More Beating Of The Drums

The Raw Story has an absolute MUST READ right now regarding the recently released NIE that focuses primarily on al Qaeda’s presence in Pakistan, but makes an effort to continue beating the war drums to make a case for going to war with Iran.

It is now time to have a little history lesson, primarily so that we understand exactly why it is so vital that we get this right.

Back before invading Iraq, the Administration had made it a top priority to make a case that would stir up public support to do so. In attempting to make a proposed invasion of Iraq seem justified, several vital points had to be proved, or at least advertized in such a manner that the American people would believe them proved.

-Saddam Hussein was involved with al Qaeda. This was absolutely necessary because when Bush declared his War on Terrorism, the specifics gave him a lot of wiggle room to wage war on varying countries, but there was still a responsibility to show that the state war was declared upon did in fact sponsor terrorism.

-Saddam Hussein had an up and running program for developing, deploying and utilizing both chemical and biological weapons. This was necessary to show that Saddam not only harbored terrorists as the administration was claiming, nor that it could be a threat in the near future as with the nuclear claim we’ll discuss in the next graph, but that he was an imminent threat. That he could unleash upon us deadly biological and chemical weapons, and would do so unless we took immediate action.

-Finally, there was the cherry on the whipped cream, nuclear capability. The significance of this claim I believe runs considerably deep in our culture; the greatest nightmare many of us harbor is a nuclear holocaust; fading images of nightmares from the decades long cold war that we had managed to wrest ourselves from only a handful of years earlier. What was even more significant was the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War era was largely kept in check by two things; the arms race and policy of retribution that the major players employed, and the concept that these were not rogue states with these weapons, but Super Powers with at least some modicum of rationality; neither side was so convicted in its ideology that it would engage in a mutually exclusive and apocolyptic war. But in portraying Saddam as the head of a rogue state, these safety checks no longer applied. This was a man of a crazed ideology that would make his entire country a huge martyr.

The administration waged a political war that even transcended political campaigns, spreading propaganda everywhere from townhalls to Meet the Press. But critics and members of congress were to a degree somewhat skeptical even then, and one thing that bothered many was the lack of an NIE…

This would be one of the rare instances in this administration wherein if you ask, you shall receive.

That NIE made the case for war, but what is apparent is the flaws in the intelligence. While officials who were experts in Middle Eastern politics balked at the claim that Saddam and Osama would be working together, intelligence was produced that in fact an Iraqi official had met with al Qaeda in Prague.

As for the Chemical and Biological weaponry, we had pictures, and sources that confirmed those pictures.

And in building the case for Saddam attempting to reconstitute his nuclear program, two bits of evidence seemed irrefutably damning; an apparent attempt by Saddam Hussein to buy yellow cake from Nigeria, and aluminum tubes ostensibly used for nuclear centrifuges.

But as we learn in Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s book Hubris, none of these claims were credible. The Sadam Osama links were primarily forwarded by Chalabi’s INC, a notoriously unreliable source according to intelligence officials.

The photographs of mobile biological labs, and the rest of the evidence? The photos were themselves unreliable. Tom Daschle, whose job it was while serving in the military to interpret satellite photos had seen the photos that Dick Cheney provided as irrefutable proof and had actually thought to himself that you couldn’t make heads nor tails of it. As for the unmanned aerial vehicles supposedly used to employ the weapons, that photo came from a Czhech catalogue. Finally the source that had been so instrumental in supporting the claim of Saddam’s Chemical and biological capabilities turned out to be a single unreliable source being held in Germany that to this day we only know as “Curveball.” Curveball was frequently inebbriated, and largely thought insane, and after we did invade Iraq, as some intelligence officials would have guessed, not a single claim he made, not a single claim that we based our intelligence reports on, turned out to be true.

And finally the nuclear argument. While Intelligence departments were using basically laymen to verify the voracity of the aluminum tube claim, members of the DoE put forth numerous dissents as to their ability to be used in nuclear centrifuges. And we all know by now what happened in Niger.

All these dissents to the intelligence were out there, but in the final NIE they were either greatly minimized or ignored completely, and what’s more, when the “white sheet” was put out for public consumption, NONE of the dissents found their way in.

There’s a reason why I remind you of this today. I want to put last weeks NIE in the proper context; this administration cannot be trusted. If they do not provide evidence, then we have no choice but to assume that the evidence is faulty or shaky at best, and if evidence is cited, we must assume, based on the behavior of this administration in the past, that there are valid dissents not only being hidden, but also ignored.

It shouldn’t be like this, but that is how it is. For the sake of clarity, I’ll get the old saying right this time, you fool me once, shame on you, you fool me twice, shame on me.

With the context firmly in place, the following should be enough reason to look upon the NIE’s claims of Iran’s level of threat to the US with high skepticism:

Current and former intelligence officials say the Bush Administration’s National Intelligence Estimate regarding terrorist threats to the United States does not provide evidence to support its assertions and may have inflated the domestic threat posed by the Lebanese political and military group Hezbollah, perhaps because it receives financial support from Iran.

According to the report, Hezbollah – a Shi’a Muslim group with ties to Iran that has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States – may target the US domestically if the US poses a serious threat to Iran. But sources say the allegations about Hezbollah were simply “thrown in.”

Speaking under condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, several intelligence officers asserted that the report was sloppy and lacked supporting evidence. “The NIE seems… fiddled [with],” regarding Hezbollah, one high-ranking CIA official said. “Whether it is or isn’t is not really the point. The point is that nobody is ready to believe it.”

“As regards to the Hezbollah ‘threat,'” the official added, “they just threw that in. “Nobody in CIA talks to Hezbollah, and they’re living off their assessments from back in the 80s, which they really never got right anyway.”

I don’t know why this administration seems hellbent on making a case to go to war against Iran; the logic completely and totally fails to hit me. But logical or not, crazed or not, we can no longer even hope to guess at their motives, they have made it clear that they will bang the war drums with unmatched fervor (except perhaps the fervor employed to wage war with Iraq), and it is up to us to call them for the bullshit they are throwing our way.

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