C-SPAN: Council on Foreign Relations June 23, 2003

HANS BLIX: It is somewhat puzzling I think that you can have a hundred percent certainty about the weapons of mass destruction’s existence, and zero certainty about where they are.


RWM: After all the fervor for invading over W.M.Ds, the hunt was as haphazard as the intelligence catastrophe. Thrown together as if it was an afterthought, almost 3 months into the war, no one seemed to be in charge of the search.

HUBRIS: During a meeting with top U.S. commanders, in June 2003 Bush demanded to know who was in charge of the W.M.D. search. He turned to Paul Bremer, his viceroy in Iraq, and asked if it was his job to find the weapons. No, said Bremer. Bush put the same question to General Tommy Franks. The general said the W.M.D. hunt was not his responsibility. Then who? an exasperated Bush exclaimed.

RWM: After they came up empty on finding any W.M.Ds, former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay was brought in to take over in June 2003. Kay had a whole new approach in mind, but even the most perfected methods are no match for the futility of looking for something that isn’t there. Six months later Kay resigned in January 2004 — concluding that there were no W.M.D. stockpiles. The Bush Administration had no intention of conceding that point in an election year.

MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE (January 15th, 2004): 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.

RWM: I predicted that they would call off the search soon after the 2004 election, and I even wrote a poem about it. Two months after Bush was re-elected, the search was terminated.


DRAMATIZATION BASED ON EMAIL EXCHANGES (All of his words are verbatim and mine are summarized arguments of what I wrote in those emails):

N.C. STATE REP. JOHN BLUST: You haven’t replied to my basic argument that if all these others thought Saddam had W.M.D, and Bush thought Saddam had W.M.D, then if Bush was “lying” about it, weren’t these others also lying? Clearly neither they nor Bush were lying because if you believe what you are saying, it’s not a lie even if it’s wrong.  And I do think Saddam had W.M.D. and I think he aided terrorists, so I must be a liar too.

RWM:  The question comes down to whether or not you’re basing your belief on something in the realm of reason — not some fail-safe fantasy that allows you to believe whatever you want. Refusing to open your eyes to the evidence is intellectually dishonest at minimum — so whether you’re blatantly lying or not, you’re most certainly not arguing in the interest of truth. And that truth can be easily ascertained by looking at the machinery behind the scenes. Add in some analysis of the systematic obfuscation from both parties — and every piece of the puzzle fits. The Democrats are stigmatized as weak on defense — so before 9/11 they talked tough on Iraq because it didn’t cost them anything to do — and afterward they were too scared not to — which Tom Daschle pointblank admits to in the following clip:





SEN. TOM DASCHLE: We were two months out from an election, and no one — Republican, Democrat, independent — ever wants to be viewed as weak on national security.


RWM: The sheer casualness of that statement astounds me — and it shows how these people have sold their souls to doctrines of dishonesty. They have compromised the truth so many times that it just becomes an accepted part of the job.


DRAMATIZATION BASED ON EMAIL EXCHANGES (All of his words are verbatim and mine are summarized arguments of what I wrote in those emails):

ENGLISH PROFESSOR FRIEND: I’m not surprised at all that there is disagreement in the intelligence community. There are a lot of people involved there. The higher level officials at these agencies are responsible to follow a process and draw the best conclusions they can. In other words, they make a case. That case will necessarily include some things and exclude others. The bottom line is a general assessment of danger. Sometimes that danger will be overestimated, and sometimes underestimated.

RWM: That’s an incredibly Pollyannaish viewpoint. Even a cursory look at the evidence smacks of political hackery, so it’s ludicrous to suggest that all these agencies were just acting in good faith.


RWM: My Professor friend has an intellect that’s off the charts, and he’s pretty objective on the whole, but his perception was excessively predicated on Powell’s reputation. He was far from alone.



