Wednesday, January 12, 2005

So Why're We Here, Again?

CIA officials charged with finding illicit weapons in Iraq have given up and left the country. With the 'connections to Al-Qaeda' demonstrated to be fictional, the crutches have all been kicked out from under our rationale for war. Nonetheless, we'll be stuck there for a decade or longer - and in fact this was always part of the plan.

And the goal of the occupation? Garner says exactly bupkus about the lives of Iraqis or burgeoning democracy or any of that bullshit, which isn't surprising, since his job doesn't much involve talking directly to the American people and the attendant necessary lying. Instead, our former Grand Praetor just bluntly goes on about where the permanent U.S. bases should be, comparing Iraq to the U.S. colonial military presence in the Philippines in the first half of the last century...
*extra - Matt Taibbi discusses why this wasn't a bigger story.


Blogger Management said...
Search for Banned Arms In Iraq Ended Last Month
Critical September Report to Be Final Word

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A01

The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.

In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.

Four months after Charles A. Duelfer, who led the weapons hunt in 2004, submitted an interim report to Congress that contradicted nearly every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials, a senior intelligence official said the findings will stand as the ISG's final conclusions and will be published this spring.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials asserted before the U.S. invasion in March 2003 that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, had chemical and biological weapons, and maintained links to al Qaeda affiliates to whom it might give such weapons to use against the United States.

Bush has expressed disappointment that no weapons or weapons programs were found, but the White House has been reluctant to call off the hunt, holding out the possibility that weapons were moved out of Iraq before the war or are well hidden somewhere inside the country. But the intelligence official said that possibility is very small.

Duelfer is back in Washington, finishing some addenda to his September report before it is reprinted.

"There's no particular news in them, just some odds and ends," the intelligence official said. The Government Printing Office will publish it in book form, the official said.

The CIA declined to authorize any official involved in the weapons search to speak on the record for this story. The intelligence official offered an authoritative account of the status of the hunt on the condition of anonymity. The agency did confirm that Duelfer is wrapping up his work and will not be replaced in Baghdad.

The ISG, established to search for weapons but now enmeshed in counterinsurgency work, remains under Pentagon command and is being led by Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Joseph McMenamin.

Intelligence officials said there is little left for the ISG to investigate because Duelfer's last report answered as many outstanding questions as possible. The ISG has interviewed every person it could find connected to programs that ended more than 10 years ago, and every suspected site within Iraq has been fully searched, or stripped bare by insurgents and thieves, according to several people involved in the weapons hunt.

Satellite photos show that entire facilities have been dismantled, possibly by scrap dealers who sold off parts and equipment to buyers around the world.

"The September 30 report is really pretty much the picture," the intelligence official said.

"We've talked to so many people that someone would have said something. We received nothing that contradicts the picture we've put forward. It's possible there is a supply someplace, but what is much more likely is that [as time goes by] we will find a greater substantiation of the picture that we've already put forward."

Congress allotted hundreds of millions of dollars for the weapons hunt, and there has been no public accounting of the money. A spokesman for the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency said the entire budget and the expenditures would remain classified.

Several hundred military translators and document experts will continue to sift through millions of pages of documents on paper and computer media sitting in a storeroom on a U.S. military base in Qatar.

But their work is focused on material that could support possible war crimes charges or shed light on the fate of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, a Navy pilot who was shot down in an F/A-18 fighter over central Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, the opening night of the Persian Gulf War. Although he was initially reported as killed in action, Speicher's status was changed to missing after evidence emerged that he had ejected alive from his aircraft.

The work on documents is not connected to weapons of mass destruction, officials said, and a small group of Iraqi scientists still in U.S. military custody are not being held in connection with weapons investigations, either.

Three people involved with the ISG said the weapons teams made several pleas to the Pentagon to release the scientists, who have been interviewed extensively. All three officials specifically mentioned Gen. Amir Saadi, who was a liaison between Hussein's government and U.N. inspectors; Rihab Taha, a biologist nicknamed "Dr. Germ" years ago by U.N. inspectors; her husband, Amir Rashid, the former oil minister; and Huda Amash, a biologist whose extensive dealings with U.N. inspectors earned her the nickname "Mrs. Anthrax."

