Terror stats.

There were about 7,000 terrorist attacks in 2013. Then the number soared in 2014. Last year terrorists[1] launched almost 13,500 attacks. That is more than an 80 percent increase. The 2014 attacks killed about 33,000 people.[2] It is startling to see this quantified. That averages to about four per day; with fewer than 3 people killed in each attack. Some of them were so successful that they killed a lot of people, then the median death toll must be pretty low.

So, there is this constant drumbeat of “minor” terrorist attacks going on. Where do most of the attacks occur? Not in Western countries. Some 60 percent happened in Iraq (ISIS), Pakistan (Taliban), Afghanistan (Taliban), India, and Nigeria (Boko Haram). All these are places on the front lines of the struggle against radical Islamist insurgencies. The reverse of the mirror is the 40 percent of attacks spread over many countries, gnawing at civil peace.

Take the case of Iraq in January 2014.[3] There were fifteen attacks (some of them at multiple targets) on twelve different days. That averages to almost three attacks a week. The attacks killed 188 people and wounded 473 others. That averages to about 12 dead and 31 wounded in each attack. Only four of the attacks involved suicide attacks. However, 20 non-suicide car bombs were used in the attacks.

Iraq in January sharply differed from the global averages for the whole of 2014. The attacks in Iraq were less frequent and more deadly than the global averages. They were big car and truck bombs more than smaller suicide vests or hand-grenade attacks. This suggests a high level of professionalism on the part of the Iraqi attackers. They have access to larger stocks of explosives. They know how to build big bombs, conceal the bombs in cars, and prepare the cars (probably a matter of appropriate license plates and dash decorations). They have experienced drivers who can penetrate security lines. They have follower cars that pick up the drivers after they park the bomb-carrying vehicle close to the target. This may reflect the accumulated long experience of anti-American insurgents among the Sunnis and the former Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. People who have survived at this game for a long time practice good security habits.

Ten of the attacks took place in Baghdad, the rest in a variety of provincial cities. Targets included a police station, a military recruiting office, a prison, a military check-point, and the Ministry of Transportation. These five targets were symbols of government power; the victims soldiers, policemen, and bureaucrats. However, twice as many targets were purely civilians: commercial streets and markets (5), restaurants (2), a teahouse, a bus terminal, a taxi stand, and a hospital. This suggests that ISIS was attacking soft targets and a civilian population. They also were attacking Baghdad ahead of all other targets.   The city is the national capital and in theory, the most heavily guarded place in Iraq. It also allows ISIS to attack Shi’ites from within the Sunni quarters of the city.

Obviously, not many were suicide bombers. Thousands of foreign fighters have streamed to ISIS, but apparently not many of them want to be suicide bombers. Only four incidents in January 2014 involved people willing to kill themselves for a higher cause. At the end of the Second World War, 3,860 kamikaze pilots died in attacks on American war ships.[4] Perhaps the enthusiasm for suicide attacks has begun to wane, while professionalism waxes.

[1] Not just Islamic ones; we’re talking full spectrum terrorism here.

[2] “Noted,” The Week, 3 July 2015, p. 16. Of the dead, 24 were Americans. Two a month, world-wide.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents,_2014

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze

CrISIS 3.

Robert H. Scales (1944- ) grew up in an Army family, went to West Point, went into the field artillery, served in Vietnam, won the Silver Star for his actions when an NVA attack over-ran his fire-base, and then climbed the greasy pole to the rank of Major General. This involved a combination of education (Ph.D., History, Duke University); field commands (South Korea, Germany); staff appointments (V Corps, Training and Doctrine Command); and teaching (Artillery School at Fort Still, Army War College at Carlisle Barracks). He is the author or co-author of six books. Two of those books are Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War (1994), the official history of the Army in the First Gulf War; and The Iraq War: A Military History (2003), a history of the initial military defeat of Iraq in 2003.

