500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald

Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2012 04:33 pm
500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars
by Kurt Eichenwald

Book Description
Publication Date: September 11, 2012

Kurt Eichenwald—New York Times bestselling author of Conspiracy of Fools and The Informant— recounts the first 500 days after 9/11 in a comprehensive, compelling page-turner as gripping as any thriller.

In 500 Days, master chronicler Kurt Eichenwald lays bare the harrowing decisions, deceptions, and delusions of the eighteen months that changed the world forever, as leaders raced to protect their citizens in the wake of 9/11.

Eichenwald’s gripping, immediate style and trueto- life dialogue puts readers at the heart of these historic events, from the Oval Office to Number 10 Downing Street, from Guantanamo Bay to the depths of CIA headquarters, from the al-Qaeda training camps to the torture chambers of Egypt and Syria. He reveals previously undisclosed information from the terror wars, including never before reported details about warrantless wiretapping, the anthrax attacks and investigations, and conflicts between Washington and London.

With his signature fast-paced narrative style, Eichenwald— whose book, The Informant, was called “one of the best nonfiction books of the decade” by The New York Times Book Review—exposes a world of secrets and lies that has remained hidden for far too long.

Editorial Reviews
Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: Initially, Eichenwald (The Informant) planned to write a post-9/11 analysis of the second Bush presidency, until he realized that most of the events that set the stage for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the War on Terror--the "decisions, deceptions, and delusions"--happened in the first 18 months after the attacks. This fast-paced narrative of those 553 days takes readers inside CIA headquarters, 10 Downing Street, al-Qaeda training camps, Egyptian torture chambers, and secret prisons. Deeply researched but written like an international spy thriller, Eichenwald's book shows how decisions prompted by fear, hatred, and paranoia created a post-9/11 history "shaped by the experiences of the powerless." --Neal Thompson
“An epic narrative....It may be his best book yet.”

— Vanity Fair

“With the pacing of a suspense novel, award-winning journalist Eichenwald’s richly researched account … [is] a breathtaking inspection of the war on terror that began on 9/11 and reverberates to this day.”

— Booklist (starred review)

“Gripping . . . both a page-turning read and an insightful dissection of 9/11’s dark legacy"

— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A blow-by-blow, episodic reconstruction of the fallout from 9/11 in the highest spheres of terrorist strategy … demonstrating literally how the anti-terrorist hysteria in the United States, and the hatred of America and general global paranoia, forged the ’trauma that haunts the world to this day.’”

— Kirkus Reviews

“Eichenwald is a master at making complicated stories easily understood....[500 Days is] a page-turner because of his journalistic attention to detail. Readers get fly-on-the-wall accounts as Bush administration officials weigh life-and-death decisions.”

— Washington Post

About the Author

Kurt Eichenwald wrote for The New York Times for more than twenty years. A two-time winner of the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 and 2002. He is the author of three New York Times bestselling books, one of which, The Informant, was made into a major motion picture starring Matt Damon. He lives in Dallas with his wife and three children.

More About the Author

Kurt Eichenwald has written about Wall Street for The New York Times since 1987. He began investigating the Prudential scandal in 1989 and, in 1993, took a leave from his daily Market Place column to investigate Prudential Bache full time. His efforts yielded Serpent on the Rock and a Publisher's Award from the Times.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

This reads more like a Tom Clancy Thriller than a non-fiction! September 11, 2012

Which is both good and bad (but mostly good). Kurt Eichenwald's (you know him as the former NYT reporter and author of "The Informant") new book here is no snooze fest. The story is riveting, fast paced and a real page-turner. Eichenwald's writing comes alive, and honestly at times you forget you are reading a well-researched scholarly history of that period, and think you are reading Grisham.

We have a cast of thousands here, but of course GWB and Tony Blair get top billing. However, their errors and missteps are spotlighted here as well as their other policy decisions. Odd terms like "Enemy Combatant" are penned so that "extraordinary rendition" can be carried out.

This book has it all- secrets, spies, military tribunals, torture, waterboarding, anthrax, bombings, and of course Gitmo.

