The Coming Outrage

We’ve been so wrapped up in the Iraq funding issue that this bomb is going off nearly unnoticed. Jonathan S. Landay writes for McClatchy Newspapers:

U.S. intelligence agencies warned the Bush administration before the invasion of Iraq that ousting Saddam Hussein would create a “significant risk” of sectarian strife, encourage al-Qaida attacks and open the way for Iranian interference.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday released declassified prewar intelligence reports and summaries of others that cautioned that establishing democracy in Iraq would be “long, difficult and probably turbulent” and said that while most Iraqis would welcome elections, the country’s ethnic and religious leaders would be unwilling to share power.

Nevertheless, President Bush, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top aides decided not to deploy the major occupation that force military planners had recommended, planned to reduce U.S. troops rapidly after the invasion and believed that ousting Saddam would ignite a democratic revolution across the Middle East.

The Senate Intelligence Committee ought to know better than to dump something like this on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. I suspect there’s a story behind that, and I’d like to know what it is.

You might remember that the Senate Intelligence Committee released its first report dealing with pre-war intelligence assessments about Iraq in July 2004. Then the committee, um, stopped reporting. In November 2005, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid “shut down” the Senate, forcing it into a rare, secret closed door session, threatening to delay legislative action until the Intelligence Committee followed through on its planned investigation of prewar Iraq intelligence failures.

In April 2006, Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) released a schedule for releasing the rest of the report, in which he declared the remainder of the work had been broken into five parts. The first two reports of Phase II were released in August 2006 (nice dead news time, that) and looked at post-war findings about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda.

Yesterday’s was the first of the Phase II reports released since the Democratic takeover of the Senate. As it was, five Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to keep sitting on what they knew. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine joined majority Democrats in approving the release, making the final vote 10-5. Although the Dems were in the majority, I can’t help but wonder if the timing of the release was part of a deal.

Cliff Schecter has more details about what the report says.

Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung write in today’s Washington Post.

Months before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it would be likely to spark violent sectarian divides and provide al-Qaeda with new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Analysts warned that war in Iraq also could provoke Iran to assert its regional influence and “probably would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups” in the Muslim world.

The intelligence assessments, made in January 2003 and widely circulated within the Bush administration before the war, said that establishing democracy in Iraq would be “a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge.” The assessments noted that Iraqi political culture was “largely bereft of the social underpinnings” to support democratic development.

Dan Froomkin dedicated much of yesterday’s column to this issue. Among other things, he quotes an Associated Press report:

The committee also found that the warnings predicting what would happen after the U.S.-led invasion were circulated widely in government, including to the Defense Department and the Office of the Vice President. It wasn’t clear whether President Bush was briefed.

Of course it wasn’t.

I don’t believe this information is entirely new. James Fallows said something like it in the January/February 2004 issue of Atlantic Monthly, in his article “Blind Into Baghdad.” Today’s news stories are about pre-war reports from U.S. intelligence that were studiously ignored, whereas Fallows wrote about studies commissioned by the U.S. Department of State that were studiously ignored. If you’ve never read this article I urge you to do so (the link is to a page outside the Atlantic subscription firewall). Even though it is more than three years old, there’s stuff in it that I bet will make your jaw drop even now. Anyway, one of the pre-war issues Fallows addressed was the absence of Bush:

… in several months of interviews I never once heard someone say “We took this step because the President indicated …” or “The President really wanted …” Instead I heard “Rumsfeld wanted,” “Powell thought,” “The Vice President pushed,” “Bremer asked,” and so on. One need only compare this with any discussion of foreign policy in Reagan’s or Clinton’s Administration—or Nixon’s, or Kennedy’s, or Johnson’s, or most others—to sense how unusual is the absence of the President as prime mover. The other conspicuously absent figure was Condoleezza Rice, even after she was supposedly put in charge of coordinating Administration policy on Iraq, last October. It is possible that the President’s confidants are so discreet that they have kept all his decisions and instructions secret. But that would run counter to the fundamental nature of bureaucratic Washington, where people cite a President’s authority whenever they possibly can (“The President feels strongly about this, so …”).

To me, the more likely inference is that Bush took a strong overall position—fighting terrorism is this generation’s challenge—and then was exposed to only a narrow range of options worked out by the contending forces within his Administration. If this interpretation proves to be right, and if Bush did in fact wish to know more, then blame will fall on those whose responsibility it was to present him with the widest range of choices: Cheney and Rice.