General Scales has thought a lot about warfare in the Arab world, so his opinions are worth consideration. Some of them are at odds with the dominant beliefs that appear to have led to a series of disasters, so they are worth careful consideration. You never know. We might learn something. Stranger things have happened.

He has argued that Arab armies don’t do “modern warfare” very well.[1] Western armies (Britain, France, Israel, United States) have beaten up on Arab armies a whole bunch of times. So far, “Westernized” Arab armies (Syria, Iraq) have not performed well against ISIS. General Scales is NOT arguing that Arabs lack courage or ability as soldiers. Rather he argues that Arab culture differs markedly from Western culture. Arab culture centers on powerful loyalties to “family, tribe, and clan.” The “nation” is a more remote concept. As a result, Arabs fight best when organized in groups based on sub-national loyalties. He cites the example of the long defense of Ramadi against ISIS (October 2014-May 2015), although Western media focused chiefly on the final ISIS victory. In Scales’ view, such troops fight best on defense and markedly less well on offense. However, the Egyptian attack across the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War shows under what conditions Arab conventional armies can be successful. The Egyptian attack set limited, specific, and achievable goals; it relied on careful training of troops and rehearsal of movements; and it accumulated over-whelming fire-power on a circumscribed battlefield.[2]

General Scales offers his advice on future operations in Iraq against ISIS. The next campaigning season starts in April-May 2016. What needs to be done? First, stop trying to build a “Western” army for Iraq. Acknowledge the power of sub-national loyalties. Build an army that includes militias based on the real loyalties in Iraq. Second, the attack on ISIS cannot be a drawn-out battle of attrition. It has to be prepared on the model of the Egyptian 1973 offensive. Third, the Americans are going to have to commit an immense amount of airpower to support this attack. Air support will have to be on the level of Operation Desert Storm. Fourth, the objective must be to break the will to fight of ISIS, not merely to retake territory.

All this sounds persuasive. Still, a couple of questions arise. First, if Arabs fight best for “family, tribe, and clan,” then why is ISIS doing so well? If Arabs don’t fight well on the offensive, how has ISIS over-run so much of Syria and Iraq? Second, sub-national loyalties can also be anti-national loyalties. Is defeating ISIS still going to lead to the disintegration of Iraq?

[1] Robert H. Scales, “The Iraqi Army Can’t Be Westernized,” WSJ, 26 June 2015.

[2] For the Egyptians, that meant a lot of surface-to-air weapons to negate the Israeli air superiority over the battlefield and a lot of anti-tank weapons to negate the Israeli armored advantage on the battlefield. The Egyptian offensive went awry when they moved out of the reach of their air defenses, when the US poured in aid to Israel, and when the Israelis proved exceptionally resolute.

What would Bismarck drive? 1.

Why hasn’t ISIS attacked Jordan? First, Jordan isn’t a failed state as are Syria and Iraq. It has an army and an air force and a BYK.[1] They will fight. Second, if ISIS heads too far west, then ISrael will get into it. That won’t be calibrated airstrikes and under-motivated conscripts either.[2] Third, ISIS is still busy in Syria and Iraq.

Why hasn’t ISIS attacked Turkey? First, Turkey isn’t a failed state as are Syria and Iraq. It has an army and an air force and an SPI.[3] They will fight. Second, the Turks are Sunni Muslims, and Turkey is the conduit for foreign fighters. Third, ISIS is still busy in Syria and Iraq.

Can the government of Iraq reconcile the Shi’a majority with the Sunni minority? No. The Shi’ites had their chance when the Americans left. They threw it away by persecuting the Sunnis. Now, in a moment of great danger, the Shi’ites want to make nice with the Sunnis. You can see how the Sunnis would be suspicious. What happens when the crisis passes? Back to the previous behavior? Furthermore, it isn’t clear to me that the government put in place after the United States overthrew the Maliki government last Fall are doing more than putting up window-dressing to pacify the Americans.[4] So, I suspect that the country will have to be partitioned.

