The Crime and the Cover-Up
t r 0au t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 21 July 2003
The scandal axiom in Washington states that it is not the crime that destroys 0ayou, but the cover-up. Today in Washington you can hear terms like 'Iraqgate' 0aand 'Weaponsgate' bandied about, but such obtuse labels do not provide an 0aexplanation for the profound movements that are taking place.
Clearly, there is a scandal brewing over the Iraq war and the Bush 0aadministration claims of Iraqi weapons arsenals that led to the shooting. 0aClearly, there is a cover-up taking place. Yet this instance, the crimes that 0ahave led to the cover-up are worse by orders of magnitude than the cover-up 0aitself.
The simple fact is that America went to war in Iraq because George W. Bush, 0aDick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and virtually every 0aother public face within this administration vowed that Iraq had vast stockpiles 0aof chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. America went to war because these 0apeople vowed that Iraq had direct connections to al Qaeda, and by inference to 0athe attacks of September 11.
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the 0aIraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons 0aever devised," said Bush on March 17, 2003.
"We know now that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," 0asaid Cheney on August 26, 2002.
"There is no doubt'' that Saddam Hussein ''has chemical weapons stocks,'' 0asaid Powell to FOX News on September 8, 2002.
"Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by 0apeople now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, 0aincluding members of Al Qaeda," said Bush in his State of the Union address. On 0aSeptember 26, 2002, Don Rumsfeld laid the groundwork for Bush's statement by 0aclaiming that America had "bulletproof" evidence of Iraqi involvement with al 0aQaeda.
These public statements, augmented by hundreds more in the same vein, stoked 0afears within an already shellshocked American populace that Iraqi nuclear 0aweapons and anthrax would come raining out of the sky at any moment, unless 0asomething was done. This same information was delivered in dire tones to 0aCongress, which voted for war on Iraq based almost exclusively on the testimony 0aof CIA Director George Tenet.
None of it was true. Not one ounce of chemical, biological or nuclear 0aweaponry has been found in Iraq in the 82 days since "hostilities ceased" on May 0a1, 2003. Not one ounce of chemical, biological or nuclear weaponry has been 0afound in Iraq in the 124 days since the shooting in Iraq officially started on 0aMarch 19, 2003. Not one ounce of chemical, biological or nuclear weaponry has 0abeen found in Iraq in the 230 days since the UNMOVIC weapons inspections began 0ain Iraq in late November of 2002. No proof whatsoever of Iraqi connections to al 0aQaeda has been established.
Recently, the scandal over the missing Iraq weapons and the Bush 0aadministration claims has focused on whether or not Iraq was trying to procure 0auranium "yellow cake" from Niger in order to reconstitute a nuclear weapons 0aprogram. The last two weeks have shown decisively that the Bush administration 0aused manufactured evidence, which had been denounced from virtually all corners 0aof the American intelligence community, to justify their war. The 0aadministration's explanation for this has changed by the hour - They weren't 0atold by the CIA, and then they were told but Bush and Cheney never heard about 0ait, but it was only sixteen words in one speech, so everybody calm down.
No one is calming down. When the President of the United States terrifies the 0aAmerican people in his constitutionally-mandated State of the Union speech with 0anuclear threats based upon evidence that was universally known to be shoddily 0aforged garbage, no one should calm down. When he uses that terror to make war on 0aa nation that was no threat to America, no one should calm down. When over 200 0aAmerican soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians die because of this, 0ano one should calm down. When that grisly body count rises every single day, no 0aone should calm down.
The Niger nuclear forgery scandal is merely an accent in this criminal 0asymphony. It has become all too clear that a small cadre of ultra-conservative 0ahawks within the administration led us to where we are today with absolutely no 0aoversight from the rest of the government. This group managed the run-up to war 0aby creating demonstrably exaggerated interpretations of intelligence reports, 0aand used 'insider data' from people with many good reasons to help lie America 0ainto this war.