WASHINGON POST (February 6th, 2003): The evidence Powell presented to the United Nations — some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail — had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool — or possibly a Frenchman — could conclude otherwise. The clincher was the totality of the material and the fact that Powell himself had presented it. In this case, the messenger may have been more important than the message.

RWM: First off, I find it childish that people feel the need to mock France in order to make their point. Secondly, I was a fan of Powell at the time, but he didn’t appear to be someone who believed what he was saying. It is the fool who takes someone’s words at face value when they are strikingly out of sync with the situation. My suspicions were partly based on the totality of the times, and that we seemed to be in a big rush to war without evidence in proportion to the pace to get there. My instincts were corroborated by the record of doctored intelligence as well as Powell’s own passing thoughts.

HUBRIS: Sometime in the days before the U.N. speech –Senator Joe Biden called Powell. Referring to Powell’s U.N. presentation — Biden cautioned him, “Don’t speak to anything you don’t know about.” That is, don’t overstate the evidence. There was silence on the other end. Then Powell replied, “Someday when we’re both out of office, we’ll have a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you why.” — Why what? . . . Powell didn’t explain, but Biden took the remark to mean that Powell was going to present a case about which he had his doubts.



LARRY WILKERSON: Powell walked into my office, and without so much as a fare thee well, he walked over to the window and said I wonder what will happen when we put 500,000 troops into the Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and find nothing. And he turned around and walked back into his office.
And I wrote that down on my calendar as close to verbatim as I could, because I thought that was a profound statement comes from the secretary of state, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


RWM: While the quotes from both Wilkerson and Biden are telling as to Powell’s reservations, true clarity is in connecting the dots between the people in the process.



GREG THIELMANN: The administration made statements which I can only describe as dishonest. . . . Well, the conclusion that I ultimately came to was that this was a matter of, as I’ve called it, faith-based intelligence. They were cherry-picking the information that we provided, to use whatever pieces of it that fit their overall interpretation. And worse than that, they were dropping qualifiers and distorting some of the information that we provided to make it seem more alarmist and more dangerous than the information that we were giving them.



60 MINUTES II: THE MAN WHO KNEW, February 4, 2004

SCOTT PELLEY: Greg Thielmann should know. He had been Powell’s own chief of intelligence when it came to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

(Footage of Greg Thielmann)

SCOTT  PELLEY: (Voiceover) Greg Thielmann was a foreign service officer for 25 years. His last job at the State Department was acting director of the Office of Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs, responsible for analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Secretary Powell.

SCOTT  PELLEY: You and your staff had the highest security clearances.

GREG THIELMANN: That’s right.

SCOTT  PELLEY: And you saw virtually everything?

GREG THIELMANN: That’s right.

SCOTT  PELLEY: Whether it came into the CIA or the Defense Department, it all came through your office.

GREG THIELMANN: That’s right.

SCOTT  PELLEY: Sooner or later.



THE NEW YORKER (October 27th, 2003): Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, who generally supported the war, said that what the Bush people did was “dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership.”

RWM: In every direction it’s painfully obvious what the White House was up to. The trumping of centrifuge scientists by unqualified analysts at the C.I.A, the repetitive bypassing of protocol in the intelligence process, and even the creation of a shadow intelligence shop at the Pentagon — called the Office of Special Plans (O.S.P. for short).



GREG THIELMANN: That office was largely invisible to us in the intelligence community because they didn’t — they didn’t play in the — in the normal bureaucratic process of making intelligence assessments and reporting on those assessments.

MARTIN SMITH: What did you understand that office to be about?

GREG THIELMANN: I am still trying to figure out what that office was about. The office wasn’t big enough for them to really have the expertise in-house, and the mere creation of the office was odd, since the secretary of defense had the entire Defense Intelligence Agency at his disposal. So it’s a little mysterious what exactly they were doing.