None of the scientists has been involved in weapons programs since the 1991 Gulf War, the ISG determined more than a year ago, and all have cooperated with investigators despite nearly two years of jail time without charges. U.S. officials previously said they were being held because their denials of ongoing weapons programs were presumed to be lies; now, they say the scientists are being held in connection with the possible war crimes trials of Iraqis.

It has been more than a year since any Iraqi scientist was arrested in connection with weapons of mass destruction. Many of those questioned and cleared have since left Iraq, one senior official said, acknowledging for the first time that the "brain drain" that has long been feared "is well underway."

"A lot of it is because of the kidnapping industry" in Iraq, the official said. The State Department has been trying to implement programs designed to keep Iraqi scientists from seeking weapons-related work in neighboring countries, such as Syria and Iran.

Since March 2003, nearly a dozen people working for or with the weapons hunt have lost their lives to the insurgency. The most recent deaths came in November, when Duelfer's convoy was attacked during a routine mission around Baghdad and two of his bodyguards were killed.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Management said...

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I just got off the phone with retired USAF Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski.

If you don't recognize her name yet, you will. Karen spent much of 2002-03 working in the Defense Department's Near East/South Asia office, whose purpose -- at least prior to the Bush people getting in charge -- was to assess intelligence and help create policy in the region, including Iraq.

Karen thus had a ringside seat to the breaking off of a chunk of that very office to become Donald Rumsfeld's pet Office of Special Plans, the group which so notoriously twisted and cherry-picked intelligence to fit its predetermined conclusion -- and which is not included in the Bush-appointed "investigation" into Iraq intelligence failures.

So Karen started writing about what she saw -- anonymously at first, and then, once she retired at the war's outset in disgust, with her name proudly signed, trying to tell the rest of America what the hell is really going on.

Man, I like this woman.

So next week I'm interviewing her for a talk radio pilot I'm hosting and producing (about which more soon with any luck), and in today's pre-interview she mentions in passing an intensely disturbing article which somehow slipped under the media radar, what with gays marrying Martha Stewart on the last episode of Sex And The City and all. But then, Karen has devoted a significant chunk of her professional life to this topic, so you'd figure she'd know stuff.

Go read the article. Jay Garner, who until recently was the U.S. occupation's Great Gazoo in Iraq and still has massive pull, has declared quite openly that the American presence in Iraq should last "the next few decades."

Read further, and you'll see that he and his insider cohorts are calling for an expansion of personnel in every branch of the armed services. (While the article says nothing on the topic, that probably ain't gonna happen without a draft, folks. If Bush gets re-elected in November, expect a draft to start sometime in December.)

And the goal of the occupation? Garner says exactly bupkus about the lives of Iraqis or burgeoning democracy or any of that bullshit, which isn't surprising, since his job doesn't much involve talking directly to the American people and the attendant necessary lying. Instead, our former Grand Praetor just bluntly goes on about where the permanent U.S. bases should be, comparing Iraq to the U.S. colonial military presence in the Philippines in the first half of the last century, which allowed America to project its power outward (often at horrific cost to many of the locals along the way, not that this mattered to the planners or is widely known, even now).

There it is, from the man in charge himself: decades of occupation, and Iraq is intended as a long-term base of further operations.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Former Iraq administrator sees decades-long U.S. military presence

By Amy Svitak Klamper, CongressDaily
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the former interim administrator of post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Iraq, said Thursday that a U.S. military presence in Iraq should last "the next few decades," but questioned the mix of forces already there and current plans to reconfigure the armed forces as a whole.

Echoing concerns raised by lawmakers at this week's defense budget hearings, Garner said in an interview with National Journal Group reporters and editors that the size of the Army and Marine Corps should be increased by enlarging the infantry or ground forces. And he warned that the current strain on National Guard and Reserve forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan could cripple efforts to retain experienced soldiers.