The Office of Special Plans, or OSP, was created by Defense Secretary 0aRumsfeld specifically to second-guess and reinterpret intelligence data to 0ajustify war in Iraq. The OSP was staffed by rank amateurs, civilians whose 0aideological pedigree suited Rumsfeld and his cabal of hawks. Though this group 0awas on no government payroll and endured no Congressional oversight, their 0ainformation and interpretations managed to prevail over the data being provided 0aby the State Department and CIA. This group was able to accomplish this 0aincredible feat due to devoted patronage from high-ranking ultra-conservatives 0awithin the administration, including Vice-President Cheney.
The highest levels of the OSP were staffed by heavy-hitters like 0aUndersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, and William Luti, a 0aformer Navy officer who worked for Cheney before joining the Pentagon. These two 0amen, along with their civilian advisors, worked according to a strategy that 0athey hoped would recreate Iraq into an Israeli ally, destroy a potential threat 0ato Persian Gulf oil trade, and wrap U.S. allies around Iran. The State 0aDepartment and CIA saw this plan as being badly flawed and based upon profoundly 0aquestionable intelligence. The OSP responded to these criticisms by cutting 0aState and CIA completely out of the loop. By the time the war came, nearly all 0athe data used to justify the action to the American people was coming from the 0aOSP. The American intelligence community had been totally usurped.
When the OSP wanted to change or exaggerate evidence of Iraqi weapons 0acapabilities, they sent Vice President Cheney to CIA headquarters on 0aunprecedented visits where he demanded "forward-leaning" interpretations of the 0aevidence. When Cheney was unable to go to the CIA, his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, went in his place.
On three occasions, former congressman Newt Gingrich visited CIA in his 0acapacity as a "consultant" for ultra-conservative hawk Richard Perle and his 0aDefense Policy Board. According to the accounts of these visits, Gingrich 0abrowbeat the analysts to toughen up their assessments of the dangers posed by 0aHussein. He was allowed access to the CIA and the analysts because he was 0aa known emissary of the OSP.
The main OSP source of data on Iraqi weapons, and on the manner in which the 0aIraqi people would greet their 'liberators,' was Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi was the 0ahead of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group seeking since 1997 the 0aoverthrow of Saddam Hussein. Chalabi had been hand-picked by Don Rumsfeld to be 0athe leader of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein, despite the fact that he 0ahad been convicted in 1992 of 32 counts of bank fraud by a Jordanian court and 0asentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison. It apparently never occurred to 0aRumsfeld and the OSP that Chalabi had a lot of reasons to lie. It seems they 0awere too enamored of the data he was providing, because that data fully 0ajustified the course of action they had been set upon since September 11, 0a2001.
Chalabi was the main source behind claims that Iraq had connections to al 0aQaeda. Chalabi was the main source behind claims that Iraq was stockpiling 0aweapons of mass destruction. Chalabi was the main source behind claims that the 0aIraqi people would rise up and embrace their American invaders. Chalabi's claims 0aon this last matter are the main reason post-war Iraq is in complete chaos, 0abecause Rumsfeld assumed the logistics for repairing Iraq would be simple - The 0ajoyful Iraqis would do it for him.
According to a story entitled "Planners Faulted in Iraq Chaos" by 0aKnight-Ridder reporters Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, published on July 0a13, Chalabi proved to be a dangerous wild card. Chalabi's association with and 0ainfluence over the OSP, however, continued unabated:
"The Chalabi scheme was dealt another major blow in February, a month before 0athe war started, when U.S. intelligence agencies monitored him conferring with 0ahard-line Islamic leaders in Tehran, Iran, a State Department official said. 0aAbout that time, an Iraqi Shiite militia that was based in Iran and known as the 0aBadr Brigade began moving into northern Iraq, setting off alarm bells in 0aWashington. Cheney, once a strong Chalabi backer, ordered the Pentagon to curb 0aits support for the exiles, the official said. Yet Chalabi continued to receive 0aPentagon assistance, including backing for a 700-man paramilitary unit. The U.S. 0amilitary flew Chalabi and his men at the height of the war from the safety of 0anorthern Iraq to an air base outside the southern city of Nasiriyah in 0aexpectation he would soon take power."
