Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thoughts on HUBRIS

A good hour of your time, to be spent watching this on Bloggingheadstv. A conversation between Jim Pinkerton and David Corn. Pinkerton asks some very good questions and (somewhat unsual to certain Bloggingheads diavlogs) actually lets David respond.

David Corn has co-written with Newsweek's Michael Isikoff the new book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War. An overview of the book here.

As background Corn is an avowed liberal, Iskioff a more moderate/moderate left character who has generally been seen as a straightshooter by both sides. I don't hold to many of Corn's politicla views. I can't separate either his (or Isikoff's) political views completely from their journalism. Not completely, but they can been somewhat separated for the purposes of analysis. In other words, just because Corn is a liberal and someone else is not does not mean they have the right to dismiss everything he and Isikoff assert.

The book has received attention mostly in terms of the Valerie Plame CIA-leak case. Hubris officially outed Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of State under President Bush (term 1), as the initial leaker to Robert Novak of the identity of Valerie Plame as CIA operative and wife of Joe Wilson.

Conservative commentators have picked up on this piece of evidence as proof that a supposed "conspiracy" between Karl Rove and Scotter Libby/Dick Cheney to out Valerie Wilson as hit job to get back at her husband for his op-ed refuting adminstration claims of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Niger yellow-cake sale. And consequently, the indictment of Scotter Libby should be dropped, and Chief Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald failed in his objectivity.

The revelation of Armitage as initial leaker, while muddying the waters, no doubt, does not prove that Rove and Libby did not invovle themselves in an effort to discredit Wilson through his wife. Now if Rove and Libby did participate in some such effort that is vastly different than whether they broke the law under the Secret Identities Act. To violate that law, the individual who is leaking must know that the leakee is in covert status.

Patrick Fitzgerald studied the issue and came to the conclusion that Rove and Libby did not break that law--remember Libby was indicted on charges of perjury not leaking classified infromation.

I think the evidence--if you read the book, listen to their public appearances--is strong to say that Rove and Libby did hatch a plot, how thought out in every detail is open for interpretation, to discredit Wilson. I don't think they broke the law--or at least I trust the prosecutor's assessment of the case. I think they played dirty pool as often happens in politics. I think it was unethical but not criminal.

And on the sidenote of investigations, I'm very much against over-hyped investigations against Presidents, unless needed. I was against the Whitewater Investigation and all the time, money, and prestige lost to our country and its foreign policies as I was against this one. But given the climate in which these are going to take place, which doesn't seem to be abating anytime soon, then it is only "fair" to have them for both sides. I do think the charges of Fitzgerald not being a good prosecutor particularly when made by non-legal scholars and armchair bloggers is reprehensible.

But the real intest of mine in the book is not the leak investigation but the book's central thesis: the description of how the Iraq War was sold.

Like the folllowing (from the excerpt linked above on Corn's website):

An obscure academic, derided as a virtual crackpot by U.S. law enforcement and the intelligence community, greatly influenced top Bush administration officials, who adopted her farfetched theory that Saddam was the source of most of the terrorism in the world, including the 9/11 attacks. But, oddly, this researcher, Laurie Mylroie, had once been a Saddam apologist and had engaged in secret, back-door diplomacy aimed at brokering a peace accord between Israel and Iraq. After Saddam invaded Kuwait, Mylroie developed bizarre allegations about Saddam and terrorism. Her theories were debunked by the CIA and FBI, yet Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz embraced them, cited them in official meetings, and repeatedly pressed the agency and bureau to come up with evidence to substantiate Mylroie's work.

It is very important to note the Wolfowitz reference. I often return to him in my work, since he was the real mastermind, as I see it, of the Iraq invasion. Wolfowitz, we know from Bob Woodward's first book on Bush, argued for an invasion of Iraq the day after 9/11 and did so again at the meeting of Bush's staff when the response against al-Qaeda was being planned.