Many secrets are revealed, the backstory is fascinating. Did you know that while Blair was telling Bush that the UK would support the invasion of Iran, the UK top legal advisor was telling Blair that the attack was illegal?

Sometimes a bit dark and disturbing, but it's all the truth.
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Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2012 04:37 pm
New book points damning finger at Bush administration saying they were warned about 9/11 earlier than first thought. 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars’ asserts White House alerted of imminent Bin Laden threat months before 9/11.

Comments By Corky Siemaszko / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 12:43 PM

Author Kurt Eichenwald has released new book 500 Days: Secrets And Lies in The Terror Wars.

The Bush administration was warned that Osama Bin Laden was plotting the Sept. 11 attacks much earlier than previously thought, according to a blockbuster new book.

But President Bush’s advisers, fixated on bringing down Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein, believed Bin Laden was blowing smoke, reporter Kurt Eichenwald claims in “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.”

The result was a national tragedy that left nearly 3,000 dead.

President Bush has said repeatedly that he would have done everything in his power to thwart the terror attacks had he known that they were coming.

And Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told a skeptical panel investigation into the attacks that the ominously titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” briefing she and Bush received five weeks before 9/11 was “not a warning.”

But Eichenwald, citing still-classified documents and other sources, reported that the CIA first sounded the alarm on May 1 that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation.

Then on June 22, Bush advisers were told Al Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence could not pinpoint when.

The Pentagon, then under the sway of neo-conservatives like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz, pooh-poohed the CIA warning. They argued Bin Laden was just pretending to be planning an attack to distract the U.S. from dealing with Hussein.

Never mind that Bin Laden, a fanatic with a warped view of Islam, and Hussein, a dictator far more interested in power than prayer, were enemies.

The CIA insisted Bin Laden was not bluffing in a June 20 brief to the White House, Eichenwald reported.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” it said, using another version of Bin Laden’s first name.

That was followed by briefings on July 1 and July 24 which stated that Bin Laden’s operation has been delayed, but “will occur soon,” according to Eichenwald.

Bush, Eichenwald wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times, “did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient.” And he ordered up the Aug. 6 brief that Rice would later dismiss as “not a warning.”

“Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs?” Eichenwald wrote. “We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/new-book-points-damning-finger-bush-administration-warned-9-11-earlier-thought-article-1.1156709#ixzz26Cfl2z9X
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2012 04:39 pm
September 11, 2012, 3:14 pm7 Comments
9/11 Coverage, Part 2: With Little New to Say, Should Media Say It, Anyway?

Kurt Eichenwald’s Op-Ed piece on Tuesday about the Bush administration’s response to warnings about Al Qaeda’s plans generated response among some readers, who thought that it was important enough to be treated as news, not opinion. “Why is NYT op-ed on 9-11 warnings an op-ed and not a news article?” the ProPublica editor Eric Umansky asked on Twitter. Its author, a former New York Times reporter, has written “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars,” and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

I thought the piece was given plenty of display as the focal point of the Op-Ed page, and to my nonexpert eye, there were no major news elements in it. This is well-trod ground, though it certainly still provokes interest. I spoke with the executive editor, Jill Abramson, who was The Times’s Washington bureau chief during the 9/11 era.

“We probably did 20 stories on the intelligence failures” leading to the terrorist attacks, she said.

Ms. Abramson added, “I can’t say with authority that there is nothing new in it.” But if there were an important nugget of news, she said, The Times would follow up on it.

Eric Schmitt, who covers national security, and with Thom Shanker, is the co-author of “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda,” agreed.

“Kurt’s a great reporter, and each of these books adds to the body of literature,” Mr. Schmitt said. “You can always keep peeling back the layers of the onion.”

However, Mr. Schmitt did not see anything that demanded follow-up or should change the way we think about what happened. “There are no new secret documents,” he said, no revelations “that knock your socks off.”

Others thought the piece was just another example of what they see as the anti-Republican politics of The Times’s Opinion pages. On Twitter, the reader John Williams disliked the piece for its criticism of the Bush administration and thought there should have been a countervailing voice.

