Juan Cole: The Lies That Led To War

Must Read. He doesn’t tell you much you didn’t already know but he puts it all together into a tight package that even more nakedly reveals how badly the Bush administration manipulated us into war with Iraq with copious evidence of misrepresentations to the public and the world about his intent. Three page article.


When Newsweek’s source admitted that he had misidentified the government document in which he had seen an account of Quran desecration at Guantánamo prison, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita exploded, “People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?”

Di Rita could have said the same things about his bosses in the Bush administration.

Tens of thousands of people are dead in Iraq, including more than 1,600 U.S. soldiers and Marines, because of false allegations made by President George W. Bush and Di Rita’s more immediate boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and equally imaginary active nuclear weapons program. Bush, Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly made unfounded allegations that led to the continuing disaster in Iraq, much of which is now an economic and military no man’s land beset by bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and political gridlock.

And we now know, thanks to a leaked British memo concerning the head of British intelligence, that the Bush administration – contrary to its explicit denials – had already made up its mind to attack Iraq and “fixed” those bogus allegations to support its decision. In short, Bush and his top officials lied about Iraq.

The Times reports on “The secret Downing Street memo”: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Juan Cole himself has told some pretty blatant and over-the-top lies, btw. Anything from him should be taken with some critical thinking.

Err, like what?

Thanks for playing, Rollory. Any comments about the actual assertions in the article?

Juan Cole’s “lies” aren’t as easy to find and swallow as those of Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, Grover Norquist, and the good folks at Powerline, apparently.

I rarely have issues with factual information that Cole uses, I just find him frequently going completely off the rails on his analysis and opinion, and I’m hardly the only one, you’ll find much more eloquent deconstructions of some of his work if you care enough to spend a bit of time searching.

Juan Cole ridiculous assertion #942:

As various wags have written, hasn’t he ever heard of a little place called Hama? He’s a professor of what again?

“I disagree with his intrepretations,” sure, I’d just never heard of him lying about anything.

To continue the derail, what does the Syrian crushing of an uprising in Hama have to do with his Palestinian demonstration in the West Bank scenario?

On Jan. 24, 2003, four days before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address presenting the case for war against Iraq, the National Security Council staff put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs.

The person receiving the request, Robert Walpole, then the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, would later tell investigators that “the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak,” according to a 500-page report released last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

It has been clear since the September report of the Iraq Survey Group – a CIA-sponsored weapons search in Iraq – that the United States would not find the weapons of mass destruction cited by Bush as the rationale for going to war against Iraq. But as the Walpole episode suggests, it appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.

The question of prewar intelligence has been thrust back into the public eye with the disclosure of a secret British memo showing that, eight months before the March 2003 start of the war, a senior British intelligence official reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that U.S. intelligence was being shaped to support a policy of invading Iraq.

Moreover, a close reading of the recent 600-page report by the president’s commission on intelligence, and the previous report by the Senate panel, shows that as war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein’s alleged weapons programs.

These included claims that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium in Africa for its nuclear program, had mobile labs for producing biological weapons, ran an active chemical weapons program and possessed unmanned aircraft that could deliver weapons of mass destruction. All these claims were made by Bush or then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in public addresses even though, the reports made clear, they had yet to be verified by U.S. intelligence agencies.


I don’t think the massacre of Hama is comparable, so I don’t recognise the connection. The Syrian government (that being the government of a quarter of a century ago) cracked down on Islamic militant extremists who were planning to overthrow the secular Syrian government Taleban style. Fallujah, where at least a thousand, probably several thousand, died fighting a rebellion against American led forces, is a much better comparison. While the Hama massacre is, of course, deplorable, a number of commentators point to the fact that these were the same school of Islamic militant extremists who tore apart Algeria. If they hadn’t been wiped with such brutal efficiency by the attack, the death toll, they say, could have been hundreds of thousands instead of thousands.

Two Army analysts whose work has been cited as part of a key intelligence failure on Iraq – the claim that aluminum tubes sought by the Baghdad government were most likely meant for a nuclear weapons program rather than for rockets – have received job performance awards in each of the past three years, officials said.

