I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Determined to be wrong

By Hume's Ghost

Today's Washington Post has an article about ex-CIA officer Tyler Drumheller's claims that his warnings that Iraq intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq was flawed were ignored. The story begins

In late January 2003, as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to argue the Bush administration's case against Iraq at the United Nations, veteran CIA officer Tyler Drumheller sat down with a classified draft of Powell's speech to look for errors. He found a whopper: a claim about mobile biological labs built by Iraq for germ warfare.

Drumheller instantly recognized the source, an Iraqi defector suspected of being mentally unstable and a liar. The CIA officer took his pen, he recounted in an interview, and crossed out the whole paragraph.

A few days later, the lines were back in the speech. Powell stood before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 and said: "We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails."
And the rest of the piece goes on to explain the problems that Drumheller had with the intelligence and his inability to make any impact on the use of these claims. It ends by noting that seven months after Colin Powell's U.N. speech, for which Powell had been told by CIA Director George Tenet that the mobile labs claims were solidly backed, Tenet called Powell to let him know that the intelligence used to make the claims was not credible.

This seems to be a recurring theme for this administration. It just doesn't seem to hear objections until it's too late. It has an uncanny ability to not hear information that discredits its beliefs. The intelligence used to back the mobile biological labs claims came from Curveball, an Iraqi informant housed in Germany, with German intelligence acting as a middle man for the United States. There were widespread doubts about Curveball's credibility, and he has been discredited as a fabricator, but again, the administration conveniently managed to not find out about that until after the invasion had occurred.

On May 29, 2003, President Bush declared that US and Kurdish forces had discovered the mobile biological labs. For the next year and a half, administration officials continued to cite the discovery of these labs as proof of Saddam's WMDs and justification for the invasion. But, alas, in September 2004, the Iraq Survey Group investigated and concluded that labs were used to generate hydrogen to be used in weather balloons.

Yet, on May 27, 2003, two days before President Bush's announcement, a team of technical experts which had been sent by the Pentagon to investigate the labs after two military teams of weapons experts identified the labs as mobile weapons units (based off of the descriptions of Curveball), had issued a report which concluded unequivocally that the labs could not be used to produce biological weapons. The team made this conclusion within four hours of investigating.

When the team came back to the US, they were asked to revise their (correct) conclusion to "soften" it to allow for the possibility that the trailers could be used for producing biological weapons. The team refused and stood by their conclusion, at which point the report was classified and shelved. Amazingly, once again the administration managed not to hear information that conflicted with claims it used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

This is but one example. Take the time to look through the intelligence claims used to justify the war and what emerges is a systematic intent to not consider information that might say something the administration did not want to hear.

But this is part of an even larger pattern of not being able to confront reality which conflicts with its political ideology. This is why it might be the most anti-scientific administration is US history, since science is the best method that humanity has to investigate and determine objective truth. But wishful thinking does not change inconvenient truths, and eventually reality must be confronted. A point summed poignantly in this eSkeptic from Oct. 10, 2004

The troubles in Iraq are not so much proof of the failure of the neocon vision for democratizing the Middle East, as they are a reminder of the disastrous consequences of removing empiricism from deliberation. All the problems that have popped up in Iraq were predicted long ago—from troop strength to the resilience of the insurgents—and available to anyone who cared to look. The administration not only chose to look away but actively swept them under the rug. When CIA war games were discovered to be training personnel to deal with the eventuality of civil disorder after the fall of Baghdad, The Atlantic Monthly reported the Pentagon forbad representatives from the Defense Department from participating because “detailed thought about the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems.” Our refusal to face reality hasn’t been giving democracy much of a chance.

“Being steadfast in defense of carefully considered convictions is a virtue,” George Will wrote recently. “Being blankly incapable of distinguishing cherished hopes from disappointing facts, or of reassessing comforting doctrines in face of contrary evidence, is a crippling political vice.” Bush has finally met his match. The Universe is the one foe more steadfast than he is. It cannot be bullied or intimidated. The laws of physics know no compromise. This is a game of chicken Bush will lose. If he doesn’t take his foot off the accelerator, then the only question is: how will we recover from the crash?

My Ecosystem Details