So if there’s nothing really new in the piece, why publish it at all? I found the piece to be a worthy take on a significant subject from a book whose publication date was Tuesday. Opinion pieces by their nature usually don’t break news; they’re intended to provoke thought and discussion. The Eichenwald piece does that.

Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online, wondered why The Times had no reference to the anniversary on the front page of its print edition on Tuesday. I took part in Poynter.org’s live chat on this subject Tuesday afternoon, after blogging earlier in the day.

The Times did have two related news stories inside the first section, mentioned the anniversary prominently on the home page of the Web site on Tuesday morning, and will have coverage of the day’s commemorative events in Wednesday’s paper, which may include a front-page photograph of the memorial events.

Ms. Abramson addressed this point as well. “It’s always a sad day,” she said, and for that reason, worthy of note. “In terms of genuine newsworthiness, our stories and coverage were appropriate to the occasion.”
Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2012 04:42 pm
How Bush Snared Blair

Three days after 9/11, George W. Bush began to notify American allies, and particularly England, of his intent to launch a military campaign against Iraq—a country unconnected to the terrorist attacks. What followed was more than a year of wrangling, as foreign leaders attempted without success to reign in Bush, until they finally faced the choice between siding with the president or making a historic break with the United States. This is the never-before-told full story of that struggle, as depicted in 500 Days, a new book by Kurt Eichenwald.

The Chilterns lie northwest of London, a vista of sweeping grasslands, honeysuckle-draped cottages and the crack of cricket bats on plush village greens. Church bells ring out across the leafy stillness, adding an almost mystical aura to the scene’s unearthly beauty.

Unobtrusively tucked into the chalk hills is Chequers, the 16th century mansion that serves as the official country residence of Britain’s Prime Minister. While Chequers is traditionally used as a weekend getaway, Tony Blair and his staff traveled there on Tuesday, April 2, 2002 for an in-depth and hard-edged debate about Iraq. Since Bush first raised the prospects months before that the United States would hit Iraq, Blair had cajoled and reasoned with the president in an attempt to guide American policy. But the march toward war had continued.

Now, the Prime Minister was scheduled to meet with Bush at the Crawford ranch in three days, and it would be his best opportunity to hammer out a strategy for bending the President’s will a bit closer to his own—if only he could figure out how to do it.

The British officials gathered at ten that morning on the first floor in the Long Gallery, and Blair described his predicament. “I believe, that Bush is in the same position I am,” he said. “It would be great to get rid of Saddam, but can it be done without terrible unforeseen consequences?”

British intelligence presented an assessment of the situation in Iraq. The state of its military forces was adequate, the opposition to Saddam was feeble, and Saddam himself—well, he was a maniac. Those elements made a combustible and unpredictable mix. The consequences of an American-led invasion were anybody’s guess.

Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of Defense Staff, launched into a diatribe about the West’s near helplessness to influence the course of events in Iraq. Worse, he said, was the Bush team—members of the Administration were secretive, even hiding information about the plans for Iraq from their colleagues. It was hard to tell if anyone in Washington grasped the wider strategic picture.

“Only Rumsfeld and a few others know what’s being planned,” Boyce said to Blair, mispronouncing the name as Rumsfield. “You may speak to Bush or [Condoleezza] Rice, but do they really know what’s going on?”

Blair waved off Boyce’s doubts. “In the end, Bush will make the decisions,” he said.

Another problem—Blair had been pushing for a new U.N. Security Council Resolution against Iraq before launching a military campaign, but the Americans didn’t think it necessary. Bush and his aides believed that earlier U.N. declarations about Iraq provided a sufficient legal basis for war.

Lieutenant-General Sir Anthony Pigott, who had coordinated Britain’s efforts in Afghanistan, was invited to give his views. It was possible, he said, to launch a full-scale invasion that culminated with an assault on Baghdad.

“It would be bloody,” he said, “And it could take a long time.”

Even then, he said, victory could not be proclaimed with the defeat of the Iraqi army and the overthrow of Saddam. Preparation for war had to include a realistic plan for how to manage Iraq once the fighting ended. “The Americans believe they can replicate Afghanistan, but this is very, very different,” he said.

