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[casi-analysis] Staying for as long as the Philippines - Garner

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       Home | Newswire | About Us | Donate | Sign-Up | Archives   Saturday,
February 21, 2004     
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 Published on Saturday, February 21, 2004 by the Inter Press Service
Chalabi, Garner Provide New Clues to War
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - For those still puzzling over the whys and wherefores of
Washington's invasion of Iraq 11 months ago, major new, but curiously
unnoticed, clues were offered this week by two central players in the events
leading up to the war.
Both clues tend to confirm growing suspicions that the Bush administration's
drive to war in Iraq had very little, if anything, to do with the dangers
posed by Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or his
alleged ties to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda -- the two main reasons the
U.S. Congress and public were given for the invasion.
Separate statements by Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National
Congress (INC), and U.S. retired Gen Jay Garner, who was in charge of
planning and administering post-war reconstruction from January through May
2002, suggest that other, less public motives were behind the war, none of
which concerned self-defense, pre-emptive or otherwise.
The statement by Chalabi, on whom the neo-conservative and right-wing hawks
in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office are still resting
their hopes for a transition that will protect Washington's many interests
in Iraq, will certainly interest congressional committees investigating why
the intelligence on WMD before the war was so far off the mark.
In a remarkably frank interview with the London 'Daily Telegraph', Chalabi
said he was willing to take full responsibility for the INC's role in
providing misleading intelligence and defectors to President George W. Bush,
Congress and the U.S. public to persuade them that Hussein posed a serious
threat to the United States that had to be dealt with urgently.
The Telegraph reported that Chalabi merely shrugged off accusations his
group had deliberately misled the administration. ''We are heroes in
error'', he said.
''As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful'', he told the
newspaper. ''That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad.
What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking
for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants''.
It was an amazing admission, and certain to fuel growing suspicions on
Capitol Hill that Chalabi, whose INC received millions of dollars in
taxpayer money over the past decade, effectively conspired with his
supporters in and around the administration to take the United States to war
on pretenses they knew, or had reason to know, were false.
Indeed, it now appears increasingly that defectors handled by the INC were
sources for the most spectacular and detailed -- if completely unfounded --
information about Hussein's alleged WMD programs, not only to U.S.
intelligence agencies, but also to U.S. mainstream media, especially the
'New York Times', according to a recent report in the New York 'Review of
Within the administration, Chalabi worked most closely with those who had
championed his cause for a decade, particularly neo-conservatives around
Cheney and Rumsfeld -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz,
Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Cheney's chief of staff, I.
Lewis Libby.
Feith's office was home to the office of special plans (OSP) whose two staff
members and dozens of consultants were tasked with reviewing raw
intelligence to develop the strongest possible case that Hussein represented
a compelling threat to the United States.
OSP also worked with the defense policy board (DPB), a hand-picked group of
mostly neo-conservative hawks chaired until just before the war by Richard
Perle, a long-time Chalabi friend.
DPB members, particularly Perle, former CIA director James Woolsey and
former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, played prominent roles in publicizing
through the media reports by INC defectors and other alleged evidence
developed by OSP that made Hussein appear as scary as possible.
Chalabi even participated in a secret DPB meeting just a few days after the
Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon in which the main topic
of discussion, according to the 'Wall Street Journal', was how 9/11 could be
used as a pretext for attacking Iraq.
The OSP and a parallel group under Feith, the Counter Terrorism Evaluation
Group, have become central targets of congressional investigators, according
to aides on Capitol Hill, while unconfirmed rumors circulated here this week
that members of the DPB are also under investigation.
The question, of course, is whether the individuals involved were themselves
taken in by what Chalabi and the INC told them or whether they were willing
collaborators in distorting the intelligence in order to move the country to
war for their own reasons..
It appears that Chalabi, whose family, it was reported this week, has
extensive interests in a company that has already been awarded more than 400
million dollars in reconstruction contracts, is signaling his willingness to
take all of the blame, or credit, for the faulty intelligence.
But one of the reasons for going to war was suggested quite directly by
Garner -- who also worked closely with Chalabi and the same cohort of U.S.
hawks in the run-up to the war and during the first few weeks of occupation
-- in an interview with 'The National Journal'.
Asked how long U.S. troops might remain in Iraq, Garner replied, ''I hope
they're there a long time'', and then compared U.S. goals in Iraq to U.S.
military bases in the Philippines between 1898 and 1992.
''One of the most important things we can do right now is start getting
basing rights with (the Iraqi authorities)'', he said. ''And I think we'll
have basing rights in the north and basing rights in the south ... we'd want
to keep at least a brigade''.
''Look back on the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century: they
were a coaling station for the navy, and that allowed us to keep a great
presence in the Pacific. That's what Iraq is for the next few decades: our
coaling station that gives us great presence in the Middle East'', Garner
While U.S. Military strategists have hinted for some time that a major goal
of war was to establish several bases in Iraq, particularly given the
ongoing military withdrawal from Saudi Arabia, Garner is the first to state
it so baldly.
Until now, U.S. Military chiefs have suggested they need to retain a
military presence just to ensure stability for several years, during which
they expect to draw down their forces.
If indeed Garner's understanding represents the thinking of his former
bosses, then the ongoing struggle between Cheney and the Pentagon on the one
hand and the State Department on the other over how much control Washington
is willing to give the United Nations over the transition to Iraqi rule
becomes more comprehensible.
Ceding too much control, particularly before a base agreement can be reached
with whatever Iraqi authority will take over Jun. 30, will make permanent
U.S. bases much less likely.

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