Garner, who previously served as commanding general of the Army's V Corps in Germany and as an Army assistant vice chief of staff for force development, said he does not subscribe to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's vision of a future Army, in which smaller units of soldiers rely heavily on high-tech weapons and communications systems.

"Certainly the high-tech war is faster, it's neater and it works pretty good, but not in all scenarios," he said. "The problem with the Army is they just don't have enough infantry."

The Army's current force structure plan is to move away from the traditional division structure toward self-sustaining brigades equipped to work for any division commander. Rumsfeld has been saying this modular approach to force management means that 75 percent of the Army's brigade structure should always be ready.

But the Army actually needs two more infantry divisions while "the Marines need to be larger," Garner said. He also complained about the downsizing of the Air Force and the Navy, limiting the critical lift capability needed to dispatch troops and equipment overseas.

In addition, Garner worried about the impact extended deployments would have on reserve troops, who have been tested "more than they thought possible." National Guard troops "are going to vote with their feet" and leave what they thought would be a part-time commitment when they enlisted, he predicted.

In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Rumsfeld asserted that reports of stress on reservists are exaggerated, noting that since Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon has mobilized only 36 percent of the Selected Reserve. Only 7.15 percent have been called up more than once since 1990, Rumsfeld said.

In Iraq, regions patrolled by infantry soldiers and Marines have not seen the everyday violence and security problems occurring in areas assigned to Army mechanized units, Garner said. Soldiers in mechanized units, who are trained not to stray too far from their vehicles, cannot be as effective in Baghdad as infantry patrols on foot, he observed.

Asked how long U.S. forces should remain in Iraq, Garner said, "I hope they're there a long time."

But he made clear that the number of troops in Iraq could be reduced every time an Iraqi army battalion or brigade is activated to take over security operations. Some U.S. military units should be stationed nearby as a "little 9-1-1 force for the guys you put on the street," he said. Other U.S. soldiers would function as advisers, furthering training and development of Iraqi security forces from behind the scenes.

"I think one of the most important things we can do right now is start getting basing rights" in both northern and southern Iraq, Garner said, adding that such bases could provide large areas for military training. "I think we'd want to keep at least a brigade in the north, a self-sustaining brigade, which is larger than a regular brigade," he added.

Noting how establishing U.S. naval bases in the Philippines in the early 1900s allowed the United States to maintain a "great presence in the Pacific," Garner said, "To me that's what Iraq is for the next few decades. We ought to have something there ... that gives us great presence in the Middle East. I think that's going to be necessary."

3:58 PM  
Blogger Management said...

by Matt Taibbi, New York Press

January 20, 2005 |

The world little noted, but at some point late last year the American search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ended. We will, however, long remember the doomsday warnings from the Bush administration about mushroom clouds and sinister aluminum tubes; the breathless reports from TV correspondents when the invasion began, speculating on when the 'smoking gun' would be unearthed; our own failures to deconstruct all the spin and faulty intelligence.
-- New York Times editorial, Jan. 13

The timorous admission made by the White House last week that it had given up pretending to search for WMDs in Iraq was an occasion for much smugness and finger-pointing in most of the major dailies.

Among the rest of the population, this laughably tiny news item—I'm writing this column on Jan. 13, but by the time this hits the newsstands on the 18th, it will surely, and amazingly, have been a dead story for days—was mainly fodder for two minutes of office water-cooler gloating among the anti-Bush crowd.

It is unrealistic to expect anything different. In the run-up to the war, every major daily and television network in the country parroted the White House's asinine WMD claims for months on end, all but throwing their panties on stage the instant Colin Powell showed what appeared to be a grainy aerial picture of a pick-up truck to the U.N. Security Council.

Justice would seem to demand that a roughly equivalent amount of coverage be given to the truth, now that we know it (and we can officially call it the truth now, because even Bush admits it; previously the truth was just a gigantic, unendorsed pile of plainly obvious evidence). But that isn't the way things work in America. We only cover things around the clock every day for four or five straight months when it's fun.