Can ISIS conquer Iraq? No. Two thirds of the population are Shi’ites; twenty percent are Sunnis; and the rest are Kurds. The Kurds will fight and the United States will support them. Iraq’s Shi’ite majority would not have anywhere to run. Their backs would be against the wall. The civil war in Iraq during the American occupation showed that the Shi’ites are capable of great violence. They would fight hard—even savagely—against ISIS. Iran will commit troops to prevent the fall of the Shi’ite parts of Iraq to ISIS. The Sunnis areas? Well, that’s another story. Perhaps Iran would be content to have Kurdish and Shi’ite Arab buffer states between itself and an ISIS caliphate. How would the United States regard this outcome? “Another fine mess.”[5]

Can ISIS conquer Syria? Well, that’s yet another story. Years of very destructive civil war have ravaged the country. This has eroded the strength of the Assad government in ways that are not yet true of the government of Iraq. Recep Erdogan, the president of neighboring Turkey, wants the Assad government gone. Saudi Arabia wants the Assad government gone. The Russkies and the Iranians want Assad to stay. My suspicion is that nobody will get all of what they want. Like Iraq, the country will have to be partitioned. I believe that most of the Alawite and Christian populations live in the west of the country. Like the Shi’ites in Iraq, they will have their backs to the wall (in this case, the Mediterranean) as ISIS advances. They will fight hard to hold it, while being ready to yield the rest of the country to ISIS. A revived Medieval Principality of Antioch could emerge to abut Lebanon. (Or perhaps the two will merge.) Between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad in “Antioch,” Iran would have a couple of client states on the Mediterranean. On the other hand, such a retreat by Assad would bring ISIS that much closer to Israel.

[1] Brave Young King.

[2] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki#/media/File:Atomic_bombing_of_Japan.jpg

[3] Semi-Psychotic Islamist, as President.

[4] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngo_Dinh_Diem

[5] See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3qcj2MzPYc

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 8.

Jeb Bush[1], Judith Miller[2], David Brooks[3], and—apparently—Bob Woodward[4] have all argued that the George W. Bush Administration did not lie us into a war in Iraq in 2003. Instead, they were themselves the victims of an intelligence failure. Paul Krugman has offered a furious response insisting that the Bush Administration did too lie us into a war.[5] Krugman’s position essentially is that of the Democratic Party.[6] Who is more nearly correct?

Saying today that there was an “intelligence failure” directs one’s attention to the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department. They are, after all, the long-standing and still-standing foreign intelligence analytical arms of the government. If an “intelligence failure” did occur, it occurred there, right?

In truth, the intelligence accepted by the Bush Administration was of a decidedly “iffy” quality. In this sense, the Bush Administration did fall victim to an “intelligence failure.” However, according to Seymour Hersh, the intelligence was “iffy” because the Administration did not like the intelligence produced by the CIA and the State Department. It created the Office of Special Plans (OSP) inside the Defense Department, staffed it with outsiders to get a non-consensus view of the intelligence, and by-passed the normal procedure for creating a National Intelligence Estimate. The OSP gave the Administration what it wanted and did not receive from CIA and State: a justification for war in Iraq. Today, OSP is no more.[7] A post-invasion investigation found many faults in US intelligence, but was explicitly barred from investigating Administration use of intelligence.[8]

The controversy over how we came to be in Iraq obscures several other questions. First, how did CIA and State come to be shouted down by OSP? Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney were effective exponents for OSP. Did Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and Secretary of State Colin Powell defend their own analysts and espouse their views? What of National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice? In theory, the National Security Adviser’s chief function is to co-ordinate the different government agencies to make sure that the President receives the best advice. Did she make sure that alternative views were heard?

