Friday, February 09, 2007


Pre-War Payback

Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review Online, discusses the hyping of the Pentagon Inspector General (IG) Report, and its retributive value for the Senate majority. Yes, observers in the know have been expecting the Intelligence Games McCarthy describes since Democrat ascendancy. At least they didn’t keep us in suspense for very long.

McCarthy notes reports in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the International Herald Tribune. At least one version of an Associated Press (AP) version, the one showing up on Yahoo, carries the inflammatory and exaggerated headline “Report says Pentagon manipulated intel.”

I’ve long grown accustomed to AP, Yahoo, and other news service headlines that hype only one side (guess which one) of controversies, but the AP story, as the others mentioned by McCarthy, all carry some amount of DoD or participant rebuttal to either the IG Report, or the extremely slanted characterization of the Report’s conclusions by Senator Carl Levin. No surprise the headlines match the left (Levin) side of the controversy.

And always, the media’s preferred take on controversy leads, with rebuttals or contrasting positions way down in the report. With frequent references to how “long awaited” this report has been, not having been expedited by the previous Congress. As McCarthy remarks, “Long awaited by Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller, anyway.”

Sens. Levin and Rockefeller must indeed be salivating over reviving all the Intelligence, National Security, and other Defense related debates they lost when out of power. It’s like one big do-over. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Majority.

Of course, even the Times can’t hide a hint to a more balanced assessment in it’s lead paragraph:
A Pentagon investigation into the handling of prewar intelligence has criticized civilian Pentagon officials for conducting their own intelligence analysis to find links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but said the officials did not violate any laws or mislead Congress, according to Congressional officials who have read the report. [Emphasis mine.]
Contrary to the distorted reporting in media, and the over the top caricature by Sens. Levin and Rockefeller, the IG Report makes the tepid claim that the more detailed reassessment of Intelligence, undertaken by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the wake of serious Intelligence failings prior to 9/11, was “inappropriate.” And that’s about all it claims. The bureaucratic equivalent of a hissy fit.

Further on, the Times notes a specific criticism in the IG Report:
The inspector general’s report criticizes a July 25, 2002, memo, written by an intelligence analyst detailed to Mr. Feith’s office, titled, “Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case.”

The memo said that, while “some analysts have argued” that Osama bin Laden would not cooperate with secular Arab entities like Iraq, “reporting indicates otherwise.”
How inappropriate for Under Secretary Feith to highlight reported ties between bin Laden and Iraq, back when those ties were murky and not well understood, in contrast to what was discovered post invasion! You’d think being right might hold some weight for the IG – and for the Democrats in Congress – but then that would require them to surrender their “Bush Lied!” mythology.

Here’s how McCarthy characterizes the Report’s findings:
The IG’s report concludes that a Pentagon unit which scrubbed existing intelligence about Iraq’s terror ties under the leadership of Doug Feith, then-Undersecretary for Policy, did not mislead Congress. It further finds that neither Feith nor any other Defense officials engaged in wrong-doing. Nevertheless, acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble huffs and puffs and contends that Feith’s unit still behaved “inappropriately.”

Why? Because it dared to question that which we now know for a fact was wrong: the Intelligence Community’s assessments about Iraq, and, in particular, the conventional wisdom that secular Saddam and his Baathists would never collude with Islamic fundamentalists.

Let’s leave aside the innumerable known connections between Saddam and Islamic terror—the harbored jihadists; the meetings between top al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence officials; the $300,000 cash pay-off to Ayman Zawahiri in 1998; the Iraqi intelligence operative who accompanied a jihadist to Pakistan in 1998 to explore the possibility of bombing American and British targets; the Clinton administration’s 1998 bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory believed to be a WMD venture involving Iraq and al Qaeda; the Clinton administration’s conviction that Iraq offered bin Laden safe-harbor; the presence of an Iraqi intelligence operative at a 2000 Kuala Lampur meeting of terrorists later involved in the U.S.S. Cole and 9/11 attacks, etc., etc., etc.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that some or all of these things, and more, never really happened. How many more years does the Sunni resistance in Iraq—Baathists in confederation with jihadists—have to go on before Senator Levin & Co. give up that tired no-connection ghost?
McCarthy likewise derides the Report characterizing Intelligence assessment as “inappropriate,” without much justification other than it went against the consensus of the Intelligence Community at the time. The same consensus which was proved stunningly oblivious to terrorist capabilities prior to 9/11, ignorant of North Korea’s nuclear accomplishments, or getting down to specifics, refuted by finds in Iraq after our invasion that document that Iraq did in fact cooperate with terrorists and directly support and sponsor acts of terror.

It seems to me, that the most glaringly wrong assessment about Pre-War Intelligence lingers in the minds of Congressional Democrats. And oh how much we will be subjected to their continued ignorance!

McCarthy laments that we haven’t really fixed what’s broken in the Intelligence Community, which resists adopting a more “adversarial ethic,” which would allow alternate interpretations and viewpoints to compete with an institutional consensus that has been so stunningly wrong, and often:
The Intelligence Community has never assimilated this healthy adversarial ethic. Thus, we are constantly burned by the unpredicted. Yet the IC’s apologists want it immunized from criticism (especially when it is thoroughly politicized and reliably leaks to undermine a Republican administration) no matter how poorly it performs and no matter how much it gets wrong.
Other commentators weigh in: Powerline, Macsmind, Flopping Aces, Dean's World.
Captain Ed draws a conclusion similar to mine, that this is all “political payback” now that the Dems are in charge.

UPDATE: Looks like I will cross over the 100,000 visits with this post today. I'm flattered that so many have visited. Thanks to all of my readers for their time and attention.

UPDATED UPDATE: Jules Crittenden links and posts on the Pentagon IG Report. He concentrates on the hyperbole of Sen. Levin, focusing on his exaggerated claim that the Report was a "devastating commentary." Thanks for the link, Jules!

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