O.J. was fun. Monica Lewinsky was fun. "America's New War" was fun—there was a war at the end of that rainbow. But "We All Totally Fucked Up" is not fun. You can't make a whole new set of tv graphics for "We All Totally Fucked Up." There is no obvious location where Wolf Blitzer can do a somber, grimacing "We All Totally Fucked Up" live shot (above an "Operation We All Totally Fucked Up" bug in the corner of the screen). Hundreds of reporters cannot rush to stores to buy special khakis or rain slickers or Kevlar vests in preparation for "We All Totally Fucked Up." They would have to wear their own clothes and stand, not in front of burning tanks or smashed Indonesian hovels, but in front of their own apartments.

That is why we will never get four months of the truth, to match four months of preposterous bullshit. The business is not designed for it. It just can't happen.

Most Americans instinctively understand this and accept it. Even those people who are consciously offended by this set of circumstances accept it. It is as natural to us as the weather.

However, there are times when this phenomenon seems to go a little too far. This is one of those times.

Countless news organizations last week took the same pathetic, transparently disingenuous position vis a vis the WMD flap that the New York Times did in the above passage. The basic media lie—the new lie, not the old lie—was a two-pronged thing. It went something like this:

First, Bush admitted there were no WMDs, but so few people cared that it was "little noted" around the world. Phrases such as "quiet conclusion" (CBS News) or "quietly ended" (USA Today) or "quiet denouement" (the Virginia Pilot) reinforced this idea that the story was somehow inherently quiet and of small import.

Descriptions of the story's small stature were usually followed by a similarly quiet mea culpa. They usually read something like this: Now that we know the truth for sure, we media organizations must try to unravel how it "could have happened"—how we failed to see through it all, or "deconstruct all the faulty spin and intelligence," as the Times put it.

Regarding the first point, what could be funnier than the sight of the New York Times calling a story "little noted," when the paper itself only gave the story 3.5 inches on Page A16! Like almost all the rest of the papers in the country, what the Times meant was not "little noted," but little covered. Amazingly, only two major dailies in the entire country—the Washington Post and the Dallas Morning News—even put the official end to the WMD search on the front page. The rest of the country's news organs buried the story deep in the bowels of their news sections, far behind Prince Harry's Nazi suit and the residual tsunami stuff. And then they have the balls to turn around and say this news was "quiet"?

As for the second question—how it could have happened—I have an answer. It is an answer that will not require the convening of a special symposium at the Columbia Journalism School, the commission of a new study by the Brookings Institution, or a poll by Poynter. The answer is this: You lied!

It's really as simple as that. Everyone knew it was bullshit. I defy Bill Keller to stare me in the face and tell me he didn't know the whole Iraq war business was a lie from the start. Whether or not there were actually WMDs in Iraq is a canard; this was essentially unknowable at the time. It was the rest of it that was obviously idiotic, yet even the pointiest heads in the business, like the folks at the Times, swallowed it with a smile.

There was the idea that Saddam Hussein, a secular dictator whose chief domestic enemies were Islamic fundamentalists, was somehow a natural potential ally for bin Laden. There was the supposition, credulously reported for months, that if Saddam "disarmed," we would back off (we were going in anyway, everyone could see that; all of the "inspections" coverage, that whole drama, was a pathetic fraud). There was the idea that Bush and Co. were sincerely moved to grave concern by "intelligence" about Saddam's weapons (on the contrary, there was a veritable mountain of evidence that the Bush administration was turning over every couch pillow in Washington in search of even the flimsiest fig-leaf to stick on its WMD claims; the source of the WMD panic was clearly the White House, not Langley or any other place). There was the idea that a preemptive invasion was not a revolutionary idea, not illegal, not an outrage. And so on.

The problem wasn't a small, isolated ethical error, like Judith Miller's Chalabi reporting. The error here was not a mistake of fact. The problem was that a central tenet of our system of news reporting dictates that lies of consensus will never be considered punishable mistakes. In other words, once everyone jumps in the water, a story acquires its own legitimacy.

And now we get papers like the Times wondering aloud why they didn't feel the ground under their feet. Answer: you jumped in the water. And you knew what you were doing.

12:16 PM  

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