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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, August 06, 2003



Cheney And The Intelligence Community

From the Chicago Tribune. His fingerprints are everywhere!

So, points to ponder: was Vice President Cheney simply promoting a "better safe than sorry" strategy with Iraq? The possible consequences of underestimating the threat were grave. Arguably, overestimating the threat rids the world of an evil dictator, gives us a chance to transform the Middle East, and, regrettably, strains the international diplomatic community. Tony Blair struck this theme in his address to Congress.

Secondly, was VP Cheney pressuring the intelligence community, or re-energizing the debate? The CIA was almost surely not monolithic on the matter of Iraq - perhaps Cheney's attention simply elevated the status of long-overlooked Iraqi hawks. Professional resentment and bureaucratic infighting, as the Ins and Outs switch places, would be a natural consequence.

As to the "better safe than sorry" point, we extract this:

In the year preceding the war, unclassified CIA intelligence assessments provided to Congress went from expressing low-level concern about Iraq's weapons capability to expressing the same information in "alarmist" terms, said Joseph Cirincione, director of the nonproliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Well, the "year preceding the war" is also the year after 9/11. It would be interesting to check what, if anything, the Administration was saying about Saddam in August 2001.

And on the matter of jealous, overlooked bureaucrats, we have this poignant bit:

Greg Thielmann, who retired in September as director of strategic, proliferation and military affairs in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, said he saw no similar curiosity from Cheney about the State Department's intelligence shop, known as INR.

That agency was far more skeptical than the CIA about claims that Iraq possessed threatening weaponry.

"One would think if Cheney was on some sort of noble pursuit of the truth and really wanted to get into details, he would have noticed that INR had very loud and lengthy dissents on some critical pieces of Iraq intelligence," Thielmann said.

"You'd think he might want to hear from us," he added. "It never happened, of course, because Cheney wasn't engaged in an academic search for truth."


He never came to see us! Yes, the Mr. Thielmann has a legitimate point, but one can not help but wonder if he felt that his small operation was not as highly regarded as the big boys at the CIA:

...An official in Cheney's office said CIA analysts offered the government's most authoritative information on Iraq and other intelligence matters, and dismissed the State Department's dissent as a small minority view in the intelligence community.

Links:

International Institute for Strategic Studies (A British group): "Iraq WMD Dossier Statement", Sept 9, 2002

White House Archives on Iraq

Condaleeza Rice, "Why We Know Iraq is Lying", describes what disarmament and compliance look like.

Dick Cheney, March 16, Meet The Press

Dicl Cheney, VFW 103rd National Convention, Aug. 2002

Excerpts:

The Inflammatory Dick Cheney, from the VFW:

In the past decade, Saddam has systematically broken each of these agreements. The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago. These are not weapons for the purpose of defending Iraq; these are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam can hold the threat over the head of anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.

On the nuclear question, many of you will recall that Saddam's nuclear ambitions suffered a severe setback in 1981 when the Israelis bombed the Osirak reactor. They suffered another major blow in Desert Storm and its aftermath.

But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors -- including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.

Just how soon, we cannot really gauge. Intelligence is an uncertain business, even in the best of circumstances. This is especially the case when you are dealing with a totalitarian regime that has made a science out of deceiving the international community. Let me give you just one example of what I mean. Prior to the Gulf War, America's top intelligence analysts would come to my office in the Defense Department and tell me that Saddam Hussein was at least five or perhaps even 10 years away from having a nuclear weapon. After the war we learned that he had been much closer than that, perhaps within a year of acquiring such a weapon.


The Strategic Dick Cheney, from earlier in the same speech:

...the President and I never for a moment forget our number one responsibility: to protect the American people against further attack, and to win the war that began last September 11th.

...At the same time, we realize that wars are never won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy. We will take every step necessary to make sure our country is secure, and we will prevail.

...the challenges to our country involve more than just tracking down a single person or one small group. Nine-eleven and its aftermath awakened this nation to danger, to the true ambitions of the global terror network, and to the reality that weapons of mass destruction are being sought by determined enemies who would not hesitate to use them against us.

It is a certainty that the al Qaeda network is pursuing such weapons, and has succeeded in acquiring at least a crude capability to use them. We found evidence of their efforts in the ruins of al Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan. And we've seen in recent days additional confirmation in videos recently shown on CNN -- pictures of al Qaeda members training to commit acts of terror, and testing chemical weapons on dogs. Those terrorists who remain at large are determined to use these capabilities against the United States and our friends and allies around the world.

As we face this prospect, old doctrines of security do not apply. In the days of the Cold War, we were able to manage the threat with strategies of deterrence and containment. But it's a lot tougher to deter enemies who have no country to defend. And containment is not possible when dictators obtain weapons of mass destruction, and are prepared to share them with terrorists who intend to inflict catastrophic casualties on the United States.

The case of Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of our country, requires a candid appraisal of the facts....


Now, there are other terrorist groups than Al-Qaeda, and Saddam had certainly cooperated with them. Whether Saddam could be deterred, or might one day deliver WMDs to terrorist groups targetting Israel or the US, is a separate question from whether his current capabilities make him an imminent threat. VP Cheney was making several points, only one of which critics are now disputing.

An earnest reader can undertake a simlar exercise with the Vice President's appearance on Meet The Press. A snippet from near the top of the show:

Vice Pres. Cheney: ...the problem we have is what we have seen in the past is that even on those occasions after the ’91 Gulf War when we did strip him of certain capabilities, when the inspectors were able to go in through the work of defectors, for example, and destroy significant capabilities that he had acquired, and that as soon as they were gone, he was right back in business again.

And I think that would be the fear here, that even if he were tomorrow to give everything up, if he stays in power, we have to assume that as soon as the world is looking the other way and preoccupied with other issues, he will be back again rebuilding his BW and CW capabilities, and once again reconstituting his nuclear program. He has pursued nuclear weapons for over 20 years. Done absolutely everything he could to try to acquire that capability and if he were to cough up whatever he has in that regard now, even if it was complete and total, we have to assume tomorrow he would be right back in business again.

MR. RUSSERT: So bottom line, he would have to disarm completely and leave the country?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think that would be the only acceptable outcome I can think of at this point...


This is very clearly characterizing Saddam as a long term threat, with regime change (and "war now") the best way of dealing with the threat.



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