Boyce piped up again. A British soldier based in Tampa and working with U.S. Central Command, he said, had told his superiors in London that he could not get a read on the head of the group, General Tommy Franks. The Americans seemed to be planning for something later, maybe around New Year and, by all appearances, Franks was considering using solely air power and Special Forces to topple Saddam’s Baathist regime. If so, the game plan was woefully inadequate.

“If they want us to be involved in providing forces,” Boyce said, “Then we have to be involved in all the planning.”

The military men finished their presentation, and Blair stroked his chin. True, he said, the Americans’ planning and strategy was flawed. But that left him caught in a conundrum.

“Do I support totally in public and deliver our strategy?” he asked. “Or do I put distance between us and lose influence?”

So many uncertainties, so many problems. Only one thing was guaranteed, Blair said. “This will not be a popular war,” he said. “And in the States, fighting an unpopular war and losing is not an option.”

On the evening of April 5 at Bush’s Texas ranch, Blair took a seat at a dining table, his back to three off-white bookcases stuffed with historical works and autobiographies.

It was the first day of the two leaders’ summit to discuss the Middle East. Until a week ago, Iraq had been the front-burner topic. Then, world events had interceded. The Israeli Defense Forces had launched a military operation in the West Bank, the largest since the Six-Day War in 1967. The action, called Operation Defensive Shield, followed a series of attacks against Israel carried out by Palestinian armed groups, part of the uprising known as the Second Intifada. The fighting had intensified just three days earlier, with an Israeli siege on Jenin, a Palestinian refugee camp, followed by a ferocious counter-attack.

As they dined, Bush and Blair discussed the rapidly deteriorating situation. Any hopes for advancing the Middle East peace process were now dashed. And this was not an isolated issue, Blair said. He repeated the message he had delivered weeks before in a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney—the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians had to be part of the strategy for Iraq.

“These are not divisible problems,” he said. “It is one problem with different facets, and this Israel/Palestine conflict is an important one of them. Resolution of that would have an enormously beneficial impact with the Muslim word.”

“I understand your position, Tony,” Bush replied. “But I don’t believe we can wait for one problem to be solved before we address the other.”

Blair expanded on his argument. The linkage was fundamental, and addressing it was vital to any success. But, to his frustration, Blair could tell that Bush didn’t buy it.

The Prime Minister asked where the Administration now stood in its strategy for Iraq.

“We don’t have a war plan set,” Bush said. “But I have set up a small cell at CENTCOM to do some planning and think through the various options. When they’ve done that, I’ll examine their suggestions.”

Blair again urged caution. If there were openings for resolving questions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction without going to war, they had to be pursued. A new initiative with the United Nations, he said, could be presented to Saddam as his last chance. Bush didn’t have much faith in the U.N. approach. But, he said, he was no warmonger either.

“If Saddam allows the U.N. inspectors in to do their work, unfettered,” he said, “That would mean adjusting our approach.”

The reverse, of course, also held, Blair said. If the peaceful, international route didn’t work, then a coalition had to be ready to act decisively to remove Saddam. But, in preparation, they needed to pursue a public relations campaign to address the growing international hostility against a military action. Bush agreed.

Blair went to bed that night relieved. Bush, it seemed, did want to build a coalition of nations to work with the Americans on Iraq; he communicated none of Cheney’s disdain for such an approach. In fact, Blair mused, Bush seemed to tacitly distance himself from the hawks in his Administration.

Bush and Blair held a press conference at 11:00 the next morning inside the gymnasium at Crawford High School; any hope for meeting outdoors with reporters had been dashed by torrential rain. The men sounded as if they were in agreement. They were open to trying anything that might rein in Saddam Hussein. And if diplomacy failed, then war could well be the only alternative.

That night before dinner, Alastair Campbell, a senior Blair aide, mentioned to Bush how serene he had seemed during the press conference.

True, Bush said. Since the last time he had met with Blair, he said, he had changed his attitude about himself and his job.

“In the early days, I really got knocked when they put down the way I mangle words, and it really made me hesitant,” he said.

