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[casi] US Intelligence Failures on Iraq WMD

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

US Intelligence Failures on Iraq WMD Rooted in
Trusting Chalabi, Likud, Neocons

Carl W. Ford Jr., the just-retired assistant secretary
of State for intelligence and research, has given an
extended interview to the Los Angeles Times in which
he forthrightly acknowledges that something went wrong
with US intelligence estimations of Iraqi weapons of
mass destruction programs.,1,7733575.story?coll=la-home-leftrail

Ford's allegations follow those of his colleague, Greg
Thielman, reported by Frontline and by Sy Hersh

Actually, to us ordinary folks without security
clearances, it has been fairly apparent for some time
that the "intelligence" on Iraqi weapons was
questionable. There were Iraqi nuclear scientists in
the West who were telling anyone who would listen that
the program was abandoned in 1991. But they weren't
given the airtime on MSNBC, Fox and CNN. It was given
to poseurs like Khidhir Hamza, who appears to have
first attempted to sell his life story as a scientist
working for Saddam. When that didn't work, I was told,
he then turned to writing the mendacious Saddam's

The problem was that the intellectual context for the
interpretation of what evidence was gathered was
highly politicized. The US intelligence services had
satellite photos that were highly ambiguous. They saw
them through the lens of three main groups: 1) Iraqi
expatriates with an axe to grind; 2) Israeli
hardliners like Ariel Sharon; and 3) his backers among
American neoconservatives who managed to take charge
of Pentagon and NSC Middle East policy.

A great deal that the US intelligence folks knew about
Iraqi weapons programs was supplied to them by corrupt
expatriates like Ahmad Chalabi, who were trying to
bait the US into a war to overthrow Saddam, so that
they could come in and take over. Some of the rest
came from the greedy and unscrupulous, such as Hamza.

Other information derived from satellite photos and
telephone intercepts. The satellite photos would just
show a vehicle driving up to a building that used to
be used for say, biological weapons development back
in the 1980s. The analysts interpreted that as
evidence that the site was being revived for that
purpose. But the truck would actually belong to
looters who were stealing the equipment and copper
wire. The telephone intercepts would show what Saddam
wanted them to show, since he knew the calls were
bugged--and he wanted the world to think he had WMD to
ward off an attack. There was very little use of Iraqi
human intelligence, which could easily have inspected
the supposedly reactivated weapons sites (if looters
could get in, so could an Iraqi agent run by the CIA).

In addition, the US depends heavily on Mossad, Israeli
intelligence, for assessments of threats in the Middle
East. As Benny Morris has shown in Israel's Secret
Wars, however, Mossad can be stupid or self-interested
just like any other organization. UPI reported on June
28, 2002:

"Israel also has "clear indications” that Iraq resumed
efforts to produce fissile materials, Mossad leader
Ephraim Halevy said while addressing a closed session
of the council Wednesday in Brussels. The Israeli
Yediot Aharonot newspaper published the full text of
the speech Friday."


Halevy was just plain wrong. One doesn't know whether
he was a "weasel," producing such an assessment
because Israeli PM Ariel Sharon demanded it, or
whether he was misled by the same Iraqi expatriates
who lied to the CIA. If US intelligence counted
Mossad's reports as separate and confirmatory to what
Chalabi was saying, they may have made a huge mistake
and simply counted Chalabi twice. Not only was Mossad
producing false intelligence that misled the US, but
Sharon created an office of special plans similar to
that of US undersecretary of defense for planning
Douglas Feith in the Pentagon (headed by Abram
Shulsky), with the charge of producing intelligence
that would support an Iraq war.

