Lawrence Wilkerson Posted by: Jon Henke
on Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Democrats and Iraq war critics are touting a recent speech by former Powell Aide Lawrence Wilkerson, in which he claims there "was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made". He expands on that with a column in the LA Times...
In President Bush's first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security — including vital decisions about postwar Iraq — were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Why it's shocking that Senior administration officials (rather than bureaucrats) were making administration policy, I don't know. The perpetual turf war between the State and Defense Departments is a function of the very structure of government. That said, there's a great deal of merit to his criticism.
However, since our friends on the other side of the aisle have decided that Lawrence Wilkerson merits a great deal of credibility, let's review some other things he said...
There was domestic and international unanimity on the WMD question...
I can’t tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the U.N. on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can’t. I’ve wrestled with it. I don’t know – and people say, well, INR dissented. That’s a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That’s all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios. Carl Ford and I talked; Tom Finger and I talked, who is now John Negroponte’s deputy, and that was the way INR felt. And, frankly, I wasn’t all that convinced by the evidence I’d seen that he had a nuclear program other than the software. That is to say there are some discs or there were some scientists and so forth but he hadn’t reconstituted it. [Saddam] was going to wait until the international tension was off of him, until the sanctions were down, and then he was going to go back – certainly go back to all of his programs. I mean, I was convinced of that.
Saddam was actively feigning WMD programs...
But I saw satellite evidence, and I’ve looked at satellite pictures for much of my career. I saw information that would lead me to believe that Saddam Hussein, at least on occasion, was spoofing us, was giving us disinformation. When you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical weapons ASP – Ammunition Supply Point – with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the U.N. inspectors wheeling in in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP and everything is changed, everything is clean. None of those signs are there anymore.
Well, Saddam Hussein really cared about deterring the Persians – the Iranians – and his own people. He didn’t give a hang about us except on occasion. And so he had to convince those audiences that he still was a powerful man. So who better to do that through than the INC, Ahmad Chalabi and his boys, and by spoofing our eyes in the sky and our little HUMINT, and the Brits and the French and the Germans, too.
Domestic analysis of WMDs...
The consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming. I can still hear George Tenet telling me, and telling my boss in the bowels of the CIA, that the information we were delivering – which we had called considerably – we had called it very much – we had thrown whole reams of paper out that the White House had created. But George was convinced, John McLaughlin was convinced that what we were presented was accurate. And contrary to what you were hearing in the papers and other places, one of the best relationships we had in fighting terrorists and in intelligence in general was with guess who? The French. In fact, it was probably the best. And they were right there with us.
The Aluminum tubes? Blame the French...
In fact, I’ll just cite one more thing. The French came in in the middle of my deliberations at the CIA and said, we have just spun aluminum tubes, and by god, we did it to this RPM, et cetera, et cetera, and it was all, you know, proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges. Otherwise, why would you have such exquisite instruments? We were wrong. We were wrong.
The "Cabal" were not Neocons...
I don’t think Dick Cheney is driven by ideology. I don’t think Donald Rumsfeld is. If you mean by ideology a certain nationalism or a certain realism or whatever, perhaps, but not by what we associated with neoconservatism.
On Iraq today...
I’m guardedly optimistic about what’s happening there now. I think we may have reached the point, as I said earlier, where we’ve exhausted all the possibilities and we’re actually listening to the Iraqis, we actually are in the ministries that we need to be in, listening to who is in charge of those ministries, and we’re doing the kinds of things that are necessary to be done to leave at least something that’s very different and not inimical to our interests in Baghdad, in Iraq in general, as we do leave – leave over the next five to eight years. Now, that’s a fairly long timeframe. And I admire the president...for sticking to that sort of a timeframe and that sort of an attitude about the whole Iraq problem.
Iraq is not Vietnam...
There are a number of reasons why I believe that this is strategic in a sense that Vietnam was not. Vietnam was a misinterpretation, in my view, of a Cold War side battle that really wasn’t a Cold War side battle except in a superficial aspect. It really was a civil war. And the French misinterpreted, because of their colonial remnants, and we misinterpreted it because of our fixation on the Cold War, although I have some very provocative opinions about what we could have done in Vietnam if we’d stuck it out too. Nonetheless, Vietnam was not something that when we left, however with honor or without, we were going to have to revisit 10 years later because it was so strategic. I think Iraq is.
Lawrence Wilkerson made a great many other points, as well. Some unsuprising (insufficient pre-war planning); some a bit suprising (changing course in Iraq? Wilkerson argues we've made changes too fast). His point about the centralization of communication and power is worth serious consideration, but it's not a problem that politicians of either party have ever been keen on solving at any level of government.
Ultimately, minority Parties are always a little bit libertarian, if only to restrict the power of the majority party; majority Parties are always anti-libertarian, if only because, hey cool, power!
In President Bush’s first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security - including vital decisions about postwar Iraq - were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Given the incredible bullshit we’ve had to endure from CIA and State playing games, it’s no real shock, is it?
It’s getting to the point that incoming Presidents have to fire absolutely everyone in these 2 depts. the day they take office. And believe me, for the job they’ve been doing it’s not like we’d miss them
I second what Shark says. The infrastructure in State and particularly CIA were insanely inept throughout the cold war and riddled with soviet spies. The diplomats seem to never remember that they are working in the interests of the USA. They often become spokesmen for the nations they are supposed to be studying.
They often become spokesmen for the nations they are supposed to be studying.
I heard an anecdote about George Schultz during his tenure as Secretary of State. Schultz would talk with a staff member and finish his talk by hauling out a globe and asking, "Now, show me your country." The staffers would routinely point to whatever nation they were assigned to. Schultz would then say, "No. YOUR country is here," pointing to the US.
The CIA did not predict the Indian nuclear bomb. They missed it. So they don’t always error on the side of caution. What if they cleared Iraq in 2001 as most likely "clean", but they actually did have WMD’s? Shudder.
In analyzing risk, you MUST consider the potential consequences. Like in poker, you might stay in with a mediocre hand if the bet is small and the pot is large, this is the reverse for WMD’s. The small chance that Saddam has them and would transfer them to al Qaeda for a spectactular 9/11 type attack must be weighed against the cost of such an attack.
and of course he would go right back to his programs once he was cleared. Not to mention, if he was whacked or died, there might have been a civil war much more bloody than we are seeing now, and likely not to result in some democratic state.
This is not some simple decision the anti-war crowd makes it out to be.