Asked who vetted Cheney's records, Bush's then aide Karen Hughes explained, "Just as with other candidates, Secretary Cheney is the one who handled that."

Most observers assumed that Cheney would provide balancing experience and maturity, serving in his way as a surrogate father and elder statesman. Few grasped his deeply held view on presidential power. With Rumsfeld returned as secretary of defense, the position he had held during the Ford administration, the old team was back in place. Rivals from the past had departed and the field was clear. The methods used before were implemented again. To get around the CIA, the Office of Special Plans was created within the Pentagon, yet another version of Team B. Senior military dissenters were removed. Powell was manipulated and outmaneuvered.

The making of the Iraq war, torture policy and an industry-friendly energy plan has required secrecy, deception and subordination of government as it previously existed. But these, too, are means to an end. Even projecting a "war on terror" as total war, trying to envelop the whole American society within its fog, is a device to invest absolute power in the executive.

Dick Cheney sees in George W. Bush his last chance. Nixon self-destructed, Ford was fatally compromised by his moderation, Reagan was not what was hoped for, the elder Bush ended up a disappointment. In every case, the Republican presidents had been checked or gone soft. Finally, President Bush provided the instrument, Sept. 11 the opportunity. This time the failures of the past provided the guideposts for getting it right. The administration's heedlessness was simply the wisdom of Cheney's experience.

-- By Sidney Blumenthal

source: Information Clearing House

Scientific Naturalism and Intelligent Design

Yet we must exhaust all natural explanations before we fall back upon such a theory as this.

Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot,"
His Last Bow [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1917]

by Kelley L. Ross

Criticism of Evolution by Natural Selection, mainly with a religious motivation, formerly taking the form of "Scientific Creationism," has lately been revived through the movement for "Intelligent Design." Just as with Scientific Creationism, this new approach has pretentions or ambitions to being part of mainstream science and relies on a critique of a "materialistic" or "naturalistic" method in science as being inadequate to the empirical evidence. It must then be asked, "Is science 'materialistic'?" The answer to that is "no," because, although many scientists may in fact be materialists, materialism is a metaphysical doctrine and is both inessential to science and independent of its method. We then must ask, "Is science 'naturalistic'?" The answer to that is "yes," because naturalism, properly undertood, is a method, an empirical method, which is the very essence of modern science ever since Galileo. The Intelligent Design theorists want to claim an empirical justification themselves, but the assumptions that they introduce into their method are inconsistent with the very logic of scientific method.

The naturalistic method of science involves one fundamental procedure, the use of observation and experiment to confirm or falsify hypotheses. This is "naturalistic" for two reasons: (1) the observations and experiments are done in nature, i.e. on empirical and phenomenal objects; and (2) the hypotheses are about the laws of nature. Thus, phenomena are observed, a theory is proposed to explain the phenomena, and the theory is tested by predictions that can be proven by observation or experiment. This is science as understood by Karl Popper, whose views have been discussed elsewhere.

Intelligent Design denies the naturalism of science by asserting that natural causes are insufficient to explain certain phenomena, such as biological organisms and the diversity of life. This fails as science for the following reasons. The denial of "natural" causes can only mean the introduction of "supernatural" causes. This can only mean (1) that the laws of nature are suspended or (2) that the laws of nature are inadequate to explain the phenomena, and a particular kind of supernatural cause is the only alternative. Now, the suspension of the laws of nature is, by definiton, a miracle. It is not surprising that such a notion would accompany theistic belief, but by its very nature it cannot be part of science. If the purpose of science is to discover the laws of nature, then events that involve the suspension of the laws of nature by that very fact can be no part of science. Science cannot study a law of nature when such a law is not in operation -- indeed when no law is in operation. At the same time, since miracles are only occasional events, they cannot be studied in a scientific way, when it must be possible to repeat an observation or experiment in order to see the operation of the law. A supernatural cause that suspends the laws of nature thus can have no part in scientific knowledge.