The civilian analysts, former military men considered experts on foreign and U.S. weaponry, work at the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), one of three U.S. agencies singled out for particular criticism by President Bush’s commission that investigated U.S. intelligence.

The Army analysts concluded that it was highly unlikely that the tubes were for use in Iraq’s rocket arsenal, a finding that bolstered a CIA contention that they were destined for nuclear centrifuges, which was in turn cited by the Bush administration as proof that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.

The problem, according to the commission, which cited the two analysts’ work, is that they did not seek or obtain information available from the Energy Department and elsewhere showing that the tubes were indeed the type used for years as rocket-motor cases by Iraq’s military. The panel said the finding represented a “serious lapse in analytic tradecraft” because the center’s personnel “could and should have conducted a more exhaustive examination of the question.”

Washington lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste, who was a member of the Sept. 11 commission and whose government experience goes back to service as a Watergate prosecutor, said it is important for the administration to hold the intelligence community accountable for mistakes.

“It matters whether it was carelessness or tailoring [of intelligence], whether it was based on perceived wants of an administration or overt requests . . . It is time now to demonstrate the need for the integrity of the process,” Ben-Veniste said.

The commission found that aluminum tubes with similar tolerances were used in a previous Iraqi rocket, called the Nasser 81, and that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had published details about that system in 1996, as had the U.S. Department of Energy in 2001. The commission’s report said “the two primary NGIC rocket analysts said they did not know the dimensions” of the older Nasser 81 rocket and were unaware of the IAEA and Energy Department reports. The report did not name the analysts, but officials confirmed that the panel was referring to George Norris and Robert Campos.

The awards were given as part of a government-wide incentive program to recognize high-performing employees with cash or time off. An internal NGIC newsletter listed Norris and Campos as among those who received performance awards, lump-sum cash payments, in fiscal 2002, 2003 and 2004.

The CIA’s WINPAC also came in for specific criticisms. WINPAC “was at the heart of many of the errors . . . from the mobile BW [biological warfare] case to the aluminum tubes,” the commission reported, saying it feared “a culture of enforced consensus has infected WINPAC as an organization.”

The CIA, the panel said, contributed to misjudgments about the aluminum tubes. The commission found that some U.S. intelligence analysts believed the Iraqis had re-engineered an Italian rocket called the Medusa, which also used the type of aluminum tubes that Iraq was seeking. But neither the Pentagon agencies nor the CIA – the most vociferous proponents of the idea that the tubes were destined for nuclear use – obtained the specifications for the Italian-made Medusa until well after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.

Seven months earlier, a CIA officer had suggested that the CIA track down data on Medusa, but CIA officials took no action on that idea “on the basis that such information was not needed because CIA judged the tubes to be destined for use in centrifuges,” the commission wrote.

Despite sharp critiques from the president’s commission and the Senate intelligence committee, no major reprimand or penalty has been announced publicly in connection with the intelligence failures, though investigations are still underway at the CIA. George J. Tenet resigned as CIA director but was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by Bush.


That’s nothing - Rice got secretary of state.

Meanwhile the UN inspectors let us know they may not be allowed into Iraq anymore (amazing huh?) but they’re still paying attention.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - U.N. satellite imagery experts have determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles has been removed from 109 sites in Iraq, U.N. weapons inspectors said in a report obtained Thursday.

U.N. inspectors have been blocked from returning to Iraq since the U.S.-led war in 2003 so they have been using satellite photos to see what happened to the sites that were subject to U.N. monitoring because their equipment had both civilian and military uses.

In the report to the U.N. Security Council, acting chief weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos said he’s reached no conclusions about who removed the items or where they went. He said it could have been moved elsewhere in Iraq, sold as scrap, melted down or purchased.

He said the missing material can be used for legitimate purposes. ``However, they can also be utilized for prohibited purposes if in a good state of repair.’’


Wait wait wait… so there were parts (or ingredients) for WMD in Iraq? I’m not being a troll, I’m trying to figure out what they are saying.

