Bulletin N 208


4 November 2005
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

The center of political power, Washington, D.C., is abuzz with rumors and gossip about the imminent fall of the "Bush-II Regime". The mental health of the President is being questioned now by his fellow Republicans, and Democrats are attempting to varnish their image in preparation for an illustrious return to center stage.

For the tens of millions of ordinary American citizens who are excluded systematically from this kind of "democracy," the activities in the nation's capital today offer lessons. Just as the fall of Joseph McCarthy in 1954 occurred in a matter of months, after his fatal error of accusing the U.S. Army of protecting communists, so the Cheney/Bush political machine will be disassembled quickly. Their days of usefulness are over and, in this case, the fatal error was loosing the war in Iraq. The American public will be asked to swallow the sweet pill of Renewed Patriotism, and social amnesia will shortly follow . . . .

Our research center has received several articles reflecting this moment of a changing political landscape in the U.S.A. The selections below offer the public a rare view of the unseemly machinations in Washington, D.C., of the U.S. government falling apart --sometimes behind closed doors, and sometimes in broad day light.

A. is an article from the Washington Post, which describes the unorthodox behavior on the U.S. Senate floor last Tuesday afternoon, November 1, when a "good-ol' boy" broke from the norm and unexpectedly called for a "closed-door session."  U.S. Senator Harry Reid's demand at first provoked the wrath of some Senators, but later, after the session, it elicited their full cooperation. (We may never know what was discussed in that closed-door session to understand the abrupt change of temperature among those Republican Senators, last Tuesday evening. Presumably, they all saw the proverbial writing on the wall. This was not reported by the Washington Post.)

B. is an article by Professor Stephen Zunes, professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco, in which he describes the typical "fear mongering" tactics of the Bush-II administration, as an effort to influence thinking at every level of American society.

C. includes four articles from former U.S. Senator James Abourezk. Our research associate, Elisabeth Chamorand, forwarded to us, by attachment, these four articles selected by Abourezk (see attachment icons at the bottom of this page), and which in his opinion represent the beginning of the end of the Bush administration.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Universittendhal-Grenoble III

from Charles Babington and Dafna Linzer
Wednesday, November 2, 2005; A01

GOP Angered by Closed Senate Session
Meeting Reopened After Two Hours

Democrats forced the Senate into a rare closed-door session yesterday, infuriating Republicans but extracting from them a promise to speed up an inquiry into the Bush administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the war.

With no warning in the mid-afternoon, the Senate's top Democrat invoked the little-used Rule 21, which forced aides to turn off the chamber's cameras and close its massive doors after evicting all visitors, reporters and most staffers. Plans to bring in electronic-bug-sniffing dogs were dropped when it became clear that senators would trade barbs but discuss no classified information.

Republicans condemned the Democrats' maneuver, which marked the first time in more than 25 years that one party had insisted on a closed session without consulting the other party. But within two hours, Republicans appointed a bipartisan panel to report on the progress of a Senate intelligence committee report on prewar intelligence, which Democrats say has been delayed for nearly a year.

"Finally, after months and months and months of begging, cajoling, writing letters, we're finally going to be able to have phase two of the investigation regarding how the intelligence was used to lead us into the intractable war in Iraq," Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters, claiming a rare victory for Democrats in the GOP-controlled Congress.

Beneath the political pyrotechnics was an issue that has infuriated liberals but flummoxed many of the Democratic lawmakers who voted three years ago to approve the war: allegations that administration officials exaggerated Iraq's weapons capabilities and terrorism ties and then resisted inquiries into the intelligence failures. Friday's indictment of top White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on perjury and obstruction charges gave Democrats a new opening to demand that more light be shed on these issues, including administration efforts to discredit a key critic of the prewar claims of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Democrats were dismayed that President Bush made no apologies after the indictment and that his naming of a new Supreme Court nominee Monday knocked the Libby story off many front pages. As he stood on the Senate floor to demand the closed session -- a motion not subject to a vote under the rule -- Reid said Libby's grand jury indictment "asserts this administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant."

The usually unflappable majority leader, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), was searching for words to express his outrage to reporters a few minutes later. The Senate "has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," he said. "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas." Never before had he been "slapped in the face with such an affront," he said, adding: "For the next year and a half, I can't trust Senator Reid."

Frist seemed much calmer when the closed session ended. He agreed to a six-senator bipartisan task force that will report by Nov. 14 on "the intelligence committee's progress of the phase two review of the prewar intelligence and its schedule for completion."

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said the report was nearing completion anyway, but Democrats disputed that. Committee Vice Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) began inquiring about the evidence against Iraq one week before U.S. troops invaded in March 2003. His interest was sparked by revelations that the Bush administration gave forged documents to U.N. weapons inspectors to support allegations that Iraq had sought to buy a key ingredient for nuclear weapons from the West African nation of Niger.

Roberts resisted a full investigation for three months. But in June 2003, when it became increasingly apparent that no weapons of mass destruction were being found in Iraq, the committee agreed to look into the intelligence cited in the administration's case for war. In February 2004, senators agreed to a second phase that would investigate the Bush administration's use of intelligence and examine public statements made by key policymakers about the threat posed by Iraq.

In July 2004, the committee issued the first phase of its bipartisan report, which found the U.S. intelligence community had assembled a deeply flawed and exaggerated assessment of Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities. The second phase was to focus on the administration's deliberations over the intelligence or how it was used. Sources familiar with the committee's work said there has been little examination of these topics to date.

The Defense Department's Office of Special Plans stopped cooperating with the Senate panel in July of this year. Roberts said key officials hired lawyers and stopped talking when Rockefeller suggested laws may have been broken. But Democrats dismissed that as an excuse.

Authority to hold secret Senate sessions is provided in Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution, and the Continental Congress met behind closed doors. But the practice has ebbed in recent years. The most recent closed Senate session was in February 1999 to deliberate President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, according to the Congressional Research Service, and that was done through a bipartisan agreement.

Reid said he was forced to seek the closed session to spur action on the investigation. "The only way we've been able to get their attention is to spend 3 1/2 hours in a closed session," he said. "It's a slap in the face to the American people that this investigation has been stymied."

Rockefeller said Democratic requests for information related to the investigation are routinely denied or ignored, and he suggested that the Senate Republican leadership was under orders from the Bush administration not to cooperate.

"Any time the intelligence committee pursued a line of inquiry that brought us close to the role of the White House in all of this in the use of intelligence prior to the war, our efforts have been thwarted time and time again," Rockefeller said. "The very independence of the United States Congress as a separate and coequal branch of the government has been called into question."