Advocates of Intelligent Design apparently do not want to pursue that meaning of the denial of natural causes, in any case. So they want to argue that the laws of nature as such are insufficient to explain the phenomena and must be supplemented by supernatural causes. This is also adverse to the basic meaning of scientific method. If available theories are insufficient to explain the observed phenomena, then it is scientific method to look for a new theory, not to give up and invoke supernatural causes. That would prejudge that the relevant laws of nature do not exist. That the reason for the phenomena is not presently understood is no evidence for this; and since it is the very business of science to look for laws of nature through empirical inquiry, the failure of any particular theory simply means that the search continues for new theories. Giving up inquiry and invoking a supernatural cause means giving up science. It means the end of science. [note]

Indeed, with a supernatural cause, science need never have started. That is because if a supernatural cause can be invoked, then laws of nature are entirely unnecessary in the first place. If a supernatural cause means an omnipotent Creator, then the problem is just that this explains too much. Why is the sky blue? Because God made it that way. Why is there a bright red line in the spectrum of the Sun? Because God put it there. As they would have said in the Middle Ages, all this testifies to the marvelous design and aesthetic of God. Indeed, Islamic Occasionalism simply held that God was the direct cause of everything that happens. This eliminated need for laws of nature at all.

If advocates of Intelligent Design are not to embrace Occasionalism, for which science would not exist at all, they must explain why natural laws and natural causes can be pursued for some phenomena but can be said not to exist for others, like the origin of life. And they must do that with a priori reasons, for it is not enough to say that present theories do not explain all phenomena, or contain anomalies. No one expects present theories to explain everything: That is just why science is not finished. Nor is any conscientious scientist going to deny that scientific theories are without anomalies, for those are the clues how a theory is to be extended, improved, or replaced. But no conscientious scientist is going to assert at some point a priori that a theory about natural laws for certain phenomena cannot be found. Such an argument might even be part of metaphysics or epistemology, but it cannot be part of empirical science.

Thus, the very denial of naturalistic method by Intelligent Design advocates is inconsistent with scientific method itself. Science is the means of the discovery of the laws of nature, and it is about just that, i.e. nature. Does this mean that naturalistic theories are appropriate for everything? No. I have examined elsewhere the reasons why naturalistic theories of meaning are wrong. The empiricism of science is only appropriate where empiricism is appropriate, and that is not everywhere. This is why projects like "Scientific Creationism" and "Intelligent Design" are a waste of time. Charles Darwin has nothing to do with religion, morals, metaphysics, or epistemology. There are certainly those, "secular humanists" even by their own description, who by some kind of positivism or scientism think that naturalistic explanations are sufficient for everything in life, but they are simply wrong, philosophically wrong. Attacking them for their science, however, is suicidal and worthless. If they are confused that science has implications that it doesn't, they can be corrected.

But biology isn't an implication, it is a science; and behind the Intelligent Design theories, I must be forgiven the suspicion that there still lurks the old "Scientific Creationism" contention that the universe is only 10,000 years old. To get that, it is not just biology that must be attacked, but geology, astronomy, and physics also. This is what helped discredit "Creationism." Whether the Intelligent Design theorists want to admit that these sciences are in their sights, they cannot deny that a supernatural cause, once allowed, would make it possible that, as some have seriously argued, God created the universe to make it look like it was old (with fossils and unconformities, etc.), even if it wasn't, just to test the faith of the faithful and tempt the disbelief of the wicked. Since they must already think of Darwin as a kind of Satan, this might not be too large a step.