Second, asking for a justification for a war is one thing. Not asking for an assessment of what would happen as the result of such a war is another thing. General Anthony Zinni had warned that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would lead to the fragmentation of Iraq and that “the crazies” would take over. He can’t have been alone in this belief. He certainly wasn’t wrong. Did anyone in the Administration ask for an assessment? Or did they just accept that American forces would be met with parades and flowers, unicorns and crystals?

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/25/iraq-invasion-america-war-jeb-bush-us-election

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Miller

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/19/opinion/david-brooks-learning-from-mistakes.html

[4] http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/george-wbush-weapons-of-mass-destruction-iraq-war/2015/05/24/id/646530/ This one has me scratching my head.

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/opinion/paul-krugman-errors-and-lies.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&_r=1

[6] Heading into an election year proclaiming that “Oh, we’re a bunch of dopes who got played by the other side, so vote for us” must be disheartening.

[7] OSP closed down in June 2003. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Special_Plans

[8] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Intelligence_Commission ; and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curveball_%28informant%29

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 7.

During 2002 and early 2003, OSP took on CIA and the State Department. W. Patrick Lang[1] summed up what he saw of the arguments within the Bush Administration over intelligence: the people at OSP “banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off. They’re running Chalabi. The D.I.A. [Defense Intelligence Agency] has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there’s no guts at all in the C.I.A.” (p. 208.)   One source told Hersh in early 2002 that “if it became known that Rummy[2] wanted [D.I.A.] to link the government of Tonga to 9/11, within a few months they would come up with sources who’d do it.” One former CIA officer told Hersh that “George [Tenet] knows he’s being beaten up, and his analysts are terrified. George used to protect his people, but he’s been forced to do things their way.” Another told Hersh that the “analysts at the C.I.A. were beaten down defending their assessments. I’ve never seen a government like this.” (Quotes from p. 224.) CIA analysts working on Iraq and briefing senior officials “got pounded on, day after day,” according to one Bush administration official. Without any substantial support from George Tenet in response to the criticism, “Pretty soon you say ‘Fuck it.’” (Quoted, p. 228.)

In late February 2002, the State Department sent former ambassador Joe Wilson[3] to Niger to investigate the “yellow cake” uranium story floated by the Italians. Wilson came back by early March 2002 and wrote a report discrediting the story. What he found was that all of Niger’s “yellow cake” uranium came from only two mines. Both were operated by a single French company. The entire output of the mines was sold by prior contract to power companies in France, Spain, and Japan. “Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing,” an IAEA official told Hersh. (p. 237.) So, that was the end of that. Except that it wasn’t.

On 24 September 2002, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet[4] and others briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq’s WMD.   Tenet told the senators that a) a shipment of aluminum tubes, suitable for use in constructing uranium-enriching centrifuges, had recently been intercepted, and b) reports had been received that Iraq had sought to purchase “yellow cake” uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. That same day the British made public a similar report about the “yellow cake” uranium. On 26 September 2002, Secretary of State Powell repeated the assertion about the attempt to purchase “yellow cake” uranium before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In early October 2002, an Italian journalist who served as the conduit for an Italian businessman with political connections (who had been a proven source for an earlier story), contacted the American embassy. She transmitted what appeared to be documents from Niger about Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium. She turned over the documents on 9 October 2002. (pp. 231-232.) Soon afterward, the Italian journalist investigated the story in Niger and concluded—like Joe Wilson back in March—that the story was bogus. Hersh reports that the CIA officers who examined the documents regarded them a fake from the get-go. (p. 233.)

Nevertheless, on 23 January 2003, in an op-ed piece in the NYT, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice[5] affirmed “Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad.” On 26 January 2003, Secretary of State Powell asked, in a public forum, “why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium?” On 28 January 2003, President Bush repeated the assertions about the aluminum tubes and the “yellow cake” uranium in his State of the Union address. On 5 February 2003, Powell made the American case for war against Iraq in a speech to the UN Security Council.