Staff writer Shailagh Murray contributed to this report.
2005 The Washington Post Company
from Stephen Zunes :
November 01, 2005


by Stephen Zunes(*)

President George W. Bush's October 6 address at the National Endowment for Democracy illustrated his administration's increasingly desperate effort to justify the increasingly unpopular U.S. war in Iraq. The speech focused upon the Bush administration's claim that the Iraqi insurgency against U.S. occupation forces somehow constituted a grave threat to the security of the United States and the entire civilized world.

The speech focused almost entirely the Iraq War. Yet it began with an eloquent remembrance of the horror of September 11, 2001, despite the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, which was committed by the Saudi-led terrorist group al-Qaeda then based in Afghanistan. President Bush then listed a series of terrorist attacks by radical Islamists elsewhere in the world in subsequent years, which again had no connection to Iraq, other than the possibility that some of these attacks might have been prevented had the United States instead chosen to put its resources into fighting al-Qaeda rather than invading Iraq.

On a positive note, Bush reiterated the fact that terrorism in the name of Islam is contrary to the Islamic faith. He acknowledged to a degree he had not yet done so publicly that many of these movements are part of a loose network of local cells rather than a centrally controlled armed force.

Yet much of his speech contained the same misleading rhetoric regarding U.S. policy toward Iraq and the nature of the radical Islamists that has led the United States into its disastrous confrontation in Iraq and has served to weaken America's defenses against the real threat al-Qaeda poses.

Some Samples of President Bush's Misleading Statements "These extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace."

While these extremist groups indeed want to limit American and other Western influence in the region and their ideology certainly does not support democratic institutions or peaceful means to advance their goals, the problems that radical Islamists have with the American role in the Middle East is not related to America's stand in support for democracy and peace. As made clear by their manifestoes and by interviews with individual leaders, the radical Islamist opposition to the United States stems primarily from U.S. support for autocratic Arab governments, the invasion of Iraq, the ongoing U.S. military presence in the region, U.S. backing for the Israeli occupation, and related concerns which have nothing to do with democracy and peace.

"Al-Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, quote, their 'resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of their lands.' Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run. They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993--only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences."

Al-Qaeda has existed for barely a dozen years. The network didn't exist a quarter century ago. Nor is there any indication that they "expect us to run" when hit. If anything, their hope and expectation is that the U.S. will continue to overreact through disproportionate and misapplied military force that will further contribute to the dramatic increase in anti-Americanism throughout the Islamic world and thereby increase their ranks.

The "sad history of Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993" was not the belated withdrawal of U.S. forces but that the U.S. intervened militarily in those countries in the first place. The resistance that fought U.S. Marines in Lebanon was composed of primarily Shiite and Druze militiamen who have never had any affiliation with al-Qaeda, which is a Salafi Sunni organization. In Somalia, U.S. forces battled militiamen affiliated with a number of Somali clans, none of which had any connection with al-Qaeda. Had President Reagan and President Clinton instead decided to keep American forces engaged in the factionalized civil wars in Lebanon and Somalia, it would have likely increased the numbers and influence of Islamic extremists in those countries and elsewhere, just as the failure to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq has done.

"The militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. Now they have set their sight on Iraq....We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror."

While small groups of radical Islamists have engaged in a series of terrorist bombings and assassinations in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Jordan in recent years, they never had much of a popular following and were never a serious threat to the survival of any of those regimes.

They succeeded in Afghanistan in large part due to the U.S. government sending as much as $5 billion in military aid to radical Islamic groups back in the 1980s during their fight with Afghanistan's Communist government and its Soviet backers.

The "vacuum" that would allow radical Islamists to pose a challenge to the Iraqi government has already taken place as a direct result of the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power by U.S. forces. Prior to the U.S. invasion, the only major base of operations for such radical Islamists was Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi's encampment in the far northeastern corner of Iraq, located within the autonomous Kurdish areas where Saddam's government had no control. Now, as a result of the U.S. invasion, Al-Zarqawi's militants operate throughout the Sunni heartland of central Iraq and their numbers have dramatically increased.

"The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation."

It is quite possible that these Salafi Sunni revivalists indeed harbor such fantasies, but they are just that--fantasies. The United States has more than a dozen allied governments in the region that have the motivation and ability to resist these fanatics, who have relatively few adherents within these or any other county in the Islamic world outside Iraq.

There are dozens of armed groups in Iraq battling U.S. occupation forces and the U.S.-backed government, which include supporters of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, other Baathists, independent nationalists, various Shiite factions, tribal-based groupings, and a number of Sunni Arab factions. The al-Qaeda inspired jihadists whom Bush focused upon in his speech are probably responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians, but they represent only a small minority of the insurgency.

Even in the unlikely event of the overthrow of the Iraqi government, it is extremely doubtful that these more extreme elements would end up in control.

"Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, 'We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life.' And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history."

The idea that Al-Zarqawi could somehow obtain the power of Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin is utterly ludicrous. He lacks the resources, the state apparatus, the popular support, the propaganda machinery, the disciplined political party, the armed force, the industrial base, or any other attribute that could conceivably give him that kind of power. Bush is cynically playing on the fears of American people and shows a callous disrespect to the millions who died under these totalitarian rulers.

"Defeating the militant network is difficult, because it thrives, like a parasite, on the suffering and frustration of others . . ."

What Bush fails to note is that much of the suffering and frustration felt by the Iraqi people is a direct result of U.S. policy. Not only did the Iraqi people suffer under decades of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship (which was backed by the United States during the peak of his repression in the 1980s), the U.S. led one of most intense bombing campaigns in world history against Iraq in 1991, resulting in severe damage to the civilian infrastructure. This was followed by a dozen years of crippling U.S.-led economic sanctions that resulted in the deaths hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly children, from malnutrition and preventable diseases. As a result of the U.S. invasion, at least 20,000 civilians have died violent deaths, the country is facing a low-level civil war and an unprecedented crime wave, basic utilities have yet to be restored on a regular basis, unemployment is at an all-time high, there are mounting ethnic tensions which threaten to tear the country apart, priceless national artifacts have been stolen or destroyed from museums and archeological sites, and infant mortality is way up.

"The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They have been sheltered by authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience like Syria and Iran..."

The Bush administration has failed to present any credible evidence that either Syria or Iran is backing the radical Islamists.

On the contrary, Iran is actively supporting the Iraqi government, which is dominated by pro-Iranian Shiite parties and whose leadership spent years of exile in Iran. The Iranian government supports the proposed constitution and backed last January's elections. In fact, Iran has provided security assistance and training to the Iranian government in their counter-insurgency efforts. The Iranian regime has long opposed al-Qaeda and nearly went to war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan several years ago.

Similarly, the Syrian government is a secular nationalist regime dominated by members of the Alawite branch of Islam, which is far closer to the Shiites than the Sunnis. Syria has provided the United States with valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda and has tracked down, jailed, tortured, and killed al-Qaeda suspects.

"Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001--and al-Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet the militants killed more than 180 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan."

No one has claimed that the Islamist radicals responsible for the massacre in Beslan were in any way motivated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Those terrorists were Chechen nationalists fighting against the Russian occupation of their homeland. Even the CIA, top Pentagon officials and other U.S. government agencies have acknowledged that the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the bloody counter-insurgency operations that followed has greatly enhanced the appeal of radical Islamist groups and enhanced their recruitment.

"Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence--the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago... No act of ours invited the rage of the killers--and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder."

No major opponent of the U.S. war in Iraq and other U.S. policies in the Middle East is calling for concessions, bribes or appeasement as a means of influencing the behavior of al-Qaeda and like-minded extremists. A strong case can be made, however, that many U.S. policies have strengthened these movements by encouraging the growth of anti-Americanism in the Islamic world, thereby increasing the appeal in the Islamic world of extremist ideologies.

The U.S. should cease its unconditional military, diplomatic and economic support for autocratic Middle Eastern regimes and Israeli occupation forces, not for the sake of appeasing terrorists, but because no country that espouses freedom and the rule of law should support governments that engage in gross and systematic human rights violations.

"The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account."

If Bush really believes this, it would behoove him to start with the government over which he has the most control: that of the United States. Some known terrorists have sought sanctuary in the U.S. and the Bush administration has refused to bring them to justice through extradition or trial. A recent high-profile case involves the exiled Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, whom the U.S. refuses to extradite to Venezuela to faces charges for masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner which resulted in the deaths of all 73 passengers and crew.

"Some observers also claim that America would be better off by cutting our losses and leaving Iraq now. This is a dangerous illusion, refuted with a simple question: Would the United States and other free nations be more safe, or less safe, with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq, its people, and its resources? Having removed a dictator who hated free peoples, we will not stand by as a new set of killers, dedicated to the destruction of our own country, seizes control of Iraq by violence."

This is totally spurious argument. By virtually all accounts of scholars and journalists familiar with the various constituent elements of the Iraqi insurgency, the vast majority of the insurgents are not dedicated to the destruction of the United States. They merely want foreign occupation forces out of their country. Radical Islamist elements led by Al-Zarqawi and other supporters of bin Laden had virtually no presence in Iraq until after the United States invaded the country and grew in subsequent months as a reaction to the large-scale civilian casualties from U.S. counter-insurgency tactics. As a result, a strong case can be made that the continued prosecution of the war actually increases the chances that Al-Zarqawi and likeminded radicals could take over the country.

"If the peoples of that region are permitted to choose their own destiny, and advance by their own energy and by their participation as free men and women, then the extremists will be marginalized, and the flow of violent radicalism to the rest of the world will slow, and eventually end. By standing for the hope and freedom of others, we make our own freedom more secure."

In reality, the United States is doing very little to advance the cause of self-determination, the rule of law, religious freedom and equal rights for women in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. For example, the U.S. trains Saudi Arabia's repressive internal security apparatus and sells billions of dollars worth of weapons annually to the family dictatorship that rules that country. Saudi Arabia has no constitution and no legislature. It bans the practice of any faith besides Islam, practices torture on an administrative basis, and is perhaps the most misogynist country in the world.

Similarly, the Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak remains the second largest recipient of U.S. economic and military assistance despite ongoing repression of pro-democracy movements and their leaders.

The United States also continues to maintain close military and political ties to autocratic regimes in Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Morocco, among others. The U.S. is the world's number one supplier of military and police training to autocratic regimes and occupation armies in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia.

It is also utterly false to claim that the United States supports the right of self-determination in the Middle East, since the Bush administration continues to support the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and the Golan Heights of Syria, as well as Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara. These occupations are maintained in violation through ongoing violations of international humanitarian law, the UN Charter, and a series of UN Security Council resolutions.

In Iraq, the United States continues to deny the Iraqi government full sovereignty through its continued control of important areas of fiscal, security and economic policy. In addition, the proposed constitution being pushed by the Bush administration actually allows for fewer rights for women and less religious freedom than that under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.


Given the large number of misleading statements in this key foreign policy address, it is profoundly disappointing that the mainstream media appears to have taken it so seriously. There has been little critical analysis of the president's remarks and headlines have instead focused upon the unsubstantiated claim in the speech that the United States had in recent years foiled 10 planned al-Qaeda attacks.

It is similarly disappointing that leading Democrats in Congress have not attempted to expose the fallacious arguments in this address either. Doing so could advance their party's chances to win back the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. Since the Democratic Congressional leadership and the vast majority of Democratic Senators and Representatives have chosen to continue their support of the Iraq War, however, it is perhaps not surprising that they remain unwilling to challenge the myths that perpetuate it.

As a result, it is up to American people to not only challenge the Bush administration's falsehoods and misleading statements, but to challenge those in the media and in Congress who allow them to get away with such dangerous and illegitimate policies.

(*)Stephen Zunes, Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org), is a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003).
from Elisabeth Chamorand :
Date : Wed, 2 Nov 2005
Objet : LieGate, Iraq, the Gulf of Tonkin and Bush's breakdown

Four excellent articles sent by Jim Abourezk are attached with this short message.

        Fascinating day of articles already:

                "The Lie Factory".....a somewhat frightening look at the complex (and yet to see the light of day) process that

                        allowed the administration to lie its way into this war.

                "Bigger than Watergate"....the far lefts unshackled view of the scandal.

                "Vietnam Study, Casting Doubt, Remains Secret"....tells of the internal investigation and report of the NSAs

                        manipulation of false intelligence to produce the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.  This was completed in 2001

                        and has been hidden by the agency and the administration to avoid the obvious parallels with Iraq.

And last,

                "The Bush mental breakdown," continues with a shocking standoff at Camp David this last weekend.


