Chalabigate: Chalabi’s defenders in the Office of Special Plans

Chalabigate: Chalabi’s defenders in the Office of Special Plans
as revealed by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation (7/7/03), and now defended by neocon Michael Rubin in the National Review
[Update, June 2, 2004. I still consider the revelations by Robert Dreyfuss about the Pentagon Office of Special Plans (OSP), discussed in this essay, to be of great importance. This is even clearer a year later, after Chalabi has been dropped by the Pentagon and accused of betraying US secrets. At the same time, in the spirit of seeking truth, I wish to direct interested readers to a rebuttal essay by neocon Michael Rubin that appeared in The National Review, 5/18/04.

Michael Rubin is not disinterested. He is a neocon who for a while worked at the OSP before returning to neocon HQ at the American Enterprise Institute. One week after his New Republic article he was accused by the important Tompaine website of being under FBI investigation for having passed classified info to Chalabi. (Today’s New York Times [6/2/02], reporting on page 1 about this FBI investigation, makes it appear that “So far, no one has been accused of any wrongdoing.”)

The revelations about Chalabi, together with the revelations about torture, are so serious as to face the Bush Administration with an imminent Chalabigate or Torturegate, in which we may expect a torrent of leaks from different viewpoints. I would not be surprised to see disinformation as well as information spread by both sides in the current dogfight over Chalabi.

Neocons are not easily summarized. Some are disinformation veterans, like Michael Ledeen who championed the arms-dealer Ghorbanifar of Iran-Contra n the 1980s as eagerly as he has championed Chalabi recently. Michael Rubin, in contrast, is intelligent and unpredictable.

Although Rubin is a determined supporter of the war, he has also published a number of articles, all of them interesting, attacking Bremer for not pushing the cause of Iraqification. Most recently, in the New Republic, June 7, 2004, he argues that “Washington must not only give Iraqis power; it must give them the resources to utilize that power, even if it disagrees with some of the choices Baghdad makes. The White House plans to hand control of ministries to Iraqis, but it must also allow Iraqis, and not American “technical advisers,” to control the ministries’ budgets.”

In an earlier article, in National Review Online, 5/21/04, he wrote that “In August [2003], Chalabi told Bremer that he risked losing Iraqis’ goodwill if he continued to oppose sovereignty. Bremer was furious. When George Stephanopoulos confronted Bremer during a television interview with a Chalabi quote on sovereignty, Bremer lost his temper. He telephoned his deputy, Clay McManaway, in Baghdad. McManaway summoned Chalabi and, in front of junior American staff, proceeded to dress him down, concluding, `You are over.'”

To repeat, I believe that the Dreyfuss essay discussed below is an important contribution to a rapidly developing Chalabigate. But for those interested in the truth I recommend continuing to read Michael Rubin as well.]

* * * * Original article (6/24/03) begins.

Bush’s Misguided Post-War Military Policy in Iraq Based on Falsification of Evidence

I wish to refer readers to the important article More Missing Intelligence, by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation (7/7/03). I have published his opening paragraphs at the end of this essay, in the earnest hopes that readers will go there to read the rest.

This story is important because of its implications for current US policy in Iraq. As I have just written in my recent story for Pacific News Service, this policy is relying dangerously on military sweeps and aerial attacks which are certain to alienate further an already restive population. Dreyfuss makes it clear that serious warnings of Iraqi displeasure at a US occupation were ignored by Rumsfeld, in favor of worthless assurances that the US would be welcomed with open arms. These assurances came chiefly from the discredited Ahmad Chalabi, the darling of the neocons and the oil companies.

Such wishful thinking has obscured the need to stop pressing the US military and privatization agendas for Iraq, and work instead to establish an Iraqi body to which power can be progressively transferred. As the Nation has written in an editorial, “The Administration should heed Adnan Pachachi, the Iraqi elder statesman and ambassador to the United Nations in the 1960s, who recently urged US proconsul Paul Bremer to allow Iraqis to start forming an interim government.”

In addition, as I wrote in my Pacific News Service story, Pachachi has also “called for a suspension of U.S. sweeps and other offensive operations until an Iraqi government has been formed.” According to Reuters (6/25/03), “Many Iraqis, pleased to see the end of Saddam, had warned that attacks against occupation forces would pick up if the U.S.-led administration in the country did not move quickly to hand power back to Iraqis and restore the infrastructure.

Furthermore President Musharraf has told the Washington Post (6/25/03) that, while agreeing “in principle” to send two brigades to police Iraq, he also “urged President Bush in their talks on Tuesday to establish an Iraqi government as quickly as possible.”

The Nation has linked its cogent editorial advice to the politically titillating issues of whether Bush lied on Iraq’s WMD, and if so whether he should be impeached. I regret this. To save further lives, American, British and Iraqi, we urgently need a redirection of US policy from military to the political objectives that were originally envisioned. We are more likely to get this redirection if we push for a Iraq policy debate that is free of partisan motives. And we need it soon.

The security situation has been deteriorating significantly in June, with increased attacks against both occupying forces and oil pipelines. On June 24 six British troops were killed in Majar Al-Kabir, a town in southern Iraq. This was the first such post-war attack in a Shiite area, and the bloodiest since 7 US troops were killed at Nassiriya on March 23.

