Cheney Pressured CIA
Philip Sherwell’s article for the Telegraph about the bad feeling between the Bush administration and the old guard at the CIA has an interesting tidbit buried in the middle of it.
‘ In the latest clash, a senior former CIA agent revealed that Mr Cheney “blew up” when a report into links between the Saddam regime and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist behind the kidnappings and beheadings of hostages in Iraq, including the Briton Kenneth Bigley, proved inconclusive. ‘
That is, Cheney asked the CIA to look into links between al-Zarqawi and Saddam. The CIA did so. It couldn’t nail anything down. Then he blew his top, which in Washington is always a way of trying to intimidate subordinates into retracting their statements.
Cheney has been using Zarqawi’s occasional presence in Iraq in the Saddam period as a proof of Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda for years. This line of reasoning is typically squirrelly and does not hold up. First, Zarqawi was in that period a bitter rival with al-Qaeda and would not share the resources his Monotheism and Holy War organization in Germany with Bin Laden’s group. In Iraq, Zarqawi was said to be associated with the Ansar al-Islam group, which consisted of 200-400 Kurdish members who were radical fundamentalists, and some of whom had fought in Afghanistan. Ansar al-Islam was a deadly enemy of the Saddam regime. The US declined to take out its base on more than one occasion in spring of 2003. Some think Rumsfeld was afraid of removing a pretext for the Iraq war. I myself suspect that Ansar was at that point seen as a potential ally against Saddam.
Cheney used to allege that Zarqawi could not have gotten treatment at a Baghdad hospital for his leg wound without Saddam’s knowledge. But now there is doubt that Zarqawi had a leg wound. And it should be obvious that the Iraqi regime was so dilapidated that an argument from its totalitarian efficiency is just ridiculous. Some informed observers think Zarqawi is dead, and that the Bush administration has a black psy-ops game going to build his ghost up as a threat in Iraq. (It is painful to admit that the US is actually mainly fighting the Iraqis it said it came to liberate.)
It is Cheney’s display of anger at the CIA findings that is disturbing here. How long has this been going on? Cheney even went to visit the CIA headquarters in Langley at one point before the war. Was he growling at the analysts and trying to make them say what he wanted them to say? In the intelligence business, an analyst who tells politicians what they want to hear rather than the truth is called a “weasel.” How many CIA analysts were turned into weasels by Cheney’s bluster and implied threats? Why would the US electorate want a man in office who is so out of touch with reality that he “blows up” when someone speaks the truth around him?
The Telegraph had earlier said,
‘ Former senior CIA officials argue that so-called “neo-conservative” hawks such as the vice president, Dick Cheney, the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and his number three at the defence department, Douglas Feith, have prompted the ill-feeling [among CIA analysts] by demanding “politically acceptable” results from the agency and rejecting conclusions they did not like. ‘
Sherwell here names some interesting names in addition to Cheney in the weasel factory. Donald Rumsfeld and Douglas Feith, the no. 1 and no. 3 men at the Department of Defense, are here accused of having rejected conclusions that they did not like and demanding politically acceptable results. And the US public wonders how the CIA could have gotten the weapons of mass destruction issue so wrong!