But now, Bush said, he had given up caring what the reporters thought about his verbal gaffes, and that made all the difference.

“The truth is, I have a limited vocabulary,” he said. “I’m not great with words, and I have to think about what I say very carefully.”

The two spoke for some time—about reporters, about Iraq—when Bush noticed that Campbell was one of the few in the room who wasn’t nursing a beer.

“Why aren’t you drinking?” Bush asked.

A shrug. “I’m a recovering drunk,” Campbell said.

Bush nodded. “Yeah. Me too.”

“How much did you drink?”

“Well, two or three beers a day,” Bush said. “A bit of wine. Some bourbon. But I gave it up in 1986.”

The two men compared their histories with alcohol. Bush’s drinking didn’t come close to matching Campbell’s daily binges.

“Having a breakdown and not drinking has been the best thing that ever happened to me,” Campbell said. “It was like seeing the light.”

Bush glanced at him quizzically. “But you still don’t believe in God?” he asked.

This was the second time that day the question had come up. In the morning, Campbell had fallen into a conversation with a woman on Bush’s email prayer group who had asked if he had faith in God. She seemed to pity Campbell when he told her no. And he gave Bush the same answer.

At dinner, Bush and Campbell engaged in a spirited conversation about running. After the meal, Blair grabbed a guitar and started strumming and singing along with Daddy Rabbit, a band hired for the occasion. The evening ended with a few after dinner toasts.

“All right, everyone can leave,” Bush announced, sounding jovial. “I want to go to bed.”

Blair’s pleas that Bush adopt a comprehensive policy linking Iraq and the Middle East peace process seemed to be bearing fruit. Almost three months after the meeting in Crawford, Bush informed Blair that he would be delivering a major address spelling out his Administration’s position on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

On June 24, a group of reporters were gathered in the White House Rose Garden when Bush stepped behind a podium. He opened his remarks at 3:47.

“For too long, the citizens of the Middle East have lived in the midst of death and fear,” he said. “The hatred of a few holds the hopes of many hostage….Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism,” he said. “I’ve said in the past that nations are either with us or against us in the war on terror. To be counted on the side of peace, nations must act.”

Bush spoke of the obligations of the Palestinians for almost eight minutes. He stated that the United States would only support the creation of a Palestinian state once all of those conditions were met. Then, for just over a minute, he said that, once steps were made to improve security in the region, the Israelis had to withdraw their forces to positions held prior to September 28, 2000 [the start of the Second Intifada], stop settlement activity in the occupied territories, and release frozen Palestinian assets.

“The choice here is stark and simple,” Bush said. “The Bible says, ‘I have set before you life and death; therefore choose life.’ The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to choose peace and hope and life.”

The Bush speech landed with a decided thud in the Blair government. British officials were at a loss to understand why the President had bothered making it. It could only stir up more enmity.

They found the concluding words particularly astonishing. In addressing a conflict between Jews and Muslims, the President quoted from the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible? Who thought that was a good idea?

The problem wasn’t with the speech’s premises; on those, Bush was right. Palestinian terrorism was undermining the peace process. Palestinian leaders were advocating violence. The Palestinian legislature was toothless, and needed real power that could only come from a new constitution. And Israel could not change its policies until the country’s security was assured.

No, the largest problem was with the speech’s timing in the midst of heightened hostilities. The Palestinians saw the Israelis as the aggressors and viewed terrorism as the only choice they had to stand up to a regional superpower. They considered demands by the United States to be suspect from the start. Publicly dismissing all of those realities would do nothing to calm the churning waters.

Perhaps, some of the British officials suggested, the speech was Bush’s attempt to satisfy Blair’s insistence that his Iraq policy must be folded into the pursuit of a broader Middle East peace initiative. If so, it failed miserably.

Officials from the Pentagon and Britain’s Ministry of Defense began three days of meetings on June 27 to discuss plans for a military strike against Iraq. And the Blair government reacted with near horror.

