FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Untruth and Consequences

by DAVID MacMICHAEL

Former CIA analyst

On March 9, the all but official Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told a group of supporters after a speech in Illinois that he had never had to deal with such “lying and crookedness.” He did not specify about whom he was speaking, but outraged Republican leaders assumed, probably correctly, that he was referring to the Bush administration and demanded an apology.

Nor is it known what specific lies or crooked activities Senator Kerry had in mind. However, the subject of Bush administration truthfulness with regard to the arguments it presented to justify the United States invasion of Iraq a year ago continues to be a very live issue. It is now accepted by everyone except flat-earth true believers, that administration charges of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, links with and support for al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks, and the imminence of Baghdad’s military threat were not true.

Intelligence Taking the Rap

The administration, and its spokespersons in the White House, the Department of State, the Pentagon, and the National Security Adviser’s office who made the case for war to the Congress and to the American people–and the people of the world– now say that if they were wrong it was because the intelligence system failed to provide them with accurate information. Thus, according to this argument, the untruths purveyed were not, strictly speaking, lies. There are now a host of commissions and committees looking into how US intelligence could have failed so egregiously–if, in fact, that was the main problem.

But Who’s Really to Blame?

Another school of thought holds that the Bush administration, rather than responding to false alarm bells rung in Langley, had been determined from the outset to find a rationale for invading Iraq. Indeed, former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill declares in his recent book that, at the new administration’s very first cabinet meeting, the decision to invade Iraq was presented as a given. Members of this school argue that Bush and the ardent supporters for war, especially in the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney and in the Defense Department of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, recruited long-time proponents of use of American military power in the Middle East like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Abraham Shulsky, and Michael Malouf, to bypass the CIA, DIA, and State Department’s INR whose professional analysts were skeptical about Iraq’s allegedly hostile capabilities and intentions.

This school of thought contends that, like prosecutors preparing a case, this cabal of war seekers “cherry picked” the intelligence reporting and presented, without caveat, even the shakiest and most suspect evidence to make the argument for war. Importantly, they have shown that this group relied heavily on reports from an Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC) headed by Ahmed Chalabi and heavily funded by the Department of Defense, despite the fact that the CIA had long since concluded that INC reporting was untrustworthy. Further, they insist that these so-called neo-cons were encouraged and abetted by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the White House itself.

Noble Lies

A final, and not unimportant, concern about the neo-cons is their adherence to the Machiavellian teachings of the late University of Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss. Nicolo Machiavelli, mentor to the Renaissance Italian Borgias, of evil memory, taught that the successful prince must and should lie and mislead. This philosophy echoed that of Plato who taught that statesmen had to use “noble lies” to lead the ignorant masses for their own good.

If the Bush administration used evidence, ignoring warnings that the evidence was suspect or invalid, to make its case for war, then–no matter how sincerely it may have believed it was acting out of concern for the security of the nation–it was, if not actually lying, coming perilously close to doing so. No bluster about intelligence being an inexact science or that even where grave doubts exist or glaring fallacies are apparent, it is the duty of the president to make decisions and to lead (and of the rest of us to follow) quite suffices to turn untruth or not quite truth into veracity.

At least one important figure in this controversy about crooks and liars is Ahmed Chalabi himself. By most standards, as a fugitive from Jordan where he was convicted of massive bank fraud, he is a crook. As for lying in the matter under consideration here, he is unabashed.

Self-proclaimed “Hero in Error”

In an interview with London’s Daily Telegraph on February 19, Chalabi triumphantly admitted that he had knowingly provided false information about Iraq’s weapons and its ties to terrorists (not to mention his rosy predictions of US troops being welcomed as liberators) to his gullible patrons in the Pentagon and, for that matter, in the mainstream US press. “We are,” he said, “heroes in error. As far as we are concerned, we’ve been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We’re ready to fall on our swords if he wants.”

What We Know We Know

So now we know for certain that exile Iraqis and other agenda-driven people told lies to ideologically driven individuals in the Bush administration all too eager to use them to press their case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We know that the White House dismissed the objections of professional intelligence officers in the CIA and elsewhere probably because it had already decided to invade Iraq. We know that key administration officials chose to use the suspect evidence to persuade most members of Congress to, let us say, suspend their critical faculties, and vote to authorize the president to use the armed forces of the United States to invade Iraq. We know for certain that most of the United States media reported this false information as truth.

We cannot be certain that the spokespersons of the Bush administration knew that they were speaking untruth. We don’t yet really know why Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet appeared at least tacitly to endorse conclusions his own experts believed untrue.

What we do know for certain is that Chalabi lied, and that he lied to people who believe as a matter of principle that government leaders must and should lie and that these people were in places of dominant influence in the Bush administration and that they used Chalabi’s lies to further their policy goals.

What we do know for certain is that as a result of decisions based on these lies to date over 560 members of the United States armed forces have died in Iraq and several thousand others have been injured, many of them disabled for life. A hundred or more other non-US members of the invading force have been killed, and many thousands of Iraqis, military and civilian, are also dead. And we know that Iraq, battered and impoverished, teeters on the brink of civil war.

And, oh yes, we know for certain that the regime has been changed, although to what is not clear.

DAVID MacMICHAEL is a former CIA analyst and a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He can be reached at: macmichael@counterpunch.org.

This article appeared first on tompaine.com.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail