Douglas Feith's Blame Game
by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Ali Frick, Benjamin Armbruster, and Matt Duss
In a new memoir the Washington Post calls "a massive score-settling work," former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith defends himself from charges that his Pentagon office politicized pre-war Iraq intelligence. Feith blames former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, the CIA, U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, former Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer, and almost everyone else but himself and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for mishandling the run-up to the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation. The Post obtained a 900-page manuscript of Feith's book, entitled, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks, Feith headed up the Office of Special Plans (OSP), which was created "to find evidence...that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States." Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked under Feith in the OSP, characterized the program's purpose as "developing propaganda and pushing...an agenda on Iraq." Kwiatkowski also said that OSP had "developed pretty sophisticated propaganda lines which were fed throughout government, to the Congress, and even internally to the Pentagon" to make the case that Saddam was an imminent threat.
POLITICIZING INTELLIGENCE: In February 2007, the Pentagon's Inspector General concluded that the OSP under Feith had "developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship...that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers" and that Feith's intelligence briefings to the President presented "conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence." Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) stated that the report was "a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DoD policy office" that demonstrated "that intelligence relating to the Iraq/al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq." When asked about the activities of the Office of Special Plans, CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden stated before Congress in May 2006 that he was "not comfortable" with Feith's approach to intelligence analysis. "I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war," Hayden said. "No, sir, I wasn't comfortable." The Senate Intelligence Committee will also soon release a new report criticizing Bush administration officials "for making assertions that failed to reflect disagreements or uncertainties in the underlying intelligence on Iraq." Many of these statements were made based upon analyses produced by Feith's office at the Pentagon, which posited a working relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda and claimed that Saddam was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
A PREDETERMINED INVASION: Feith's account of the lead-up to the Iraq invasion also offers more evidence that President Bush was resolved to invade Iraq, regardless of international opinion and irrespective of whether inspectors found evidence of an Iraqi weapons program. Feith writes that Bush declared "war is inevitable" in a National Security Council meeting in December 2002, even as he continued to insist in public that no decision had been made. On December 31, 2002, Bush said to reporters, "I hope this Iraq situation will be resolved peacefully. ... I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq," and "I hope this can be done peacefully." On Jan. 2, 2003, Bush told reporters that he was "hopeful we won't have to go war." On March 6, 2003, Bush said in a press conference that no decision had been made to use force against Iraq, even though two weeks earlier, he told then-Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar that the U.S. would "be in Baghdad at the end of March."
THE INCOMPETENCE DODGE: Responding to charges that his office "politicized" intelligence, Feith reportedly claims in his book that it was the CIA that was politicizing intelligence by discounting evidence of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. In other words, Feith claims that the CIA was delinquent in ignoring evidence of a relationship that did not, in fact, exist. Feith's charges of failure against those initially responsible for the occupation of Iraq will likely be seized upon by those seeking to cast the war, as Feith does, as a good idea ruined by poor implementation -- a line of argument which has been termed "the incompetence dodge" because it attempts to present the Iraq disaster as a failure of implementation, not of conception. While he has harsh criticisms for many people, the Washington Post notes that Feith treats Rumsfeld "with almost complete admiration."
The Lie Factory:
North Texans for 911 Truth (new site)
Investigations of the Office of Special Plans and of Feith
Officially, Feith is currently under investigation by the Pentagon's Inspector General and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). Republican Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts began the investigation when he wrote to the Pentagon Inspector General asking him to start the review:
â..The Committee is concerned about persistent and, to date, unsubstantiated allegations that there was something unlawful or improper about the activities of the Office of Special Plans within the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy ... I have not discovered any credible evidence of unlawful or improper activity, yet the allegations persist.â. In an attempt to lay these allegations to rest once and for all, he requested the Inspector General to â..initiate an investigation into the activities of the Office of Special Plans during the period prior to the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom to determine whether any of [its] activities were unlawful or improper; . . . [that is,] whether the personnel assigned to the Office of Special Plans, at any time, conducted unauthorized, unlawful, or inappropriate intelligence activities.â. Senator Levin has asked the Inspector General to look at the activities of the OUSDP generally, and not just the OSP. The SSCI is awaiting the outcome of the DOD Inspector Generalâ..s review." Sources within the SSCI report Feith and the Defense Department have been less than helpful to their investigation.
As of March 2006 the news organisation Rawstory reports Pat Roberts, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was not allowing a complete investigation of Feith and his role at his Office of Special Plans. "One former intelligence official suggested that part of the reason for deferring the Feith inquiry was its sensitivity. A Feith investigation might unravel a bigger can of worms, the source said"