I doubt very much that Bush did want to know more. He had issues with Saddam Hussein, and White House courtiers were all too eager to supply him with justifications to smack the Iraqi dictator down. The details could be left up to the hired help. I say any President of the United States who was so colossally incurious about what Hurricane Katrina had done to New Orleans that his staff had to make him watch a video is perfectly capable of launching a war without thinking about the consequences real hard.

Anyway, as Fallows documented, all kinds of details had been worked out by armies of experts, including Iraqis. Among other items the report warned of possible looting and lawlessness after the Baathist government fell; of the need to restore water, electricity and jobs as quickly as possible; and not to disband the Iraqi army.

Two names that come up frequently in the Fallows article are Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. Rummy actually opposed planning for the post-war period. Here Fallows is talking to Douglas Feith:

When I asked what had gone better than expected, and what had gone worse, he said, “We don’t exactly deal in ‘expectations.’ Expectations are too close to ‘predictions.’ We’re not comfortable with predictions. It is one of the big strategic premises of the work that we do.”

The limits of future knowledge, Feith said, were of special importance to Rumsfeld, “who is death to predictions.” “His big strategic theme is uncertainty,” Feith said. “The need to deal strategically with uncertainty. The inability to predict the future. The limits on our knowledge and the limits on our intelligence.”

In practice, Feith said, this meant being ready for whatever proved to be the situation in postwar Iraq. “You will not find a single piece of paper … If anybody ever went through all of our records—and someday some people will, presumably—nobody will find a single piece of paper that says, ‘Mr. Secretary or Mr. President, let us tell you what postwar Iraq is going to look like, and here is what we need plans for.’ If you tried that, you would get thrown out of Rumsfeld’s office so fast—if you ever went in there and said, ‘Let me tell you what something’s going to look like in the future,’ you wouldn’t get to your next sentence!”

“This is an important point,” he said, “because of this issue of What did we believe? … The common line is, nobody planned for security because Ahmed Chalabi told us that everything was going to be swell.” Chalabi, the exiled leader of the Iraqi National Congress, has often been blamed for making rosy predictions about the ease of governing postwar Iraq. “So we predicted that everything was going to be swell, and we didn’t plan for things not being swell.” Here Feith paused for a few seconds, raised his hands with both palms up, and put on a “Can you believe it?” expression. “I mean—one would really have to be a simpleton. And whatever people think of me, how can anybody think that Don Rumsfeld is that dumb? He’s so evidently not that dumb, that how can people write things like that?” He sounded amazed rather than angry

In other words, Rummy et al. were opposed to “expectations,” because expectations become predictions (which are bad), but because Ahmed Chalabi had made rosy predictions about the post-war period, the Defense Department crew didn’t expect it to be all that hard. Got it.

As for Wolfie’s part, do read Sidney Blumenthal’s recent article, “Wolfowitz’s tomb.”

With the end of the Cold War the cold warrior without a mission fastened onto a new id´e fixe. As the undersecretary of defense for policy in the first Gulf War, serving under Secretary Dick Cheney, Wolfowitz had concurred in the decision not to pursue Saddam Hussein to Baghdad after expelling him from Kuwait. He had been present at the Feb. 21, 1991, meeting where that policy was approved and uttered not a skeptical or contrary word. But when the elder Bush was defeated, Wolfowitz in exile became the champion of regime change. He developed an elaborate utopian scheme based on the overthrow of Saddam — instant democracy in Iraq, inciting democratic revolutions throughout the Middle East, accompanied by the equally sudden quiescence of the Palestinians, creating peace for Israel while doing away with any negotiations involved in a peace process. And he imagined Saddam, a brutal enough tyrant, as an octopus, his tentacles manipulating nearly every horror. Even after every available piece of evidence and trials proved otherwise, he continued to insist that Saddam was behind the Oklahoma City and 1993 World Trade Center bombings. …

… [After becoming a deputy to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld] Wolfowitz set to work at once to implement his master plan. He brought up overthrowing Saddam in the first National Security Council meeting with the president, eight months before 9/11. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Wolfowitz hammered on the idea of striking at Iraq.

Less than a month before the invasion, for which his intelligence operation had provided the justifications (later all disproved as sheer disinformation), Wolfowitz was approaching an ecstatic state of being. He could see the shape of things to come through the fog of war. On Feb. 19, 2003, in an interview with National Public Radio, he held forth on the new dawn: “But we’re not talking about the occupation of Iraq. We’re talking about the liberation of Iraq … Therefore, when that regime is removed we will find one of the most talented populations in the Arab world, perhaps complaining that it took us so long to get there. Perhaps a little unfriendly to the French for making it take so long. But basically welcoming us as liberators … There’s not going to be the hostility … There simply won’t be.”

