Category Archives: Doug Feith

Bremer and De-Ba’athification

In examining the little contretemps between a Bush trying to slide out from under direct responsibility for the single worst decision in the whole Iraq mess and a Bremer determined not to play fall-guy for a president who didn’t think twice about throwing him under the bus to save his own precious neck, Fred Kaplan at Slate isn’t as forgetful about Chalabi’s early role as Blumenthal, but he does miss Chalabi’s later role and, for some reason, comes over all coy about assigning the decision to Cheney even though the evidence is right under his nose.

Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn’t him. Though he wouldn’t be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.

In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” Feith reportedly told him. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”

Bremer’s version rings true, and if it is then the orders came from Cheney. Period. Feith was L’il Dick’s boy and wouldn’t have dared make a move like that without the Veep told him to. Maybe Kaplan has some doubts about Bremer’s tale, but he doesn’t say what they are.

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Bush and WMDs

Memories in America, trained by tv, are remarkably short even when they belong to otherwise intelligent reporters. Two recent articles – one by Sidney Blumenthal in Salon, the other by Fred Kaplan in Slate, both usually reliable – made it clear to me that we need to go back over some fundamental history of the Second Gulf War, key elements of which both seem to have forgotten or lost track of. We’ve covered this ground already but it was several years ago, so it bears repeating.

If you ask, “Why is it important to go through all this again? And why are these picayune details significant anyway?” The answer is, “Because we need to get it into our heads once and for all that conservatives are naive, gullible children, easily led over cliffs by anyone who feeds them what they want to hear.” The real story of the twisted intelligence that led to the SGW and idiotic decisions like de-Ba’athification isn’t just about arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance. It’s also – and crucially – about misplaced trust and a dangerously juvenile credulity that allows conservatives to believe demonstrably false ideas and foist them on the rest of us just because those ideas are appealingly melodramatic.

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Tenet and Feith at Georgetown

Georgetown University ought to be ashamed of itself.

I realize that it has often played “employer of last resort” for moribund political figures who’ve outlived their usefulness – or relevance. And I suppose that’s a good thing, in a way. It keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. And I can understand hiring Tenet. Whatever his failings and lack of courage under Bush, he still has a helluva resume and a long and mostly honorable if not terribly distinguished record of public service.

For Doug Feith, however, there is no excuse. NONE. Continue reading

Bush, Tenet, and Bagman Bartlett (Updated)

George Tenet’s new book has stirred up some supposed controversy, primarily by acknowledging and confirming a bunch of stuff we already knew. Why any of this should be “controversial” at this point is beyond me. Maybe because the Great American “Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know” Public remains as inexcusably clueless as it was when almost half of it voted for the Emperor for the second – count ’em, second – time and is determined to stay that way.

There’s no “news” here despite the “Today’s Circus” blanket coverage by the so-called “news” media except for two minor details. The first is the surprising – and disappointing – decision by “I’ll Fall on My Sword for You” Tenet to continue covering Junior’s ass. He’s still willing to take the rap for Bush on behalf of the CIA for “mistaken” intel when actually his agency got it right it –

Mr. Tenet takes blame for the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s weapons programs, calling the episode “one of the lowest moments of my seven-year tenure.” He expresses regret that the document was not more nuanced, but says there was no doubt in his mind at the time that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons. “In retrospect, we got it wrong partly because the truth was so implausible,” he writes.

– and he continues to praise Dear Leader’s cynical exploitation of 9/11.

Despite such sweeping indictments, Mr. Bush, who in 2004 awarded Mr. Tenet a Presidential Medal of Freedom, is portrayed personally in a largely positive light, with particular praise for the his leadership after the 2001 attacks. “He was absolutely in charge, determined, and directed,” Mr. Tenet writes of the president, whom he describes as a blunt-spoken kindred spirit.

He puts all the responsibility on Cheney, writing as if Junior, you know, didn’t realize the VP was up to all that shit.

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White House Rejects DDNI Candidates

As the evidence of Karl Rove’s monkeying around with appointments in order to politicize the Bush Admin piles up, we’re entitled to be suspicious when the White House rejects candidate after candidate for a sensitive job, especially when the rejected applicant appears to be eminently qualified for it.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has been unable to find a deputy acceptable to the White House during his first six weeks in office.

Several candidates approached by McConnell either turned down the job or were rejected by the White House, according to current and former administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to discuss the matter.

McConnell himself turned the position down last year and “changed his mind only when offered the top job”. Deputy Director of National Intelligence isn’t considered a very attractive job in Bushie circles, apparently. “Why not?” might be an interesting question to answer but more interesting, in the context of the GAO scandal, the Gonzo 8 firings, and the revelations that came out of Kyle Sampson’s emails, might be “What criteria is Rove using to reject applicants?”

