Pentagon Accused of Disinformation
By 0aPascal Riche
Wednesday 28 May 2003
Allegations about the Iraqi arsenal are put largely in 0adoubt.
The very anti-war Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia), 0adenounced a "house of cards built on deceptions". From our Correspondent in 0aWashington
A classic press altercation: in the beginning of May, John Burns, 0aBaghdad Bureau Chief for The New York Times, sends an angry email to Judith 0aMiller, bio-terrorism specialist for the same paper, who, without warning him, 0ahad just published an article on the formerly exiled Iraqi Ahmed Chalabi, a 0acontroversial personality and the Pentagon's darling: "It isn't professional and 0ait isn't team work", he writes. Miller responds, primly: "I've covered Chalabi 0afor ten years, I've written most of the articles about him for our paper", etc. 0aCarried away by her own enthusiasm, she adds, to make her case: "He was the 0asource for most of the exclusives we published on WMD." Huh ? In other words, 0aChalabi would have been virtually the unique source of The Times' scoops on the 0aexistence of weapons of mass destruction?
This comment opportunely found its way to The Times' competitor, 0aThe Washington Post, which did not fail to gloat: "Could Chalabi have used the 0aTimes to insinuate the idea that Iraq hid weapons of mass destruction?," The 0aPost suggests.
The New York Times is not the only institution whose information 0aconcerning Iraq is challenged. A great confession has begun. It is specifically 0aaimed at the Pentagon, the CIA, and the other intelligence services. No one 0aexcludes the possibility that weapons of mass destruction may eventually be 0afound in Iraq, but one is constrained to recognize that, up to now, hundreds of 0aexperts who streaked through Iraq looking for them have come up empty-handed. 0aEveryone asks how that's possible given that Bush swore to have "overwhelming 0aproof" of their existence. Elected officials are aroused, such as the very 0aanti-war Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia), who denounces "a house 0aof cards built on deceptions."
In "The New Yorker", the decorated journalist Seymour Hersh 0aquestions the trustworthiness of the Pentagon's intelligence, he also affirms 0athat one of its principle sources was none other than.the Iraqi National 0aCongress, directed by Chalabi. One Pentagon lair is especially suspect: the 0aOffice of Special Plans, created after September 11 and entrusted to two 0adie-hard "hawks": Retired Captain William Luti and the expert, Abram Shulsky. 0aIt's this lair that agitated, often against CIA opinion, to convince the White 0aHouse that Iraq not only hid weapons of mass destruction, but also had guilty 0arelations with Al-Qaeda.
The CIA was subjected to intense pressure to corroborate the 0anecessity of a war against Iraq. It fussed a little about Pentagon 0aexaggerations, but, at the end of the day, also denounced the existence of a 0agigantic arsenal of prohibited weapons. Now the hour of reckoning arrives. 0aSeveral weeks ago CIA Director, George Tenet, ordered that a fine tooth comb be 0apassed through all the reports on Iraq drawn up by the different intelligence 0aagencies. Irony of a sort: Tenet's basis for initiating the internal inquiry is 0aa request of Donald Rumsfeld, the very let's-go-to-war Secretary of Defense, 0adated... last October. At the time, Rumsfeld raged against the CIA's inability 0ato demonstrate the links between Baghdad and Al-Qaeda. Today, it's the CIA's 0acaution that looks to be rewarded and the politicization of intelligence by the 0aPentagon that threatens to be revealed.
At the Capitol, Congress bestirs itself to try to understand the 0asudden disappearance of the casus belli. The House Intelligence Committee asked 0athe CIA last week to throw some light on the "accuracy" and the "impartiality" 0aof the intelligence which served as justification for the war. Without much 0aconviction, California Democrat and Vice Chair of the Committee, Jane Harman, 0adoes not altogether exclude the possibility that we be faced with "the greatest 0adisinformation campaign of all time".
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie 0aThatcher.