Tuesday, June 29, 2004

What Michael Moore's film didn't tell us: the role of Israel and our intelligence failures. The best single-volume overview of our intelligence failures leading to 9/11 and the deceit of the Iraqi war is James Bamford's new A Pretext for War. (I got it on audiotape.) It turns out that one of the key origins of the dump-Hussein pre-emptive invasion plan was an advisory paper written in the 1990s by Richard Perle and other neo-cons as advisors for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on how to invade Iraq and Syria to reshape the Mideast. It included pointers on swaying public opinion with scary news on WMDs. (Note: not all the pro-war hawks were Jewish: Cheney, Rumsfeld and of course Bush all share the blame for the fiascoes.)

As the Washington Post reviewer summarized:
"Bamford also notes that it was the Vulcans Perle and [Douglas ]Feith, together with senior State Department adviser David Wormser, who drafted the basic outlines of Bush's plan to oust Saddam, including the doctrine of preemption, back in the mid-1990s, when they were advising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu rejected the plan, which gathered dust until Bush's election, when the group returned to the corridors of power. Bamford says that the new fortunes of Perle, Feith and Wormser, together with Bush's personal determination to repay Saddam for his attempt to kill Bush's father, were instrumental in America's decision to go to war."

In addition, Douglas Feith's Pentagon office that cherry-picked raw, unverified intelligence to make the bogus case for war shared that information with a similar Israeli office set up to get around the more objective findings of Israeli's version of the CIA, the Mossad agency, Bamford alleges. Both of these propaganda mills were designed to make the case that Hussein's Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S. and world peace -- and ignored the established intelligence agencies staff findings that Hussein didn't pose a threat.

Even so, as Bamford and others have shown, the craven CIA Director George Tenet went along with the hawks with only faint caveats, while overseeing an influential October, 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that made a host of unfounded claims he knew or should have known were false. These included the now-discredited assertion that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear weapons programs and it had unmanned "drone" planes that could attack America with biological weapons.

This is the "one-stop shopping" book to get on our chaotic intelligence system's many failures that have cost America and Iraq thousands of innocent lives. With a lively narrative style and fresh details, he pulls together in a readable way the comunications lapses on 9/11 itself, the absymal screw-ups of the CIA (he names insider names and the offices that dropped the ball) and other agencies that left us vulnerable to attack, and how zealous pro-Israel neo-cons set up agency offices to cook intelligence for the Iraq war. The author of the respected Puzzle Palace book on the National Security Agency, he's got sources that rival Seymour Hersh's. It's definitely worth reading to add to your understanding of today's Iraq-related crises. Top Guns (washingtonpost.com)

Update: Our intelligence agencies are still a mess. One factoid from the book: after years of concern over Islamic terrorists, plus the Iraq war, the CIA still had only 83 employees fluent in Arabic, with most not speaking the dialect used in Iraq. No wonder we still haven't found a way to get anyone to go undercover in the terrorist groups to gather intelligence.

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