Chalabi never took power. Instead, Paul Bremer was installed as the American 0aproconsul in Iraq, ostensibly with orders to bring stability and liberty to the 0acountry. This last aspect is the final lie, the most repugnant crime, 0aperpetrated against the civilians of that ravaged nation.
I spoke last week with a woman named Jodie Evans, long-time peace activist 0aand organizer of a group called the International Occupation Watch Center, or 0aIOWC. The purpose of the IOWC is to stand as watchdogs in Iraq over the 0acorporate contracts being doled out, and to view in person what is happening to 0athe Iraqi people. "I think that if you were against the war, then you need to be 0athere," said Evans, "because there is no one in Iraq who is for the Iraqi 0apeople, and the people know it. They know it."
Evans had just returned from Baghdad. Upon her arrival to the city, she saw 0athe demonstrable chaos caused by the war, and by the abject failure to repair 0athe country in the aftermath. "It was 120 degrees, it was dusty, the air had a 0ahaze that makes everything gray," said Evans. "The buildings you see on the road 0aare bombed out. In some, you can see the fire coming up. In some, you only see 0athe scaffolding of contorted metal. We got across our bridge and turned right 0aonto the street we know so well, the one we've stayed on, and every building was 0aeither boarded up or bombed out, including the United Nations DP. It was all 0abombed in, the windows were black from the fire."
"Immediately after we arrived," said Evans, "we hear that it is not only 0aworse than before the war. It is worse than during the war. People are upset, 0apeople are angry. There were lots of stories about how the Americans are doing 0athis on purpose. A month after the '91 war, which was much worse than this one, 0aeverything was back and working. Now, the people live in this chaos they can't 0aeven imagine. People can't go outside. Women haven't left their homes. Lots of 0apeople haven't come back from Syria or Kuwait or wherever they fled to get away 0afrom the bombing, because life in Iraq is unlivable. There is 65% unemployment, 0aand even the doctors and nurses and teachers who are going to work don't get 0apaid, so there's no money."
Evans met a number of Americans in Iraq who are part of the 'rebuilding 0aprocess.' One such person was in the Compound, a guarded palace that is now home 0ato Bremer's office and staff along with a number of other groups. The overall 0aorganization is called the Iraqi Assistance Center, or IAC. The man Evans met 0awas a professor of religion and political theory at a religious college in 0aAmerica. He explained that his job was to collect intelligence for Bremer.
"That professor I spoke to, the one doing intelligence for Bremer, I told him 0athat I had spoken to countless Iraqis and all of them felt this chaos was 0ahappening on purpose," said Evans. "He basically said this was true, that chaos 0awas good, and out of chaos comes order. So what the Iraqis were saying - that 0athis madness was all on purpose - this intelligence guy didn't discredit. He 0asaid, 'If you keep them hungry, they'll do anything for us.'"
"I met the man who was hired to create a new civil government in Baghdad, to 0abring Baghdad back to order," said Evans. "His name was Gerald Lawson. I asked 0ahim what his background was that allowed him to get this job. He said he was in 0athe Atlanta Police for 30 years. I asked how this gave him the ability to create 0aa stable, civil government. He said he was a manager. I asked him what he knew 0aabout Iraqis. He knew nothing, and didn't care to know anything. He didn't know 0atheir history, their government, didn't speak a word of Arabic and didn't care 0ato learn. This guy doesn't work for the American government, doesn't work for 0athe State Department, and doesn't work for the CPA. He works for a corporation 0acreated by ex-Generals. Their job is to create the new Iraqi government 0astructure."