On 5 or 6 February 2003, IAEA officials concluded that the documents from Niger—which they only received from the Americans on 4 February 2003, were obvious forgeries. (p. 237.) IAEA informed the Americans and the British, then waited for a response. No response came. (p. 237.) A month later, on 7 March 2003, Mohammed ElBaradei[6] informed the UN Security Council that the documents upon which the accusations about “yellow cake” were based were forgeries.

On 19 March 2003, the United States and a “coalition of the willing” attacked Iraq.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Patrick_Lang

[2] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_C._Wilson

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Tenet

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condoleezza_Rice

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_ElBaradei

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 6.

There were several different strands of policy-making that took place in late 2001 and early 2002. It brings more clarity if the strands are disentangled, rather than presenting the material in strictly chronological order.

First, in co-operation with former government officials, Chalabi worked up a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In late 2001, two unpaid consultants to Chalabi worked up a new plan for getting rid of Saddam Hussein. The consultants were retired Army General and Special Forces commander Wayne Downing[1], and former CIA counter-terrorism chief Duane (“Dewey”) Clarridge. In October 2001, Wayne Downing was appointed as deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. In December 2001, Chalabi presented the Bush administration with the new plan for overthrowing Saddam Hussein that had been worked up by Downing and Clarridge. A study group in the Defense Department then buffed up the Chalabi plan and sent it on to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

Second, the Defense Department extended its role in fighting terrorism from special operations and intelligence gathering to intelligence analysis. In December 2001, a Department of Defense memorandum argued that terrorism experts had “downplayed or sought to disprove” the existence of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and that the intelligence community had a bias against defector testimony. The memorandum concluded that Abram Shulsky[2] and a couple of analysts be charged to “investigate linkages to Iraq,” and to be allowed to investigate defector testimony in this regard. (p. 211.)   In the course of 2002, Rumsfeld became angry with the CIA for failing to find any evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. (p. 210.) Rumsfeld ordered or approved someone’s suggestion for creation of a special intelligence unit “to search for information on Iraq’s hostile intentions or links to terrorists.” (Quoted from NYT, October 2002.)  In September 2002, an Office of Special Plans (OSP) was created in the Defense Department to house Shulsky and his analysts.[3] Throughout 2002 OSP reports were “stovepiped” to Vice President Cheney’s office, and then on to the President. In this fashion, the reports bypassed normal intelligence agency vetting. (p. 217.)

Third, Secretary of State Colin Powell seems to have accommodated himself to the prevailing currents in the Bush Administration, rather than fighting against them. In December 2001, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) presented its report on Iraq’s WMD to Secretary of State Colin Powell. One analyst who helped write the report told Hersh that “It basically said that there was no persuasive evidence that the Iraqi nuclear program is being reconstituted.” (p. 225.) On 30 January 2002, the CIA informed Congress that “Baghdad may be attempting to acquire materials that could aid in reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.” (p. 228.)   On 6 February 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell went further than the CIA report that Iraq “may be…reconstituting its nuclear weapons program” and flatly contradicted the INR report that there was no persuasive evidence that Iraq was trying to revive its nuclear program. He stated before the House International Relations Committee that “with respect to the nuclear program, there is no doubt that the Iraqis are pursuing it.” (p. 228.)

Fourth, the President had decided on war against Iraq by early in 2002. On 29 January 2002, President George W. Bush denounced an “Axis of Evil” (Iraq, Iran, North Korea) in his State of the Union speech. In early 2002, President Bush told the various interested departments to come up with a plan to topple Saddam Hussein. The plan must be ready by 15 April 2002.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_A._Downing

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abram_Shulsky

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Special_Plans

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 5.

