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April 28, 2004
 
The New York Times > Washington > How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence
The New York Times > Washington > How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence: "April 28, 2004
How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence
By JAMES RISEN

WASHINGTON, April 27 — Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, a two-man intelligence team set up shop in a windowless, cipher-locked room at the Pentagon, searching for evidence of links between terrorist groups and host countries.

The men culled classified material, much of it uncorroborated data from the C.I.A. "We discovered tons of raw intelligence," said Michael Maloof, one of the pair. "We were stunned that we couldn't find any mention of it in the C.I.A.'s finished reports."

They recorded and annotated their evidence on butcher paper hung like a mural around their small office. By the end of the year, as the rubble was being cleared from the World Trade Center and United States forces were fighting in Afghanistan, the men had constructed a startling new picture of global terrorism.

Old ethnic, religious and political divides between terrorist groups were breaking down, the two men warned, posing an ominous new threat. They saw alliances among a wide range of Islamic terrorists, and theorized about a convergence of Sunni and Shiite extremist groups and secular Arab governments. Their conclusions, delivered to senior Bush administration officials, connected Iraq and Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

In doing so, the team also helped set off a controversy over the shaping of intelligence that continues today.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is investigating whether the unit — named the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group by its creator, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy — exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify the war.

The C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies found little evidence to support the Pentagon's view of an increasingly unified terrorist threat or links between Mr. Hussein and Mr. bin Laden, and still largely dismiss those ideas. Foreign Islamic fighters have sought haven in Iraq since the American-led invasion and some Sunnis and Shiites have banded together against the occupiers, but the agencies say that is the result of anger and chaotic conditions, not proof of prewar alliances.

And with criticism mounting in recent weeks as the conflict has become more bloody, President Bush has found himself forced to defend once more how the war on terror led to Baghdad.

Some critics argue that some of the first steps were taken by Mr. Feith's little intelligence shop. Whether its findings influenced the thinking of policy makers or merely provided talking points that buttressed long-held views, the unit played a role in the administration's evolving effort to define the threat of Iraq — and sell it to the public.

Unable to reach a consensus on Iraq's terrorist ties because of the skepticism of the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Bush administration turned its focus to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as the central rationale for war. Mr. Feith said his team was not involved in the analysis of those weapons.

But, he said in an interview, terrorism and Iraq's weapons became linked in the minds of top Bush administration officials. After Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed it, he said, the administration "focused on the danger that Iraq could provide the fruits of its W.M.D. programs to terrorists."

The president, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, alluded to connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda in their public statements. Mr. Bush also frequently warned of the risks that Mr. Hussein would share his weapons with terrorists.

"The worst thing that could happen would be to allow a nation like Iraq, run by Saddam Hussein, to develop weapons of mass destruction and then team up with a terrorist organization so they can blackmail the world," Mr. Bush said in an interview in April 2002.

The failure to find such weapons in Iraq has prompted a series of investigations into prewar intelligence. The Senate committee plans to complete its review, including its examination of the Feith group, in the next few months. The unit has often been confused with another Feith operation, called the Office of Special Plans, which Pentagon officials say was involved in prewar planning but not intelligence analysis.

Some intelligence experts charge that the unit had a secret agenda to justify a war with Iraq and was staffed with people who were handpicked by conservative Pentagon policy makers to arrive at preordained conclusions about Iraq and Al Qaeda.

"I don't have any problem with them bringing in a couple of people to take another look at the intelligence and challenge the assessments," said Patrick Lang, a former Middle East analyst for the D.I.A. "But the problem is that they brought in people who were not intelligence professionals, people brought in because they thought like them. They knew what answers they were going to get."

Mr. Feith defends his analysts. "I would be happy to have anybody come in and examine the quality of the work, whether it is supported by the data, whether it is logical, whether it is well-reasoned," he said.

He added: "There are real policy issues in this town that are worth fighting and debating. Some of them involve peace and war."

Mr. Feith created his team a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks to study links between terrorist groups and potential state sponsors around the world. Mr. Maloof and his colleague, David Wurmser began work in October 2001 in a 15-by-15-foot space on the third floor of the Pentagon. The pair spent their days reading raw intelligence reports, many from the Central Intelligence Agency, in the Pentagon's classified computer system.