A report summarizing the conversations was sent to David Manning, Blair’s foreign policy advisor, and Jack Straw, the foreign secretary. Straw was bowled over by what he read. The Americans seemed to be planning a war based on a wishful thinking that bordered on fantasy. There was nothing to suggest they understood the magnitude and complexity of military action against Iraq, and they seemed to have reverted to the mindset that, if other nations didn’t see it their way, they would just go it alone.

On July 8, Straw prepared a three-page memo to Blair deriding the American plans as fatally flawed by logical inconsistencies and pie-in-the-sky assumptions.

The Bush Administration had “no strategic concept for the military plan and, in particular, no thought apparently given to ‘day after’ scenarios,” Straw wrote.

It blithely took for granted the dubious conjecture that its military could swoop in, then rapidly identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The Bush team simply asserted that Kuwait would happily host a large-scale military action by the United States for up to two years, that other Gulf States would jump in with support, and that Iran and Syria would sit quietly on the sidelines as Western armies invaded their next-door neighbor.

“The support even of key allies such as Kuwait cannot be counted on in the absence of some serious groundwork by the US,” Straw wrote.

It also seemed that Blair’s discussions with Bush at the Crawford summit had been for naught. All of the Prime Minister’s conditions for British involvement in a war—first seeking new diplomatic action through the U.N., incorporating the Middle East peace process into any plan of attack, and pursuing an aggressive campaign to temper the global public hostility toward a military action—went unmentioned in the American report.

“The fact that the US plan apparently ignores these conditions causes me particular concern,” Straw wrote. “Are they determined to go ahead regardless? Does the omission signal a weakening of US commitment to work for progress in these areas before deciding to launch a military action? None of them is getting any easier.”

Bush could not simply prepare to celebrate military victory. There also had to be a strong assessment of the economic and political repercussions of the war itself.

“They must also understand,” Straw concluded, “that we are serious about our conditions for UK involvement.”

In the fall of 2002, members of the Blair government recognized that their efforts to counter America’s wagon circling about Iraq were failing. Each step of the way, Bush Administration officials nodded heads and mumbled kind words as the British urged caution, but nothing in the policies changed. No matter how many arguments he made, Blair knew, he had not yet overcome the war-mongering of the Administration’s hawks, particularly Cheney. And the Vice President was now making his case public - just weeks before, he had delivered a speech essentially declaring his own war on Iraq, complete with his own visceral attacks on U.N. weapons inspectors.

But Blair wanted to take another shot, and a meeting was scheduled with Bush at Camp David to again press the President about seeking a new U.N. resolution on Iraq before a military invasion was launched.
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Reply Tue 11 Sep, 2012 04:47 pm
The Lies that Led to the Iraq War and the Persistent Myth of ‘Intelligence Failure’
by Jeremy R. Hammond
September 8, 2012
Secretary of State Colin Powell presents the Bush administration's case for war on Iraq at the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003

Secretary of State Colin Powell presents the Bush administration’s case for war on Iraq at the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003

Download this paper (PDF)

The George Washington University National Security Archive recently published a newly released CIA document from January 2006 titled “Misreading Intentions: Iraq’s Reaction to Inspection Created Picture of Deception”. The document, the Archive notes, “blames ‘analyst liabilities’ such as neglecting to examine Iraq’s deceptive behavior ‘through an Iraqi prism,’ for the failure to correctly assess the country’s virtually non-existent WMD capabilities.” Foreign Policy magazine describes it as a “remarkable CIA mea culpa”. But nothing could be further from the truth. Far from acknowledging the CIA’s true role, the document does not present any kind of serious analysis, but only politicized statements rehashing well-worn official claims designed to further the myth that there was an “intelligence failure” leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003.

There was no such “intelligence failure”. On the contrary, there was an extremely successful disinformation campaign coordinated by the CIA in furtherance of the government’s policy of seeking regime change in Iraq. The language of the document itself reveals a persistent dishonesty. It speaks of “deepened suspicions” that Iraq “had ongoing WMD programs” and “suspicions that Iraq continued to hide WMD.” Needless to say, however, the Iraq war was not sold to the public on the grounds that government officials and intelligence agencies had “suspicions” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was sold to the public with declarations that it was a known fact that Iraq had ongoing programs and stockpiles of WMD. The tacit acknowledgment that the actual evidence only supported “suspicions” that this was so by itself is proof of that the narrative of an “intelligence failure” is a fiction.

