Future commencement speech invitations for Beltway media eminence grise Bob Woodward effectively evaporated, at least in the Northeast, after his appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday.
Woodward, who’ll be known in perpetuity as the stable half of the reporting duo who brought down Richard Nixon for a scandal that now appears paltry compared to the vast money-laundering scheme dignified under lofty title of Clinton Global Foundation, admirably did his part to puncture a sacred liberal myth — that Bush lied and people died. As Woodward sees it, only the latter half of that equation is correct.
No matter, liberals will keep muttering it, usually when they’re awake, since clinging to their delusions is essential for maintaining what passes for sanity among them —
HOST CHRIS WALLACE: I want to turn to a different subject in the time we have left and that is the politics of Iraq which has gotten a lot of attention in the last couple of weeks with Jeb Bush, with Marco Rubio and with a bunch of other people and these questions of was it was a mistake to go in in 2003, was it a mistake to get out in 2011, and what impact this could have both in the Republican race and also the Democratic race. …
WOODWARD: Iraq is a symbol and you certainly can make a persuasive argument it was a mistake but there’s a kind of line going along that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq and lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet, the CIA director, don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD and he (Bush) was the one who was skeptical. And if you tried to summarize why we went into Iraq, it was momentum. The war plan kept getting better and easier and finally at that end people were saying, hey look, it’ll only take a week or two and early on it looked like it was going to take a year or 18 months and so Bush pulled the trigger.
A mistake, certainly, can be argued and there’s an abundance of evidence but there was no lie in this that I could find.
WALLACE: And what about 2011 and Obama’s decision to pull all the troops out? There had been a status of forces agreement between Bush and the Iraqi government that provided for a follow-on force. The Pentagon was talking about somewhere between 10- and 20,000 (troops) and a lot of people think, although Obama says, well we tried to negotiate and we didn’t, a lot of people think he really didn’t want to keep any troops there.
WOODWARD: Well, I think he didn’t. Look, Obama does not like war, but as you look back on this the argument from the military was, let’s keep 10-, 15,000 troops there as an insurance policy and we all know insurance policies make sense. We have 30,000 troops or more in South Korea still 65 years or so after the war. When you’re superpower, you have to buy these insurance policies and he didn’t in this case. I don’t think you can say everything is because of that decision but clearly a factor.
Obama will never admit it, but he knows he was wrong to abandon Iraq in 2011 for the sole purpose of potentially embarrassing Bush by saddling him with its loss. He’s tacitly acknowledged this by delaying the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which Obama in 2008 deemed the good war to Bush’s doomed misadventure in Iraq.
What should haunt Obama now as a result of his callow folly is the specter of Baghdad going the way of Saigon in the spring of 1975, as vividly depicted in Rory Kennedy’s most recent documentary, Last Days in Vietnam. Should this come to pass and the death toll rises to the point where genocide and not mass killings is invoked to describe the scale of slaughter, fellow Democrats will agree with Obama that this too is Bush’s fault. But which is preferable — Iraq as it is ripped asunder after six years of Obama’s quixotic foreign policy, or its stability and prospects when Bush left office in 2009?
The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.
The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The effort was run out of the C.I.A. station in Baghdad in collaboration with the Army’s 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion and teams of chemical-defense and explosive ordnance disposal troops, officials and veterans of the units said. Many rockets were in poor condition and some were empty or held a nonlethal liquid, the officials said. But others contained the nerve agent sarin, which analysis showed to be purer than the intelligence community had expected given the age of the stock.
A New York Times investigation published in October found that the military had recovered thousands of old chemical warheads and shells inIraq and that Americans and Iraqis had been wounded by them, but the government kept much of this information secret, from the public and troops alike.
These munitions were remnants of an Iraqi special weapons program that was abandoned long before the 2003 invasion, and they turned up sporadically during the American occupation in buried caches, as part of improvised bombs or on black markets.
The potency of sarin samples from the purchases, as well as tightly held assessments about risks the munitions posed, buttresses veterans’ claims that during the war the military did not share important intelligence about battlefield perils with those at risk or maintain an adequate medical system for treating victims of chemical exposure.
The purchases were made from a sole Iraqi source who was eager to sell his stock, officials said. The amount of money that the United States paid for the rockets is not publicly known, and neither are the affiliations of the seller.
