The WaPo writes a dismissive article today on the new book written by Douglas Feith:
In the first insider account of Pentagon decision-making on Iraq, one of the key architects of the war blasts former secretary of state Colin Powell, the CIA, retired Gen. Tommy R. Franks and former Iraq occupation chief L. Paul Bremer for mishandling the run-up to the invasion and the subsequent occupation of the country.
Douglas J. Feith, in a massive score-settling work, portrays an intelligence community and a State Department that repeatedly undermined plans he developed as undersecretary of defense for policy and conspired to undercut President Bush’s policies.
Among the disclosures made by Feith in “War and Decision,” scheduled for release next month by HarperCollins, is Bush’s declaration, at a Dec. 18, 2002, National Security Council meeting, that “war is inevitable.” The statement came weeks before U.N. weapons inspectors reported their initial findings on Iraq and months before Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Feith, who says he took notes at the meeting, registered it as a “momentous comment.”
Although he acknowledges “serious errors” in intelligence, policy and operational plans surrounding the invasion, Feith blames them on others outside the Pentagon and notes that “even the best planning” cannot avoid all problems in wartime. While he says the decision to invade was correct, he judges that the task of creating a viable and stable Iraqi government was poorly executed and remains “grimly incomplete.”
A majority of the blame, Feith writes, can be laid at the feet of Bremer and the State Department/CIA which jives completely with Kenneth Timmerman’s book Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender. One example is the Chalabi issue. In one segment Timmerman writes about a May 2004 meeting between the President and his principal advisors where Ambassador Robert Blackwill made a plea to sideline Ahmad Chalabi, who at the time was a member of the Governing Council and was being talked about to be a candidate for PM.
Blackwill argued that Chalabi was on the take and then through out a charge that he was meeting with Iranians in Kurdistan.
While Cheney had been critical of the CIA for leaking derogatory information on Chalabi to the press, he agreed that the information on these latest alleged meetings between Chalabi’s people and the Iranians was troubling. But so was the meeting hosted by the Brits ten days earlier in Basra with a top Iranian Foreign Ministry official, to which Bremer sent his foreign affairs advisor, State Department diplomat Ron Neumann. Certainly no decision was made by this group to talk directly to the Iranians, he pointed out. Did that make Jerry Bremer an Iranian agent?
Undaunted, Blackwill urged the principals as a precauction to terminate the intelligence-collection program with the Iraqi National Congress (a Chalabi organization). Even though DIA director Admiral Lowell Jacoby wanted to continue the program and U.S. Field commanders had testified publicly that INC information had saved the lives of U.S. soldiers, the CIA was trying to place the blame on the INC for its own mistakes in analysing Saddam’s WMD programs. “The CIA was pissed with us because we kept coming up with stuff they didn’t have,” said Chalabi aide Zaab Sethna.
Chalabi later alleged in U.S. court filings that King Abdullah II of Jordan “traveled to the United States and personally delivered to President George Bush a file containing the false accusation that Chalabi had informed the Iranian government that the United States had broken its encryption code and thus could intercept its secret communications.”
Timmerman writes about the fact that, at the time, Bremer was the sole person who named Iraqi judges and those judges reported to him. On May 20, 2004, one of those judges issued a arrest warrant for Chalabi and his house and office was raided. He even authorized the use of coalition forces to help out on the raid.
The raid turned up nothing of value. Instead they took
“a family Koran, a set of prayer beads, and documents relating to the INC’s investigation of the UN oil-for-food scandal. (The INC was instrumental in exposing the massive bribery scheme, and had compiled documents seized in former government ministries that identified hundreds of United Nations and foreign government officials who had taken kickbacks from Saddam Hussein.)
Back in Washington, former Pentagon official Michael Rubin was livid. “This is a huge blow to America’s prestige. The message we’ve just sent is that we do not stand by our allies, that the United States can’t be trusted. We’ve just told Arab liberals and democrats that it’s just plain crazy to work with America.”
Rubin, who had recently returned from a job with the CPA, spoke by phone with Sunni clerics, Shiite professionals, and independent Kurdish businessmen in Iraq in the hours immediately after the Baghdad raid. “Everyone in Iraq believes that because of U.S. actions, we are now heading for civil war,” he said. “We have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Basically, Bremer had gone mad,” he told me.