Another often overlooked piece of information that is vitally important but not given enough coverage is the influence of Ahmed Chalabi--again note the influence of Wolfowitz--and the Iraqi National Congress and how Chalabi was compromised from the American standpoint by Iranian connections. Chalabi leaked to the Iranians covert information that the US government had that was enabling us to intercept and translate Iranian coded messages. Chalabi being the man Rumsfield saw as the logical man to put in charge after the fall of Saddam. Never taking into consideration that Chalabi had nil support inside Iraq.

Lastly what this analysis points to is whether the decision has already been made to invade/bomb Iran. The most important piece of them all. I'm still doubtful that the answer is yes. But I'm open to the possibility I'm just being naive on this one.

Hubris as well as Woodward's two books show that strong elements within the Bush administratino wanted to invade Iraq upon taking office: Wolfowitz, Cheney, Perle, Libby, Bolton, among others. We also konw that Bush had decided on an attack before the public campaign to "sell" the war or convince the public.

The al-Qaeda/Saddam link came from a conspiratorial former pro-Saddam academic Laurie Mylroie, who Wolfowitz found brilliant in her analysis (Wolf. wrote the blurb for the backjacket of her book). Corn/Isikoff detail how she gave a speech to the American Enterprise Institute days after 9/11 in which she publicly argued that al-Qaeda was not organizatoinally strong or crafty enough to pull off the attack; they were simply agents of Hussein.

The al-Qaeda link vis a vis Iran has already been getting play, if you've been paying attention. There are al-Qaeda members in Iran. They are under house arrest and as I've said before would easily be sold out to the US with a diplomatic favors towards Iran. al-Zarqawi, deceased former head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, before he was officially connected to Osama bin Laden--remember the two did not like each other and Zarqawi fought in Herat Afghanistan a separate site from the AQ training facilities--did pass through Iran on his way to Iraq. But he was fairly unknown then. Iran agreed to help train Afghan soldiers and stabilize Afghanistan, which was in their interest, after the fall of the Taliban. The Taliban were Pashutn, extreme Sunni zealots, anti-Shia (anti-Iranian) in their ideology. Iran has no reaosn to support al-Qaeda unless we give them reason to--i.e. the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction argument was a no-go without Iraq--though Christopher Hitchens still holds out belief that Saddam had them and hid them--because they did not possess any. This argument will work better in relation to Iran because Iran is seeking and will obtain nuclear weapons, but not for rougly another decade or so it seems.

Hubris details the following:

As part of an aggressive prewar covert action program--codenamed Anabasis (after an ancient text about a botched invasion of Babylon)--the CIA was authorized by the White House in the winter of 2002 to blow up targets in Iraq and engage in "direct action" (an agency euphemism for assassination) to weaken Saddam's regime and to prepare for his ouster by the U.S. military. For Anabasis, the agency smuggled Iraqi exiles to a top-secret site in the Nevada desert and trained them in sabotage and explosives. The Iraqi force, known as the Scorpions, was being trained to seize an isolated Iraqi military post-in order to create a provocation that could trigger a war with Iraq.

There have been rumors of such sabotage actions already underway/being planned on Iran. The analogy from Iraq is that the covert actions were sponsored with the end already in mind--the decision to go to war with Iraq was a foregone conclusion at that point. Meaning if there are such plans, the argument could be made that the decision to go to war with Iran has already been made.

Again, I think Condi Rice has moved Bush away from this initial instinct. But it may be that she has only held him off for a spell--as Powell did with Bush relenting and giving one last try to the UN. The UN has failed on Iran, the French are pusillanimous and may cauase another botched war (which they partly responsible for in Iraq), and it could be that this is Round 2 in Bush's mind.

The question of course is to what end? The US military will need a decade or more to recover from Iraq. Open-source warfare will break out in Iran as an insurgency if the Americans are insane enough to launch a full scale invaion. Iran has a much stronger military, can stire Hezbollah to fight Israel, Shias to rise up against the US in Iraq. The country is much vaster geographically and in terms of population.

And the Americans will have lost Afghanistan (which will happen within the next year), the Sunnis in Iraq, and the Shia throughout the Middle East. Leaving us only to reinforce Sunni autocrats like Mubarak and al-Sauds. Effectively destroying the Bush Doctrine of pursuing democratic change throughout the region.


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