Given the failure of Intelligent Design as science, we can certainly still ask, "Why are the laws of nature as they are?" This is where we can introduce a more traditional version of Design, namely the Argument from Design, which is an argument for the existence of God. As part of natural theology, and so part of metaphysics, this would not be part of science -- though confusing or linking science with theology is precisely what the advocates for Intelligent Design want to do. Although very old, the Argument from Design is now particularly linked with the natural theology of William Paley (1743-1805, Natural Theology, 1802), who expessed, if not originated, the notion of God as the "watchmaker," the architect of the mechanism of nature, and so perhaps of nature itself only indirectly through that mechanism. This puts Creation back one step from the direct and Mediaeval forms, taking into account the existence and significance of the laws of nature, and so of the scientific project to discover those laws. This is Newtonian natural theology, and indeed, things like this were in fact popular with Isaac Newton, who in his own day admired the cosmology as sacred history of Thomas Burnet (1635-1715, Telluris Theoria Sacra or The Sacred Theory of the Earth, 1681). As a proof for the existence of God, however, the Argument from Design is not a good argument. The requirement would have to be that only a Creator God could explain the existence of the laws of nature. This is not the case, as anyone familiar with the history of Western Philosophy would know; for with Plato we have the theory that the laws of nature exist because all perfection and order derives from the Forms in the World of Being. In the Timaeus, Plato posits a Creator God, the Demiurge, but this God does not create the Forms -- he looks to them in order to make his own creation of the world as good as possible.

Plato's theory avoids problems that arise with a Creator God. For a Creator God, as it happens, is expected to do what is best -- if the theistic attributes of God are going to be omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence. If such a God does not look to the Forms as the standard of what is good, then the good would have to be just whatever he does, which renders characterizing him as "good" trivial and pointless. This is the ancient antinomy between God's goodness and God's omnipotence. To Kant, such antinomies are what happen when we attempt to reason about transcendent objects. And there are more. For instance, if we accepted Plato's theory, we might want to ask, "Why are the Forms as they are?" We could then propose God as the Creator of the Forms. This gets us back to the antinomy of goodness and omnipotence, but it also suggests a new one. Why can't we ask, "Why is God the way he is?" If we ask for a cause for the laws of nature, and then a cause for the World of the Forms, why not a cause for God? Why isn't he caused by something? If the answer is that God is the "First Cause" (Aristotle's idea), then we must ask (1) why have a God rather than some other kind of First Cause? and (2) why must there be a first cause rather than a infinite series of causes? The first objection is that we do not have sufficient reason to conceive a First Cause as a personal God rather than as something else (like the Forms), while the second objection is that the choice between a First Cause and an infinite series is just, indeed, a classic Kantian antinomy of metaphysics (the Fourth). We do not have sufficient reason to choose between an unconditioned cause and an infinite series of causes.

If Intelligent Design fails as science, it also fails as metaphysics. Thus, Kant concluded that arguments for the existence of God don't work. Nevertheless, our question, Why the laws of nature are as they are, or, alternatively, Why the world is orderly the way it is, is a good and reasonable question. Our tendency is to propose an answer in terms of causes (God did it) or purposes (God has a Plan), but this may just be the problem. Causes and purposes make sense to us, Kant would say, in dealing with phenomenal objects, but in those terms we use each as members of a series, i.e. a cause also has a cause, and a purpose also has a purpose. The boundaries of the series are then trouble, for a causal or purposive series as a whole is an unconditioned reality, and we have the choice between puting unconditioned beginnings and endings to the series, or taking an infinite series as a whole. Kant's argument is that we can clearly conceive neither the unconditioned beginning nor ending to a natural series (since we can always imagine the next or the prior member), nor do we have sufficient reason to choose between a finite but unconditioned series and an infinite series. We are caught in multiple antinomies, which to Kant means that we cannot have a positive speculative metaphysics of transcendent objects.

Now, Kant said he wanted to limit reason to make way for faith. The theists, indeed, have on faith their reason why the world, and why the laws of nature, are the way they are (they just don't want to believe that Evolution is the way the world is). On the other hand, some would say that we don't need any reason, on faith or otherwise, why the world is the way it is. Although in A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking said that, like Einstein, we wanted to know the Mind of God, it turns out that Hawking is actually a kind of positivist. This means he does not believe there even are "laws of nature" in reality, and that what we are doing in science is just making up stuff that, as luck would have it, enables us to make predictions about the future. Now, my feeling is that anyone who doesn't care, or who doesn't ask the question, why our predictions work, or why the world is such that we can "make up" laws of nature that allow us to predict events, suffers from a grave deficiency in curiosity. Why would anyone, who presumably starts out with a desire to know and understand nature, end up embracing a theory that there is nothing to know or understand? If science is just a conjuring trick, based on unknowable realities, why would anyone even call it "science," i.e. scientia, "knowledge"?