Bremer and the CPA later claimed they had seized counterfeit Iraqi money. Only problem was that they seized “several specimen counterfeit bills, stamped “COUNTERFEIT” in large letters by the Iraqi Central Bank.”
Timmerman writes about the “leaks” by senior U.S. officials to the MSM which alleged dozens of nefarious deeds by Chalabi.
To anyone who didn’t know Chalabi and hadn’t experienced the deep, personal animosity the CIA continued to harbor toward him, the allegations were stunning.
Time reported that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Chalabi’s relationship with the Iranians. Newsweek added that the gumshoes were seeking to determine “who in the U.S. government might have leaked such information to Chalabi or the INC.” News of the FBI involvement, and the opening of a U.S. based investigation, amounted to two additional leaks of highly sensitive classified information. All came from “senior” administration officials and were prima facie violations of the Espionage Act.
As the days wore on the alleged misdeeds by Chalabi grew more and more incredible, including a story that Chalabi had learned about the US breaking the Iranian code from a drunk soldier and then he passed it on to the Iranians. The Iranian station chief then sent word of this news back to Tehran, USING THE BROKEN CODE!
It was so ridiculous that no serious person could possible fall for it, said Michael Ledeen, a prominent neo-con author and longtime Chalabi supporter. “Basically it assumes, A, that Chalabi is an idiot. And, B, that the Iranian station chief in Baghdad is an idiot. And the one thing we know for sure in all of this is that the Iranian intelligence service is very good, and they don’t have idiots as station chiefs in places like Baghdad.”
Ledeen was right. The story was laughably absurd. Although the Chalabi “scandal” was front-page news all across America, the president managed to put enough distance between himself and Chalabi that his misfortunes did not translate into a significant loss of public confidence in the president or in the war.
But it was just the beginning. The shadow warriors were playing for keeps.
It appears Feith’s new book will go into the shadow warriors a bit along with others inside the administration who put roadblocks in the way of Iraqi success. But to come to this conclusion you have to wade through the dismissive tone of this WaPo piece written by Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung.
In his book, Feith defends the intelligence activities on grounds that the CIA was “politicizing” intelligence by ignoring evidence in its own reports of ties between Hussein and international terrorists.
Powell and his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, are described as repeatedly working behind the scenes to undercut sound proposals by Feith and other Pentagon officials and to undermine decisions Bush had made. Feith criticizes Powell’s failure to persuade France and Germany to support U.S. war policy at the United Nations, and to gain Turkey’s approval for U.S. troop movements in its territory, as failures of effort and commitment. Feith also asks what would have happened if Powell had argued with Bush against overthrowing Hussein. Powell might have persuaded the president, Feith writes, or, if not, could have resigned.
In an introduction to the manuscript, Feith writes that he has tried to avoid polemic and seeks only to contribute to the historical record. He argues, as have other Iraq hawks such as Richard Perle — a former Reagan administration Pentagon official and outside Rumsfeld adviser — that the administration’s careful approach to Iraq, including a swift transition to Iraqi control, was prevented from succeeding by ill-informed or disloyal subordinates.
The idea to which Feith appears most attached, and to which he repeatedly returns in the book, is the formation of an Iraqi Interim Authority. Feith’s office drew up a plan for the body — to be made up of U.S.-appointed Iraqis who would share some decision-making with U.S. occupation forces — in the months before the invasion. But while he says that Bush approved it, he charges that Bremer refused to implement it.
The key mistake that the United States made in Iraq, Feith asserts, was “the mishandling of the political transition.” The good that Bremer did, he concludes, “was outweighed by the harm caused by the fact of occupation.”
Others have criticized Feith’s plan as relying too heavily on Iraqi exile politicians, including Ahmed Chalabi. Feith says that he considered Chalabi one of the most astute and democratically minded Iraqis but that he had no special brief for him. Instead, he charges that the State Department, the CIA and the military’s Central Command were pathologically opposed to the exiles and to Chalabi in particular.
Feith continually denounces the CIA, accusing it of producing poor intelligence, intruding on the formulation of policy, and then using leaks to the media to defend itself and attack its bureaucratic opponents. Most notably, he charges that intelligence officials ignored and refused to investigate possible links between al-Qaeda and Hussein’s government.
In summarizing his view of what went wrong in Iraq, Feith writes that it was a mistake for the administration to rely so heavily on intelligence reports of Hussein’s alleged stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and a nuclear weapons program, not only because they turned out to be wrong but also because secret information was not necessary to understand the threat Hussein posed.