"We began to pull together a mosaic," Mr. Maloof said.

Mr. Feith said his group was not set up as a rival to the C.I.A. "This is what policy people do all the time, they read the existing intelligence," he said. "We were not bypassing, we were not being secretive, we were not cutting the intel community out of this."

Resistance From Within

But the effort immediately aroused suspicions at the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. Mr. Feith and his two analysts were closely linked to Richard N. Perle, then chairman of a Pentagon advisory group and a leading neoconservative who had long advocated toppling Mr. Hussein and was a vocal critic of the C.I.A.

"I think the people working on the Persian Gulf at the C.I.A. are pathetic," Mr. Perle said in an interview. "They have just made too many mistakes. They have a record over 30 years of being wrong." He added that the agency "became wedded to a theory," that did not leave room for the possibility that Iraq was working with Al Qaeda, and that "they went to battle stations every time someone pointed to contrary evidence."

When Mr. Perle was a top defense official in the Reagan administration, Mr. Maloof, a former journalist, worked as his investigator, assembling evidence that the Soviet Union was stealing Western technology. Mr. Wurmser, a Middle East expert who had written a book that attacked the Clinton administration and the C.I.A. for their handling of Iraq in the 1990's, had worked at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank where Mr. Perle was a resident scholar. Mr. Feith had been Mr. Perle's deputy at the Pentagon. And while they were all out of government, Mr. Wurmser, Mr. Feith and Mr. Perle had signed a 1996 paper calling for the overthrow of Mr. Hussein to enhance Israel's security.

Despite their access to the Pentagon leadership, Mr. Maloof and Mr. Wurmser faced resistance from the C.I.A. and D.I.A.

They were initially denied access, for example, to the most highly classified documents in the Pentagon computer system. So Mr. Maloof returned regularly to his previous office in the Department of Defense, where he still could get the material. "We scoured what we could get up to the secret level, but we kept getting blocked when we tried to get more sensitive materials," Mr. Maloof said. "I would go back to my office, do a pull and bring it in."

Sometimes, they said, they were met with open hostility. In the Pentagon one day, a senior D.I.A. official told them, "You are not needed and not welcome," Mr. Maloof recalled.

Each week, they would brief Stephen A. Cambone, then Mr. Feith's principal deputy. By November 2001, as the Bush administration began war planning for Iraq, the unit had produced a slide presentation that they were told would be used by Mr. Rumsfeld in a NATO meeting.

The team's conclusions were alarming: old barriers that divided the major Islamic terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, were coming down, and these groups were forging ties with one another and with secular Arab governments in an emerging terrorist war against the West.

Their analysis covered plenty of controversial ground. The two men identified members of the Saudi royal family who they said had aided Al Qaeda over the years. They warned that Al Qaeda had operatives in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, where they were establishing ties with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. They suspected Abu Nidal, an aging Palestinian terrorist leader living in Baghdad, of being an indirect link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, even though many other analysts believed that he was essentially retired and that his once-fearsome organization had been shattered. Mr. Nidal died under mysterious circumstances in Baghdad in 2002.

The Pentagon conclusions were at odds with years of C.I.A. analysis. The agency was skeptical that governments as diverse as those in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iran could be linked to anything like a cohesive terrorist network. The C.I.A. and the D.I.A. believed that Feith's team had greatly exaggerated the significance of reported contacts among extremist groups and Arab states. The C.I.A. saw little evidence, for example, that the Sunni-dominated Qaeda and the Shiite-dominated Hezbollah had worked together on terrorist attacks.

And there was little proof that Mr. Hussein was working on terror plots with Mr. bin Laden, a religious extremist who viewed the Baghdad regime as a corrupt, secular enemy. "The divides do matter," a senior C.I.A. official said. "But if you work hard enough in this nasty world, you can link just about anybody to anybody else."

Another agency official summed up the Feith team's work by saying, "Leave no dot unconnected."

Mr. Maloof defends their analysis. "We had to justify every single connection we made," he said. "But the intelligence community had preconceived notions, and if the information didn't fit into those notions, then they simply ignored it."