Most of the officials and veterans who spoke about the program did so anonymously because, they said, the details remain classified. The C.I.A. declined to comment. The Pentagon, citing continuing secrecy about the effort, did not answer written questions and acknowledged its role only obliquely.
“Without speaking to any specific programs, it is fair to say that together with our coalition partners in Iraq, the U.S. military worked diligently to find and remove weapons that could be used against our troops and the Iraqi people,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a written statement.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Richard P. Zahner, the top American military intelligence officer in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, said he did not know of any other intelligence program as successful in reducing the chemical weapons that remained in Iraq after the American-led invasion.
Through the C.I.A.’s purchases, General Zahner said, hundreds of weapons with potential use for terrorists were quietly taken off the market. “This was a timely and effective initiative by our national intelligence partners that negated the use of these unique munitions,” he said.
Not long after Operation Avarice had secured its 400th rocket, in 2006, American troops were exposed several times to other chemical weapons. Many of these veterans said that they had not been warned by their units about the risks posed by the chemical weapons and that their medical care and follow-up were substandard, in part because military doctors seemed unaware that chemical munitions remained in Iraq.
Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the belated acknowledgment of a chemical-rocket purchases, as well as the potentially worrisome laboratory analysis of the related sarin samples, raised questions about the military’s commitment to the well-being of those it sent to war.
“If we were aware of these compounds, and as it became clear over the course of the war that our troops had been exposed to them, why wasn’t more done to protect the guys on the ground?” he said. “It speaks to the broader failure.”
The first purchase under Operation Avarice, according to veterans and officials familiar with the effort, occurred in early September 2005, when an Iraqi man provided a single Borak. The warhead presented intelligence analysts with fresh insight into a longstanding mystery.
During its war against Iran in the 1980s, Iraq had fielded multiple variants of 122-millimeter rockets designed to disperse nerve agents.
The Borak warheads, which are roughly 40 inches long and attach to a motor compatible with the common Grad multiple rocket launcher system, were domestically produced. But no clear picture ever emerged of how many Iraq manufactured or how many it fired during the Iran-Iraq war.
No clear evidence ever surfaced to support Iraq’s claim, which meant that questions about whether Boraks remained were “carried forward as one of the big uncertainties,” said Charles A. Duelfer, a senior United Nationsinspector at the time who later led the C.I.A.’s Iraq Survey Group. There was “a big gap in the information,” he said.
The mystery deepened in 2004 and early 2005, when the United States recovered 17 Boraks. The circumstances of those recoveries are not publicly known. Then came Operation Avarice and its promise of a larger haul. It began when the Iraqi seller delivered his first Borak, which the military secretly flew to the United States for examination.
The Iraqi seller would then periodically notify the C.I.A. in Baghdad that he had more for sale, officials said.
The agency worked with the Army intelligence battalion and chemical weapons specialists, who would fly by helicopter to Iraq’s southeast and meet the man for exchanges.
The handoffs varied in size, including one of more than 150 warheads. American ordnance disposal technicians promptly destroyed most of them by detonation, the officials said, but some were taken to Camp Slayer, by Baghdad’s airport, for further testing.
One veteran familiar with the program said warheads were tested by putting them in “an old cast-iron bathtub” and drilling through their metal exteriors to extract the liquid sarin within.
The analysis of sarin samples from 2005 found that the purity level reached 13 percent — higher than expected given the relatively low quality and instability of Iraq’s sarin production in the 1980s, officials said. Samples from Boraks recovered in 2004 had contained concentrations no higher than 4 percent.
The new data became grounds for concern. “Borak rockets will be more hazardous than previously assessed,” one internal report noted. It added a warning: the use of a Borak in an improvised bomb “could effectively disperse the sarin nerve agent.”
An internal record from 2006 referred to “agent purity of up to 25 percent for recovered unitary sarin weapons.”
Cheryl Rofer, a retired chemist for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said such purity levels were plausible, because Iraq’s sarin batches varied in quality and the contents of warheads may have achieved an equilibrium as the contents degraded.
Military officials said that because the seller was a C.I.A. source they did not know his name or whether he was a smuggler, a former or current Iraqi official, a front for Iraq’s government, or something else. But as he continued to provide rockets, his activities drew more interest.
The Americans believed the weapons came from near Amarah, a city not far from Iran. It was not clear, however, if rockets had been retrieved from a former forward firing point used by Iraq’s military during the Iran-Iraq War, or from one of the ammunition depots around the city.
