THE SMOKING GUN
By Juan Cole
May 6, 2005
A top secret British memorandum dated July 23, 2002 was leaked in the run-up to Thursday's parliamentary elections in the U.K. (which Blair won, though his Labor Party was much weakened by public disgust with such shenanigans as the memo describes). It summarizes a report to Blair and others in the British government by Sir Brian Dearlove. (This is the press release when he was appointed in 1999). The head of MI6, or the foreign intelligence service of the UK, is known as "C."
Here is the smoking gun:
"C [Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
It is not surprising on the face of it that Bush had decided on the Iraq war by summer of 2002. It it is notable that Dearlove noticed a change in views on the subject from earlier visits. By summer of 2002, the Afghanistan war had wound down and al-Qaeda was on the run, so Bush no longer felt vulnerable and was ready to go forward with his long-cherished project of an Iraq War. What is notable is that all this was not what Bush was telling us.
Bush was lying to the American people at the time and saying that no final decision had been made on the war.
Godfrey Sperling of the Christian Science Monitor could write on Aug. 27, 2002, "Indeed, Bush has said he welcomes a 'debate' on Iraq from those in Congress and from the public. But he has made it clear that he will make his decision based on what his intelligence people are telling him."
But Dearlove's report makes it clear that Bush had already decided absolutely on a war the previous month, and that he had managed to give British intelligence the firm impression that he intended to shape the intelligence to support such a war. So poor Sperling was lied to twice. Any "debate" was meaningless if the president had already decided. And he wasn't waiting to make his decision in the light of the intelligence. He was going to tell the intelligence professionals what conclusion they had to reach. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Why would it even be necessary to turn the intelligence analysts into "weasels" who would have to tell Bush what he wanted to hear?
It was necessary because the "justification" of the "conjunction" of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism was virtually nonexistent.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw admitted it at the meeting: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran."
So the "justification" would have to be provided by "fixing" the intelligence around the policy. Bush was just going to make things up, since the realities did not actually justify his planned war! The British cabinet sat around and admitted to themselves that (a) there was no justification for the war into which they were allowing themselves to be dragged, and (b) that the war would be gotten up through Goebbels-like techniques!
It is even worse. British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith was at the meeting. He had to think up a justification for the war in international law. Britain is in Europe, and Europe takes international law seriously. You could have war crimes trials. (Remember that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet almost got tried in Spain for killing 5,000 people in the 1970s).
Goldsmith was as nervous as a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs: "The attorney general said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defense, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorization. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change."
The dryness of the wit is unbearable. "The desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action"! Naked aggression is illegal, he could have said. Then he reviews the three possible grounds for a war. You could have a war if Iraq attacked you. Iraq had not attacked the U.S. Or you could have a war if it was a humanitarian intervention (e.g., under the genocide convention). But Saddam's major campaigns of death had been a decade before. Or you could get a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the war, in accordance with the UN charter. But Goldsmith makes it clear he thought you would need a new resolution, that the old ones wouldn't work for this purpose.
The attorney general of the United Kingdom thought the reports Dearlove and Straw were bringing back from Washington reeked of an illegal war. People who plan out illegal wars are war criminals. He knew this. He was stuck, however. They were all stuck.
The man from Connecticut with the Crawford ranch had decided to cut down some trees. And they were all hostages in his guest house and he was going to put chainsaws in their hands and make them help, whether they liked it or not. Goldsmith's hands trembled as he reached out for the chainsaw rig. He saw himself and the others sitting in the Hague, one day, facing the same judges that Milosevic harangued. Charged.
But it is a long way from Crawford to the Hague. The man from Connecticut with the cowboy boots and the fake twang would get away with it. They would all get away with it.
But people would know they had lied.
PROOF THE FIX WAS IN
By Ray McGovern
May 4, 2005
"Intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy."
Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see those words in black and white - and beneath a SECRET stamp, no less. For three years now, we in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have been saying that the CIA and its British counterpart, MI-6, were ordered by their countries' leaders to "fix facts" to "justify" an unprovoked war on Iraq. More often than not, we have been greeted with stares of incredulity.
It has been a hard learning -- that folks tend to believe what they want to believe. As long as our evidence, however abundant and persuasive, remained circumstantial, it could not compel belief. It simply is much easier on the psyche to assent to the White House spin machine blaming the Iraq fiasco on bad intelligence than to entertain the notion that we were sold a bill of goods.
Well, you can forget circumstantial. Thanks to an unauthorized disclosure by a courageous whistleblower, the evidence now leaps from official documents -- this time authentic, not forged. Whether prompted by the open appeal of the international Truth-Telling Coalition or not, some brave soul has made the most explosive "patriotic leak" of the war by giving London's Sunday Times the official minutes of a briefing by Richard Dearlove, then head of Britain's CIA equivalent, MI-6. Fresh back in London from consultations in Washington, Dearlove briefed Prime Minister Blair and his top national security officials on July 23, 2002, on the Bush administration's plans to make war on Iraq.
Blair does not dispute the authenticity of the document, which immortalizes a discussion that is chillingly amoral. Apparently no one felt free to ask the obvious questions. Or, worse still, the obvious questions did not occur.
JUGGERNAUT BEFORE THE HORSE
In emotionless English, Dearlove tells Blair and the others that President Bush has decided to remove Saddam Hussein by launching a war that is to be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction." Period. What about the intelligence? Dearlove adds matter-of-factly, "The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy."
