Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Shake and Bake

The New York Times
November 29, 2005

Let us pause and count the ways the conduct of the war in Iraq has damaged America's image and needlessly endangered the lives of those in the military. First, multilateralism was tossed aside. Then the post-invasion fiasco muddied the reputation of military planners and caused unnecessary casualties. The W.M.D. myth undermined the credibility of United States intelligence and President Bush himself, and the abuse of prisoners stole America's moral high ground.

Now the use of a ghastly weapon called white phosphorus has raised questions about how careful the military has been in avoiding civilian casualties. It has also further tarnished America's credibility on international treaties and the rules of warfare.

White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago. Packed into an artillery shell, it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy's positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body.

To read the full text, see The New York Times

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What I Knew Before the Invasion

By Bob Graham
Washington Post
November 20, 2005; B07

Blog editor's note: Graham, a Democrat, was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the run-up to the Iraq war.

In the past week President Bush has twice attacked Democrats for being hypocrites on the Iraq war. "[M]ore than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power," he said.

The president's attacks are outrageous. Yes, more than 100 Democrats voted to authorize him to take the nation to war. Most of them, though, like their Republican colleagues, did so in the legitimate belief that the president and his administration were truthful in their statements that Saddam Hussein was a gathering menace -- that if Hussein was not disarmed, the smoking gun would become a mushroom cloud.

The president has undermined trust. No longer will the members of Congress be entitled to accept his veracity. Caveat emptor has become the word. Every member of Congress is on his or her own to determine the truth.

As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the run-up to the Iraq war, I probably had as much access to the intelligence on which the war was predicated as any other member of Congress.

I, too, presumed the president was being truthful -- until a series of events undercut that confidence.

To read the full text, see Washington Post

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'
The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches

By Bob Drogin and John Goetz
Los Angeles Times

November 20, 2005

BERLIN — The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

To read the full text, see Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Decoding Mr. Bush's Denials

The New York Times
November 15, 2005

To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.

Mr. Bush says everyone had the same intelligence he had - Mr. Clinton and his advisers, foreign governments, and members of Congress - and that all of them reached the same conclusions. The only part that is true is that Mr. Bush was working off the same intelligence Mr. Clinton had. But that is scary, not reassuring. The reports about Saddam Hussein's weapons were old, some more than 10 years old. Nothing was fresher than about five years, except reports that later proved to be fanciful.

To read the full text, see The New York Times

WHAT COULD THEY HAVE KNOWN AND WHEN COULD THEY HAVE KNOWN IT: Bush, Miller and the “How Could We Have Known?” Defense

Blog editor’s note: Given the recent claims by President Bush and Judith Miller, the reporter who “retired” last week from The New York Times, that they were the victims of lousy intelligence in believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it is useful to examine their defense in light of what information was readily available BEFORE the decision to wage war in March of 2003 was taken. Nathaniel Hurd, a New York-based consultant on Iraq, has compiled a set of links to various materials that should/would have given considerable pause to a reasonable person who wasn’t already totally committed to regime change in Iraq.

The Fourth Freedom Forum has two 2003 reports that organize some of the "publicly available information on Iraq's weapons programs [that was] systematically ignored in the months preceding the war."

David Cortright, Alistair Millar and Linda Gerber, 26 March 2003, "Contested Case: Do the Facts Justify the Case for War in Iraq?"

David Cortright, Alistair Millar and Linda Gerber, June 2003, Unproven: The Controversy over Justifying War in Iraq

See also Glen Rangwala's Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons; and Joseph Cirincione, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, George Perkovich and Alexis Orton, January 2004, WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications

For information about who said what and when they said it in justification of the war in Iraq, see Devon M Largio "Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress, and the Media from September 12, 2001 to October 11, 2002", and Dipali MukhopadhyayIntelligence on Iraq--The Bush Administration on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Capabilities

Finally, see Hurd’s own essay, which appears as one of several on a particularly valuable web page dealing with the justifications for the Iraq War: "Security Council Resolution 1441 and the Potential Use of Force Against Iraq", 6 December 2002 . For the reader’s convenience, Hurd has highlighted key public statements made by administration officials.