The theistic advocates of Intelligent Design like to accuse the Darwinians of dogmatism, although dogmatism, in its original sense (dogma as religious revelation), is exactly what these advocates believe in. A Darwinian, indeed, as a materialist or a positivist, is a kind of dogmatist. What each side would have in common is a lack of curiosity. The theists have a lack of curiosity about science, while the materialists and positivists have a lack of curiosity about metaphysics. What each thinks is sufficient, Creationism with the former and a metaphysical naturalism with the latter, actually is not sufficient -- the one a scientific error, the other a philosophical error. My own view, of course, is to continue down the path of Kantian philosophy.

Copyright (c) 2004, 2005 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

Scientific Naturalism and Intelligent Design, Note

A version of the argument that the laws of nature are insufficient to explain phenomena is the argument from "irreducible complexity." This is the thesis that some biological structures, like the flagella of bacteria, which are the spinning tails that propel them through the water, simply cannot have evolved and been built up from less complex structures. This, of course, obviously requires a bit more than just "intelligent design." It clearly requires, as all such arguments really do, the supernatural intervention, not just of a designer, but of an engineer -- the agent who constructs the prototype.

The argument from "irreducible complexity," however, is simply a version of the larger argument: Because we may not have a naturalistic explanation, and because it is hard to understand at the moment how that would work, there cannot be one and we must resort to supernatural causation. Again, this abandons and prejudges scientific explanation just because there isn't one at the moment. That is not scientific method, but its repudiation. It is also, as it happens, a good example of an informal fallacy of reasoning, the Argumentum ad Ignorantiam, the "argument from ignorance," that because something is not known, or proven, it cannot be. Such a conclusion does not follow.

source: The Proceedings of the Friesian School

Thursday, November 24, 2005

CO2 'highest for 650,000 years'

By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years.

That is the conclusion of new European studies looking at ice taken from 3km below the surface of Antarctica.

The scientists say their research shows present day warming to be exceptional.

Other research, also published in the journal Science, suggests that sea levels may be rising twice as fast now as in previous centuries.

Treasure dome

The evidence on atmospheric concentrations comes from an Antarctic region called Dome Concordia (Dome C).

Over a five year period commencing in 1999, scientists working with the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (Epica) have drilled 3,270m into the Dome C ice, which equates to drilling nearly 900,000 years back in time.

Gas bubbles trapped as the ice formed yield important evidence of the mixture of gases present in the atmosphere at that time, and of temperature.

"One of the most important things is we can put current levels of carbon dioxide and methane into a long-term context," said project leader Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern, Switzerland.

"We find that CO2 is about 30% higher than at any time, and methane 130% higher than at any time; and the rates of increase are absolutely exceptional: for CO2, 200 times faster than at any time in the last 650,000 years."

Stable relationship

Last year, the Epica team released its first data. The latest two papers analyse gas composition and temperature dating back 650,000 years.

This extends the picture drawn by another Antarctic ice core taken near Lake Vostok which looked 440,000 years into the past.

The extra data is crucial because around 420,000 years there appears to have been a significant shift in the Earth's long-term climate patterns.

Before and after this date, the planet went through 100,000 year cycles of alternating cold glacial and warm interglacial periods.

But around the 420,000 year mark, the precise pattern changed, with the contrast between warm and cold conditions becoming much more marked.

The Dome C core gives data from six cycles of glaciation and warming; two from before this change, four from after.

"We found a very tight relationship between CO2 and temperature even before 420,000 years," said Professor Stocker.

"The fact that the relationship holds across the transition between climatic regimes is a very strong indication of the important role of CO2 in climate regulation."

Epica scientists will now try to extend their analysis further back in time.

Water rise

Another study reported in the same journal claims that for the last 150 years, sea levels have been rising twice as fast as in previous centuries.