Neither the C.I.A. nor the soldiers persuaded the man to reveal his source of supply, the officials said. “They were pushing to see where did it originate from, was there a mother lode?” General Zahner said.
Eventually, a veteran familiar with the purchases said, “the guy was getting a little cocky.”
At least once he scammed his handlers, selling rockets filled with something other than sarin.
Then in 2006, the veteran said, the Iraqi drove a truckload of warheads to Baghdad and “called the intel guys to tell them he was going to turn them over to the insurgents unless they picked them up.”
Not long after that, the veteran said, the relationship appeared to dry up, ending purchases that had ensured “a lot of chemical weapons were destroyed.”
After threats of war, warning diplomats to evacuate the area, and now declaring Nuclear War is unavoidable, what is an appropriate response to North Korea? This is, unfortunately, a silly question by any of us outside the global intelligence field. We are not privy to most of the pertinent information. And even if we were keeping close tabs on the news reports about Kim Jong-un, we would still be poorly informed of the particulars and still unqualified to make judgements about the situation. But that never seems to stop anyone else from commenting.
It may be standard diplomatic protocol to apply international pressure on North Korea, as the United States and China are doing. The two nations have agreed to push for the “peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” even if this is likely to have little if any positive impact on the situation. There is reason to question what qualifications Kim Jong-un has to lead a country. He is quite young, and has little experience in such matters. His boisterous threats of late are not what one should expect from a wise and seasoned leader. So the question is, are his threats merely empty rhetoric, or is he inexperienced and foolish enough to actually follow through?
Responsible leaders around the world should be acting as though North Korea intends on doing exactly as they have threatened. Formal diplomatic relations can sugar coat the situation and provide cover for military preparations. One concern some have is that diplomacy has a tendency to merely delay the inevitable, giving time for war mongers to build up forces, while peace lovers do nothing but talk (because preparing for military conflict would be seen as “provocative”). While fools may not be able to distinguish between war mongers and wise nations preparing to defend themselves against war mongers, we find ourselves in a situation with similar circumstances as one merely a generation ago.
Iraq’s Saddam Hussein made threats and actually invaded neighbors. The United Nations was called in to defend the invaded countries. The UN mandate was not to defeat Hussein, but merely to drive his forces out of the lands he invaded. Iraq refused to follow subsequent UN edicts and diplomatic efforts proved useless in the effort to contain Hussein. When Hussein failed to comply with UN sanctions, eventually then President Bush saw fit to finally deal with him. But suddenly, the vast array of intelligence and common knowledge about the threat posed by Iraq were no where to be found. We forgot about Hussein’s use of chemical weapons (weapons of mass destruction) against his own people and decided he never possessed WMDs in the first place. We forgot about previous administrations criticizing Republicans for “ignoring Iraq’s ties to terrorism“. The theory that Iraq’s WMDs were moved to Syria was dismissed (though new evidence once again supporting the theory has been found – apparently merely deciding a theory is debunked isn’t the same as actually debunking it). The immense collection of intelligence showing Iraq should be dealt with as a serious threat was forgotten. And dealing with Iraq and its terrorist allies was decried as an unnecessary war.
If efforts, both diplomatic and military, to deal with North Korea result in merely delaying all out war until the next president, and if that president happens to be a Republican, will we forget the threat we now acknowledge North Korea poses to the world? Will we call that conflict unnecessary? Or worse, will treating Kim Jong-un like a dumb kid actually encourage him to unleash nuclear war, just as he said he would?
diplomacy, foreign affairs, history, iraq, politics, saddam hussein, terrorism, war
On April Fools day, the Christian Science monitor published a serious piece by Howard LaFranchi on the Obama Administration’s diplomatic approach to recent North Korean rhetoric. The point of the story is essentially that the US is showing strength to the international community by not saying much. LaFranchi points out that American military exercises with South Korea continue despite Kim Jong-un’s provocative statements, and that “nuclear-capable B-52s in US-South Korea military exercises and a reinforcing of missile defense batteries in Alaska” are American actions made as a reminder to North Korea that the US does have the military might to defend itself against the sensational attacks North Korea has threatened. And I point out this is exactly the sort of thing the Obama Administration should be doing. The last thing the international community should be doing is placating a bully like Kim Jong-un.
However, there is no reason to believe these actions would be interpreted as “showing strength” were they done by the previous US president George W. Bush. Since Bush is still being blamed for problems in the United States, even four years after leaving office, and reporters find it worth their time to do stories on this fact, there should be no problem in comparing this contemporary situation to a Bush scenario.