RWM: A key player in the Office of Special Plans was Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. Feith’s aversion to fact can be easily ascertained on two primary points — the aluminum tubes and O.S.P’s reliance on Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi. In an October 2003 interview with Liz Jackson (who conducted the Spinning the Tubes documentary for Australia’s FOUR CORNERS program), Feith was asked about President Bush’s September 12th, 2002 speech at the U.N. — as to why no indication was given that there was any controversy about the tubes.” Feith replied: “There are many people who believe that the tubes are for rotors. The people who are experts in these things said that while it might be theoretically possible that the tubes were for rockets — the tubes were so finely milled that you would be spending something like 50 times the price of ordinary sheathing. So that suggested that the rocket theory was not very credible.”

RWM: Notice how he turned the entire issue around to casually claim the exact opposite of reality even seven months after the war started. Perhaps the most telling moment in that interview was when Feith said, “Some people took one view; some people took another” — once again with the false equivalence of “experts” that was so craftily perpetrated by Powell. As for that mathematical absurdity about “50 times the price” — the tightened tolerances added just a few extra dollars per tube. The sheer sloppiness in his answers alone should speak volumes about Feith’s integrity — and the more you look, the worse it gets.

RWM: Feith’s office was heavily involved in preparing material for the Secretary of State’s U.N. speech — providing him with a “twenty-five-page script on Saddam’s purported connections to terrorists.” After all that the secretary was willing to swallow, it should be incredibly revealing that he refused to accept all but a few of Feith’s assertions:

HUBRIS: After Powell reviewed the new terrorism section, he pulled his chief of staff Wilkerson off to the side and said, “I’m not reading this. This is crazy.” The script, Wilkerson remembered, was a “genealogy” that strung together connections or associations and that were incomprehensible –and possibly meaningless.



DOUGLAS FEITH: You know, with all due respect to that whole line of inquiry, the people in the US Government are serious people and they have important responsibilities and they want good information, as good as possible, on which to base their…their policy, and, so, this…this entire line of inquiry that suggests that we’re asking to corrupt the information is just really, uh…I think, the…the, you know, the results of some overheated minds interested in conspiracy-mongering.


RWM: Feith acts like he’s a bastion of integrity in defense of his folly — coolly claiming that everything out of his office was aboveboard. Do you really think that you can trust someone so abundantly inexact on the aluminum tubes — the most clear-cut truth of all the intelligence? Feith defends himself as if his record was wiped from the face of the earth. But the ultimate answer to his credibility is buried in the history of his activities, and that of his associates — and the one that binds them all is Ahmed Chalabi. Chris Wallace captured Chalabi best on FOX NEWS SUNDAY on May 23rd, 2004: “Why is it that, over the years, across international borders, you are accused again and again of being a crook, of being a con man?”

RWM:  Like his devout follower Feith, he brushed off the question like it was lint on his shoulder. How does a convicted embezzler who was discredited by the  C.I.A. for his fiascos and fraud throughout the 90s — end up being a guest of honor sitting behind First Lady Laura Bush at the 2004 State of the Union? In fairness to the president, he did not personally invite Chalabi. But that’s hardly the point — since he surrounded himself with the people who did.

COOPERATIVE RESEARCH.ORG (April 9th, 1992): After a two-year investigation, Ahmed Chalabi is convicted in absentia and sentenced by a Jordanian military court to 22 years of hard labor and ordered to return 230 million dollars in embezzled funds from his crimes connected with the Petra Bank. The 223-page verdict charges Chalabi with 31 counts of embezzlement, theft, forgery, currency speculation, making false statements, and making millions of dollars in bad loans to himself, to his friends, and to his family’s other financial enterprises in Lebanon and Switzerland.

RWM: None of that mattered to anyone in the cabal around Bush. The Iraqi exile was an administration favorite and a conduit to Iraqi defectors — and he had a crystal-clear motive to remove Saddam. A coup d’état in Iraq in 1958 ousted Chalabi’s extremely wealthy and well-connected family. Arrows of the Night is a wonderful book about Chalabi — quite a fascinating read regardless of his shady side. He didn’t come out of nowhere — his influence on American foreign policy pre-dates President Bush by nearly a decade.

THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE (May 29th, 2004): Between 1992 and the raid on Chalabi’s home, the U.S. government funneled more than a hundred million dollars to Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. The current Bush Administration gave the group at least thirty-nine million dollars. Vincent Canistrarro, a former C.I.A. counter-terrorism specialist, told me, ‘With Chalabi, we paid to fool ourselves. It’s horrible. In other times, it might be funny. But a lot of people are dead as a result of this. It’s reprehensible.”

HUBRIS: The entire Chalabi effort, C.I.A. operative John Maguire concluded, was a sham. In January 1996, an indignant Maguire confronted Chalabi in a meeting in London and demanded an accounting of the agency’s funds. “You’ve been lying to us,” he told him. “You’ve been screwing us.” Maguire got so furious — he told Chalabi if he ever saw him walking down the street in London, he would  swerve his car onto the sidewalk and mow him down.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (LONDON February 19th, 2004): Mr Chalabi, by far the most effective anti-Saddam lobbyist in Washington, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled U.S. intelligence. “We are heroes in error. As far as we’re concerned we’ve been entirely successful. Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important.”


PBS FRONTLINE: TRUTH, WAR & CONSEQUENCES, Two interviews with Chalabi — July 29 and July 30, 2003:

MARTIN SMITH: Many people that supported the war no longer do.


MARTIN SMITH: They feel that they were suckered.

AHMED CHALABI: Yes, probably.

MARTIN SMITH: They say so.

AHMED CHALABI: OK. I mean, I don’t– you know, I’m not a–

MARTIN SMITH: Well, I mean, the– you know, half the people now feel that the war wasn’t justified on the grounds that it was argued for.


MARTIN SMITH: Do you feel any discomfort with that?



RWM: Many have gleefully cited the reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Robb-Silberman Commission as ironclad proof that that no politicization took place. One of the most insightful counters to that claim comes from former national intelligence officer Paul Pillar: “Any intelligence analyst would be reluctant to make the damning admission that his paper had been politicized, and because — ‘in my experience, the great majority of cases of actual politicization — successful politicization — are invariably subtle.'”

ROBB-SILBERMAN REPORT: In sum, there was no politicization of the intelligence product on Iraq. Poor tradecraft, exacerbated by poor management, contributed to the erroneous assessments of Iraq’s W.M.D. programs. These problems were further exacerbated by the reluctance of Intelligence Community management to foster and consider dissenting views. WINPAC analysts described an environment in which managers rewarded judgments that fit the consensus view that Iraq had active W.M.D. programs and discouraged those that did not.

RWM: That they managed to acknowledge that atmosphere and still assert that no politicization took place is a stupefying feat of psychological gymnastics.

SLATE MAGAZINE (April 5th, 2005): Co-chairman Chuck Robb and his colleagues have a trick that allows them to deny the obvious with a straight face. They rely heavily on the C.I.A’s definition of politicization: “Alteration of analytical judgments under pressure to reach a particular conclusion.” . . . Can torturing a definition violate the Geneva Convention? If an analyst loads the dice so that his boss can tell the president that evidence of Iraqi W.M.D. is a “slam dunk,” that’s not politicization. If an analyst tilts to the wrong side of a factual question in hopes of increasing funding for his division, that’s not politicization. Inside this legalistic boundary it only counts as “politicization” if a policymaker explicitly demands that an analyst change his views to produce a desired result.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BUSH: “For the Vice President to be meeting with analysts, that was a real red flag,” said one State Department official. “It was so unusual. It was clear that people were being leaned on. Usually, if a high-ranking official wants information, it gets tasked out through appropriate channels. It was highly unusual to lock these people in a room and keep pressing. It crossed the line between intellectual inquiry and not accepting the real answer.” Together, Cheney and Scooter Libby made about ten visits to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley — a highly irregular occurrence. “I was at the C.I.A. for 24 years,” said former C.I.A. analyst Melvin Goodman. The only time a vice president came to the C.I.A. building was for a ceremony, to cut a ribbon, to stand on the stage — not to harangue analysts about finished intelligence.”