Using data from tidal gauges and reviewing findings from many previous studies, US researchers have constructed a new sea level record covering the last 100 million years.

They calculate the present rate of rise at 2mm per year.

"The main thing that's changed since the 19th Century and the beginning of modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases," said Kenneth Miller from Rutgers University.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body which collates scientific evidence for policymakers, concludes that sea level rose by 1-2cm during the last century, and will rise by anything up to 88cm by the end of this century.

source: BBC News

Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel

By Murray Waas, special to National Journal

11/22/05 "
National Journal" -- - Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.

The September 21, 2001, briefing was prepared at the request of the president, who was eager in the days following the terrorist attacks to learn all that he could about any possible connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Much of the contents of the September 21 PDB were later incorporated, albeit in a slightly different form, into a lengthier CIA analysis examining not only Al Qaeda's contacts with Iraq, but also Iraq's support for international terrorism. Although the CIA found scant evidence of collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the agency reported that it had long since established that Iraq had previously supported the notorious Abu Nidal terrorist organization, and had provided tens of millions of dollars and logistical support to Palestinian groups, including payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president's national security adviser and deputy national security adviser, the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense, and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

On November 18, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he planned to attach an amendment to the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill that would require the Bush administration to give the Senate and House intelligence committees copies of PDBs for a three-year period. After Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on language for the amendment, Kennedy said he would delay final action on the matter until Congress returns in December.

The conclusions drawn in the lengthier CIA assessment-which has also been denied to the committee-were strikingly similar to those provided to President Bush in the September 21 PDB, according to records and sources. In the four years since Bush received the briefing, according to highly placed government officials, little evidence has come to light to contradict the CIA's original conclusion that no collaborative relationship existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

"What the President was told on September 21," said one former high-level official, "was consistent with everything he has been told since-that the evidence was just not there."

In arguing their case for war with Iraq, the president and vice president said after the September 11 attacks that Al Qaeda and Iraq had significant ties, and they cited the possibility that Iraq might share chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons with Al Qaeda for a terrorist attack against the United States.

Democrats in Congress, as well as other critics of the Bush administration, charge that Bush and Cheney misrepresented and distorted intelligence information to bolster their case for war with Iraq. The president and vice president have insisted that they unknowingly relied on faulty and erroneous intelligence, provided mostly by the CIA.

The new information on the September 21 PDB and the subsequent CIA analysis bears on the question of what the CIA told the president and how the administration used that information as it made its case for war with Iraq.

The central rationale for going to war against Iraq, of course, was that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons, and that he was pursuing an aggressive program to build nuclear weapons. Despite those claims, no weapons were ever discovered after the war, either by United Nations inspectors or by U.S. military authorities.

Much of the blame for the incorrect information in statements made by the president and other senior administration officials regarding the weapons-of-mass-destruction issue has fallen on the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.

In April 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a bipartisan report that the CIA's prewar assertion that Saddam's regime was "reconstituting its nuclear weapons program" and "has chemical and biological weapons" were "overstated, or were not supported by the underlying intelligence provided to the Committee."

The Bush administration has cited that report and similar findings by a presidential commission as evidence of massive CIA intelligence failures in assessing Iraq's unconventional-weapons capability.

Bush and Cheney have also recently answered their critics by ascribing partisan motivations to them and saying their criticism has the effect of undermining the war effort. In a speech on November 11, the president made his strongest comments to date on the subject: "Baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." Since then, he has adopted a different tone, and he said on his way home from Asia on November 21, "This is not an issue of who is a patriot or not."

In his own speech to the American Enterprise Institute yesterday, Cheney also changed tone, saying that "disagreement, argument, and debate are the essence of democracy" and the "sign of a healthy political system." He then added: "Any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false."

Although the Senate Intelligence Committee and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 commission, pointed to incorrect CIA assessments on the WMD issue, they both also said that, for the most part, the CIA and other agencies did indeed provide policy makers with accurate information regarding the lack of evidence of ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

But a comparison of public statements by the president, the vice president, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld show that in the days just before a congressional vote authorizing war, they professed to have been given information from U.S. intelligence assessments showing evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link.