In the days after 9/11 some intelligence and military people suspected that so complex an operation could only have been mounted by—or at least with the support of—a foreign intelligence agency. (p. 75.) On 14 October 2001, Sabah Khodada, an Iraqi army captain who had defected, told reporters for the NYT and the PBS program “Frontline” that the 9/11 attacks were “conducted by people who were trained by Saddam.” (Quoted, p. 216.) Another defector, apparently a former lieutenant general in Iraqi intelligence, said he had observed Arab students being taught how to hijack planes in a security facility at Salman Pak. (p. 216.)

In Fall 2001, Italy’s intelligence service sent a report to CIA of a February 1999 visit by the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican[1] to Niger and three other African countries. The Italians—apparently—suggested that the ambassador had been seeking to arrange the purchase of “yellow cake” uranium from Niger. This report alarmed some officials in the American government because it suggested that the Iraqis were trying to re-establish a nuclear weapons program soon after the IAEA had declared that they no longer had a nuclear program. (p. 226.)   Intelligence analysts derided the report, but someone “stovepiped” it to Vice President Cheney. (p. 227.) So, in Fall 2001, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) launched a review of Iraq’s WMD programs. (p. 225.)

In late 2001, an unanticipated division arose within the ranks of the conservatives who had signed the 1998 letter to President Clinton. There were two issues. The first question was whether to extend the war on terror from Afghanistan to Iraq. On the one hand, according to Hersh, “Perle and Woolsey inspired a surge of articles and columns calling for the extension of the Afghan war into Iraq.” (p. 169.) On the other hand, Richard Armitage, now at the State Department, concluded that the extension of the war to Iraq would be a bad idea. (p. 169.) Armitage has adopted the long-standing position voiced by Anthony Zinni. A “former high-level intelligence official” who supported Armitage’s position in the debate told Hersh that “We have no idea what could go wrong in Iraq if the crazies took over that country. Better the devil we know than the one we don’t.” (p. 170.) Secretary of State Colin Powell failed to support for Armitage in the debate, apparently believing that his deputy would be able to hold up the momentum for war while he played the disinterested adjudicator.[2]

The second question was whether to use Ahmad Chalabi and the INC in any effort to topple Hussein or to find someone else. (p. 179.) [It looks to me like the opponents of war with Iraq used the Chalabi-is-death argument as a fall-back position. This then required them to find an alternative to Chalabi in the form of other dissident groups.] For the State Department, the “someone else” turned out to be the two factions of the Kurds, the Shi’ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, and a group headed by Iyad Allawi.[3] (pp. 179-180.) For the CIA the “someone else” was Nizar Khasraji[4], a former Iraqi general who had bolted in the mid-1990s. (p. 181.) These candidates had various defects. Allawi appears to have been one of Hussein’s original supporters, a former senior intelligence officer, and a “thug.” In the mid-Seventies, Allawi parted ways with Saddam and then survived several assassination attempts. Khasraji was very Westernized, so he might not play well with the majority of Iraqis, who were not, and he had been involved in the use of poison gas against the Kurds in 1988.

[1] Who knew?

[2] To my mind, Powell was a soldier-turned-administrator, rather than someone with finely-honed political skills.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayad_Allawi

[4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/2286537.stm

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 4.

In 1998, Major General Anthony Zinni[1], commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), told a Senate committee that “I don’t see any opposition group that has the viability to overthrow Saddam. Even if we had Saddam gone, we could end up with fifteen, twenty, or ninety groups competing for power.” (Quoted, p. 165.)

In 1998, David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security[2], and Khidhir Hamza, shopped around a book proposal for Fizzle: Iraq and the Atomic Bomb, which described the failure of the Iraqi nuclear project. They found no interest among publishers.[3]

In October 1998, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, providing $97 million to support training and equipment for the INC and other military forces.[4]

In 2000, after the failure of American publishers to take his story of Iraqi failure in the pursuit of nuclear weapons, Hamza reversed course and began talking about Iraq’s comparative success. This may have led to a break with Albright and the ISIS. In any event, Hamza alone published Saddam’s Bombmaker.[5]

By 2000, Anthony Zinni had not become more optimistic about plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein. He wrote an estimate of what it would take to get rid of Saddam Hussein for the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings. It would take six divisions of ground forces (150,000 men), lots of close air support, and the united political support of the American government and people. “There are congressmen today who want to fund the Iraqi Liberation Act, and let some silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London gin up an expedition….And what will we have? A Bay of Goats most likely.” (Quoted, p. 174.) How did he ever make Major General? Should be a retired Lieutenant Colonel, playing golf in South Carolina, running a paving company.