Five months later, on July 23, 2003, after his trip to Iraq, Wolfowitz was still in an elevated state. “There is no humanitarian crisis,” he said. “There is no refugee crisis. There is no health crisis. There has been minimal damage to infrastructure — minimal war damage … So, fortunately, much of what … we planned for and budgeted for has not proved necessary.”

Historians often write about the founding of our country with a reverent wonder — isn’t it remarkable that so many giants among men could have been alive at the same place and the same time? We still defer to the Founders respectfully — Washington. Jefferson. Hamilton. Madison. Franklin. A fortunate confluence. But on 9/11 we had the unfortunate confluence of the worst pack of losers and idiots that ever ran a government — Bush. Cheney. Rumsfeld. Wolfowitz. Rice. Names which will in infamy.

Update: See “Pat Lang & Lawrence Wilkerson Share Nightmare Encounters with Feith, Wolfowitz, and Tenet.”

Update 2: Who needs a propaganda machine when the base is this good at lying to itself?

33 thoughts on “The Coming Outrage

  1. So right! And this morning’s article by Sanger in the NY Times about withdrawal concepts…grrrr!! How can the press be suckered yet again to do the admin’s spin for them? Implementing these “concepts” would be nothing but a cheap ploy to “lance the boil” of frustration for the Republican candidates in next year’s election cycle….

  2. They’ll be screaming that it’s just another rehash. I’ve read somewhere already where someone offered the lame excuse that the intelligence assessment wasn’t specific enough..The same excuse that Condi claimed about not acting to prevent 9/11. Who could have known?
    We can be sure of one thing.. there won’t be any outrage due from this information, because America’s capacity to eat shit and swallow nonsense hasn’t nearly approached it’s tolerance level. If anybody with two communicating brain cells watched Bush’s rose garden press conference the other day, they’d realize just how hopeless our situation is. Bush boldly proclaimed that Saddam’s refusal to disarm from the weapons he didn’t posses, was the reason why we invaded Iraq, and nobody questioned in outrage the insanity of that gibberish along with a score of other nonsensical statements.

  3. I do not buy that the occupation of Iraq was not being planned ahead of time by those of the Bush team who were interested in Iraqi oil fields. Cheney’s ‘secret’ energy task force used maps of Iraq fields in its presentations and discussions in the spring of 2001, for pete’s sake.

    My judgment is pretty harsh: all along, this invasion was a planned theft of Iraq oil by our oil interests….and the aftermath of the invasion was according to plan: the creation of insecurity via smashing Iraqi living situations, institutions and culture… and the seemingly ‘unintentional’ backlashes from Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, and the divide and conquer ploy of allowing Sunni-Shia conflicts to flare, all were intentionally and strategically used to stir up and foster chaos in Iraq……modeling themselves on the successful theft of resources used by Israel for decades, to wit—smash and humiliate and put unbearable pressure on a powerless population until you get nihilistic reactions which can be condemned as ‘terrorism’, then claim ‘self-defense’ that to justify a host of your own sins like continued presence in their territory, all the while taking for yourselves more of that populations’ resources which you have coveted all along. The perfect dance of evil as modeled by Israel and adopted by American neocons.

    All of this business about unintended consequences and about Bush not knowing and about the neocons being stupid are ways to explain away what is very simply a matter of planned theft.

  4. Sorry, that should read, “then claim ‘self-defense’ to that in order to justify a host of your own sins……”

  5. Donna — I think many people had many different agendas that, for one reason or another, all centered on Iraq. There’s no question several of those agendas involved oil.

  6. Donna.. The more I look at it, the more I become convinced that the plan was the PNAC plan. The oil was just a bonus. I agree that what appears as fuck ups were for the most part intentionally designed to kill two birds with one stone. The so called democratic election illustrates my point. It lulled the American public into believing that Bush was pursuing an agenda for democracy, while in reality it was insuring a permanent sectarian division. And that division was a crucial element for the implementation of the PNAC plan. Our billion dollar embassy and permanent military bases in Iraq showcase Bush’s intentions.

  7. Yaarrgh. In a sea of appalling information, for some reason this sentence jumped out at me:

    Rummy actually opposed planning for the post-war period.