"You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," President Bush said on September 25, 2002.

The next day, Rumsfeld said, "We have what we consider to be credible evidence that Al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts with Iraq who could help them acquire … weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities."

The most explosive of allegations came from Cheney, who said that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, had met in Prague, in the Czech Republic, with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, five months before the attacks. On December 9, 2001, Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press: "[I]t's pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in [the Czech Republic] last April, several months before the attack."

Cheney continued to make the charge, even after he was briefed, according to government records and officials, that both the CIA and the FBI discounted the possibility of such a meeting.

Credit card and phone records appear to demonstrate that Atta was in Virginia Beach, Va., at the time of the alleged meeting, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials. Al-Ani, the Iraqi intelligence official with whom Atta was said to have met in Prague, was later taken into custody by U.S. authorities. He not only denied the report of the meeting with Atta, but said that he was not in Prague at the time of the supposed meeting, according to published reports.

In June 2004, the 9/11 commission concluded: "There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

Regarding the alleged meeting in Prague, the commission concluded: "We do not believe that such a meeting occurred."

Still, Cheney did not concede the point. "We have never been able to prove that there was a connection to 9/11," Cheney said after the commission announced it could not find significant links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. But the vice president again pointed out the existence of a Czech intelligence service report that Atta and the Iraqi agent had met in Prague. "That's never been proved. But it's never been disproved," Cheney said.

The following month, July 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in its review of the CIA's prewar intelligence: "Despite four decades of intelligence reporting on Iraq, there was little useful intelligence collected that helped analysts determine the Iraqi regime's possible links to al-Qaeda."

One reason that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld made statements that contradicted what they were told in CIA briefings might have been that they were receiving information from another source that purported to have evidence of Al Qaeda-Iraq ties. The information came from a covert intelligence unit set up shortly after the September 11 attacks by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith.

Feith was a protégé of, and intensely loyal to, Cheney, Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, and Cheney's then-chief of staff and national security adviser, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. The secretive unit was set up because Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Libby did not believe the CIA would be able to get to the bottom of the matter of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties. The four men shared a long-standing distrust of the CIA from their earlier positions in government, and felt that the agency had failed massively by not predicting the September 11 attacks.

At first, the Feith-directed unit primarily consisted of two men, former journalist Michael Maloof and David Wurmser, a veteran of neoconservative think tanks. They liked to refer to themselves as the "Iraqi intelligence cell" of the Pentagon. And they took pride in the fact that their office was in an out-of-the-way cipher-locked room, with "charts that rung the room from one end to the other" showing the "interconnections of various terrorist groups" with one another and, most important, with Iraq, Maloof recalled in an interview.

They also had the heady experience of briefing Rumsfeld twice, and Feith more frequently, Maloof said. The vice president's office also showed great interest in their work. On at least three occasions, Maloof said, Samantha Ravich, then-national security adviser for terrorism to Cheney, visited their windowless offices for a briefing.

But neither Maloof nor Wurmser had any experience or formal training in intelligence analysis. Maloof later lost his security clearance, for allegedly failing to disclose a relationship with a woman who is a foreigner, and after allegations that he leaked classified information to the press. Maloof said in the interview that he has done nothing wrong and was simply being punished for his controversial theories. Wurmser has since been named as Cheney's Middle East adviser.

In January 2002, Maloof and Wurmser were succeeded at the intelligence unit by two Naval Reserve officers. Intelligence analysis from the covert unit later served as the basis for many of the erroneous public statements made by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others regarding the alleged ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, according to former and current government officials. Intense debates still rage among longtime intelligence and foreign policy professionals as to whether those who cited the information believed it, or used it as propaganda. The unit has since been disbanded.

Earlier this month, on November 14, the Pentagon's inspector general announced an investigation into whether Feith and others associated with the covert intelligence unit engaged in "unauthorized, unlawful, or inappropriate intelligence activities." In a statement, Feith said he is "confident" that investigators will conclude that his "office worked properly and in fact improved the intelligence product by asking good questions."