Jim Abourezk

1208 W. Elkhorn St.

Sioux Falls, SD 57103-0218


The Lie Factory

Mother Jones
January 26, 2004
Mother Jones, January/February 2004
Only weeks after 9/11, the Bush administration set up a secret Pentagon unit to create the case for invading Iraq. Here is the inside story for how they pushed disinformation and bogus intelligence and led the nation to war.
IT'S A CRISP FALL DAY IN WESTERN VIRGINIA, a hundred miles from Washington, D.C., and a breeze is rustling the red and gold leaves of the Shenandoah hills. On the weather-beaten wood porch of a ramshackle 90-year-old farmhouse, at the end of a winding dirt-and-gravel road, Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski is perched on a plastic chair, wearing shorts, a purple sweatshirt, and muddy sneakers. Two scrawny dogs and a lone cat are on the prowl, and tne air is filled with swarms
So far, she says, no investigators have come knocking. Not from the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducted an internal inquiry into intelligence on Iraq, not from the congressional intelligence committees, not from the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. All of those bodies are ostensibly looking into the Bush administration's prewar Iraq intelligence, amid charges that the White House and the Pentagon exaggerated, distorted, or just plain lied about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda terrorists and its possession of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. In her hands, Kwiatkowski holds several pieces of the puzzle. Yet she, along with a score of other career officers recently retired or shuffled off to other jobs, has not been approached by anyone.
Kwiatkowski, 43, a now-retired Air Force officer who served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia (NESA) unit in the year before the invasion of Iraq, observed how the Pentagon's Iraq war-planning unit manufactured scare stories about Iraq's weapons and ties to terrorists. "It wasn't intelligence-it was propaganda," she says. "They'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together." It was by turning such bogus intelligence into talking points for U.S. officials-including ominous lines in speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony at the U.N. Security Council last February-that the administration pushed American public opinion into supporting an unnecessary war.
Until now, the story of how the Bush administration produced its wildly exaggerated estimates of the threat posed by Iraq has never been revealed in full. But, for the first time, a detailed investigation by Mother Jones, based on dozens of interviews-some on the record, some with officials who insisted on anonymity-exposes the workings of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit and of the Defense Department's war-planning task force, the Office of Special Plans. It's the story of a close-knit team of ideologues who spent a decade or more hammering out plans for an attack on Iraq and who used the events of September 11, 2001, to set it into motion.
SIX MONTHS AFTER THE END of major combat in Iraq, the United States had spent $300 million trying to find banned weapons in Iraq, and President Bush was seeking $600 million more to extend the search. Not found were Iraq's Scuds and other long-range missiles, thousands of barrels and tons of anthrax and botulism stock, sarin and VX nerve agents, mustard gas, biological and chemical munitions, mobile labs for producing biological weapons, and any and all evidence of a reconstituted nuclear-arms program, all of which had been repeatedly cited as justification for the war. Also missing was evidence of Iraqi collaboration with Al Qaeda.
The reports, virtually all false, of Iraqi weapons and terrorism ties emanated from an apparatus that began to gestate almost as soon as the Bush administration took power. In the very first meeting of the Bush national-security team, one day after President Bush took the oath of office in January 2001, the issue of invading Iraq was raised, according to one of the participants in the meeting-and officials all the way down the line started to get the message, long before 9/11. Indeed, the Bush team at the Pentagon hadn't even been formally installed before Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense, and Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy, began putting together what would become the vanguard for regime change in Iraq.
Both Wolfowitz and Feith have deep roots in the neoconservative movement. One of the most influential Washington neoconservatives in the foreign-policy establishment during the Republicans' wilderness years of the 1990s, Wolfowitz has long held that not taking Baghdad in 1991 was a grievous mistake. He and others now prominent in the administration said so repeatedly over the past decade in a slew of letters and policy papers from neoconservative groups like the Project for the New American Century and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Feith, a former aide to Richard Perle at the Pentagon in the 1980s and an activist in far-right Zionist circles, held the view that there was no difference between U.S. and Israeli security policy and that the best way to secure both countries' future was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem not by serving as a broker, but with the United States as a force for "regime change" in the region.
Called in to help organize the Iraq war-planning team was a longtime Pentagon official, Harold Rhode, a specialist on Islam who speaks Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and Farsi. Though Feith would not be officially confirmed until July 2001, career military and civilian officials in NESA began to watch his office with concern after Rhode set up shop in Feith's office in early January. Rhode, seen by many veteran staffers as an ideological gadfly, was officially assigned to the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, an in-house Pentagon think tank headed by fellow neocon Andrew Marshall. Rhode helped Feith lay down the law about the department's new anti-Iraq, and broadly anti-Arab, orientation. In one telling incident, Rhode accosted and harangued a visiting senior Arab diplomat, telling him that there would be no "bartering in the bazaar anymore.... You're going to have to sit up and pay attention when we say so."
Rhode refused to be interviewed for this story, saying cryptically, "Those who speak, pay."
According to insiders, Rhode worked with Feith to purge career Defense officials who weren't sufficiently enthusiastic about the muscular anti-Iraq crusade that Wolfowitz and Feith wanted. Rhode appeared to be "pulling people out of nooks and crannies of the Defense Intelligence Agency and other places to replace us with," says a former analyst. "They wanted nothing to do with the professional staff. And they wanted us the fuck out of there."
The unofficial, off-site recruitment office for Feith and Rhode was the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank whose 12th-floor conference room in Washington is named for the dean of neoconservative defense strategists, the late Albert Wohlstetter, an influential RAND analyst and University of Chicago mathematician. Headquartered at AEI is Richard Perle, Wohlstetter's prize protege, the godfather of the AEI-Defense Department nexus of neoconservatives who was chairman of the Pentagon's influential Defense Policy Board. Rhode, along with Michael Rubin, a former AEI staffer who is also now at the Pentagon, was a ubiquitous presence at AEI conferences on Iraq over the past two years, and the two Pentagon officials seemed almost to be serving as stage managers for the AEI events, often sitting in the front row and speaking in stage whispers to panelists and AEI officials. Just after September 11, 2001, Feith and Rhode recruited David Wurmser, the director of Middle East studies for AEI, to serve as a Pentagon consultant.
Wurmser would be the founding participant of the unnamed, secret intelligence unit at the Pentagon, set up in Feith's office, which would be the nucleus of the Defense Department's Iraq disinformation campaign that was established within weeks of the attacks in New York and Washington. While the CIA and other intelligence agencies concentrated on Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda as the culprit in the 9/11 attacks, Wolfowitz and Feith obsessively focused on Iraq. It was a theory that was discredited, even ridiculed, among intelligence professionals. Daniel Benjamin, co-author of The Age of Sacred Terror, was director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council in the late 1990s. "In 1998, we went through every piece of intelligence we could find to see if there was a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq," he says. "We came to the conclusion that our intelligence agencies had it right: There was no noteworthy relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq. I know that for a fact." Indeed, that was the consensus among virtually all anti-terrorism specialists.
In short, Wurmser, backed by Feith and Rhode, set out to prove what didn't exist.