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Henry Gondorff Rides Again: Ahmad Chalabi Suckers the Bushies

Finally, a mainstream pundit, Maureen Dowd, has nailed Ahmad Chalabi as the source of all the phony intel Feith’s OSP and Cheney’s All-Stars used to get us into Iraq. In a somewhat less snarky column than usual (parts of it approach her older, straight[er] style), Dowd says it flat out, no punches pulled or cute evasions to soften the blow.

Back when Dick Cheney was fiddling with salt shakers, Ahmad Chalabi, a smooth-talking and wealthy young Iraqi M.I.T. graduate, was founding the Petra Bank in Jordan.

As Mr. Cheney moved up in the capital, Mr. Chalabi was tripped up in Jordan by a small matter of embezzlement from his own bank. Jordanian officials have said that the crime rocked their economy and that they paid $300 million to depositors to cover the bank’s losses. By the time Mr. Chalabi was convicted and received a sentence of 22 years of hard labor, he was a fugitive in London.

During the early 90’s, when Mr. Cheney was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Chalabi was in a full courtship press with Washington’s conservative and journalistic elites. He saw them as a springboard for his triumphant return to Iraq.

After 9/11, his passionate desire to take out Saddam coincided with that of conservatives. All they needed for their belli was a casus, so Mr. Chalabi obligingly conned the neocons.

He hoodwinked his pals Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle into believing Iraq would be a flowery cakewalk to democracy.

A wily expert in the politics of the bazaar, he knew he had to sell his scheme on what was good for Americans and their security. He was happy to funnel information to the vice president that painted a picture of Saddam hunkered on a hair-raising stockpile of W.M.D. His group, the Iraqi National Congress, tried to spin our government and media through its “information collection program.” Intelligence officials now say that the prewar information provided to Washington by this group was suspect and useless, even disinformation.

But here’s the wild thing: the propaganda program was underwritten by U.S. government funds. So Americans paid Ahmad Chalabi to gull them into a war that is costing them a billion a week — and a precious human cost. Cops dealing with their snitches check out the information better than the Bush administration did.

When you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into a belief, you don’t usually think that information fitting neatly into that belief needs checking. Henry Gondorff, the legendary artist of the Big Con, understood that better than anyone but even he never dreamed that there could be a room full of powerful suckers in our govt so gullible that he could con them out of a whole country. Wherever he is now, he must be laughing his ass off.

The C.I.A. was stung to find out its analysts had mistakenly thought that Iraq weapons information had been confirmed by multiple sources, when it came from only a single source; that analysts had relied on a fabricating Iraqi defector and spin material from Iraqi exiles; and that this blather made its way into documents and speeches used by the Bush administration to justify war. George Tenet ordered a major change in procedure last week, removing barricades so that analysts can know more about the identities of clandestine agents’ sources, and their possible motives.

But even incestuous amplification could not have drowned out reality if Bush officials had not glommed onto the Chalabi flummery for their own reasons — to feed their fantasies about refashioning America’s power, psyche and military, and making over the Middle East in our image.

Swept up in big dreams, the foreign policy dream team became dupes in Ahmad Chalabi’s big con

Suckers, marks, targets, sheep, whatever. Chalabi wrapped them around his little finger with a few choice fantasies and damn near got crowned King of Iraq by our own forces. It was a bold con, maybe the boldest since Lola Montez came within inches of conning Leopold into making her Queen of Austria. I hate what he did, but I have to admire the style, the smoothness, the sheer audacity of Chalabi’s game. Skinning a mark (it means taking everything he has) depends almost entirely on a con’s ability to accurately read the sucker’s dreams, desires, and weaknesses, and then play him like a bull fiddle. With ace gulls like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, and Feith to play, Chalabi was Segovia.

If they had been rich, rapacious robber barons instead – Malone, Murdoch, and Kenny-Boy Lay, for instance – I would have enjoyed Chalabi’s mastery and the symmetry of the sting. But they weren’t. They were people responsible for the lives of thousands, people with years of experience in govt, business, and finance, and they were suckered like greenhorns still wet behind the ears, rubes with hay sticking out of their hair.

And these are the guys our C-average Prez relies on to make his decisions for him? No wonder the country’s going to hell. Alfred E Neuman would be a significant improvement. Jeesh. If thousands of Iraqis and over 500 of our own soldiers hadn’t died because of their ineptitude, it would be funny.

But they did and it isn’t.