    It should be displayed on that electronic signboard on the underside of the Goodyear blimp… spelled out by a thousand people in the Mojave Desert, so that it’s visible from space… forcibly tatooed on Rupert Murdoch’s greasy forehead… announced in a loud, clear voice by Speaker Pelosi during impeachment hearings.

    Sadly, none of those things are going to happen. But it is one more bit of appalling information that I can use to educate the people I encounter in my daily life.

  8. MBAs always have a plan. They knew that $400billion and 4,000 dead would be unacceptable.

  9. In one of the more evil chapters of American history, American soldiers gave blankets to the Indians which were contaminated with some communicable disease wipingo out a large portion of that NA population.

    Much of our ‘strategy’ in Iraq smacks of that same benign malice. The ‘blanket’ we promised to a population unprepared for it was ‘democracy’ though we had the understanding that the mindset of the leaders guaranteed chaos.

    Out of that chaos, elements like Haliburton have reaped huge profits, and others are looking for the big prize – the oil. When the governement there fails and falls, we will set up a new one.

  10. Yeah? What information was Bush privy to that Congress didn’t have? What part of advice and consent was missing, if any? Is there any defense for the tendentiousness of the LA Times article? Is there any defense for the Janus-faced mendacity of Jay Rockefeller? Is it or is it not true that the previous administration stated that Saddam had to be brought to heel one way or another? Did or did not Al Gore say so? Did or did not John Kerry say so? Did or did not Senator Clinton say so?

    Bite me.

  11. Mr. Collins: You ask, I answer.

    For the intelligence Bush had that Congress didn’t, see this, this, and this, just for starters. You really need to give up that howler; you’re just embarrassing yourself.

    Since Congress didn’t get the truth, they couldn’t really give “advice and consent” could they? This would also explain the “Janus-faced mendacity of Jay Rockefeller.” The boy was fool enough to believe the Bushies. At least he’s wised up; you’ve got a ways to go, I see.

    The “tendentiousness of the LA Times article” exists only in your head.

    As for,

    Is it or is it not true that the previous administration stated that Saddam had to be brought to heel one way or another? Did or did not Al Gore say so? Did or did not John Kerry say so? Did or did not Senator Clinton say so?

    “One way or another” was through sanctions, flyovers, unmanned drones, and occasional air attacks, among other things. They didn’t start a bleeping stupid war. Throughout the 1990s after the Gulf War, Saddam was contained in Iraq. He was still contained in Iraq when the Bush ordered the invasion.

    Next time you have any questions, use google. I’m not a bleeping encyclopedia.

  12. Swami, #6, you wrote:

    ..The more I look at it, the more I become convinced that the plan was the PNAC plan. The oil was just a bonus.

    What was driving the PNAC plan? World dominance for sure, but this absolutely needs unhindered access to oil, and before our competitors (the Chinese and others) get it.

    There were other agendas as well, but oil is crucial. We would not be in Iraq were it not for the oil.

  13. You’re right , moonbat. I was looking at it solely from the ego’s point of view, not strategically. A bunch of neocon Alexander the Great wannabes getting off on themselves by the use of America’s power. Assholes like Elliot Abrams who just can’t kill enough innocent people to satisfy their need to be somebody.

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  15. President Bush said at a news conference Thursday that his administration was “warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn’t happen.”

    Hey, you know, shit happens.

  16. On behalf of the administration and staff of the Protein Wisdom Mental Health Center, I apologize for the bit of trouble you’ve had with our “Mr. Collins.” In future, I assure you, he will not be enjoying weekend passes with internet privileges.


    Jeffrey T. Godlstein, ABD

  17. Recently released info about “Operation Northwoods” will perhaps awaken some sleeping giants.Lets hope for “links” (as in hand cuff chains), and “ties” ( as in neck ties, self inflicted) Either that, or more administration officials will find the sudden need to spend more time with their families.

  18. So Wolfowitz believed Saddam was behind the Oklahoma City bombing? Really? That can’t be true can it?

  19. As Bill Maher said Friday, “Only Geroge W. Bush could go to war for oil and not get any”.

  20. When a politician resigning his office says that he wants to “spend more time with [his] family,” always my first thought is : … the poor kids.

  21. The thing about Saddam being behind the OK City bombing is part of the BS long pushed by Laurie Mylroie, who was widely cited by the neocons.