IN AN ADMINISTRATION devoted to the notion of "Feith-based intelligence," Wurmser was ideal. For years, he'd been a shrill ideologue, part of the minority crusade during the 1990s that was beating the drums for war against Iraq. Along with Perle and Feith, in 1996 Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav, wrote a provocative strategy paper for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." It called on Israel to work with Jordan and Turkey to "contain, destabilize and roll back" various states in the region, overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq, press Jordan to restore a scion of the Hashemite dynasty to the Iraqi throne, and, above all, launch military assaults against Lebanon and Syria as a "prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial integrity."
In 1997, Wurmser wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal called "Iraq Needs a Revolution" and the next year co-signed a letter with Perle calling for all-out U.S. support of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group led by Ahmad Chalabi, in promoting an insurgency in Iraq. At AEI, Wurmser wrote Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, essentially a book-length version of "A Clean Break" that proposed an alliance between Jordan and the INC to redraw the map of the Middle East. Among the mentors cited by Wurmser in the book: Chalabi, Perle, and Feith.
The purpose of the unnamed intelligence unit, often described as a Pentagon "cell," was to scour reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies to find nuggets of information linking Iraq, Al Qaeda, terrorism, and the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In a controversial press briefing in October 2002, a year after Wurmser's unit was established, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that a primary purpose of the unit was to cull factoids, which were then used to disparage, undermine, and contradict the CIA's reporting, which was far more cautious and nuanced than Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith wanted. Rumsfeld particularly enjoyed harassing the CIA staffer who briefed him every morning, using the type of data produced by the intelligence unit. "What I could do is say, 'Gee, what about this?'" Rumsfeld noted. "'Or what about that? Has somebody thought of this?'" Last June, when Feith was questioned on the same topic at a briefing, he acknowledged that the secret unit in fact looked at the connection between Iraq and terrorism, saying, "You can't rely on deterrence to deal with the problem of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of state sponsors of terrorism because [of] the possibility that those state sponsors might employ chemical weapons or biological weapons by means of a terrorist organization proxy...."
Though Feith, in that briefing, described Wurmser's unit as an innocent project, "a global exercise" that was not meant to put pressure on other intelligence agencies or create skewed intelligence to fit preconceived policy notions, many other sources assert that it did exactly that. That the White House and the Pentagon put enormous pressure on the CIA to go along with its version of events has been widely reported, highlighted by visits to CIA headquarters by Vice President Cheney and Lewis Libby, his chief of staff. Led by Perle, the neocons seethed with contempt for the CIA. The CIA'S analysis, said Perle, "isn't worth the paper it's printed on." Standing in a crowded hallway during an AEI event, Perle added, "The CIA is status quo oriented. They don't want to take risks."
That became the mantra of the shadow agency within an agency.
Putting Wurmser in charge of the unit meant that it was being run by a pro-Iraq-war ideologue who'd spent years calling for a pre-emptive invasion of Baghdad and who was clearly predisposed to find what he wanted to see. Adding another layer of dubious quality to the endeavor was the man partnered with Wurmser, F. Michael Maloof. Maloof, a former aide to Perle in the 1980s Pentagon, was twice stripped of his high-level security clearances-once in late 2001 and again last spring, for various infractions. Maloof was also reportedly involved in a bizarre scheme to broker contacts between Iraqi officials and the Pentagon, channeled through Perle, in what one report called a "rogue [intelligence] operation" outside officiai CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency channels.
As the momentum for war began to build in early 2002, Wolfowitz and Feith beefed up the intelligence unit and created an Iraq war-planning unit in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia Affairs section, run by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense William Luti, under the rubric "Office of Special Plans," or OSP; the new unit's director was Abram N. Shulsky. By then, Wurmser had moved on to a post as senior adviser to Undersecretary of State John Bolton, yet another neocon, who was in charge of the State Department's disarmament, proliferation, and WMD office and was promoting the Iraq war strategy there. Shulsky's OSP, which incorporated the secret intelligence unit, took control, banishing veteran experts-including Joseph McMillan, James Russell, Larry Hanauer, and Marybeth McDevitt-who, despite years of service to NESA, either were shuffled off to other positions or retired. For the next year, Luti and Shulsky not only would oversee war plans but would act aggressively to shape the intelligence product received by the White House.
Both Luti and Shulsky were neoconservatives who were ideological soulmates of Wolfowitz and Feith. But Luti was more than that. He'd come to the Pentagon directly from the office of Vice President Cheney. That gave Luti, a recently retired, decorated Navy captain whose career ran from combat aviation to command of a helicopter assault ship, extra clout. Along with his colleague Colonel William Bruner, Luti had done a stint as an aide to Newt Gingrich in 1996 and, like Perle and Wolfowitz, was an acolyte of Wohlstetter's. "He makes Ollie North look like a moderate," says a NESA veteran.
Shulsky had been on the Washington scene since the mid-1970s. As a Senate intelligence committee staffer for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he began to work with early neoconservatives like Perle, who was then an aide to Senator Henry Jackson. Later, in the Reagan years, Shulsky followed Perle to the Pentagon as Perle's arms-control adviser. In the '90s, Shulsky co-authored a book on intelligence called Silent Warfare, with Gary Schmitt. Shulsky had served with Schmitt on Moynihan's staff and they had remained friends. Asked about the Pentagon's Iraq intelligence "cell," Schmitt-who is currently the executive director of the Project for the New American Century-says that he can't say much about it "because one of my best friends is running it."
According to Lt. Colonel Kwiatkowski, Luti and Shulsky ran NESA and the Office of Special Plans with brutal efficiency, purging people they disagreed with and enforcing the party line. "It was organized like a machine," she says. "The people working on the neocon agenda had a narrow, well-defined political agenda. They had a sense of mission." At NESA, Shulsky, she says, began "hot-desking," or taking an office wherever he could find one, working with Feith and Luti, before formally taking the reins of the newly created OSP. Together, she says, Luti and Shulsky turned cherry-picked pieces of uncorroborated, anti-Iraq intelligence into talking points, on issues like Iraq's WMD and its links to Al Qaeda. Shulsky constantly updated these papers, drawing on the intelligence unit, and circulated them to Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld, and to Vice President Cheney. "Of course, we never thought they'd go directly to the White House," she adds.
Kwiatkowski recalls one meeting in which Luti, pressed to finish a report, told the staff, "I've got to get this over to 'Scooter' right away." She later found out that "Scooter" was none other than Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. According to Kwiatkowski, Cheney had direct ties through Luti into NESA/OSP, a connection that was highly unorthodox.
"Never, ever, ever would a deputy undersecretary of Defense work directly on a project for the vice president," she says. "It was a little clue that we had an informal network into Vice President Cheney's office."
Although Feith insists that the OSP did not seek to gather its own intelligence, Kwiatkowski and others sharply disagree. Staff working for Luti and Shulsky in NESA/OSP churned out propaganda-style intelligence, she says. As an example, she cited the work of a U.S. intelligence officer and Arabic specialist, Navy Lt. Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, who was a special assistant to Luti. "His job was to peruse the Arabic-language media to find articles that would incriminate Saddam Hussein about terrorism, and he translated these." Such raw intelligence is usually subject to a thorough vetting process, tracked, verified, and checked by intelligence professionals. But not at OSP-the material that it produced found its way directly into speeches by Bush, Cheney, and other officials.