Wait wait wait… so there were parts (or ingredients) for WMD in Iraq?

You know, there’s a link to the article in Brian’s post. Barring that, the last line in his quote makes it pretty clear. :)

The UN weapons inspectors, who were doing their job in Iraq and had successfully disarmed the country of WMDs, were monitoring parts that could be used for weapons production but also had legitimate industrial applications. The US hasn’t allowed them in the country since we invaded it, but they’re inferring from satellite images that those parts are being moved around.


I went back and read it and the part that threw me off originally was: “…determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles has been removed…” Clearly now that I re-read it more carefully, the “has” is in the singular and thus is modifying the word “material”. When I first read it I thought that “and long range missiles” was a separate clause from “material”. I was reading “determined that (material that could be used to make bio or chemical weapons) and also (banned long range missiles) ha[ve] been removed”.

But on further review the verb form doesn’t support that. Obviously I need to work on my reading comprehension skills. FWIW my clarifying question was because it appeared out-of-place given the rest of the article.

This is stretching it a bit. There still are questions as to what happened to materials that had been identified by UN teams but hadn’t been yet been disposed of when they were evicted from the country. What happened to them? Where are they now? I don’t think anybody wants to dwell on those questions too thouroughly, heh.

John R. Bolton flew to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful, according to officials involved.

A former Bolton deputy says the U.S. undersecretary of state felt Jose Bustani “had to go,” particularly because the Brazilian was trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. That might have helped defuse the crisis over alleged Iraqi weapons and undermined a U.S. rationale for war.

Bustani, who says he got a “menacing” phone call from Bolton at one point, was removed by a vote of just one-third of member nations at an unusual special session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), at which the United States cited alleged mismanagement in calling for his ouster.

The United Nations’ highest administrative tribunal later condemned the action as an “unacceptable violation” of principles protecting international civil servants. The OPCW session’s Swiss chairman now calls it an “unfortunate precedent” and Bustani a “man with merit.”

After U.N. arms inspectors had withdrawn from Iraq in 1998 in a dispute with the Baghdad government, Bustani stepped up his initiative, seeking to bring Iraq – and other Arab states – into the chemical weapons treaty.

Bustani’s inspectors would have found nothing, because Iraq’s chemical weapons were destroyed in the early 1990s. That would have undercut the U.S. rationale for war because the Bush administration by early 2002 was claiming, without hard evidence, that Baghdad still had such an arms program.

In a March 2002 “white paper,” Bolton’s office said Bustani was seeking an “inappropriate role” in Iraq, and the matter should be left to the U.N. Security Council – where Washington has a veto.

Bolton said in a 2003 AP interview that Iraq was “completely irrelevant” to Bustani’s responsibilities. Earle and Bohlen disagree. Enlisting new treaty members was part of the OPCW chief’s job, they said, although they thought he should have consulted with Washington.

Former Bustani aide Bob Rigg, a New Zealander, sees a clear U.S. motivation: “Why did they not want OPCW involved in Iraq? They felt they couldn’t rely on OPCW to come up with the findings the U.S. wanted.”

More on the Bolton-Bustani connection from a 2002 article in The Guardian.


Hey, you got democracy in my terror! No you got terror in my democracy!

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - The Bush administration is showing signs of easing its hard-line approach toward Hamas, in response to the militant group’s rising political clout in the Palestinian territories and appeals for flexibility from European allies, officials and diplomats said.

The White House acceded to Hamas running candidates in Palestinian elections, even though the group has refused to disarm and Washington lists it as a major terrorist organization.


BINT JBEIL, Lebanon (AP) - Hezbollah and its Shiite allies claimed a clean sweep in the second stage of national election held Sunday in southern Lebanon, a vote the militant group hopes will prove its strength and send a message of defiance to the United States.

Four hours after polling stations closed, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheik Naim Kassem, and election ally Nabih Berri of the Shiite Muslim Amal movement, said they had won all 23 seats in this region bordering Israel.


So…this was the plan?