    I think what Maha’s saying (in the comments), and which I agree with, is that, sure, oil was behind the invasion of Iraq — that was largely Cheney’s baby — but oil was not the neocon take on it, yet at the same time the neocon take was very useful to the oil guys, because “ushering in a new world of democracy” sounds better than “we want their oil.” I would add, I don’t think all the neocons are the same. Perle, for example, is clearly a realpolitik guy with close connections to armaments, security technology, and news media — and he has made lots of dough in the post-9/11 world. In all probability he, Marc Grossman & others are also into all sorts of illegal trafficking, if you follow Sybil Edmonds. But even Perle, I don’t think, is directly connected with the oil and pipeline industry. Guys like Wolfowitz and Libby, on the other hand, are “useful idiots,” with all their stupid fantasies. BTW, it is very instructive to contemplate just what kind of idiots they are — highly educated, learned, sophisticated, well-connected — and totally lacking in any common sense, real intellectual depth, or genuine morality. As Maha says. “the worst pack of losers and idots that ever ran a government.”
    Names that will WHAT in infamy?

  22. I have to agree with Donna, comment #3.

    Oil? Who knows? It is food for thought that Bremer on being advised that the meters monitoring oil at pumping stations were either not working at all or were basically so inaccurate as to be useless, refused to replace them. As a result the bulk of Iraqi oil has been available, practically unrestricted to the black-market crowd. Perhaps someone can explain Bremer’s decision?

  23. If the CIA said WMDs were a slam dunk, why do we care what they said about anything else?

  24. jbiccum — The article you link doesn’t even address “my argument,” much less “blow it up.” If anything, it REINFORCES my argument. It shows the White House gave lip service to making Iraq “democratic” before Bush ordered the invasion. This is not news to me. In fact, it bolsters the section of my post about Wolfowitz; he genuinely believed that if Saddam Hussein were removed from power democracy would naturally follow, like mud puddles after a rain, and this would help stabilize the rest of the Middle East. But we went into Iraq with only the haziest notion of how this would happen and what the U.S. needed to do to facilitate it. Once there, we made one stupid mistake after another.

    The article you link also shows us that different parts of the government had entirely different ideas about what would happen in Iraq after the invasion. The State Department generally took a more cautious view than Feith, Rummy, and Wolfowitz, and the Pentagon military guys had a different view from Pentagon civilian guys, and many people were talking to reporters, but they weren’t necessarily talking to each other. Many people in Washington did have some idea how complex the problems they would face might be, but somehow all the people who saw the complexities were swept aside by the ideologues who didn’t. This is obvious and apparent from the public record of what has happened in Iraq.

    Facts do matter, son, and one of these days I hope you will own up to them.

  25. Barbara O’Brien wrote “The Senate Intelligence Committee ought to know better than to dump something like this on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. I suspect there’s a story behind that, and I’d like to know what it is.” Are you kidding me?? This has been the modus operandi of the entire Bush Administration and the so-called “liberal” media from the start of Bush the Younger’s reign. Does anyone remember reading or hearing about the 9/11 audio tape made by two air traffic controllers in New York? They repeated into an audio recorder everything they could hear from the second plane that hit the Towers, thinking it could perhaps be useful in any investigation that might follow. Instead, a supervisor from either Homeland Security or the TSA (it’s been so long since I read the article I can’t remember all the details) went to see them and according to the air traffic controllers literally grabbed the cassette from the hand of one of the men, crushed it in his own hand, tore the tape from the cassette and cut it into small pieces, then took those pieces and distributed them among numerous wastecans throughout the building. The article also stated that the 9/11 Commission decided there was nothing suspicious about this. The air traffic controllers were not named nor were they called to testify before the Commission. This was in the Saturday edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on the very last page of the news section. I never once heard or read anything about it again. Then there was the article telling of then-attorney general John Ashcroft ordering librarians throughout the country to gather and destroy certain legal publications which contained mostly federal laws regarding the seizing of property of U.S. citizens who are arrested on federal charges. Ashcroft stated that publications containing federal statutes should only be available in law school libraries. This too was published on a Saturday and was buried in an article with a headline about a totally different subject. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I hope.

  26. T Wolfert — Pay attention. Democrats won the Senate majority in the November midterm elections. You may have heard about that. The Senate is not part of the Bush Administration, which is the Executive Branch. It is part of Congress, which is the Legislative branch. The Senate Intelligence Committee is chaired by a Democrat and has a Democratic Party majority.

    That is why it seems odd to me that the Democrats — Democrats, mind you — on the committee chose to release this report on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

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