When former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and acting Chair of the National Intelligence Council Stu Cohen were asked who inserted certain phrases in the unclassified National Intelligence Estimate that did not exist in the classified NIE, they said they "…did not know and could not explain [it]."
Far be it from me to call great public servants like Tenet and Cohen liars. Perhaps they are just being kind. Perhaps instead they should have been asked who they suspected, and what they assessed, and although they didn’t know for sure, what their gut told them about who added and deleted certain phrases.
Phrases that made all the difference in what the American people believed about the danger posed by Saddam Hussein. Phrases that drip to this day with the blood of American soldiers and marines who have died in Iraq without reason or rationale.
A key example is reported as follows:
The classified NIE stated, for instance, that “Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW [biological weapons] agents and is capable of quickly producing … a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers and covert operatives.”
In the unclassified version, the words “potentially against the U.S. homeland” are inserted at the end of the statement.
This statement — even without the propagandistic and hypnotic "against the homeland" mantra — would be kind of scary. Except for the fact that most of our key allies in the Middle East and elsewhere have exactly the same capability. Frankly, it doesn’t justify war with them, it doesn’t justify taking over their country or forcing them to accept our permanent military bases. It doesn’t mean we have to destroy their national library and rewrite all their school books.
But of course, the changes to the NIE — especially dropping terms like "we assess" and any dissensions or concerns about what "we assess" — were all done “purely for stylistic reasons.”
Like hell it was!
Perhaps I am over reacting. The style of the Bush Cheney team has always been characterized by aggrandizement and salesmanship. Bush has his own extensive track record of getting investors (think Arbusto Energy and the Texas Rangers). After Cheney funneled his government expertise into Halliburton, the federal government became Halliburton’s primary feeding trough.
Well, pigs have feelings too.
And these feelings are clearly being protected by Tenet and Cohen when they say they have no idea who changed the unclassified NIE in order to justify a pre-emptive war with the American people.
This war in Iraq is about many superficial and transient things, and it lends itself to stupid non sequiturs like Robert Novak’s favorite ploy on TV’s Crossfire! "You oppose the war in Iraq. Do you support Saddam Hussein or George Bush? Choose now, you guilty traitor!"
Sadly the real reason we have an occupation in Iraq is because Bush and Cheney and their neoconservative foreign policy gurus wanted it. The Congress sat back calculating political benefit, Americans watched football and reality TV, and the mainstream American media, like baby piglets, greedily and vigorously sucked from the government teat blind to the readily available facts before them.
Facts now coming to light.
Bush and Cheney wanted to be in Iraq, to control its government, and to have permanent military bases just in case Saudi oil really is tapped out, and Iraq is not the number two like we all thought, but the number one draft pick. They wanted it in order to ensure that our best socialist Cold War ally can continue to build its wall and nurture its nukes and conduct its business unfettered by the concerns of its Middle Eastern neighbors.
What are a few lies and embellishments when you really want something so bad you can taste it?
As they promised during the 2000 campaign, Bush and Cheney returned values to the White House, and that’s not just stylistic. After eight years of a President who advocated doing whatever you want if it is convenient and feels good, the new value statement added a phrase: "and make sure someone else is paying for it."
Bush and Cheney have delivered skyrocketing deficits and long-term debt, an economic recovery that produces fewer and fewer jobs and increased local and state tax burdens for young and old alike, an Army stretched to threads, a pointless and costly adventure in Iraq, and still no Osama bin Laden but plenty more terrorist threats.
Bush and Cheney have made Bill Clinton look noble. Perhaps that’s why George Tenet is protecting them.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.