US Intelligence Follies: Why Haven’t Cheney, Feith and Chalabi been Impeached?
While everyone is beating up on John Kerry for letting it slip he thinks the Bushies are crooked, we might ponder the sort of thing that might have led him to this impression.
It seems fairly obvious by now that the Bush administration likes being lied to. It is even paying for the privilege of being screwed over. This is sort of reverse crooked. It is to crookedness as sado-masochism is to sex. But there are grounds for suspicion of out and out crookedness, too. Reuters reports (as will all the major newspapers today) that the Defense Intelligence Agency is paying Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress $340,000 per month for “intelligence.” The INC is the organization that lied to the US until it was blue in the face, falsely claiming it knew for sure that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and weapons. It supplied single-source reports from defectors that were full of tale tales.
Chalabi, who has gotten the US into a quagmire in Iraq, is completely unrepentant. “We’re in Baghdad,” he says. That makes all the lies all right. He even went so far, in a 60 Minutes interview, as to blame the US intelligence agencies for actually believing the cock and bull stories his people fed them. ‘Don’t they have fact checkers?’ he seemed to say.
Most recently, Chalabi joined a 5-man Shiite dissident group that tried to derail the signing of the interim constitution. This is a man whose organization is getting $4 million a year from the US, and he was screwing Bremer and Bush over royally! It came out that in the 1970s the CIA had put King Hussein of Jordan on its payroll. But in comparison, he turns out to have been a cheap date, and a rather more reliable one than Chalabi. Although the Defense Intelligence Agency is saying that the Iraqi National Congress supplies it with good intelligence, I find it difficult to believe that you couldn’t get even better intelligence in Iraq by having DIA agents on the ground just use the $4 million for local informants. You worry about the disinformation Chalabi may be supplying them with. Have any of his personal enemies been picked up?
This revelation follows testimony by CIA director George Tenet that he has had to run around asking high Bush administration officials like Dick Cheney to please not hype intelligence to make it say things that are not in evidence. It turns out that Cheney has been recommending the highly questionable Feith dossier on supposed pre-war links between Saddam and al-Qaeda to people. (Wanna bet Chalabi and his people supplied all those supposed anecdotes in the first place?).
And, it turns out that Feith’s Office of Special Plans, a Neocon Pentagon operation linked to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s similar rogue office, briefed high White House officials without the presence or knowledge of George Tenet. What intelligence did it supply them? Why, red-hot reports directly from . . . the Iraqi National Congress.
It turns out further that Chalabi’s nephew Salem works for the same Israel-based law firm as Doug Feith (when Doug is not in office), and has set up a Baghdad branch of it. All parties concerned deny influence-peddling, but if Doug Feith has any authority at all over the payment of $4 million a year to the uncle of the partner of his law firm, this smells bad.
More recently it transpires that Nour USA, run by Chalabi friend A. Huda Farouki, probably low-balled the Pentagon with a bid to provide military equipment to the new Iraqi army, which it won. The company had no experience with such provisioning, and its bid was denounced by competitors as unrealistically low. (In US government bidding, the lowest bid usually wins, but it has to be clear that the bid is realistic.) In this case, the Pentagon appears not to have visited the companies competing with Nour to explore their pricing, which is usually done. Poland and Spain were royally pissed off that their companies lost out to Nour USA, and they suspected cronyism. Finally the Pentagon cancelled the contract.
So, my question is, why isn’t Ahmad Chalabi impeached? He was appointed to the Interim Governing Council by the United States government. He presumably serves at its pleasure. He has more or less openly admitted to providing it grossly inaccurate “intelligence.” He is still being paid for intelligence provision, nevertheless. His nephew seems to be trading on a personal relationship with the Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. His friend seems to be involved in sharp business practices with Pentagon contracts. And, he is still wanted in Jordan, where he was indicted over a decade ago for having embezzled $300 million from a bank he was running in Amman in the 1980s. Would a person around whom there were all these questions get appointed to a high government post in a democratic country that practiced the principle of accountability? If not, why should he be foisted on the poor Iraqi people?
And, why isn’t Feith impeached? Why was he allowed to usurp Tenet’s role? Why isn’t Cheney impeached? Either they lied or they were so gullible that neither should still be in office.
Cheney’s own dishonesty comes out in Ron Susskind’s book, based on interviews and documents from former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill. The anecdote is that Cheney wanted to go for a second gargantuan tax cut on his billionnaire buddies. Even W. balked, and asked whether it wasn’t time to do something for the middle class. Cheney roared back, no! this is our due! we won the mid-term elections. Cheney didn’t say, “A second tax cut will benefit the middle class.” He doesn’t care about the middle class. The “our” in “our due” is people making seven figures and up. Now, of course, the Bush administration keeps saying that its tax cuts on the super-wealthy are making us all rich. But then Alan Greenspan came along and revealed that the way they were going to be paid for was actually to cut social security payments for the middle and working classes. (Before social security, the elderly were the poorest group in America, and we are heading back that way under this administration).
The answer to the question about impeachment, of course, is that the Republicans control all three branches of government. In such a virtual one-party state, accountability goes out the window. One worries that that is the real lesson the new rulers of Iraq will take from their American mentors.