FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Untruth and Consequences

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:

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail