Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein

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Adopting a thoroughly US capitalist view of terrorism, that suicide bombers are only in it for the money, Mr Bush wants to wait until the funds for Palestinian attacks on Israel have been cut off. He goes on to suggest that other countries allegedly responsible for funding Palestinian terrorism must be dealt with after Iraq.

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Once these regimes have been sorted out, there will still be the problem of suicide bombers who are not trying to earn a bit of cash for their families, but are supposedly attracted by the prospect of 72 virgins awaiting them in paradise. At that stage, Mr Bush may have to consider further military strikes to bring about regime change in heaven: that could prove to be an especially interesting confrontation. When all that is done, someone in Washington may finally begin to wonder whether feelings of hopelessness, resulting from decades of injustice, might not also be a factor in suicide bombings.

The second notable feature of Mr Bush's speech came in a passage that was not generally reported by the media.

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Paying tribute to his hosts, the president said: "At the American Enterprise Institute, some of the finest minds in our nation are at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation. You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds. I want to thank them for their service. So what is the AEI, who are these great minds, and what, exactly, are they doing to help the president?

Among other things, it has been highly influential in promoting the "zap Iraq" policy. Despite his influence in shaping government policy, Mr Perle whose name, a reader pointed out last week, is an anagram of charred peril , is not actually a public office holder. He is unelected, unaccountable, and does not have to declare his business interests. Other former AEI brains relevant to the Middle East include John Bolton, now under secretary of state for arms control, who, only a couple of weeks ago, was in Israel.

He was discussing, with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, which countries to tackle after Iraq. Mr Peril's project for transforming the Middle East dates back to , and a paper entitled "A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm". Intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu, it examined various ways in which Israel could "shape its strategic environment", beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a monarchy in Baghdad.

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Among the six people who assisted him were Douglas Feith a neo-conservative lawyer who now holds one of the top four posts at the Pentagon , and Mr Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav. Although Mr Bush's speech last week carefully avoided directing even a single word of criticism at Israel, it made much of the need for Palestinian reform and new Palestinian leaders. While promoting war with Iraq, Mr Peril's cabal have also been working quietly for Palestinian reform, although this is perhaps not the kind of reform that ordinary Palestinians would like to see.

The informant claimed that Atta and the Iraqi were discussing a terror attack on a US facility in Prague. How he knew this was unclear; there were no photographs or electronic recordings of the alleged meeting. According to US intelligence officials, the Czech informant subsequently acknowledged that he only recognised Atta after seeing his picture, post- September 11th, on television.


After Iraq

The FBI later found records indicating that Atta was almost certainly in the US a few days before and a few days after the alleged Prague meeting occurred, and that there was no evidence he had travelled outside the US at the time. Instead of accepting this verdict, however, two of the US Defense Department's senior policy officials, hardliners Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, authorised the establishment of a small Pentagon team to go through raw intelligence information from the CIA and other agencies for clues about Iraqi involvement in September 11th and other terror attacks that CIA analysts might have missed.

Years earlier, Wolfowitz and other influential administration conservatives had served on committees investigating earlier intelligence failures - including alleged underestimates of Soviet nuclear strength and North Korean missile developments. They did not trust the CIA, or even many of the Pentagon's own intelligence units, which they regarded as politically correct and liberal-infested after eight years of Clinton misrule.

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According to people familiar with the secret unit's activities, the CIA and other agencies initially refused to hand over their raw intelligence reports to the Pentagon analysts, and only agreed to do so after interventions by Wolfowitz. When the CIA data arrived, the secret unit - which eventually doubled in size - pawed through it and came up with an elaborate theory alleging that the September 11th attacks were a joint operation masterminded by a partnership of bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation and the Lebanese Shiite militia, Hizbollah.

Numerous rogue governments, from Saddam's Iraq to the Islamic Republic of Iran, had, the unit claimed, lent financial or logistical support. The Pentagon team packaged its analysis into a top-secret slide-show and oral briefing, which was presented to Pentagon officials, and later officials at other agencies, including the vice-president's office. Administration hardliners apparently found the briefing riveting: Vice-President Cheney continued to cite cryptic references from it as recently as a TV interview last September. When the slide-show was presented at the CIA, however, director George Tenet walked out in the middle.

He wasn't angry; he simply had other more pressing business, a senior intelligence official claimed. Given the insistence of the CIA and FBI that Atta's Prague meeting never occurred and that evidence of Iraqi involvement in September 11th was otherwise non-existent, the issue of Saddam's connections to terrorism was of little public interest. When administration officials attempted to raise the issue in statements to the media or briefings to Congress, they were batted down by leaks from the CIA and FBI pouring cold water on the story. But enterprising Iraqi exile groups, one with close ties to the Pentagon and another with links to the CIA and Britain's MI6, soon offered Washington hardliners a new red flag to wave at Saddam.