The report relies heavily upon the 1995 defection of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal (respectively spelled “Saddam Husayn” and “Husayn Kamil” in the document), arguing that the information he revealed bolstered suspicions that Iraq was concealing ongoing WMD programs and continued to possess stockpiles of WMD. It argues further that the regime’s behavior indicated he was hiding such weapons. Kamal, who returned to Iraq and was killed there in 1996, was the same individual Vice President Dick Cheney referred to in selling the administration’s case for war on August 26, 2002, when he said that “we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors—including Saddam’s own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam’s direction.” But the fact is that Cheney was lying, and the CIA’s persistent adherence to essentially the same false narrative renders ridiculous the suggestion that this document is some kind of “mea culpa”.

The document states, “Analysts interpreted Iraq’s intransigence and ongoing deceptive practices as indicators of continued WMD programs or an intent to preserve WMD capabilities, reinforcing intelligence we were receiving at the time that Saddam Husayn continued to pursue WMD.” Yet the examples it lists of Iraq’s “intransigence” and deception do not support the CIA’s earlier judgments that Iraq had ongoing programs and WMD stockpiles. “In April 1991, for example,” the document says, “Iraq declared that it had neither a nuclear weapons program nor an enrichment program. Inspections in June and September 1991 proved that Iraq had lied on both counts, had explored multiple enrichment paths, and had a well-developed nuclear weapons program.” This is true. However, the document makes no mention of the fact that it was public knowledge that Iraq’s nuclear program was subsequently completely dismantled. As former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei, pointed out, the Agency had “destroyed, removed or rendered harmless all Iraqi facilities and equipment component of Iraq’s nuclear programme” by 1992. The IAEA reported in 1998 that it was “confident that we had not missed any significant component of Iraq’s nuclear programme”.

The document states that in “March 1992, Iraq decided to declare the unilateral destruction of certain prohibited items to the Security Council, while continuing to conceal its biological warfare (BW) program and important aspects of the nuclear, chemical, and missile programs”. As worded, this implies that Iraq in 1992 was continuing these programs. This is disingenuous, because in fact Iraq was at that time trying conceal past programs that it had ended following the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq did not continue these programs, but dismantled them and unilaterally destroyed its WMD in order to hide the fact that it had had such programs in the past. As the document acknowledges in its “Key Findings” section, “in 1991, Iraq secretly destroyed or dismantled most undeclared items and records”. Yet the very next paragraph contradictorily and disingenuously states, “We now judge that the 1995 defection of Saddam’s son-in-law Husayn Kamil—a critical figure in Iraq’s WMD and denial and deception (D&D) activities—promoted Iraq to change strategic direction and cease efforts to retain WMD programs.” This again implies that Iraq had ongoing WMD programs at least until 1995, which is false, as the CIA knew perfectly well at the time this report was written.

Even more importantly, that the programs had been dismantled and the weapons destroyed is in fact precisely what Hussein Kamal actually told U.N. inspectors when he defected in 1995. The newly released document in fact points out, “He said that Saddam destroyed all WMD in secret” in 1991. Yet apart from that single buried admission, the document is full of statements implying that weapons programs continued. For example, it states that “Iraqi officials did not admit to weaponized BW agent after the defection of Husayn Kamil”, but fails to clarify that this was an admission of past and not ongoing activity. The document acknowledges that Kamal’s defection was “the key turning point in Iraq’s decision to cooperate more with inspections”, but then adds that his debriefing with U.N. inspectors “strengthened the West’s perception of Iraq as a successful and efficient deceiver.” Following Kamal’s defection, the document states, “the West”, meaning the U.S., judged that Iraq “was determined to retain WMD capabilities.” In other words, the U.S. continued to claim that Iraq had ongoing WMD programs and stockpiles, and supposedly based that assessment on Kamal’s information, even though Kamal in fact had confirmed that Iraq’s WMD had been destroyed and its programs dismantled in 1991.