Echoing the British Ministry of Defence, the New York Times (6/24/03) called this an “ambush … on military police officers on a mission to train Iraqi officers.” On 6/25/03 the USG Radio RFE/RL, repeating that “the six were killed while training Iraqi police,” asked “whether the resistance is centrally organized by remnants of Hussein’s regime.”

But on the same day the BBC (6/25/03) revealed that the incident, like the bloody events in Fallujah some weeks ago, was the response of an angry Shiite crowd to a local military sweep in which four Iraqis were killed:

`The incident appears to have happened when the six British military policemen were attempting to search homes in the town for heavy weapons on Tuesday.

`The BBC’s Clive Myrie, who has been to the town, said tensions had been running high over the way house searches had been carried out.

`Salah Mohammed, a local community leader appointed by British soldiers, told the BBC troops had begun to ignore a written agreement, signed by both sides, that they would give adequate notice before they searched people’s homes for illegal weapons….

`But Mr Mohammed said hundreds of people angered by the searches followed the soldiers to a market place….

`The military police were then forced to retreat to the abandoned police station before the angry crowd stormed the building.’

The fatal assumption here is that military sweeps of this nature can increase security, rather than alienating the civilian population more and more. It is as if America has learned nothing from its experience in Vietnam except how to reduce its own casualties in combat. Hence the importance of the original misinformation supplied by Chalabi and Rumsfeld. The hearts of the Iraqi people must be won over, not taken for granted. If the US does not recognize this and change from military to political priorities, one can predict that casualties will increase.

One can predict further that, if they continue to increase in the Shiite south, we will hear more and more talk from Bremer and Rumsfeld blaming Iran. This could be another analogy with Vietnam: that America, faced with an unwinnable situation within the country, would compel itself by its own rhetoric into a still wider war.

The paragraphs which follow are from Robert Dreyfuss’ important article:

`As the Pentagon scours Iraq for weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to Al Qaeda, it’s increasingly obvious that the Bush Administration either distorted or deliberately exaggerated the intelligence used to justify the war against Iraq. But an even bigger intelligence scandal is waiting in the wings: the fact that members of the Administration failed to produce an intelligence evaluation of what Iraq might look like after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Instead, they ignored fears expressed by analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department who predicted that postwar Iraq would be chaotic, violent and ungovernable, and that Iraqis would greet the occupying armies with firearms, not flowers.

`Not surprisingly, perhaps, it turns out that the same people are responsible for both. According to current and former US intelligence analysts and government officials, the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans funneled information, unchallenged, from Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who in turn passed it on to the White House, suggesting that Iraqis would welcome the American invaders. The Office of Special Plans is led by Abram Shulsky, a hawkish neoconservative ideologue who got his start in politics working alongside Elliott Abrams in Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s office in the 1970s. It was set up in fall 2001 as a two-man shop, but it burgeoned into an eighteen-member nerve center of the Pentagon’s effort to distort intelligence about Iraq’s WMDs and terrorist connections. A great deal of the bad information produced by Shulsky’s office, which found its way into speeches by Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, came from Chalabi’s INC. Since the INC itself was sustained by its neocon allies in Washington, including the shadow “Central Command” at the American Enterprise Institute, it stands as perhaps the ultimate example of circular reasoning.

`”The same unit [the Office of Special Plans] that fed Chalabi’s intelligence on WMD to Rumsfeld was also feeding him Chalabi’s stuff on the prospects for postwar Iraq,” said a leading US government expert on the Middle East. Says a former US ambassador with strong links to the CIA: “There was certainly information coming from the Iraqi exile community, including Chalabi–who was detested by the CIA and by the State Department–saying, ‘They will welcome you with open arms.'” Rumsfeld’s willingness to accept that view led him to contradict the Chief of Staff of the US Army, who predicted that it would take hundreds of thousands of troops to control Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, a view that seems prescient today.

`According to the former official, also feeding information to the Office of Special Plans was a secret, rump unit established last year in the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. This unit, which paralleled Shulsky’s–and which has not previously been reported–prepared intelligence reports on Iraq in English (not Hebrew) and forwarded them to the Office of Special Plans. It was created in Sharon’s office, not inside Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, because the Mossad–which prides itself on extreme professionalism–had views closer to the CIA’s, not the Pentagon’s, on Iraq. This secretive unit, and not the Mossad, may well have been the source of the forged documents purporting to show that Iraq tried to purchase yellowcake uranium for weapons from Niger in West Africa, according to the former official.

`The catastrophic result of the belief that it would be easy to pacify postwar Iraq and to create a quisling government in Baghdad, a view that was codified as dogma by the White House, is unfolding daily in Iraq. The country is engulfed in economic and political chaos, armed resistance is growing among the Sunni Muslims in central Iraq, and the powerful and largely hostile Shiite clergy in the south has barely begun to flex its muscles. Not only that, but Iraq watchers report that former Baath Party members are coalescing into nascent political formations, leading armed resistance to the occupation, and that they could emerge as either a strong political party or an underground terrorist group.’