"We met the man whose job is to make sure the hospitals have what they need," 0asaid Evans. "He is a veterinarian. We met a British guy who showed up at the 0aCompound gates one day and said he was a volunteer who wanted to help. The next 0aday he was named the head of rubbish control in Baghdad, which is a huge problem 0athere because there is garbage all over the street. I asked him what he had been 0adoing with his time. He said he'd been hanging out at Odai's palace playing with 0athe lions and the cheetahs. I met the guy in charge of designing the airport, 0awhere major jumbo jets are supposed to land. He had never designed an airport 0abefore."
"Another man I spoke to associated with this process is named Don Munson," 0asaid Evans. "His job is civilian affairs policy. He said to me, 'We are 0areplacing one dictatorship with another.' He's there for two years, and he works 0ain the palace on the first floor."
"Remember," said Evans, "that the first thing America did was to fire 80,000 0apolice officers. These guys weren't associated with the Hussein regime. That's 0alike connecting a cop in LA to the Bush administration. All the people I've 0atalked to over there, the ambassadors and others, said they warned Bremer not to 0ado that. The cops knew who the criminals were, and 80,000 cops are gone. So now 0athere are these little mafias that run neighborhoods. With no other work and no 0away to survive, people are going to become criminals. The borders are wide open - we didn't even get stopped when we came in - so everything is just flowing 0ainto Iraq."
"A friend of mine's husband is an ambassador," said Evans. "I asked him if 0athis was normal operating procedure. He said that, basically, no one will work 0aon this Iraq project who has any respect for their work or career, because it is 0aso clearly a farce. He said that later we will go in after these guys have blown 0ait, but right now with Bremer there it is a farce. Even the press is over there 0aare just shaking their heads and asking, can anyone fail so badly? Can anybody 0amake so many mistakes? You can't imagine they can be so dumb."
"One Iraqi woman I spoke to," said Evans, "said she feels like Iraq is a 0awounded animal, and everyone is coming in to take their piece of flesh."
The cover-up is one thing, the crime is another. The Bush administration, 0amainly in the form of Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans, disregarded any and 0aall intelligence which said Iraq was no threat. They supplanted reliable 0adata with a slew of lies and exaggerations that were fed daily to the American 0apeople and Congress, and got their war. In the aftermath, nothing is being done 0afor the millions of Iraqi civilians who suffer daily under their newfound 'liberty.'
American soldiers continue to die. Two more, men from the 101st Airborne, 0awere killed early Sunday when their convoy was attacked with rocket-propelled 0agrenades and small arms fire. "You have these young American soldiers sitting in 0aturrets," said Jodie Evans, "just sitting ducks for the rage and frustration and 0avengeance that is coming out."
This is a crime without peer in the annals of American history. The cover-up 0acurrently underway must not be allowed to succeed.
When the American government gets hijacked by extremists like the men 0astaffing the Office of Special Plans, when intelligence data stating flatly that 0aIraq presents no threat to America is disregarded or exaggerated because the 0atruth does not fit ideological desires, when Congress is lied to, when the 0aAmerican people are lied to, when innocent civilians at the sharp end of these 0alies are left to rot in the dust and the bomb craters on purpose, when American 0asoldiers are shot down in the street because of these lies, no kind of cover-up 0acan be allowed to succeed.
The time has indeed come for a reckoning. Let it begin, and let it begin 0asoon.
Author's Note: The data surrounding this developing story is 0avoluminous, and seems to change every time an administration representative 0aopens his or her mouth. I have collected below the last few stories I have 0awritten on this subject in chronological order. Please utilize this data to 0afurther your understanding of this matter.
We Used To Impeach Liars (6/3/03)
The Dog Ate My WMDs (6/13/03)
Interview with 27-Year CIA Veteran Ray McGovern (6/26/03)
The Insiders Are Coming Out (7/8/03)
Mr. Bush, You Are A Liar (7/11/03)
The Dubious Suicide of George Tenet (7/14/03)
- - - - -
is 0athe Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times best-selling author 0aof two books - "War On Iraq" available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest 0aSedition is Silence," now available from Pluto Press here.