According to Melvin Goodman, a former CIA official and an intelligence specialist at the National War College, the OSP officials routinely pushed lower-ranking staff around on intelligence matters. "People were being pulled aside [and being told], 'We saw your last piece and it's not what we're looking for,'" he says. "It was pretty blatant." Two State Department intelligence officials, Greg Thielmann and Christian Westermann, have both charged that pressure was being put on them to shape intelligence to fit policy, in particular from Bolton's office. "The Al Qaeda connection and nuclear weapons issue were the only two ways that you could link Iraq to an imminent security threat to the U.S.," Thielmann told the New York Times. "And the administration was grossly distorting the intelligence on both things."
BESIDES CHENEY, key members of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, including Perle and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all Iraq hawks, had direct input into NESA/OSP. The offices of NESA were located on the Pentagon's fourth floor, seventh corridor of D Ring, and the Policy Board's offices were directly below, on the third floor. During the run-up to the Iraq war, Gingrich often came up for closed-door meetings with Luti, who in 1996 had served as a congressional fellow in Speaker of the House Gingrich's office.
As OSP got rolling, Luti brought in Colonel Bruner, a former military aide to Gingrich, and, together, Luti and Bruner opened the door to a vast flow of bogus intelligence fed to the Pentagon by Iraqi defectors associated with Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress group of exiles. Chalabi founded the Iraqi National Congress in 1992, with the help of a shadowy CIA-connected public-relations firm called the Rendon Group, one of whose former employees, Francis Brooke, has been a top aide to Chalabi ever since. A scion of an aristocratic Iraqi family, Chalabi fled Baghdad at the age of 13, in 1958, when the corrupt Iraqi Hashemite monarchy was overthrown by a coalition of communists and the Iraqi military. In the late 1960s, Chalabi studied mathematics at the University of Chicago with Wohlstetter, who introduced him to Richard Perle more than a decade later. Long associated with the heart of the neoconservative movement, Chalabi founded Petra Bank in Jordan, which grew to be Jordan's third-largest bank by the 1980s. But Chalabi was accused of bank fraud, embezzlement, and currency manipulation, and he barely escaped before Jordanian authorities could arrest him; in 1992, he was convicted and sentenced in absentia to more than 20 years of hard labor. After founding the INC, Chalabi's bungling, unreliability, and penchant for mismanaging funds caused the CIA to sour on him, but he never lost the support of Perle, Feith, Gingrich, and their allies; once, soon after 9/11, Perle invited Chalabi to address the Defense Policy Board.
According to multiple sources, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress sent a steady stream of misleading and often faked intelligence reports into U.S. intelligence channels. That information would flow sometimes into NESA/OSP directly, sometimes through Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings of Iraqi defectors via the Defense Human Intelligence Service, and sometimes through the INC's own U.S.-funded Intelligence Collection Program, which was overseen by the Pentagon. The INC's intelligence "isn't reliable at all," according to Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA chief of counterterrorism.
"Much of it is propaganda. Much of it is telling the Defense Department what they want to hear, using alleged informants and defectors who say what Chalabi wants them to say, [creating] cooked information that goes right into presidential and vice presidential speeches."
Bruner, the aide to Luti and Gingrich's former staffer, "was Chalabi's handler," says Kwiatkowski. "He would arrange meetings with Chalabi and Chalabi's folks," she says, adding that the INC leader often brought people into the NESA/OSP offices for debriefings. Chalabi claims to have introduced only three actual defectors to the Pentagon, a figure Thielmann considers "awfully low." However, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times, the three defectors provided by Chalabi turned up exactly zero useful intelligence. The first, an Iraqi engineer, claimed to have specific information about biological weapons, but his information didn't pan out; the second claimed to know about mobile labs, but that information, too, was worthless; and the third, who claimed to have data about Iraq's nuclear program, proved to be a fraud. Chalabi also claimed to have given the Pentagon information about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda. "We gave the names of people who were doing the links," he told an interviewer from PBS'S Frontline. Those links, of course, have not been discovered. Thielmann told the same Frontline interviewer that the Office of Special Plans didn't apply strict intelligence-verification standards to "some of the information coming out of Chalabi and the INC that OSP and the Pentagon ran with."
In the war's aftermath, the Defense Intelligence Agency-which is not beholden to the neoconservative civilians at the Pentagon-leaked a report it prepared, concluding that few, if any, of the INC's informants provided worthwhile intelligence.
SO FAR, DESPITE ALL of the investigations underway, there is little sign that any of them are going to delve into the operations of the Luti-Shulsky Office of Special Plans and its secret intelligence unit. Because it operates in the Pentagon's policy shop, it is not officially part of the intelligence community, and so it is seemingly immune to congressional oversight.
With each passing day, it is becoming excruciatingly clearer just how wrong U.S. intelligence was in regard to Iraqi weapons and support for terrorism. The American teams of inspectors in the Iraq Survey Group, which has employed up to 1,400 people to scour the country and analyze the findings, have not been able to find a shred of evidence of anything other than dusty old plans and records of weapons apparently destroyed more than a decade ago. Countless examples of fruitless searches have been reported in the media. To cite one example: U.S. soldiers followed an intelligence report claiming that a complex built for Uday Hussein, Saddam's son, hid a weapons warehouse with poison-gas storage tanks. "Well," U.S. Army Major Ronald Hann Jr. told the Los Angeles Times, "the warehouse was a carport. It still had two cars inside. And the tanks had propane for the kitchen."
Countless other errors and exaggerations have become evident. The thousands of aluminum tubes supposedly imported by Iraq for uranium enrichment were fairly conclusively found to be designed to build noncontroversial rockets. The long-range unmanned aerial vehicles, allegedly built to deliver bioweapons, were small, rickety, experimental planes with wood frames. The mobile bioweapon labs turned out to have had other, civilian purposes. And the granddaddy of all falsehoods, the charge that Iraq sought uranium in the West African country of Niger, was based on forged documents-documents that the CIA, the State Department, and other agencies knew were fake nearly a year before President Bush highlighted the issue in his State of the Union address in January 2003.
"Either the system broke down," former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was sent by the CIA to visit Niger and whose findings helped show that the documents were forged, told Mother Jones, "or there was selective use of bits of information to justify a decision to go to war that had already been taken."
Edward Luttwak, a neoconservative scholar and author, says flatly that the Bush administration lied about the intelligence it had because it was afraid to go to the American people and say that the war was simply about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Instead, says Luttwak, the White House was groping for a rationale to satisfy the United Nations' criteria for war. "Cheney was forced into this fake posture of worrying about weapons of mass destruction," he says. "The ties to Al Qaeda? That's complete nonsense."
In the Senate, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is pressing for the Intelligence Committee to extend its investigation to look into the specific role of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, but there is strong Republican resistance to the idea.
In the House, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation calling for a commission to investigate the intelligence mess and has collected more than a hundred Democrats-but no Republicans-in support of it. "I think they need to be looked at pretty carefully," Waxman told Mother Jones when asked about the Office of Special Plans. "I'd like to know whether the political people pushed the intelligence people to slant their conclusions."
Congressman Waxman, meet Lt. Colonel Kwiatkowski.