While in office, Bush’s approach to diplomacy was largely characterized with derogatory terms like “cowboy” and “unilateral” and such. Criticisms like this, and worse, were intended to portray Bush as simple-minded, unprepared, a bully president, who didn’t understand how diplomacy is supposed to work. Were president Bush to respond to North Korea the way president Obama is now, it is far more likely the actions taken would not be spoken of in terms of “showing strength” but instead criticized as foolishly and needlessly escalating a potentially tense situation.
But the reality is, Obama’s actions are the right thing to do and they are escalating a potentially tense situation. The American response to North Korea is provocative. It is also necessary. But where Bush’s actions against Iraq were both provocative and necessary, we instead got nearly 8 years of criticism, selective history, and outright distortion of the facts by his critics to make the case that military action against Iraq and against terrorism were unnecessary. Lies and misrepresentations about Bush and his administration’s arguments were turned into relentless accusations that it was Bush and his administration who lied.
November 2: This post was moved to the top for the remainder of the business day to show that full sourcing of claims made has been done, and because I’m sick and bleeping tired of the absurdity of the “no WMD” argument, the failure of the Mainstream Media to read their own news reports over the past two-plus years our forces have been in Iraq (and the 7-plus years since The Clinton Administration made the same WMD claims–See Updates 4 and 5 below), and the failure of this administration and the congressional majority to defend itself on the topic.
I really don’t like to repeat posts after 5 days, but the Democrat leadership’s temporary hijacking of The United States Senate, unprecedented in my memory of at least in my 35 or so years of following the news, makes it necessary.
The “No WMD” Lie
Did you know this? From Atlas Shrugs (scroll to end of post), based on member-only information at Human Events Online (external links added in response to Comment 1 below):
This is only a PARTIAL LIST of the horrific weapons verified to have been recovered in Iraq to date. Yet, Americans overwhelmingly believe U.S. and coalition forces found NO weapons of mass destruction.
The question is… WHY do they believe this (“No WMD”) lie?
Hmm. Maybe The New York Times should be nominating Judith Miller for a Pulitzer instead of considering firing her.
His and his administration’s whoppers are super-sized, yet the press still focuses on Bush.
If you look at what the Left continues to insist are Bush’s five biggest “lies,” you’ll realize that he and his administration never even got to Step 1, let alone the rest of the Three Steps of Super-Sized Lying:
Most crucially, there is the assertion that there were weapons of mass destruction in pre-war Iraq. Critically, the Left’s claim has been and still is that “there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” Please note that the critics’ claim was not “no stockpiles,” “no large caches,” or “only a few.” Their claim, frequently stated to great applause, was that there were none, with no exceptions, no qualifications, and no redefinitions. But the truth is that there were WMDs in Iraq … (This brief pause has been provided so lefties can pick their brainwashed jaws off the floor.) … Heck, I knew that in 2005. Later evidence proved that WMDs were really, officially there. What’s more, in November 2006, aNew York Times article acknowledged the existence of a report showing that “[Saddam] Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.” As Ed Morrissey described it at the time, “Saddam [was] far ahead of Iran in the nuclear pursuit, … [making] it much more urgent to take some definitive action against Saddam before he could build and deploy it.” Oh, and I almost forgot about the 550 metric tons of yellowcake uranium found in Iraq after Saddam was overthrown, specifically “the stuff that can be refined into nuclear weapons or nuclear fuel.” History will have to tell us why the hapless Bush crew didn’t defend itself against the Left’s long-since-refuted lie.
The supposedly infamous “sixteen words” (“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”) that made Joe Wilson a temporary media darling were and still are not only true, but doubly so.
Saddam stockpiled weapons in Prague for a terror strike on Radio Free Europe headquarters.
Czech officials confirmed on Sunday that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons, including Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers, for a terrorist attack on the Radio Free Europe Headquarters in Prague in 2003.
CNN admits that knowledge of murder, torture, and planned assassinations were suppressed in order to maintain CNN’s Baghdad bureau.
In a shocking New York Times opinion piece, CNN’s chief news executive Eason Jordan has admitted that for the past decade the network has systematically covered up stories of Iraqi atrocities. Reports of murder, torture, and planned assassinations were suppressed in order to maintain CNN’s Baghdad bureau.