Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, May 19, 2006

  Lopping off heads at CIA: How Iraq was lost (Pt. 1965)

Since at least 2002 we’ve heard myriad reports about the aggressive treatment meted out by the White House to intelligence officials who reported unwelcome news about Iraq, or who would not produce the goods per the specifications of Bush & Co. That was how a farrago of WMD intel was fed to the public to justify invading Iraq.

No surprise that this auspicious policy continued after the invasion, since a whole new set of inconvenient facts needed to be ignored as well. Ken Silverstein details at Harper’s how CIA officers who dared to tell the truth about the deteriorating situation in Iraq were demoted and hounded. That is why, for example, the last NIE on Iraq was produced two years ago. As Silverstein explains, almost nobody at the CIA would be willing to touch the job.

Several of the sources I spoke with said that they were further troubled because it appears that no National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (NIE) has been produced since the summer of 2004. The last NIE—which the CIA describes as “the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue”—offered a dark but prescient assessment of the U.S. position in Iraq, as disclosed when the highly classified document was later leaked to the New York Times. One former senior agency official told me, “If I were at the CIA now and was asked to work on an NIE [on Iraq], my first response would be, 'How the fuck do I get out of this?' The most courageous, honest person in the place would be reluctant to do it because every time someone says the emperor has no clothes he gets his head lopped off.” Indeed, President Bush practically dismissed the 2004 NIE, responding to questions about the report at a September 2004 press conference by saying: “They were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like. The Iraqi citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions.”

In other words, further contributions from the CIA in the form of another round of NIE guesswork would just provide ammunition to those journalists who want to pin the President down with facts. There should be no surprise then that the latest NIE for Iran, a country we’ve got in our bombsights, is already a year old. Who needs the aggro of telling the White House that Iran remains years away from a nuclear weapon?

Well, there’s certainly plenty of retribution waiting for you, if you’re in the aggro business.

A number of current and former intelligence officials have told me that the administration's war on internal dissent has crippled the CIA's ability to provide realistic assessments from Iraq. “The system of reporting is shut down,” said one person familiar with the situation. “You can't write anything honest, only fairy tales.”

The New York Times and others have reported that in 2003, the CIA station chief in Baghdad authored several special field reports that offered extremely negative assessments of the situation on the ground in Iraq—assessments that later proved to be accurate. The field reports, known as “Aardwolfs,” were angrily rejected by the White House. Their author—who I'm told was a highly regarded agency veteran named Gerry Meyer—was soon pushed out of the CIA, in part because his reporting angered the See No Evil crowd within the Bush administration. “He was a good guy,” one recently retired CIA official said of Meyer, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.”

The next Baghdad Station Chief had the temerity to write six similarly, well, glum Aardwolfs. When he finished in December 2004, his career went into the crapper. He was treated like a pariah within the CIA. Another long-time CIA veteran, Charles Allen, toured Iraq in spring 2005 and in his report of conditions there, again, had the misfortune of telling the truth. Allen’s expected promotion as assistant to Negroponte as Deputy Director of National Intelligence was scuttled.

Not shocked yet?

As has been the case with other people deemed to be insufficiently loyal, the White House went fishing for dirt on the two station chiefs, including information on their political affiliations. “I spent 30 years at the CIA,” said one former official, “and no one was ever interested in knowing whether I was a Republican or a Democrat. That changed with this administration. Now you have loyalty tests.”

That is eerily reminiscent of what we learned about inquiries by Bush & Co. into party affiliation after Mary McCarthy was fired.

The result, as anticipated, was that by 2005 the new Baghdad Station Chief had learned what good taste required. He produced only a single, very sunny Aardwolf.

The report, which one person told me was widely derided within the CIA as “a joke,” asserted that the United States was winning the war despite all evidence to the contrary. It was garbage, but garbage that the Bush administration wanted to hear; at the end of his tour, that Station Chief was given a plum assignment.

That is after all one of the things the Bush adminstration does well—rewarding those who sell the troops down the river, who leave them to rot in the quagmire. The other skill the White House has honed? To punish those who report on the dangers and difficulties the troops face, who look for solutions that might save lives and end the war.

The message from Mister Bush: Don’t take your job seriously. Just watch what I do.

Crossposted at Daily Kos.


  • Bush doesn't take his job seriously, boy isn't that true. The next post here on the police in Iraq shows the exact same thing. He just doesn't care what happens as long as he gets his.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:06 PM  

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