Bushs Increasing Mental Lapses and Temper Tantrums Worry White House Aides
Nov 2, 2005, 05:26

An uncivil war rages inside the walls of the West Wing of the White House, a bitter, acrimonious war driven by a failed agenda, destroyed credibility, dwindling public support and a President who lapses into Alzheimer-like periods of incoherent babbling.

On one side are the dwindling numbers of die-hard loyalists to President George W. Bush, those who support his actions and decisions without question and remain committed to both Bush and scandal-scarred political advisor Karl Rove.

On the other side are the increasing numbers of those who say Rove must go and who worry about the President's declining mental state and his ability to restore credibility with Congress, our foreign allies and the American people.

The war erupted into full-blown shout fests at Camp David this past weekend where decorum broke down in staff meetings and longtime aides threatened to quit unless Rove goes. Insiders say Chief of Staff Andrew Card now leads the anti-Rove legions and has told Bush that he wants out of the high-pressure job.

White House staff members say the White House is like a wartime bunker where shell-shocked aides hide from those who disagree with their actions and office pools speculate on how long certain senior aides will last.

Bush, whose obscenity-laced temper tantrums increase with each new setback and scandal, abruptly ended one Camp David meeting by telling everyone in the room to go fuck yourselves before he stalked out of the room.

Senior aides describe Bush as increasingly edgy or nervous or unfocused. They say the President goes from apparent coherent thought one moment to aimless rambles about political enemies and those who are out to get me.

Its worse than the days when Ronald Reagans Alzheimers began setting in, one longtime GOP operative told me privately this week. You dont know if hes going to be coherent from one moment to the next. What scares me is if he lapses into one of those fogs during a public appearance.

Aides say Bush, who has always had trouble focusing during times of stress, is increasingly distant during meetings, often staring off into space during discussions on the nations security and other issues.

Card has responded to the crisis by cutting back on the number of staff members with direct access to the President and jumping in to answer questions when Bushs mind wanders.

Some people say Karl Rove is Bushs brain, says one increasingly-concerned West Winger. Well Andy has become the Presidents voice. Hes there to speak when the President seems unable to find form an answer.

Bushs mental state is a hot topic on Internet blogs and has increased since this web site disclosed last year that the White House physician had placed the President on anti-depressant medication a story the administration never denied. Others, including prominent psychiatrists like Dr. Justin Frank of George Washington University, wonder if Bush, an admitted heavy drinker who claims he quit without any professional help, is hitting the bottle again.

An increasing number of mainstream media outlets, including Newsweek, The Washington Post and the New York Daily News recently confirmed our earlier reports about Bushs temper tantrums.

Bush usually reserves his celebrated temper for senior aides because he knows they can take it, the Daily News reported. Lately, however, some junior staffers also have faced the bosss wrath.

This is not some manager at McDonalds chewing out the help," a source with close ties to the White House told the paper. This is the president of the United States, and its not a pleasant sight.

Bush loyalists claim the President can survive his current spate of political troubles and emerge stronger than ever but an increasing number of White House aides express increasing doubt. Some even go so far as to speculate if the Presidents deteriorating mental condition can survive another three years in office.

The President has lost his focus, his ability to govern and the trust of the American people, says one longtime GOP operative. Those are things that are difficult to recapture when youre on top of your game and this President has taken one too many blows to the head.


Bigger than Watergate
    By Ted Rall
    Yahoo News
Tuesday 01 November 2005

Bush-Cheney traitors deserve prison, impeachment.
    Urbana, Illinois - To weigh the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame against historical standards, consider that no leader of the Soviet Union-including that master of ruthlessness, Josef Stalin-ever arranged for the name of a KGB operative to appear in a newspaper. Adolf Hitler had countless millions murdered, yet getting at a political enemy by endangering agents of the Sicherheitsdienst, the Nazi intelligence service, didn't cross his mind. In this respect, not even the worst tyrants have stooped to the level of George W. Bush.
    Don't let the Republicans distract you. Treasongate isn't just about deposed vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby, who has been charged with five felony counts and faces 30 years in prison, or even deputy presidential chief of staff Karl Rove, who may soon be charged as well. The Libby charges clearly point to the real culprit: Dick Cheney, who told Libby about Plame's covert status in the first place. Cheney abused his security clearance to find out. "Libby understood that the vice president had learned this information from the C.I.A.," reads page five of the indictment.
    "Cheney doesn't have a legal problem, but he has a political problem," a White House official told the New York Times. For now.
    The stink on Karl Rove rubbed off on his boss. When Treasongate first broke in 2003, Bush promised to get to the bottom of the Plame leak and fire everyone involved. Now we know that he is the bottom of the cover-up. "An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair," reported the New York Daily News, which owns the story of this scandal, in an account the White House tacitly confirmed with a meaningful inside-the-Beltway no-comment: silence = truth. "A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President," says the News.
    An earlier News report revealed a secret White House Iraq Group (WHIG) that "morphed into a virtual hit squad that took aim at critics who questioned its claims [that Saddam Hussein had nuclear and biochemical weapons]" from late 2002 to mid-2003. WHIG's members included Rove, Libby, and disgraced Times reporter/Bush stenographer Judith Miller.
    "In our system," Bush reminded, "each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial." Unlike the thousands of people Bush tossed into prison after 9/11-without charges or access to a lawyer-Libby is a rich guy with pale skin. He gets to confront his accusers.
    Democrats, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as usual, say they'll settle for an apology. The media is equally accommodating. "The Wilson affair is not Watergate," wrote Todd S. Purdum in the New York Times, a paper known for its desire to be helpful to the Bush White House. He's right. Treasongate is worse.
    Much, much worse.
    Watergate became the umbrella term for several scandals: "dirty tricks," including money laundering and the burglary of Democratic headquarters, to steal the 1972 election in favor of Richard Nixon; illegal wiretaps and break-ins used to silence and smear anti-Nixon critics like Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers; and the cover-up symbolized by the erasure of 18 crucial minutes from a subpoenaed tape.
    Together these crimes painted a portrait of a lawless president with advisers indistinguishable from gangsters. Nixon was a cheat, a thief, a liar and an all-around scuzball, and Congress was right to initiate impeachment against him. But, bad as he was, Nixon didn't jeopardize national security for political revenge.
    Treasongate includes many of the essential components of Watergate: smearing opponents of the Iraq war and their loved ones, financial shenanigans and a cover-up. Actually it was a cover-up of a cover-up; they lied about trashing Plame, who they targeted because her husband revealed their lies about Iraqi WMDs. Outing a CIA agent is the rancid cherry on top of a triple-dip blob of corruption. You can bet there's more to come.
    Trust us, they ask. We're incompetent, not evil. That's their defense.
    "One can believe that the neocons are utterly wrong without also assuming that they are evil," Nicholas Kristof argues in a Times op-ed. But people willing to lie their country into war and stab the people who protect it in the back-if we're to believe them, by not bothering to check Plame's status-are evil.
    It's like a case of vehicular homicide: Did Bush and his goons hit Plame on purpose or was it an accident? Either way, I want them off the road.