RWM: Isn’t it curious that Cheney and Libby spent so much time at the C.I.A. — but didn’t bother talking to centrifuge scientists on the tubes? Russ Hoyle’s exceptional book crystalizes that question even more:

GOING TO WAR: A spokesman for Cheney claimed the vice president didn’t know about the internal debate within the intelligence community until the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate was published on October 1st. The notion that Cheney — a meticulous and aggressive investigator, could have been in the dark about the D.O.E’s view on the tubes strains credulity.

RWM: Identifying deception revolves around the observation of behavioral patterns. The following interview excerpts typify how the dishonest will deflect, evade, dismiss, and redirect out of desperation. Ask the right questions and they will dig themselves into a hole every single time. Unfortunately, the journalists didn’t ask any questions that demand specificity — which left the door wide open for absurdly-obfuscated answers.



GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (RWM): The weapons inspectors have found no evidence of centrifuges. Do you now accept that these aluminum tubes were almost certainly for artillery rockets not nuclear weapons?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE (PM): George — what you know today can affect what you do tomorrow — but not what you did yesterday.

GEORGE  STEPHANOPOULOS (RWM): Well — I’m asking about today.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE (PM): I stand by the correctness of the decision to take seriously an intelligence assessment that Saddam Hussein would likely have a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade if you didn’t do something.

GEORGE  STEPHANOPOULOS (RWM): That’s not precisely what I’m asking. Do you accept today, that these tubes were likely for rockets not nuclear weapons?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE (PM): George, as I understand it, people are still debating this. I’m sure they will continue to debate it.




ANDREA MITCHELL: And you believed it was true at the time?

POWELL: Yes, so did they. But they shouldn`t have. I mean, there were a lot of people in the agency, in the community, that knew that some of this information wasn`t, you know, as solid as it was being presented to me.




TIM RUSSERT (RWM): Your own State Department intelligence agency had a real caveat about the use of aluminum tubes. They did not think they could be used for nuclear centrifuges. And yet you put forth that testimony.

COLIN POWELL (PM): There was a big debate about the aluminum tubes. C.I.A. was absolutely convinced that they were for centrifuges. Department of Energy, I.A.E.A, others — and some of my people in the State Department said, “We’re not sure. We think they probably could be used for rocket bodies.” We challenged that repeatedly — and the C.I.A. kept coming up with technical reasons why they had to be for centrifuges.


RWM: Yeah — except that none of them made any sense. And that bit about his people at the Intelligence Bureau — I.N.R. said nothing of the kind. I really liked Tim Russert and I regularly watched Meet the Press before he passed away. But how it is possible that a journalist of his caliber didn’t have a multitude of questions lined up on this topic by 2007? Incredibly, Russert moved on without probing Powell’s answers in the slightest. Colin Powell brought credibility to a case woven out of whole cloth — and yet to this day he is heralded as a statesman.


TALKING HUBRIS March 22, 2013

DAVID CORN: Blame Colin Powell for believing that and still giving that speech and now he’s seen as a wise man and the president courts him, networks court him, and we pay a lot of attention, but he knew when he took the job that he was there to be a front for these guys and he served dutifully as that front.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Do you think he knew that? . . . I still think he. . . I’m gonna defend him because I like him. He was a military guy thinking his job was to salute.


RWM: Mr. Matthews, with that attitude you have no business hosting a show called HARDBALL. The Secretary is essential to the entire charade, and yet you give Powell a pass because of your fondness for him? Coddling Colin Powell is precisely the kind of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

This concludes Act III



Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America’s best
One hundred men we’ll test today
But only three win the Green Beret

The Green Berets - Record Cover


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