Robert Dreyfuss quoted a high former US government
official in The Nation for June 19, 2003, saying of
Sharon's operation:
"According to the former official, also feeding
information to the Office of Special Plans was a
secret, rump unit established last year in the office
of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. This unit,
which paralleled Shulsky's--and which has not
previously been reported--prepared intelligence
reports on Iraq in English (not Hebrew) and forwarded
them to the Office of Special Plans. It was created in
Sharon's office, not inside Israel's Mossad
intelligence service, because the Mossad--which prides
itself on extreme professionalism--had views closer to
the CIA's, not the Pentagon's, on Iraq. This secretive
unit, and not the Mossad, may well have been the
source of the forged documents purporting to show that
Iraq tried to purchase yellowcake uranium for weapons
from Niger in West Africa, according to the former

Karen Kwiatkowski, then working at the Pentagon
describes how she saw with her own eyes that "career
Pentagon analysts assigned to Rumsfeld's office were
generally excluded from what were "key areas of
interest" to Feith, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, notably
Israel, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. "In terms of Israel
and Iraq, all primary staff work was conducted by
political appointees; in the case of Israel, a desk
officer appointee from the Washington Institute for
Near Policy [a think tank closely tied to the main
pro-Israel lobby in Washington, the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee]." "

A front for the main pro-Sharon Israeli lobby actually
supplied the Israel desk officer to the Pentagon! Why
not just forget the pretense and appoint Ariel Sharon
the US Secretary of Defense?

Kwiatkowski provides more information; according to
Jim Lobe: "At the National Security Council (NSC),
they communicated mainly with Stephen Hadley, the
deputy national security adviser, until Elliott
Abrams, a dyed-in-the-wool neocon with close ties to
Feith and Perle, was appointed last December as the
NSC’s top Middle East aide. “They worked really hard
for Abrams; he was a necessary link,” Kwiatkowski told
IPS Wednesday. “The day he got (the appointment), they
were whooping and hollering, ‘We got him in, we got
him in.’” But she recounts one incident in which she
helped escort a group of half a dozen Israelis,
including several generals, from the first floor
reception area to Feith’s office. “We just followed
them, because they knew exactly where they were going
and moving fast.” When the group arrived, she noted
the book which all visitors are required to sign under
special regulations that took effect after the Sept.
11, 2001 attacks. “I asked his secretary, ‘Do you want
these guys to sign in?’ She said, ‘No, these guys
don’t have to sign in.’” It occurred to her, she said,
that the office may have not wanted to maintain a
record of the meeting. One person in the OSP with a
long career in the National Security bureaucracy told
her at one point: “What these people are doing now
makes Iran-Contra look like amateur hour.”"

By the way, the same groups, like WINEP, that
bamboozled the US public into the Iraq war with lies,
now want to take over the academic Middle East Studies
establishment and use Federal funds to dictate to
people like me what we can and cannot say about Middle
East politics. They have managed to get congressmen to
create a McCarthyite "advisory board" to supervise
federally funded international studies programs at
major universities, on the grounds that we academics
are "disloyal" (!) Since they have managed to deprive
so many in Washington (including virtually all sitting
members of Congress) of an effective voice on Middle
East affairs if it contradicts the Ariel Sharon
platform, they assume it will be easy enough to
silence a few rumpled professors in the Midwest. They
have another think coming. The Syrian Baath Party and
other real experts in censorship have tried to
bowdlerize my prose. Stanley Kurtz is a piker compared
to Hafez al-Asad.

For Karen Kwiatkowski's whistle blowing on the neocons
in the Pentagon, see

The are only three really big winners in the Iraq war:
Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Shiites, and the Israelis. The
Israelis, unlike other US allies, have contributed
nothing to rebuilding Iraq, and virtually the only
thing seen from them has been a) false intelligence
and b) hectoring of the US to go on to invade Iran
immediately, also apparently mainly for the political
gain of Sharon's Likud party. Sharon has also, of
course, completely ignored the Bush administration's
pleading to make peace with the Palestinians and to
seek a Palestinian state. Instead, Sharon is gobbling
up the West Bank the same way he seems to gobble up
eight meals a day (surely no politician has had a gut
quite like that since Henry VIII).

posted by Juan Cole at 9:00 AM

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