Vietnam Study, Casting Doubts, Remains Secret
    By Scott Shane
    The New York Times

Monday 31 October 2005

    Washington - The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian's work say.

    The historian's conclusion is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.

    The N.S.A. historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence.

    Mr. Hanyok concluded that they had done it not out of any political motive but to cover up earlier errors, and that top N.S.A. and defense officials and Johnson neither knew about nor condoned the deception.

    Mr. Hanyok's findings were published nearly five years ago in a classified in-house journal, and starting in 2002 he and other government historians argued that it should be made public. But their effort was rebuffed by higher-level agency policymakers, who by the next year were fearful that it might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar with some internal discussions of the matter.

    Matthew M. Aid, an independent historian who has discussed Mr. Hanyok's Tonkin Gulf research with current and former N.S.A. and C.I.A. officials who have read it, said he had decided to speak publicly about the findings because he believed they should have been released long ago.

    "This material is relevant to debates we as Americans are having about the war in Iraq and intelligence reform," said Mr. Aid, who is writing a history of the N.S.A. "To keep it classified simply because it might embarrass the agency is wrong."

    Mr. Aid's description of Mr. Hanyok's findings was confirmed by the intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the research has not been made public.

    Both men said Mr. Hanyok believed the initial misinterpretation of North Vietnamese intercepts was probably an honest mistake. But after months of detective work in N.S.A.'s archives, he concluded that midlevel agency officials discovered the error almost immediately but covered it up and doctored documents so that they appeared to provide evidence of an attack.

    "Rather than come clean about their mistake, they helped launch the United States into a bloody war that would last for 10 years," Mr. Aid said.

    Asked about Mr. Hanyok's research, an N.S.A. spokesman said the agency intended to release his 2001 article in late November. The spokesman, Don Weber, said the release had been "delayed in an effort to be consistent with our preferred practice of providing the public a more contextual perspective."

    Mr. Weber said the agency was working to declassify not only Mr. Hanyok's article, but also the original intercepts and other raw material for his work, so the public could better assess his conclusions.

    The intelligence official gave a different account. He said N.S.A. historians began pushing for public release in 2002, after Mr. Hanyok included his Tonkin Gulf findings in a 400-page, in-house history of the agency and Vietnam called "Spartans in Darkness." Though superiors initially expressed support for releasing it, the idea lost momentum as Iraq intelligence was being called into question, the official said.

    Mr. Aid said he had heard from other intelligence officials the same explanation for the delay in releasing the report, though neither he nor the intelligence official knew how high up in the agency the issue was discussed. A spokesman for Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was the agency's. director until last summer and is now the principal deputy director of national intelligence, referred questions to Mr. Weber, the N.S.A. spokesman, who said he had no further information.

    Many historians believe that even without the Tonkin Gulf episode, Johnson might have found a reason to escalate military action against North Vietnam. They note that Johnson apparently had his own doubts about the Aug. 4 attack and that a few days later told George W. Ball, the under secretary of state, "Hell, those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish!"

    But Robert S. McNamara, who as defense secretary played a central role in the Tonkin Gulf affair, said in an interview last week that he believed the intelligence reports had played a decisive role in the war's expansion.

    "I think it's wrong to believe that Johnson wanted war," Mr. McNamara said. "But we thought we had evidence that North Vietnam was escalating."

    Mr. McNamara, 89, said he had never been told that the intelligence might have been altered to shore up the scant evidence of a North Vietnamese attack.

    "That really is surprising to me," said Mr. McNamara, who Mr. Hanyok found had unknowingly used the altered intercepts in 1964 and 1968 in testimony before Congress. "I think they ought to make all the material public, period."

    The supposed second North Vietnamese attack, on the American destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy, played an outsize role in history. Johnson responded by ordering retaliatory air strikes on North Vietnamese targets and used the event to persuade Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on Aug. 7, 1964.

    It authorized the president "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force," to defend South Vietnam and its neighbors and was used both by Johnson and President Richard M. Nixon to justify escalating the war, in which 58,226 Americans and more than 1 million Vietnamese died.

    Not all the details of Mr. Hanyok's analysis, published in N.S.A.'s Cryptologic Quarterly in early 2001, could be learned. But they involved discrepancies between the official N.S.A. version of the events of Aug. 4, 1964, and intercepts from N.S.A. listening posts at Phu Bai in South Vietnam and San Miguel in the Philippines that are in the agency archives.

    One issue, for example, was the translation of a phrase in an Aug. 4 North Vietnamese transmission. In some documents the phrase, "we sacrificed two comrades" - an apparent reference to casualties during the clash with American ships on Aug. 2 - was incorrectly translated as "we sacrificed two ships." That phrase was used to suggest that the North Vietnamese were reporting the loss of ships in a new battle Aug. 4, the intelligence official said.

    The original Vietnamese version of that intercept, unlike many other intercepts from the same period, is missing from the agency's archives, the official said.

    The intelligence official said the evidence for deliberate falsification is "about as certain as it can be without a smoking gun - you can come to no other conclusion."

    Despite its well-deserved reputation for secrecy, the N.S.A. in recent years has made public dozens of studies by its Center for Cryptologic History. A study by Mr. Hanyok on signals intelligence and the Holocaust, titled "Eavesdropping on Hell," was published last year.

    Two historians who have written extensively on the Tonkin Gulf episode, Edwin E. Moise of Clemson University and John Prados of the National Security Archive in Washington, said they were unaware of Mr. Hanyok's work but found his reported findings intriguing.

    "I'm surprised at the notion of deliberate deception at N.S.A.," Dr. Moise said. "But I get surprised a lot."

    Dr. Prados said, "If Mr. Hanyok's conclusion is correct, it adds to the tragic aspect of the Vietnam War." In addition, he said, "it's new evidence that intelligence, so often treated as the Holy Grail, turns out to be not that at all, just as in Iraq."


Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal-Grenoble III
Grenoble, France