The Senate Intelligence Committee has also been conducting its own probe of the Pentagon unit. But as was first disclosed by The American Prospect in an article by reporter Laura Rozen, that probe had been hampered by a lack of cooperation from Feith and the Pentagon.

Internal Pentagon records show not only that the small Pentagon unit had the ear of the highest officials in the government, but also that Rumsfeld and others considered the unit as a virtual alternative to intelligence analyses provided by the CIA.

On July 22, 2002, as the run-up to war with Iraq was underway, one of the Naval Reserve officers detailed to the unit sent Feith an e-mail saying that he had just heard that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz wanted "the Iraqi intelligence cell … to prepare an intel briefing on Iraq and links to al-Qaida for the SecDef" and that he was not to tell anyone about it.

After that briefing was delivered, Wolfowitz sent Feith and other officials a note saying: "This was an excellent briefing. The Secretary was very impressed. He asked us to think about possible next steps to see if we can illuminate the differences between us and CIA. The goal was not to produce a consensus product, but rather to scrub one another's arguments."

On September 16, 2002, two days before the CIA produced a major assessment of Iraq's ties to terrorism, the Naval Reserve officers conducted a briefing for Libby and Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser to President Bush.

In a memorandum to Wolfowitz, Feith wrote: "The briefing went very well and generated further interest from Mr. Hadley and Mr. Libby." Both men, the memo went on, requested follow-up material, most notably a "chronology of Atta's travels," a reference to the discredited allegation of an Atta-Iraqi meeting in Prague.

In their presentation, the naval reserve briefers excluded the fact that the FBI and CIA had developed evidence that the alleged meeting had never taken place, and that even the Czechs had disavowed it.

The Pentagon unit also routinely second-guessed the CIA's highly classified assessments. Regarding one report titled "Iraq and al-Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship," one of the Naval Reserve officers wrote: "The report provides evidence from numerous intelligence sources over the course of a decade on interactions between Iraq and al-Qaida. In this regard, the report is excellent. Then in its interpretation of this information, CIA attempts to discredit, dismiss, or downgrade much of this reporting, resulting in inconsistent conclusions in many instances. Therefore, the CIA report should be read for content only-and CIA's interpretation ought to be ignored."

This same antipathy toward the CIA led to the events that are the basis of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity, according to several former and current senior officials.

Ironically, the Plame affair's origins had its roots in Cheney and Libby's interest in reports that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium yellowcake from Niger to build a nuclear weapon. After reading a Pentagon report on the matter in early February 2002, Cheney asked the CIA officer who provided him with a national security briefing each morning if he could find out about it.

Without Cheney's knowledge, his query led to the CIA-sanctioned trip to Niger by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband, to investigate the allegations. Wilson reported back to the CIA that the allegations were most likely not true.

Despite that conclusion, President Bush, in his State of the Union address in 2003, included the Niger allegation in making the case to go to war with Iraq. In July 2003, after the war had begun, Wilson publicly charged that the Bush administration had "twisted" the intelligence information to make the case to go to war.

Libby and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove told reporters that Wilson's had been sent to Niger on the recommendation of his wife, Plame. In the process, the leaks led to the unmasking of Plame, the appointment of Fitzgerald, the jailing of a New York Times reporter for 85 days, and a federal grand jury indictment of Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly attempting to conceal his role in leaking Plame's name to the press.

The Plame affair was not so much a reflection of any personal animus toward Wilson or Plame, says one former senior administration official who knows most of the principals involved, but rather the direct result of long-standing antipathy toward the CIA by Cheney, Libby, and others involved. They viewed Wilson's outspoken criticism of the Bush administration as an indirect attack by the spy agency.

Those grievances were also perhaps illustrated by comments that Vice President Cheney himself wrote on one of Feith's reports detailing purported evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In barely legible handwriting, Cheney wrote in the margin of the report:

"This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."

-- Murray Waas is a Washington-based writer and frequent contributor to National Journal. Several

source: Information Clearing House