At this point, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw confirms that Bush has decided on war, but notes that stitching together justification would be a challenge, since "the case was thin." Straw noted that Saddam was not threatening his neighbors and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.
In the following months, "the case" would be buttressed by a well-honed U.S.-U.K. intelligence-turned-propaganda-machine. The argument would be made "solid" enough to win endorsement from Congress and Parliament by conjuring up:
--Aluminum artillery tubes misdiagnosed as nuclear related;
--Forgeries alleging Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium in Africa;
--Tall tales from a drunken defector about mobile biological weapons laboratories;
--Bogus warnings that Iraqi forces could fire WMD-tipped missiles within 45 minutes of an order to do so;
--Dodgy dossiers fabricated in London; and
--A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate thrown in for good measure.
All this, as Dearlove notes dryly, despite the fact that "there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." Another nugget from Dearlove's briefing is his bloodless comment that one of the U.S. military options under discussion involved "a continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli" -- the clear implication being that planners of the air campaign would also see to it that an appropriate casus belli was orchestrated.
The discussion at 10 Downing St. on July 23, 2002 calls to mind the first meeting of George W. Bush's National Security Council (NSC) on Jan. 30, 2001, at which the president made it clear that toppling Saddam Hussein sat atop his to-do list, according to then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil, who was there. O'Neil was taken aback that there was no discussion of why it was necessary to "take out" Saddam. Rather, after CIA Director George Tenet showed a grainy photo of a building in Iraq that he said might be involved in producing chemical or biological agents, the discussion proceeded immediately to which Iraqi targets might be best to bomb. Again, neither O'Neil nor the other participants asked the obvious questions. Another NSC meeting two days later included planning for dividing up Iraq's oil wealth.
As for the briefing of Blair, the minutes provide further grist for those who describe the U.K. prime minister as Bush's "poodle." The tone of the conversation bespeaks a foregone conclusion that Blair will wag his tail cheerfully and obey the learned commands. At one point he ventures the thought that, "If the political context were right, people would support regime change." This, after Attorney General Peter Goldsmith has already warned that the desire for regime change "was not a legal base for military action," -- a point Goldsmith made again just 12 days before the attack on Iraq until he was persuaded by a phalanx of Bush administration lawyers to change his mind 10 days later.
The meeting concludes with a directive to "work on the assumption that the U.K. would take part in any military action."
I cannot quite fathom why I find the account of this meeting so jarring. Surely it is what one might expect, given all else we know. Yet seeing it in bloodless black and white somehow gives it more impact. And the implications are no less jarring.
One of Dearlove's primary interlocutors in Washington was his American counterpart, CIA director George Tenet. (And there is no closer relationship between two intelligence services than the privileged one between the CIA and MI-6.) Tenet, of course, knew at least as much as Dearlove, but nonetheless played the role of accomplice in serving up to Bush the kind of "slam-dunk intelligence" that he knew would be welcome. If there is one unpardonable sin in intelligence work, it is that kind of politicization. But Tenet decided to be a "team player" and set the tone.
POLITICIZATION: BIG TIME
Actually, politicization is far too mild a word for what happened. The intelligence was not simply mistaken; it was manufactured, with the president of the United States awarding foreman George Tenet the Medal of Freedom for his role in helping supervise the deceit. The British documents make clear that this was not a mere case of "leaning forward" in analyzing the intelligence, but rather mass deception -- an order of magnitude more serious. No other conclusion is now possible.
Small wonder, then, to learn from CIA insiders like former case officer Lindsay Moran that Tenet's malleable managers told their minions, "Let's face it. The president wants us to go to war, and our job is to give him a reason to do it."
Small wonder that, when the only U.S. analyst who met with the alcoholic Iraqi defector appropriately codenamed "Curveball" raised strong doubt about Curveball's reliability before then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used the fabrication about "mobile biological weapons trailers" before the United Nations, the analyst got this e-mail reply from his CIA supervisor:
"Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say, and the powers that be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about."
When Tenet's successor, Porter Goss, took over as director late last year, he immediately wrote a memo to all employees explaining the "rules of the road" -- first and foremost, "We support the administration and its policies." So much for objective intelligence insulated from policy pressure.
Tenet and Goss, creatures of the intensely politicized environment of Congress, brought with them a radically new ethos -- one much more akin to that of Blair's courtiers than to that of earlier CIA directors who had the courage to speak truth to power.
Seldom does one have documentary evidence that intelligence chiefs chose to cooperate in both fabricating and "sexing up" (as the British press puts it) intelligence to justify a prior decision for war. There is no word to describe the reaction of honest intelligence professionals to the corruption of our profession on a matter of such consequence. "Outrage" does not come close.
HOPE IN UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURES
Those of us who care about unprovoked wars owe the patriot who gave this latest British government document to the Sunday Times a debt of gratitude. Unauthorized disclosures are gathering steam. They need to increase quickly on this side of the Atlantic as well -- the more so, inasmuch as Congress-controlled by the president's party-cannot be counted on to discharge its constitutional prerogative for oversight.
In its formal appeal of Sept. 9, 2004, to current U.S. government officials, the Truth-Telling Coalition said this: "We know how misplaced loyalty to bosses, agencies, and careers can obscure the higher allegiance all government officials owe the Constitution, the sovereign public, and the young men and women put in harm's way. We urge you to act on those higher loyalties . . . Truth-telling is a patriotic and effective way to serve the nation. The time for speaking out is now."
If persons with access to wrongly concealed facts and analyses bring them to light, the chances become less that a president could launch another unprovoked war -- against, say, Iran.