Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, June 05, 2006

  The Big Setup in Iraq

Ken Silverstein just posted an interesting piece at Harpers, Creating the Inevitable: The CIA visits Iraq in April 2002. He's been talking to CIA types, who tell him that they'd figured out already by spring or summer of 2002 that the Bush administration had decided to overthrow Saddam Hussein by force. Not surprising news, at this stage, but important none the less.

One thing is of particular interest. A former, anonymous, CIA agent pointed out that the Agency infiltrated the Kurdish area of Iraq in April 2002.

One former officer described how in April of 2002, nearly a year before the invasion, the CIA sent a special unit of eight men to “set up shop” in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq....

One of the team's chief goals was to develop a network of intelligence sources that could support the invasion and, afterwards, the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. The team started its efforts with the Kurds. “The key thing was credibility,” said this person. “We had to get them . . . fully committed by convincing them that this time we were serious, [that] we would finish it and get rid of Saddam.”

The CIA was ultimately able to recruit assets in many parts of Iraq, in part because it won support from tribal leaders. "It was extremely well funded,” said the second person involved in the effort. “They passed out . . . a lot of money to the sheikhs.” Agency operators also distributed satellite phones and other communications equipment to support intelligence gathering, and used laser technology to “paint” buildings and other infrastructure so they could be easily targeted when the war began....

[A former CIA station chief in the Middle East] said he believed Bush “was planning to go to war all along.” His view was shared by the two sources involved with the special unit. One said that, by the summer of 2002, he was absolutely convinced that war was coming based on discussions and activities at the CIA.

The second source reached the same conclusion by April of 2002, when the special unit went into Iraq. That same month, he said, the CIA sent people to a country neighboring Iraq for detailed discussions on how best to move troops into Iraqi territory. He described the special unit's work as “battlefield preparation”—and for a battle that was not hypothetical....

Several other former CIA officials I spoke with said that everything they have heard from colleagues at the agency points to an early decision to go to war.


Silverstein's sources indicate that the CIA shop in Kurdish Iraq was set up to function more or less autonomously, with little actual communication with Washington. It sounds like Washington was working on the same problem from its own end, more or less simultaneously. We already knew, from this July, 2002 report in The Guardian that in late April, 2002, at a site in Virginia, the CIA discussed plans to cooperate in overthrowing Hussein with several Kurdish leaders.

A US intelligence source also told the Guardian...that the US was represented by CIA officials and General Wayne Downing, the president's military adviser on counter-terrorism and the author of a 1998 plan to unseat Saddam relying heavily on local opposition and US air power.

"The idea was to see what the Kurds would be prepared to do in a war on Baghdad," the US source said.

Specifically, the Kurds were asked to agree to the establishment of CIA stations at their headquarters in Irbil and Suleimaniyah, but they demurred. According to one account, Mr Barzani and Mr Talabani asked for more money than the CIA was prepared to offer.

However, according to a Kurdish source, the meeting failed for a more fundamental reason: lack of trust....

"We wanted to know if that was going to happen again. If Saddam struck at us, would we be protected?" the Kurdish opposition activist said.

At one point, the Kurds reportedly asked whether the US officials at The Farm really represented the entire administration, and so Ryan Crocker, a state department official who had visited Kurdistan a few months earlier, was hastily called in from Washington.


The attempt to convince the Kurds failed at that time, we're told. But that does not undermine Silverstein's allegation that CIA officers were spreading money around in northern Iraq, preparing for an invasion, already in April 2002. That same summer, the Asian Times reported, in an extremely important article (Iraq: In all but name, the war's on), that the U.S. had infiltrated 1,800 troops into northern Iraq by late March 2002.

So, Silverstein's report gibes with the other available evidence.

Note also this section of his column, which addresses the White House's propaganda head on in a way that has been too rare.

One former official had interesting observations on the administration's repeated claims that it was not only the United States but also our chief European allies who believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, hence the administration's failure on that score was understandable and not the result of cherry-picked intelligence.

“They say everyone else was wrong,” said this former official, “but we conditioned them to be wrong. We spend [tens of billions of dollars per year] on signals intelligence and when we reach a conclusion, the people who spend less than that tend to believe us. They weren't wrong, they chose to believe us. The British, Germans, and Italians don't have all those overhead assets, so they rely on us. Historically they have been well-served, so they believe us when we tell them the earth is round. The French have their own assets—and guess what? They didn't go with us.”

The second source cited regarding the special unit agreed with this assessment. “The allies sort of believed that Iraq had WMDs, but we were feeding them a lot of information,” he said. “The only alternative source of information out there was coming from the United Nations inspectors, and they were not stupid or incompetent. But [the administration] tried to discredit them by creating the idea that they were a bunch of goofballs that couldn't shoot straight.”


Can't be emphasized enough. The rest of the world did NOT believe that Iraq had WMD. Those who suspected it, did so partly because the U.S. was feeding them misleading information. And even so, many of them refused to agree that those suspicions warranted an invasion of Iraq.

You don't invade another country because you believe your own propaganda.

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