Hussein’s history of aggression and disregard of U.N. resolutions, his past use of weapons of mass destruction and the fact that he was “a bloodthirsty megalomaniac” were enough, Feith maintains.
Couldn’t of said it better myself.
I remember Douglas Feith! He’s the former Pentagon policy chief who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee a year ago that Bush and his administration did not mislead on pre-war intelligence.
As I recall, the Democrats didn’t like that part.
He’s also the guy that Democrats claimed manipulated the pre-war intel re regime ties to AQ. I liked that one 48hrs after his office gave the briefing that Dems say was so misleading…the CIA put out a pamphlet making everything clear. Feith’s no hero of mine, but he’s perhaps the Democrats’ biggest scapegoat when it comes to Iraq.
And he’s also the guy that got his security clearances pulled for giving classified information to a foreign Embassy. And just because he testified to something, doesn’t make it true or correct. He is obsesed with claiming there were ties between AQ and the Iraqi government. There weren’t and Hussein’s people had a strong animus against AQ. Remember that government was secular, and AQ is fanatically religious. What has come out subsequently has debunked that myth– one that Feith continues to peddle.
I have no references on the charges you state. However, I contradict your claims that Saddam and AQ did not work together. Saddam did not love AQ, nor they him, but they did work together and Saddam gave medical aid to AQ and allowed members of the Taliban to settle in an area West-South-West of what is now the Green Zone.
So what has come out to “debunk that myth”??? Odd that when I was in Iraq, the Iraqis told me the only myth was Saddam not working with terrorists. He did, from the PLO (which he sent checks to homicide bomber families) to AQ (who he gave medical aid, material support, and training facilities to.
While there may have been contcts, there never was enough to justify war on the basis of ties between the two. And that is what Feithand his crew did. Former National Security Council counterterrorism directors Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon summarized the Bush Administration’s view : “The administration pressed its case for war most emphatically by arguing that U.S. national security was imperiled by Saddam’s ties to al-Qaeda. The argument had the obvious virtue of playing to the public’s desire to see the war on terrorism prosecuted aggressively and conclusively. Yet, scant proof of these links was presented. The record showed a small number of contacts between jihadists and Iraqi officials. This was treated as the tip of an unseen iceberg of cooperation, even though it fell far short of anything that resembled significant cooperation in the eyes of the counterterrorism community — as it always had. No persuasive proof was given of money, weaponry, or training being provided.”
Further, remember that Feith suggested attacking targets in South America after 9/11. He offered that nobody would be expecting that. In that he was correct.
Feith’s book will be an interesting read. If this article is any indication, it’s going to boil down to “it’s everyone’s fault save mine and Rumsfeld’s.” Sheesh.
Peter’s wrong. The core of his argument is this idea that Saddam’s regime and AQ would never work together because of religious differences, yet that’s exactly what they did during the invasion and occupation. During the invasion, Islamic Holy Warriors (re AQ) worked with Saddam’s regime by the thousands. Now, the talking point is that this only happened “after the war started,” but in reality Saddam constantly believed himself to be at war with the US since 1991, and AQ was rebuilt/reactivated in 12/92 to fight a war against the US. Moreover, Peter ignores not only the bodies found during and since the invasion, not only the terrorist training camps that US Marines overran and occupy to this day, not only the hundreds of regime leaders captured working with AQ, but he also ignores the captured documents from AQ, foreign sources, and from the regime…all of which confirm there was a relationship, and that relationship was closer than US intel could admit. Peter’s simply wrong-drastically wrong.
And who in the world said that was the only reason we went to war. There were multiple reasons for it, and Bush laid them all out prior to the invasion.
Rofl….and this is different from the multiple books from the left on this subject that say A) Iraq was wrong and B) it was Bush’s fault alone?
Books from principals involved in any administration tend to twist the reality a bit to ensure their own legacy is not hurt as badly, and this includes the lefty administrations. Its just human nature. But there is also lots of additional evidence that show Feiths views to be correct, at least what I have read of the book so far.
But believe me, I have no illusion that lefties will suddenly believe this stuff….they have invested so much into the Bushitler world view that if they were to come to grip with reality their whole world would fall apart.
In regards to WaPo beliefs, this excerpt from a Feith interview puts it into an interesting context: