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Posted by H2O Man in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Oct 31st 2007, 05:42 AM
(Note: This is the second in a three-part essay that focuses on three reasons the congress should impeach Vice President Cheney. It concerns the VP's purposeful misrepresenting pre-war intelligence to the congress and the American people, and abuses of power when dealing with a critic who pointed out a major weakness in the administration's call for war. I will post Part 3 later today. Thank you, H2O Man.)

{D} The OVP vs the CIA (Part 2)

"The tensions between the White House and the CIA had been rising steadily in the months before the Iraqi invasion, as CIA analysts complained about evidence being distorted or ignored and the White House pushed back with complaints about the quality of the intel they were getting. ‘I know the analyst who was subjected to withering questioning on the Iraq—al-Qaeda links by Libby with the Vice President sitting there,’ says a CIA analyst. ‘So I think there was an anger at the CIA for not getting it and not being on board." – The Rove Problem; TIME; Nancy Gibbs; 7-25-05; page 29.

Woodward describes when Saul, the chief of the CIA’s Iraqi Operations, explained to Cheney some of the difficulties associated with the bifurcated approach the administration was taking on Iraq: on one hand, they spoke publicly about negotiations and containment, but in private, they had assured a number of people, including the Saudis and Jordanians, that they were definitely taking Saddam out. "They needed a single national policy that everyone supported and explained the same way." (Plan of Attack; pages 72-73)

The result is found in a footnote on page 230 of Hubris: "In an earlier interview with a Vanity Fair writer on May 10, Wolfowitz said, ‘For reasons that have a lot to do with US government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue (to justify the war) that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason…."

Isikoff and Corn tell about Cheney’s frequent visits to the CIA headquarters. He would "park himself in Director George Tenet’s seventh-floor conference room. Then officers and analysts would be summoned" to brief him. (page 3) Cheney and Libby were focused on two issues in particular: Iraqi WMD programs, and ties to al Qaeda. They "were never satisfied and continually asked for more. ‘It was like they were hoping we’d find something buried in the files or come back with some different answer,’ Michael Sulick, deputy chief of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, later said." (pages 4-5)

In time, word leaked that Cheney was pressuring the CIA. "There had been a number of anonymous leaks to reporters from the intelligence community during the late spring and early summer of 2003, claiming that Vice President Cheney, his chief of staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, and even former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich had pressured analysts to skew intelligence analyses to back up the administration’s preconceived political intentions." (Wilson; page 6)

James Bamford quotes CIA officials as saying, "Cheney came and literally went around to people saying find something. I was in there at the time when everyone said, ‘Remember when Cheney came in, said we needed to find something nuclear?’." (page 334) He tells of written testimony that documented Cheney and Libby pressuring "analysts to provide support for the claims. Cheney, he noted, ‘insisted that desk analysts were not looking hard enough for evidence’." (page 336)

In a nine month period, Libby’s requests to the CIA resulted in an estimated 500 documents being provided to the OVP. (Isikoff & Corn; page 5) The vice president and his chief of staff would then make recommendations to David Kay. The inspector told of one "lead" that Cheney demanded be followed up on resulted in the Iraq Survey Group "finding" trenches that local farmers had made on hillsides, for collecting drinking water for cattle. (Ibid; page 304)

Cheney was warned by General Hugh Shelton about the dangers that come from situations where the executive office pressures others for information that they want to hear. General Shelton mentioned a 1997 book by H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Lead to Vietnam. In the book, McMaster, a West Point graduate, noted that the failure was partly due to the pressures that resulted in the advisors not working together, and not daring to give their best military advice. (State of Denial; page 61)

The CIA and other intelligence analysts are highly compartmentalized. When doubts about part of the administration’s positions were voiced, Cheney dismissed them. A senior military intelligence official told Thomas Ricks, "When the vice president stood up and said, ‘We are sure’ – well, who are we to argue? With all the compartmentalization, there’s a good chance that a guy that senior has seen stuff you haven’t." (page 51)

Ricks explains that these officers were convinced that Cheney had access to some "crown jewel" that was being withheld from them. "In fact, Cheney played that insider’s card himself, dismissively telling Tim Russet in an appearance on Meet the Press on September 8, 2002, that those who doubted his assertions about the threat presented by Iraq hadn’t ‘seen all the intelligence that we have seen’." (ibid; page 51)

{E} Public Relations

"Trust me on this." – Vice President Dick Cheney
(Hubris; page 115)

Although the WHIG did the majority of the behind-the-scenes media manipulation, VP Cheney recognized it was important to front for the administration. On August 7, 2002, he told an audience in California: "What we know now, from various sources, is that he ….continues to pursue a nuclear weapon." (Hersh; page 230)

But other republicans associated with Bush the Elder began to publicly express doubts. On August 16, 2002, a NY Time front-page headline read: "Top Republicans Break with Bush on Iraq Strategy." It reported on differences between the administration and Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III. Woodward reported that VP Cheney and Scooter Libby found this article "extremely aggravating." (Plan of Attack; page 163)

On August 26, 2002, Cheney addressed a Veterans of Foreign Wars audience in Nashville. He made several claims, among them: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction (and) there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us." Cheney noted that these WMDs, "in the hand of a ‘murderous dictator’ are ‘as great a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action’." (ibid; page 164)

In State of Denial, Woodward reported that Army Major General James "Spider" Marks has assumed that not only had Cheney had definite proof of Iraqi WMD, but that US intelligence must have cleared the Nashville speech. (page 92) However, in Plan of Attack, he had noted that Cheney had instead cleared the speech with President Bush, who had only said, "Don’t get me in trouble." Woodward noted that Cheney’s claims in Nashville had been far beyond what Powell, the CIA, or Bush had claimed. In fact, only ten days before, Bush had only gone as far as to say that Saddam "desired" such weapons as Cheney now said he definitely had. (page 164)

"The president and I never for a moment forget our number-one responsibility: To protect the American people against further attack and to win the war that began last September eleventh. We realize that wars are never won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy," Cheney warned. "Time is not on our side. " (Ricks; page 49)

The NY Times August 27, 2002 headline read, " Cheney Says Peril of a Nuclear Iraq Justifies Attack." This type of coverage countered the reasoned positions of Scowcroft and Baker. The OVP and WHIG continued to promote the hype.

Less than two weeks later, on Sunday, September 8, 2002, the front page of the NY Times read: "US Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts." The article, by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, quoted administration officials, who said Iraq’s leaders "attempted (the) purchase of ‘specially designed aluminum tubes, which Americans believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium’." The article quoted an "unnamed administration source" who warned that "all of Iraq is one large storage facility," and that "the first sign of a ‘smoking gun’ ….may be a mushroom cloud." (Bamford; pages 323-324)

That morning, the WHIG had a coordinated media offensive on the Sunday talk shows. Powell was on Fox; Rice on CNN; Rumsfeld on CBS’s Face the Nation; and Cheney was on Meet the Press. Each focused on the Miller article in the NY Times. They pretended that it was "proof" that the United States was at risk of attack from Iraq. The fact that Miller was simply using information the WHIG had provided her was overlooked. The image of a "mushroom cloud" had been firmly planted in the public’s mind.

"First OSP supplies false or exaggerated intelligence; then members of the WHIG leak it to friendly reporters, complete with prepackaged vivid imagery; finally, when the story breaks, senior officials point to it as proof and parrot the unnamed quotes they or their colleagues previously supplied.

"Bush later evoked the mushroom-cloud scenario himself during his major address to the nation from Cincinnati in October 2002: ‘The Iraqi regime is seeking nuclear weapons,’ he said. ‘Does it make sense for the world to wait ….for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud?’ And in November, General Tommy R. Franks, the chief of the US Central Command, said inaction might provoke ‘the sight of the first mushroom cloud on one of the major population centers on this planet’." (Bamford; page 325)

On January 28, 2003, President Bush delivered his State of the Union speech. He included what has become known as the "16 words" about Iraq attempting to buy uranium from Niger in what is considered to be the president’s most important speech to the congress and the nation. The connection between these 16 words and VP Cheney will be examined in a following section of this essay.

On March 7, 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that the documents that the United States had provided them as evidence of the Iraqi attempt to purchase yellow cake uranium from Niger were "crude forgeries." The following day, a State Department spokesperson said, "We fell for it." On CNN, a retired ambassador named Joseph Wilson stated that the administration had more information on this than the State Department spokesperson had acknowledged. (Wilson; page 452)

On March 16, 2003, VP Cheney appeared on Meet the Press. "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators," he told Tim Russert. "To suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement." (State of Denial; page 151)

Three days later, the United States invaded Iraq.

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