In January 2001, the inauguration of President George W. Bush brought in a new group of policy-makers. Some of them had signed the open letter to President Clinton in 1998 urging support for the INC and warning of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein’s WMD program. Donald Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense; Paul Wolfowitz became Deputy Secretary of Defense; Douglas Feith became Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy; Richard Perle became chairman of the Defense Policy Board; and Richard Armitage became Deputy Secretary of State.

In March 2001, Richard Perle[6] testified before a sub-committee of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. “Does Saddam Hussein now have weapons of mass destruction? Sure he does. We know he has chemical weapons. We know he has biological weapons….How far he’s gone on the nuclear-weapons side, I don’t think we really know. My guess is it’s further than we think. It’s always further than we think, because we limit ourselves, as we think about this, to what we’re able to prove and demonstrate…And, unless you believe that we have uncovered everything, you have to assume there is more than we’re able to report.” (Quoted, pp. 209-210.)

In April 2001, the INC opened a liaison office in Tehran, Iran—with the approval of the Bush administration. (p. 171.)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Zinni

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Albright

[3] Apparently, NOT running around with your hair on fire is an undesirable quality in mass market non-fiction publishing. Maybe if they had called it “The Saddam Hussein Diet,”…

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Liberation_Act

[5] For a sense of the contemporary reaction among interested readers, see http://www.amazon.com/Saddams-Bombmaker-Daring-Escape-Secret/dp/0743211359

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Perle

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 2.

In 1986 the CIA established the Counter Terrorism Center. The founding director of the Center was Duane (“Dewey”) Clarridge.[1] Clarridge quickly recruited Robert Baer, an Arabic-speaking case officer with a lot of experience in the Middle East.[2] (p. 78.)

In 1993 or 1994 Baer got out of the CTC and was posted to Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (p. 79.) (I haven’t yet figured out if he was there at the same time as Colonel Tom Wilhelm.[3])

In November 1993 Ahmad Chalabi,[4] the leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), sent its plan for the over-throw of Saddam Hussein to the Clinton administration.   Between November 1993 and October 1994, Chalabi’s plan wound its way through the Clinton administration and received approval for American support. In October 1994, a CIA outpost in Kurdish-held northern Iraq began operating in support of Chalabi’s plan. Robert Baer took charge of the local operations.

Between October 1994 and March 1995, Chalabi’s people tried to suborn treason on the part of a lot of Iraqis—purportedly. In March 1995, Chalabi attempted a coup against Saddam Hussein. It proved a complete failure. In April 1995, Chalabi and INC moved their base to London. From here they began trolling for new support among American conservatives. Chalabi developed close ties with the American Enterprise Institute. In 1996, the CIA cut off payments to Chalabi and the INC.

NB: The Cold War was closely bound with the history of refugee movements. Many refugees settle into some kind of life in their new homes. However, there are always some refugees who continue to involve themselves in the politics of their homeland. In sum, the Central Intelligence Agency has long experience at dealing with refugees as problematic sources.

In 1994, Dr. Khidhir Hamza[5], formerly a member of Iraq’s WMD program, defected to the West. Eventually he settled in the United States and was given a job by the Institute for Science and International Security, a pro-disarmament think tank in Washington, DC.

