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Who Lied to Whom? (about the case for invasion of Iraq) by Seymour Hersh [View All]

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-17-06 05:01 PM
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Who Lied to Whom? (about the case for invasion of Iraq) by Seymour Hersh
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Seymour Hersh is one of a vanishing breed of REAL journalists with REAL integrity in our country. He is best known for breaking the story of the Mai Lai massacre during the Viet Nam War, probably the worst atrocity of that war committed by U.S. troops. That story provided important fuel for the opposition to the war, and was undoubtedly an important factor in our eventual withdrawal from it.

In Chain of Command The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, Hersh chronicles numerous violations of international and domestic law committed by the Bush Administration since the 9/11 attacks. The chapter of that book entitled Who Lied to Whom? provides an excellent description as to HOW intelligence was twisted and manipulated by the Bush administration to provide an excuse for war:

The creation of the Office of Special Plans

The Pentagons Office of Special Plans was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz shortly after 9-11-2001. It relied on data gathered by other U.S. intelligence agencies and by Ahmad Chalabis Iraqi National Congress (INC), and within the next year it became the administrations main source of intelligence regarding Iraqs possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ties to Al Qaeda:

Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believe to be true that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons.

The perversion of the intelligence gathering and analysis process

Hersh discusses how information obtained from defectors can be especially problematic, since they may have any number of personal reasons for proving their information, including revenge. Yet, with Pentagon support, Chalabis INC obtained from defectors much of the information on which the Bush administration came to rely most of which information was later found to be erroneous. Hence the need for a vetting process for intelligence, which Hersh describes, as related to him by a retired CIA officer:

The vetting process is especially important when one is dealing with foreign reports sensitive intelligence that can trigger profound policy decisions. In theory, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authorities a process known as stovepiping without the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny.

But neither the administration nor the Office of Special Plans was interested in the vetting process. As related to Hersh by Greg Thielmann of the State Departments Bureau of Intelligence and Research:

Throughout 2002, reports were flowing from the Pentagon directly to the Vice Presidents office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals. When analysts did get a look at the reports, they were troubled by what they found. Theyd pick apart a report and find out that the source had been wrong before, or had no access to the information provided . There was considerable skepticism throughout the intelligence community about the reliability of Chalabis
sources, but defector reports were coming all the time. Meanwhile, the garbage was being shoved straight to the President.

A routine settled in: the Pentagons defector reports, classified secret, would be funneled to newspapers, but subsequent analyses of the reports by intelligence agencies scathing but also classified would remain secret.

As current and former intelligence officials related to Hersh:

One of the reasons I left was my sense that they were using the intelligence from the CIA and other agencies only when it fit their agenda. They didnt like the intelligence they were getting, and so they brought in people to write the stuff. They were so crazed and so far out and so difficult to reason with to the point of being bizarre. Dogmatic, as if they were on a mission from God. If it doesnt fit their theory, they dont want to accept it.

described the agency as increasingly demoralized. The Defense Department and the Office of the Vice President write their own pieces, based on their own ideology. We collect so much stuff that you can find anything you want The analysts at the CIA were beaten down defending their assessments. Ive never seen a government like this.

Even Kenneth Pollack, former National Security Council expert on Iraq, who wrote a book, The Threatening Storm, which advocated for war with Iraq, expressed dismay over the way intelligence was handled by the Bush administration:

What the Bush people did was dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policy makers from getting bad information. They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information.

Handling of intelligence wasnt simply sloppy there were also outright lies

General Hussein Kamel, in charge of Iraqs weapons program, defected in 1995 and supplied to U.N. inspectors evidence of Iraqs efforts to develop WMD. In October of 2002, Bush used this evidence in a speech:

Saddams regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and is capable of killing millions.

However, what Bush didnt reveal in his speech was that Kamel had told U.N. inspectors during the same interview that ALL chemical, biological and nuclear weapons had been destroyed, in many cases in response to ongoing inspections.

And, there was a case, described in the London Times, of a defector who described secret Al Qaeda training camps in Iraq, which provided instruction in the use of chemical and biological weapons to Iraqis according to the INC interpreter. But when the CIA went to interview the man with their own interpreter he claimed that he hadnt said anything about Al Qaeda training camps or training in chemical or biological weapons. The CIA put this in writing, but their report was classified.

Weak and fraudulent evidence of Iraqi purchase of uranium from Africa

Hersh goes on to describe the administrations attempt to show that Iraq was attempting to purchase uranium from Africa, based on information in an intelligence report from Italy talking about a trip to Niger in 1999, and a report that originated from an Italian businessman alleging much the same thing. None of this evidence was any good, and there was every reason to discredit it:

The SISMI report, however, was unpersuasive. Inside the American intelligence community, it was dismissed as amateurish and unsubstantiated. A CIA consultant told me, but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.

Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the CIA. The briefer said, We do have a report, but theres a lack of details.End of story. Thats all we know.

Everybody knew at every step of the way that they were false until they got to the Pentagon, where they were believed.

Joseph Wilson, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, went to Niger to check out the story, at the request of the CIA. Wilson not only found no substantiation, but he also learned that there had been no uranium there to sell. Elisabetta Burba, an Italian reporter, in response to the evidence presented by the Italian businessman, also went to Niger and found the evidence to be unsubstantiated.

The Cheney/Bush response to evidence they knew was woefully weak if not fraudulent

Cheneys response to being told by the CIA that the evidence for uranium purchase was not credible:

According to a former high-level CIA official, however, Cheney was dissatisfied with the response, and asked the agency to review the matter once again. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a year-long tug-of-war between the CIA and the Vice Presidents Office

Senior CIA analysts dealing with Iraq were constantly being urged by the Vice Presidents office to provide worst-case assessments on Iraqi weapons issues. They got pounded on, day after day.Pretty soon you say Fuck it. And they began to provide the intelligence that was wanted.

And despite all this, on September 8, 2002, Cheney:

told a television interviewer, We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon

And President Bush announced to the nation, despite the lack of evidence

Saddam Hussein has the scientists and infrastructure for a nuclear-weapons program, and has illicitly sought to purchase the equipment needed to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.(and later) Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

And no wonder Cheney and Bush would say those things. As a former White House official told Hersh:

By early March 2002. it was understood by many in the White House that the President had already decided, in his own mind, to go to war.

Assessment by the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA)

Shortly before the war began, the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) evaluated the evidence that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium:

There were the obvious problems, the evidence of a clumsy forgery that should have been obvious to anyone There were also factors. that made not only the papers but the deal they described implausible. Five hundred tons cant be siphoned off without anyone noticing. They also got in touch with American and British officials to inform them of the findings, and give them a chance to respond. Nothing was forthcoming, and so the IAEAs director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, publicly described the fraud at his next scheduled briefing to the U.N. Security Council. Then the war began, and, for a time, the tale of the African-uranium-connection forgery sank from view.


The above examples show fairly clearly that from the outset the purpose of the Bush administrations gathering and analysis of evidence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda was NOT to evaluate the evidence, but rather to make a case for war. These examples indicate not only exceptionally shoddy and biased evaluation of intelligence data, but purposeful misrepresentation of the evidence by the Bush administration to the American people, for the express purpose of rationalizing the need for war.

In keeping with his reputation as an objective professional journalist, Hersh does not expressly accuse the Bush administration of lying (not quite) or state that its misrepresentation of the evidence to the American people in order to lead them into war constitutes grounds for impeachment. He leaves the reader to fill in the blanks.

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