A billion dollars for a CYA operation
By Ahmed Amr
First, lets get the facts out of the way. This is Robin Cook's take on the CIA's report on Iraqi WMD: "It establishes that Iraq had no stockpile, no biological agents, no chemical feedstocks, no plants to manufacture them and no delivery systems to fire them. Saddam was no threat to us and had no weapons of mass destruction to pass to terrorists. Brushing the UN inspectors aside in order to go to war on false intelligence was a colossal blunder."
Now, for a little bit of analysis. Most readers don't pay attention to the dates on quotes. If you take a close look at the following five quotes, you might notice that they were all uttered in a three day span, in May of last year. They all came out of a Los Angeles Times article by Greg Miller (5/31/2003).
"It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons. We were simply wrong." Lt. General James Conway, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (5/30/2003)
"But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." George Bush (5/30/2003)
"We may find out three months from now that there was an elaborate deception program and the stuff was destroyed. Do I think we're going to find something? Yeah, I kind of do," Maj. General Keith Dayton, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (5/30/2003)
"This war was not waged under any false pretext." Donald Rumsfeld (5/29/2003).
"Everything I presented on the 5th of February, I can tell you, there was good sourcing for, was not politicized, it was solid information," Colin Powell (5/30/2003).
"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on," Paul Wolfowitz (5/28/2003).
A year and a half ago, a baffled General Conway declared that "WE WERE SIMPLY WRONG". Eight months later, David Kay resigned and admitted that the administration's intelligence on Iraq was "ALMOST ALL WRONG". Now, the CIA has gotten around to issuing a final confirmation that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were dismantled and destroyed in 1991. After another intensive six month search, Charles Duelfer echoed David Kay and admitted that "We were almost all wrong" in his testimony before a Senate Panel.
For fifty cents, David Kay or Charles Duelfer could have picked up a copy of the LA Times and arrived at the same conclusion as General Conway. It cost Kay a few hundred million dollars to affirm Conway's conclusions and Charles Duelfer just spent another 600 million dollars to verify Kay's findings. That amounts to almost a billion dollars.
It should be noted that the Bush administration refused United Nations offers to assist in their WMD wild goose chase. Why would they do a thing like that? After all, the UN's involvement would have substantially reduced the cost of the futile search and accelerated the pace of the hunt. As Iraq fell into post-invasion chaos and insurgents took control of large areas of the country, you would think there would have been a special urgency to locate these fictional deadly stocks - lest they fall in to unpredictable hands. If the administration really ever believed that Saddam had WMD stockpiles, then refusing UN expertise and resources posed a serious risk to national security. On the other hand, if they knew they were unlikely to find illegal weapons, then the only explanation is that they wanted to drag out the mission for political reasons.
Back in May of 2003, Conway knew we were "simply wrong" because he probably figured that if Saddam had WMDs and was intent on using them in an unprovoked attack on the United States, why not use them when American Marines were at the gates of Baghdad? The curious General wanted answers to that question seventeen months ago.
George Bush not only had an answer for Conway - he already had the WMDs in his possession.
"But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." The President could have saved the US treasury a billion dollars by displaying his findings to Conway and Kay and Duelfer.
General Dayton, the DIA director, was not so certain about Bush's claim. With a shrug of the shoulder, he allowed for the slight possibility that Conway might yet find something if he poked around a bit. "Do I think we're going to find something? Yeah, I kind of do."
If you happen to be familiar with American speech patterns, "Kind of do" sounds a lot like "Kind of don't". General Dayton was already making the excuse that Saddam might have been involved in a diabolical plan of elaborate deception to convince the world that he had WMDs. To do this, Saddam was busy writing romance novels with WMD sub plots.
In anticipation of Conway's question, Rummy was ready with his 'false pretext' denial a day before Conway raised the issue. As for Colin Powell, he not only prepared a counter assault against the Marine General; he was ready with an overwhelming number of answers for future questions. He let it be known that intelligence "was not politicized". Slow down, Colin. That denial was eight months premature.
The most honest response to Conway came from an unlikely source, Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the war. "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction". Apparently, the Pentagon's War Requisition Form (WW3) only allows for a three letter coded entry under "reasons for war". WMD fit the bill. A new and improved form is being designed for the war in 2005, allowing for more accurate four-letter entries like 'BUSH'.
After that momentary lapse of honesty, Wolfowitz was back to his old deceptive ways. Eight months later, he was claiming to have been fooled by the CIA. "You have to make decisions based on the intelligence you have, not on the intelligence you can discover later." What he meant to say was "you have to make the decision on which war to have and then cook up the intelligence later".
At the time of Kay's report, the now forgotten David Albright leveled a more serious charge at the neo-con operated White House. He asserted that the big boys have known since May of 2003 that WMDs would never be found. The former UN nuclear inspector with close contacts in the intelligence community claimed that "the only people who did not know that fact was the public". That means that we spent 900 hundred million dollars and eighteen months to confirm what our governors already knew. Couldn't they find cheaper ways to buy blinders for the great unwashed?
Even now, Bush and Cheney continue to suggest that they launched a 'preemptive' war against Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from gift wrapping WMDs and mailing them to Bin Laden. The administration has already been forced to back down from asserting that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 atrocities or Al Qaida. But Bush's handlers have cooked up a new spin to explain the non-existent WMDs. They now maintain that Saddam Hussein was just itching to get the sanctions lifted so he could cook up a batch of poison and hand deliver it to Bin Laden. Even if you take them at their word, they could have presumably maintained the genocidal sanctions and focused on Al Qaida and Bin Laden.
The best case scenario is that a paranoid President over-reacted to a non-existent threat and took his eyes off Bin Laden's ball. If you are inclined to be kind to Bush and Cheney, you might think this war was caused by a serious lapse of judgment. A year from now, maybe later, the public will discover another thing that is already common knowledge in certain circles - there was no intelligence failure. The WMD scam was just a clever campaign to drum up support for a war of choice in an America that was still badly shaken by the massacres of 9/11. The real reason for the war was the neo-cons and their agenda to redesign the Middle East to fit the exotic tastes of Ariel Sharon. Know your neo-cons and you will understand the causes of the Mess on Potamia.
Before anyone concludes that the Government of the United States spent a billion dollars for nothing - they should first review the recent polls. Many Americans continue to believe that Saddam was involved in planning the terrorist assaults on 9/11 and that WMDs have actually been found in Iraq. The deception of so many by so few takes ample resources. In this case, the billion-dollar tab was covered by a check from the Treasury of the United States of America.
Give me a billion dollars and I will convince 75% of Americans that the world is flat and that Saddam was the one who flattened it. The bottom line is that massive amounts of public funds were spent on a CYA operation that was sold to the public as a legitimate CIA operation. And the only beneficiary was George Bush and his praetorian neo-con brigades.
Ahmed Amr is the editor of NileMedia.com. This article can be published at will.
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