This was the amplification of allegations that the Iraqi leader was intent on assembling a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction WMD. Even critics of the Bush administration's handling of intelligence on Iraq acknowledge that pre-war estimates by the CIA and other US agencies that the Iraqis were likely to have stockpiles - perhaps even huge stockpiles - of chemical and biological agents were widely accepted throughout the US government and by prominent US allies, including the British and Germans.

The hardest evidence that US and other Western intelligence agencies relied on for this assessment was a series of calculations by the United Nations inspectors who roamed Iraq for years until Saddam forced them out in l In a l report, the inspectors reported that, over the years, Iraq had produced, or had made preparations to produce, large quantities of chemical and biological weapons.

UN officials say that, particularly after the defection to Jordan of Hussein Kamel, the Saddam son-in-law who was in charge of Iraq's unconventional weapons programmes, Iraqi government officials began to insist that WMD stockpiles and production lines had been destroyed. But UN inspectors analysed documentation and other evidence gathered in Iraq and concluded that the Iraqis could only prove they had destroyed a small proportion of the WMD agents that the UN estimated they had manufactured.

Also, the inspectors reported that the Iraqis continued to be protective of certain sites, suggesting they still had something to hide.

The plan to remake the Middle East.

While they were on the ground, UN inspectors had been among the CIA's most valuable sources of intelligence about what was going on in Iraq. Some UN officials believe the CIA and other intelligence agencies had even infiltrated the international inspection force. But after the inspectors' departure in l, the flow to US intelligence of high-grade information about weapons was curtailed.

US intelligence-collection efforts were degraded further when Saddam installed a high-tech fibre-optic cable system from China to carry his sensitive communications; the US eavesdropping take dwindled precipitously. In December , with the US still shell-shocked from September 11th and the rumours about Mohammed Atta's Prague meeting at their height, the hardliners' efforts to focus attention on Saddam got a boost when the New York Times published what seemed to be an alarming series of revelations about Saddam's drive to acquire unconventional weapons.

He claimed to have repaired nuclear weapons facilities. Chalabi proceeded to cultivate friendships with influential figures from the Reagan era such as Wolfowitz and former Pentagon official Richard Perle. His Washington admirers organised a campaign to win him overt financial backing from Congress. Eventually, the State Department was ordered to finance several INC programmes, including an "Information Collection Program" which included the recruitment and debriefing of Iraqi defectors.

More stories from INC defectors, focusing either on lurid new tales of Saddam's unconventional weapons or on innuendo linking Iraq to September 11th, began to surface in other influential media, including Vanity Fair, the Observer and the US TV networks. The INC, meanwhile, was in contact with high-level Bush administration hardliners. A memo sent by the exile group to Congress in June bragged that among the recipients of the "results" of intelligence gathered from "defectors, reports and raw intelligence" were top aides to Vice-President Cheney and Pentagon policy chief Douglas Feith.

They maintain that any defectors presented to the US government by Chalabi were sent to orthodox intelligence agencies for evaluation.

Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein

The departing CIA weapons inspection chief, David Kay, now says that information from defectors from both groups made it into WMD estimates on Iraq sent to Bush administration policy-makers. Officials familiar with the views of the CIA and DIA now say that only one defector supplied by Chalabi's group - the first, whose story was in the New York Times - was ever accepted by US intelligence and all subsequent defectors are regarded as useless or worse. IN AN OBLIQUE reference to the role dubious defectors may have played in filling in a US intelligence picture of Saddam's WMD that otherwise would have been sketchy, CIA director George Tenet, in a little-noticed reference in his widely covered speech last week, noted that his agency had only "recently discovered" that some of his analysts had apparently overlooked an internal notice labelling one particular source "unreliable" and a sometime fabricator.

According to a senior American official, the individual in question, whose information about alleged Iraqi mobile biological weapons laboratories made it into Colin Powell's influential speech to the UN, was a defector supplied by Chalabi's INC.

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The evidence suggests that the apparently gross over-estimation of Saddam's WMD capacities by the CIA and their friends at MI6 was the product of a confluence of circumstances rather than any conspiracy, either by the CIA itself, or by a secret cabal of Pentagon and White House hardliners. The CIA vehemently denies that it was pressured by politicians or that it voluntarily hyped its findings to curry political favour.

One irony of this story is that if US and British intelligence had paid more attention to the cartoonish aspect of Saddam's regime, their estimates might have been closer to the mark.

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  6. David Kay says he now believes Iraqi scientists are telling the truth when they say that most of Iraq's WMD capability was destroyed during the first round of UN inspections and that the Iraqis themselves burned or buried all but skeletal remains of the rest after Hussein Kamel's defection. For at least three years, Kay says, Saddam's regime, including his vaunted military establishment, had been decaying.

    Saddam had grown increasingly distant, shutting himself up for weeks in his palaces to write epic novels.

    Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein
    Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein
    Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein
    Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein
    Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein
    Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein
    Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein Tyrannys Ally: Americas Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein

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