As the Pentagon scours Iraq for weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to Al Qaeda, it’s increasingly obvious that the Bush Administration either distorted or deliberately exaggerated the intelligence used to justify the war against Iraq. But an even bigger intelligence scandal is waiting in the wings: the fact that members of the Administration failed to produce an intelligence evaluation of what Iraq might look like after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Instead, they ignored fears expressed by analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department who predicted that postwar Iraq would be chaotic, violent and ungovernable, and that Iraqis would greet the occupying armies with firearms, not flowers.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, it turns out that the same people are responsible for both. According to current and former US intelligence analysts and government officials, the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans funneled information, unchallenged, from Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who in turn passed it on to the White House, suggesting that Iraqis would welcome the American invaders. The Office of Special Plans is led by Abram Shulsky, a hawkish neoconservative ideologue who got his start in politics working alongside Elliott Abrams in Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s office in the 1970s. It was set up in fall 2001 as a two-man shop, but it burgeoned into an eighteen-member nerve center of the Pentagon’s effort to distort intelligence about Iraq’s WMDs and terrorist connections. A great deal of the bad information produced by Shulsky’s office, which found its way into speeches by Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, came from Chalabi’s INC. Since the INC itself was sustained by its neocon allies in Washington, including the shadow “Central Command” at the American Enterprise Institute, it stands as perhaps the ultimate example of circular reasoning.
“The same unit [the Office of Special Plans] that fed Chalabi’s intelligence on WMD to Rumsfeld was also feeding him Chalabi’s stuff on the prospects for postwar Iraq,” said a leading US government expert on the Middle East. Says a former US ambassador with strong links to the CIA: “There was certainly information coming from the Iraqi exile community, including Chalabi–who was detested by the CIA and by the State Department–saying, ‘They will welcome you with open arms.'” Rumsfeld’s willingness to accept that view led him to contradict the Chief of Staff of the US Army, who predicted that it would take hundreds of thousands of troops to control Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, a view that seems prescient today.
According to the former official, also feeding information to the Office of Special Plans was a secret, rump unit established last year in the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. This unit, which paralleled Shulsky’s–and which has not previously been reported–prepared intelligence reports on Iraq in English (not Hebrew) and forwarded them to the Office of Special Plans. It was created in Sharon’s office, not inside Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, because the Mossad–which prides itself on extreme professionalism–had views closer to the CIA’s, not the Pentagon’s, on Iraq. This secretive unit, and not the Mossad, may well have been the source of the forged documents purporting to show that Iraq tried to purchase yellowcake uranium for weapons from Niger in West Africa, according to the former official.
The catastrophic result of the belief that it would be easy to pacify postwar Iraq and to create a quisling government in Baghdad, a view that was codified as dogma by the White House, is unfolding daily in Iraq. The country is engulfed in economic and political chaos, armed resistance is growing among the Sunni Muslims in central Iraq, and the powerful and largely hostile Shiite clergy in the south has barely begun to flex its muscles. Not only that, but Iraq watchers report that former Baath Party members are coalescing into nascent political formations, leading armed resistance to the occupation, and that they could emerge as either a strong political party or an underground terrorist group.