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