By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
It was very clear to me that they did not evolve as a result of new intelligence, of improved intelligence, or any type of seeking of the truth. The way they evolved is that certain bullets were dropped or altered based on what was being reported on the front pages of the Washington Post or The New York Times.
Can you be specific?
One item that was dropped was in November . It was the issue of the meeting in Prague prior to 9/11 between Mohammed Atta and a member of Saddam Husseinís intelligence force. We had had this in our talking points from September through mid-November. And then it dropped out totally. No explanation. Just gone. That was because the media reported that the FBI had stepped away from that, that the CIA said it didnít happen.
Letís clarify this. Talking points are generally used to deal with media. But you were a desk officer, not a politician who had to go and deal with the press. So are you saying the Office of Special Plans provided you a schematic, an outline of the way major points should be addressed in any report or analysis that you developed regarding Iraq, WMD or terrorism?
Thatís right. And these did not follow the intent, the content or the accuracy of intelligence . . .
They were political . . .
They were political, politically manipulated. They did have obviously bits of intelligence in them, but they were created to propagandize. So we inside the Pentagon, staff officers and senior administration officials who might not work Iraq directly, were being propagandized by this same Office of Special Plans.
In the 10 months you worked in that office in the run-up to the war, was there ever any open debate? The public, at least, was being told at the time that there was a serious assessment going on regarding the level of threat from Iraq, the presence or absence of WMD, et cetera. Was this debated inside your office at the Pentagon?
No. Those things were not debated. To them, Saddam Hussein needed to go.
You believe that decision was made by the time you got there, almost a year before the war?
That decision was made by the time I got there. So there was no debate over WMD, the possible relations Saddam Hussein may have had with terrorist groups and so on. They spent their energy gathering pieces of information and creating a propaganda storyline, which is the same storyline we heard the president and Vice President Cheney tell the American people in the fall of 2002.
The very phrases they used are coming back to haunt them because they are blatantly false and not based on any intelligence. The OSP and the Vice Presidentís Office were critical in this propaganda effort ó to convince Americans that there was some just requirement for pre-emptive war.
What do you believe the real reasons were for the war?
The neoconservatives needed to do more than just topple Saddam Hussein. They wanted to put in a government friendly to the U.S., and they wanted permanent basing in Iraq. There are several reasons why they wanted to do that. None of those reasons, of course, were presented to the American people or to Congress.
So you donít think there was a genuine interest as to whether or not there really were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
Itís not about interest. We knew. We knew from many years of both high-level surveillance and other types of shared intelligence, not to mention the information from the U.N., we knew, we knew what was left [from the Gulf War] and the viability of any of that. Bush said he didnít know.
The truth is, we know [Saddam] didnít have these things. Almost a billion dollars has been spent ó a billion dollars! ó by David Kayís group to search for these WMD, a total whitewash effort. They didnít find anything, they didnít expect to find anything.
So if, as you argue, they knew there werenít any of these WMD, then what exactly drove the neoconservatives to war?
The neoconservatives pride themselves on having a global vision, a long-term strategic perspective. And there were three reasons why they felt the U.S. needed to topple Saddam, put in a friendly government and occupy Iraq.
One of those reasons is that sanctions and containment were working and everybody pretty much knew it. Many companies around the world were preparing to do business with Iraq in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. But the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing northern and southern Iraq since 1991. So it was very unlikely that we would be in any kind of position to gain significant contracts in any post-sanctions Iraq. And those sanctions were going to be lifted soon, Saddam would still be in place, and we would get no financial benefit.
The second reason has to do with our military-basing posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the restrictions on our basing. And also there was dissatisfaction from the people of Saudi Arabia. So we were looking for alternate strategic locations beyond Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we had been searching for since the days of Carter ó to secure the energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in Iraq, then, were very important ó that is, if you hold that is Americaís role in the world. Saddam Hussein was not about to invite us in.