Tuesday 20 July 2004

The era of strategic deception

by Eric Margolis

Having presided over the two worst intelligence disasters since Pearl Harbor -- 9/11 and the misbegotten invasion of Iraq -- the Bush Administration and its apologists are now whining, "Okay, we were wrong about Iraq's weapons and supposed threat, but so was everybody else. Besides, it was all the CIA's fault."

No way. The Iraq weapons fiasco was absolutely not caused by an "intelligence failure," as the White House and the recent Senate whitewash claim.

U.S. national security and CIA were corrupted and blinded by extremist ideology, cowardice, and careerism.

Nor was everyone wrong about Iraq.

Scores of Mideast professionals, this writer included, insisted from Day 1 that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, posed no threat to the U.S., and had no link to al-Qaida.

Meanwhile, in 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney thundered that Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons.

A month later, Secretary of State Colin Powell proclaimed "no doubt he (Saddam) has chemical weapons."

Shortly after, President George W. Bush assured the UN that Iraq had biological weapons.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warned a "mushroom cloud" threatened America.

Britain's glib prime minister, Tony Blair, made similar ludicrous claims.

Many veteran CIA officers dismissed these alarms as politically-motivated propaganda.

The U.S. state department, air force, and French intelligence challenged claims Iraq had threatening offensive weapons systems.

Many senior Pentagon military officers opposed invading Iraq.

But the word went out: Now hear this. If you value your job and pension, do not, repeat, do not contradict the boss. The president is hell-bent on invading Iraq. Make it so.

Cheney repeatedly demanded evidence be found of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida.

Oblivious to all facts, he keeps warning Iraq still threatens the U.S. He is increasingly out of touch with reality and may need professional calming.

Former CIA director George Tenet, a political aparatchik, not an intelligence professional, undermined his agency by pandering to all of Bush and Cheney's prejudices.

Careerism and hand-licking took precedence over professionalism. Those with dissenting views were ignored or shunted aside.

This column has long reported smouldering anger among veteran CIA officers over Bush's deeply flawed policies towards Iraq and the Muslim world.

In late 2001, I was shocked and horrified to hear a distinguished member of the CIA's founding families actually claim a "fifth column" had taken control of Iraq policy and was driving the U.S. to war.

But even the compliant CIA failed to satisfy Bush and Cheney's growing demands for more damning "evidence".

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