Memo To: Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D WV]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Intelligence Failure?
I’m happy to see you continue to press for an investigation on how we came to war against Iraq on the basis of “intelligence” supplied by the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, that now turns out to be bunk. In his Georgetown speech yesterday, Tenet insisted he never told the President that Iraq posed "an imminent threat," but I thought one of the strangest assertions he made was when he said: "I can tell you with certainty that the president of the United States gets his intelligence from one person and one community -- me. He has told me firmly and directly that he's wanted it straight, and he's wanted it honest and he's never wanted the facts shaded."
Why is this strange? Because Tenet must have been asleep on the job not to have noticed that the Pentagon crowd with its Office of Special Plans went right over the heads of the other intelligence agencies that Tenet manages and filled the President’s head with the cooked-up “evidence” that Saddam Hussein was in fact an “imminent threat,” given all the weapons of mass destruction he had at his disposal, hidden in cubbyholes, ready to hand out to his pals in Al Qaeda. If Tenet was not asleep at the switch, he would have known Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle and Scooter Libby and Vice President Cheney provided the transmission belt for the “evidence of imminence” that was fed into the Oval Office. If he were awake, he should have resigned, seeing how the nation was being led to an unnecessary, pre-emptive war based on information he himself knew was speculative.
In another sense, Senator Rockefeller, I still think you may be barking up the wrong tree. You are trying to put your finger on how bum intelligence collected by our snoops was converted by the top policymakers in the Bush administration into the decision to ignore the United Nations and pull the trigger on Baghdad. If I were you, I would start with your own failure of intelligence last March, when anyone with half an IQ who was paying attention to the proceedings at the United Nations could see that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction!! Yes, everyone in the Bush administration including Colin Powell, who I thought had half an IQ, insisted that Saddam was sitting on stockpiles of stuff that could wipe out millions at the snap of his fingers. But Iraq was clearly in total compliance with UN Security Council Resolution #1441, which promised unpleasant “consequences” if he did not cooperate with the UN weapons inspectors.
Total compliance, as far as I could tell, and as far as the French and the Germans and the Chinese and practically every other member of the Security Council or UN General Assembly who wasn’t being paid or promised to join the Bush/Blair War Party. There was a brief moment when Baghdad wondered why it had to destroy its Al Samoud missiles when they argued the missiles were not illegal, but as soon as France said they had to be destroyed, Baghdad did so.
Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the chairman of Senate Intelligence, still insists that all the other intelligence agencies of Europe were pushing WMD info about Iraq. That may be where they were before UNSCR #1441 was adopted by a 15-to-0 vote in November 2002. But what were these European snoops thinking after UNMOVIC’s Hans Bliz and his several hundred inspectors had looked high and low and found nothing but empty cans and cobwebs. They looked in every cubbyhole they could think of that had already been inspected countless times in the previous dozen years by UNSCOM, Scott Ritter, and the International Atomic Energy Agency and found ZIP. Just as Scott Ritter had predicted!! ZIP.
But wait. Pentagon Chief Don Rumsfeld said he KNEW where Saddam was hiding stuff. He had a map of the cubbyholes. And George Tenet’s ace snoops at the CIA had gilt-edged intelligence on where Saddam had tucked away chem/bio stuff that could kill millions, if not in Cincinnati, then in nearby Tel Aviv. Do you remember, Senator Rockefeller, that almost daily Hans Blix said that if this information was so good, why not turn it over to UNMOVIC and let the inspectors on the ground rush to those cubbyholes and catch Saddam red-handed?
My recollection is that out of sheer embarrassment the White House had the CIA turn over as many as one hundred cubbyholes to UNMOVIC, with the inspectors swooping down on each and finding only empty cans and cobwebs. One UN inspector was quoted in the British press as calling the CIA’s hot tips as “garbage.” As the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, you must have noticed that Baghdad was doing everything asked of it, and then some. Then it was reported that the Bush administration did not want to give ALL its info on secret cubbyholes away because it could not trust UNMOVIC, which might let word leak out so that Saddam could whisk away his WMD to Syria or to another cubbyhole. What did Iraq do? It announced that it would welcome George Tenet and his CIA snoops to come in as many numbers as they wished to send, then fan out to all the secret spots without any notice to anyone.
Do you remember that Senator Rockefeller? And again, the proposal was rejected by the Bush administration, as the Council of War wanted a war, not the disarming of Iraq. They all knew Saddam was disarmed. George Tenet included.
You probably came closest to knowing, which is why you have been the first to ‘fess up your error in voting for the use of force if diplomacy failed. You are now asking President Bush to admit he made a mistake, but he will never do that. He thought he did right by listening to all the dope he got from the handful of people who can get him on the horn. There is no nice way of saying it, but our President really doesn’t have the kind of intelligence to realize he has been snookered all along.
* * * * *
The White House now insists the President never said Saddam posed “an imminent threat.” Here is a rundown by the Associates Press on just who said what.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Prewar statements by President Bush and other administration officials on the urgency of stopping Saddam Hussein:
"What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is give in to wishful thinking or to willful blindness." - Vice President Dick Cheney, Aug. 29, 2002, speaking to veterans of the Korean War in San Antonio, Texas.
"The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence." - Bush, Sept. 12, 2002, speaking at the United Nations.
"He's a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible." - Bush, Sept. 13, 2002, remarks to press.
"We do know that he (Saddam) has been actively and persistently pursuing nuclear weapons for more than 20 years. But we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons." - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Sept. 18, 2002, before House Armed Services Committee.
"There are a number of terrorist states pursuing weapons of mass destruction ... but no terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq." - Rumsfeld, Sept. 19, 2002, Senate Armed Services Committee.
"On its present course, the Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency." - Bush, Oct. 2, 2002, after reaching agreement with House leaders on Iraq resolution.
"The danger is already significant and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today - and we do - does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?" - Bush, Oct. 7, 2002, speech in Cincinnati.
"The world is also uniting to answer the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq, whose dictator has already used weapons of mass destruction to kill thousands." - Bush, Nov. 23, 2002, radio address.
"The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world. Let me now turn to those deadly weapons programs and describe why they are real and present dangers to the region and to the world." - Secretary of State Colin Powell, Feb. 5, 2003, at United Nations.
"The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations." - Bush, March 16, 2003, news conference after Azores summit with Spanish, British and Portuguese leaders.