The document similarly states, “We now judge that the Iraqis feared that Kamil … would reveal additional undisclosed information. Iraq decided that further widespread deception and attempts to hold onto extensive WMD programs while under UN sanctions was untenable and changed strategic direction by adopting a policy of disclosure and improved cooperation.” The wording here that Iraq was attempting in 1995 “to hold onto” such programs does not merely imply a falsehood, but is an outright lie. Once again, the CIA was perfectly well aware that until 1995, Iraq was attempting to conceal the existence of its past WMD programs, which it was not attempting “to hold onto” but had dismantled in 1991. This kind of dishonest use of language to suggest Iraq continued to have ongoing WMD programs, even while contradictorily acknowledging elsewhere in the report that this was not true, is illustrative not of a willingness by the CIA to come clean, but to continue to obfuscate the truth and to persist in the false narrative of “intelligence failure”. The CIA in the document even tries to spin its acknowledgment that Iraq’s programs were dismantled and its WMD destroyed in 1991 by saying that this unilateral action left Iraq “unable to provide convincing proof when it later tried to demonstrate compliance”—thus shifting the burden onto Iraq to prove that it didn’t have WMD and attempting to obfuscate the fact that U.S. government officials repeatedly lied by claiming that the intelligence community had proof that Iraq did have WMD.

In October 1991, Iraq admitted to the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) that its Al Atheer site had been built in order to conduct research into enriching uranium to build a nuclear weapon. On August 22, 1995, when Hussein Kamal was asked about the work that went on there, and whether it was continuing somewhere else, he replied, “yes, but not now, before the Gulf War.” That is to say, there were other sites involved in Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, but this program was ended by 1991. He also pointed out that the work done on enrichment “were only studies.” He noted that Iraq already “had highly enriched uranium from France but it was under the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards.” Iraq thus had worked on building its own centrifuges to enrich uranium, “but had never reached a point close to testing.”

The CIA document nevertheless states that Kamal’s defection “exposed the previously unknown 1991 crash program to develop nuclear weapons.” The program referred to would have entailed using enriched uranium from Iraq’s French-built reactor and enriching additional uranium obtained from Russia to weapons-grade in order to produce material for a bomb. The remarkable dishonesty of this statement is on full display when one compares it with the fact that, when this “crash program” was brought up in his UNSCOM debriefing, Kamal’s actual response was, “no, not true.” He acknowledged that “the decision was already there to use French uranium, but they were not ready with centrifuges.” In other words, the “crash program” was nothing more than a hypothetical contingency plan involving a scenario in which Iraq would make a final desperate effort to produce a nuclear weapon by kicking out U.N. and IAEA inspectors and enriching its own uranium to weapons-grade—a capability Iraq did not possess.

With regard to Iraq’s biological weapons programs, Kamal was asked during his debriefing, “[W]ere weapons and agents destroyed?” He answered, “[N]othing remained.” He added that the U.N. inspectors “have [an] important role in Iraq with this. You should not underestimate yourself. You are very effective in Iraq.” The unilateral destruction of WMD, Kamal said, “was done before you came in.” On the issue of chemical weapons, the discussion turned to Iraq’s development of VX nerve agent during the Iran-Iraq war. After the war, Kamal told his U.N. debriefers, “the factory was turned into civilian production.” He added, “Iran also had mustard and sarin and they used mustard [gas] in small quantities. Some of the chemical components came for the US to Iraq”—that the U.S. supplied precursors for Iraq’s WMD is well known. Kamal continued, “[W]e changed the factory into pesticide production. Part of the establishment started to produce medicine.” He also said, “We gave instructions not to produce chemical weapons…. All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons—biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.” (He subsequently clarified, “in the nuclear area, there were no weapons”—he had meant that the nuclear program was dismantled.)

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and a recipient of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. He is the founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal (www.foreignpolicyjournal.com) and can also be found on the web at JeremyRHammond.com. His new book, "Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis", is now available at Amazon.com. Read more articles by
Jeremy R. Hammond

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