In August 1995, Hussein Kamel[6], the head of Iraqi weapons programs, and his brother, Saddam Kamel, defected to the West. They brought with them many documents that revealed the exact nature of Iraq’s WMD program. These programs turned out to have been largely invisible to the UN weapons inspectors. However, the Kamel brothers also claimed that large quantities of weapons had been destroyed to prevent their discovery by the UN weapons inspectors in place after the First Gulf War. (pp. 212-213.)

In October 1997, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declared Iraq to be disarmed of nuclear weapons. (p. 225.) That still left poison gas, chiefly a battlefield weapon.

In February 1998, forty prominent Americans (including Frank Carlucci, Caspar Weinberger, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Armitage) signed an open letter to President Clinton. They argued that Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of WMD posed a threat to the United States. The letter urged recognition of the INC as Iraq’s provisional government. This began a conservative campaign for action against Saddam Hussein.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duane_Clarridge

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Baer

[3] On Wilhelm, see: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/03/the-man-who-would-be-khan/302899/

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Chalabi

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khidir_Hamza

[6] See his blood-curdling story in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussein_Kamel_al-Majid

What we learned from Seymour Hersh 3.

Between the end of the Cold War and 9/11, the C.I.A. had declined in some areas while growing stronger in other areas. The areas of its strength did not match well with the immediate needs of counter-terrorism. The areas of its weakness were just those areas where competence was in high demand. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld[1] knew very well the weaknesses of the C.I.A. because he had served on several task forces on intelligence during the previous Bush and Clinton administrations. It would take several years to bring the C.I.A. back to full strength. The terrorists were not going to wait in a neutral corner until the Americans got back on their feet and the referee allowed the fight to continue. If the C.I.A. could not fill the leadership role, then some other organization would have to lead.

Very soon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld began to press for “the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, and not the C.I.A., [to get] the lead in fighting terrorism.” (p. 17.) What Rumsfeld wanted was “to get the U.S. Special Forces community into the business of what he called…”manhunts,”…” (p. 16.)

Immediately following 9/11, Rumsfeld ordered General Charles Holland[2], commander of Special Operations, to come up with a list of known terrorist targets for immediate attack. (p. 265.) In October 2001, numerous cases occurred where either Air Force pilots or Special Forces teams were prevented from striking at suspected Al Qaeda targets by various bureaucratic and/or legalistic restrictions. (pp. 48-49.) At about the same time, Holland provided a list, but warned that there was a dearth of “actionable intelligence” to support any rapid attack. (p. 266.) Rumsfeld suggested that Special Operations be made a “global command” directly under the command of the Secretary of Defense, with responsibility for all military operations against terrorists. (p. 271.)

In late 2001 or early 2002, President George W. Bush signed a legally required “finding” that authorized the Department of Defense to create a special unit to attack Al Qaeda. Henceforth, Hersh identifies this program as the SAP (for “special access program”).[3] (p. 16.) This “highly secret program….was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate high-value targets…..The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps.” (p. 49.) “In theory, the operation enabled the Bush Administration to respond immediately to time-sensitive intelligence: commandos crossed borders without visas and could interrogate terrorism suspects deemed too important to for transfer to the military’s facilities at Guantanamo. They carried out instant interrogations, often with the help of foreign intelligence services—using force if necessary—at secret C.I.A. detention centers scattered around the world. [4] The intelligence would be relayed to the SAP command center in the Pentagon in real time, and sifted for those pieces of information critical to the “white,” or overt world.” (p. 50.) In July 2002 Rumsfeld ordered General Holland, commander of Special Operations, “to develop a plan to find and deal with members of terrorist organizations…The objective is to capture terrorists for interrogations or, if necessary, to kill them, not simply to arrest them in a law-enforcement exercise.” (p. 265.)

The Defense Department was going to collect and analyze intelligence on terrorism.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Rumsfeld

[2] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_R._Holland

[3] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_access_program The Wikipedia entry illustrates some of Hersh’s problems. There are a host of “Special Access Programs.”

[4] On the “black sites,” see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_site