If fool-me-once was the Bush Administration’s reams of faked intelligence about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and nonexistent ties to Al Qaeda, then fool-me-twice is the Administration’s shameless effort to shift the blame for American casualties in Iraq from the Sunni-led resistance, where it belongs, to a make-believe threat from Iran and allied Shiite militias.
It’s Iran in the headlines today, but happily on February 9 we got a timely reminder of how brazenly the Bush Administration–along with its neoconservative allies at The Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute–trumped up the case for war against Iraq five years ago.
In a stunning indictment of the Administration’s chicanery, Pentagon Inspector General Thomas Gimble slammed the super-secret predecessor organizations to the Office of Special Plans for “disseminating alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship.” Its actions, Gimble concluded, were “inappropriate,” and its conclusions “were not supported by the available intelligence.” Among the absurdly wrong conclusions reached by the OSP and its earlier incarnations–the equally Orwellian-sounding Policy Support Office and the Policy Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group–were that a “mature symbiotic relationship” existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda and that Baghdad and Osama bin Laden’s terrorists displayed “cooperation in all categories.” Vice President Cheney used this nonsense to bolster his dark muttering about “possible Iraq coordination” with Al Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks.
Make no mistake: The phrase “not supported by the available intelligence” is merely bureaucratese for a “lie-filled pile of crap,” and that’s the most straightforward way to describe the intelligence product produced by the OSP, which was run directly out of the office of then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. Feith, who was called “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth” by Gen. Tommy Franks, is a hard-core neoconservative with intimate ties to the Israeli far right. The Inspector General’s report chips away at merely the tip of a gigantic iceberg, a virtual empire of lies that was owned and operated by the Defense Department from 9/11 though the start of the Iraq War in March 2003. (For a complete account of the inner workings of the OSP, see “The Lie Factory,” by me and Jason Vest, in the January 2004 edition of Mother Jones.)
At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin invited Gimble in to air Feith’s dirty laundry. “The Inspector General’s report is a devastating condemnation,” said Levin. “These issues are as critical as any I have ever seen.” After drawing out Gimble on his careful inquiry into Feith’s mischief, Levin noted that despite having interviewed some seventy-five people for the report, there were still many–including at the White House, the National Security Council and the Vice President’s office–who had somehow avoided talking to Gimble. “We’re gonna be interviewing a lot of folks, including people who have refused to talk to you…including the Chief of Staff of the Vice President.”