Ideas the Pentagon Wishes It Never Had
In response to the outrage in late July over Adm. John Poindexter's proposed Pentagon-administered terrorism futures trading market, Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia remarked, "This is two strikes now. Do you want a third?" In fact, defying conventional baseball norms, the Pentagon already has had more strikes than Sammy Sosa on a bad day--and still is at the plate. Below, a recap of some of the Pentagon's most egregious post-9/11 mistakes, mishaps and manifestations of misdirection.
1. The Office of Special Plans. The first of the post-9/11 experiments, the secretive neocon-hawk shop was created to bypass the more skeptical Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA in investigating links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Now under fire for pushing forged Niger uranium documents and embellishing Saddam's WMD threat and connection to terrorists to gain support for the war in Iraq. Though details about the OSP remain murky, it's looking increasingly likely that many Bush Administration war lies originated here.
2. The Office of Strategic Information. Unlike the recently discovered OSP, the OSI drew immediate criticism after its inception shortly after 9/11. As part of an effort to sway the Islamic world in America's favor, the OSI planned to plant "disinformation" in the foreign newsmedia and engage in "covert deception." "If you liked the lie about the murder of Kuwaiti babies after Iraq's invasion of the oil-rich emirate in 1990, you'll love the [OSI]," UPI wrote. The office shut down almost immediately after its existence became publicly known last February.
3. Total Information Awareness. The first of convicted Iran/contra criminal Poindexter's recent strikes, TIA proposed fighting terrorism by skirting the Privacy Act of 1974 and electronically monitoring the everyday transactions of millions of ordinary Americans at a cost of $200 million annually. Called "an Orwellian concept if I've ever heard one," by former Senator Gary Hart (co-author of the Hart-Rudman Homeland Security report), one hundred senators refused to fund TIA this past February. Renamed Terrorism Information Awareness, the program will likely be killed once and for all when Congress reconvenes.
4. Jay Garner. Under Viceroy Garner, chaos reigned supreme in postwar Iraq. Viewed as an unpopular choice from the beginning by the State Department and experts in the region due to his military background, the retired general failed to either prevent massive looting or to quickly restore electricity and security, largely contributing to the lawless atmosphere still gripping the country. Replaced less than two weeks after the war's end by "civilian" administrator L. Paul Bremer, even Garner's supporters dubbed him "politically tone-deaf." Though Bremer might be more congenial, the results under the new czar have been equally disastrous--with the electricity still out and guerrilla attacks up.
5. R. James Woolsey. In another bitter fight with State, the Pentagon proposed installing Überhawk and "World War IV" advocate Woolsey as interim Iraqi information minister. Critics fumed that installing the ex-CIA chief as official truth-teller might not be the best way to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. With Karl Rove on high alert, the White House quickly vetoed the idea in early April, though Woolsey still uses his standing on the Defense Policy Board to lobby for regime change in Syria and Iran. In early August, Woolsey added North Korea's Kim Jong Il to the list of world leaders to knock off, writing, "North Korea's geriatric air defenses--both fighter aircraft and missiles--would not last long. As the Iraqis understood when facing our air power, if you fly, you die."
6. FutureMAP. Poindexter's second preposterous plan would have created an online futures market rewarding investors who correctly predicted future terrorist attacks and prominent assassinations. Donald Rumsfeld said he killed the program one hour after reading of it, while Poindexter announced his resignation from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency two days after the unveiling. "The problem is more than the fact that Admiral Poindexter was put in charge," Senator Patrick Leahy said. "The problem is that these projects were just fine with the Administration until the public found out."
7. Iraqi Media Network. A few days later, the head of the Defense Department-contracted Iraqi Television--Iraqi exile Ahmad al-Rikaby--quit his post, complaining of inadequate funding, equipment and training. Originally intended to operate with a degree of independence, the American occupying authority has instead kept the station under firm control, damaging its street credibility. While Arab broadcasts thrive, Iraqis label the American network "dull and repetitive" with the New York Times calling it a "$5-million-a-month dud."
With a Defense Department like this, it's no wonder the Pentagon budget rose to $379.9 billion for 2004, a roughly $60 billion increase since 9/11. Mass deception comes with a heavy price tag these days.