At the end of 2001, Mr. Maloof and Mr. Wurmser briefed top Pentagon officials as well as John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security and a veteran of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Maloof also met with Mr. Perle at his suburban Washington home. As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory group, he had security clearance.

That session was interrupted by a call from Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group. At Mr. Maloof's request, Mr. Perle asked Mr. Chalabi, now a member of the interim government of Iraq, to have his staff provide Mr. Maloof information gleaned from defectors and others. The request was unusual, because Mr. Feith's analysts were supposed to review intelligence, not collect it. And Mr. Chalabi at that time had a lucrative contract to provide information on Iraq exclusively to the State Department, which would send it along to the intelligence agencies.

Mr. Maloof later met with member of the Iraqi National Congress's staff. As it turned out, Mr. Chalabi was a risky source: some of the information his group provided was incorrect or fabricated, intelligence officials now believe.

Sharing Their Findings

A high point for the team was a 45-minute briefing for Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, in November 2001. "Wolfowitz said, `How come I'm not hearing this from anybody else?' " Mr. Maloof said. "We said, because no one else has done the analysis." Mr. Wolfowitz did not respond to several requests for comment.

By early 2002, the team had completed a 150-page briefing and slide presentation for Mr. Feith.

"There was intelligence about contacts among these different players — the organizations, the state sponsors, the nonstate sponsors," Mr. Feith said. "There was intelligence about contacts among them that crossed ideological lines to a greater extent than perhaps some people had appreciated before."

"The connections could be tight or loose," he added. "I don't mean to suggest that all international terrorists are really operating from a single organization. They're not. We use the term `network' advisedly."

Soon after finishing the report, Mr. Wurmser moved to the State Department, and then joined Mr. Cheney's staff. He declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Maloof's Pentagon career was damaged in December 2001, when his security clearances were revoked. He was accused of having unauthorized contact with a foreign national, a woman he had met while traveling in the Republic of Georgia and eventually married. Mr. Maloof said he complied with all requirements to disclose the relationship. Several intelligence professionals say he came under scrutiny because of suspicions that he had leaked classified information in the past to the news media, a charge that Mr. Maloof denies. His lawyer, Sam Abady says that Mr. Maloof was a target because of his controversial intelligence work and political ties to conservative Pentagon leaders.

An appeals board reinstated his clearances after Mr. Feith and Mr. Perle wrote letters to the D.I.A. But the intervention angered some intelligence officials, and a second panel reversed course in April 2003. Mr. Maloof is now on paid leave.

Mr. Feith, meanwhile, was eager to continue the work and turned it over to two D.I.A. analysts detailed to him. In the spring and summer of 2002, Christina Shelton, another agency analyst assigned to him, was reviewing old intelligence reports on Al Qaeda when she saw patterns suggesting connections between the Baghdad regime and the group. She became infuriated when one agency official told her that pursuing such leads "would only help Wolfowitz," a Pentagon official recalled.

She began to fight back. That summer, officials say, the C.I.A. issued a classified report entitled "Iraq-Al Qaeda — a murky relationship." After reading it, Ms. Shelton wrote a critical cover memo urging Pentagon policy makers to focus on the underlying intelligence rather than the agency's assessments, according to officials familiar with the incident. With the other analysts on Mr. Feith's staff, she produced a new assessment of Iraq and Al Qaeda suggesting closer ties than the C.I.A. thought existed.

Confronting the C.I.A.

After they briefed Mr. Feith on their work, they were sent to Mr. Rumsfeld, who urged them to talk to George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence. In August 2002, Mr. Feith led his team to the C.I.A.

Mr. Tenet and other agency officials were skeptical of the Feith team's conclusions, according to one agency official who attended the briefing.

"They did point out some individual facts that we hadn't focused on," the official said, "but I don't think anything they briefed to us fundamentally changed our bottom line on the issue."

The main dispute was over whether the reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda meant that Iraq had been sponsoring the group's terrorist operations.

"We believed in contact, offers of safe haven, but no operational activity," the intelligence official said.

A few weeks later, on Sept. 16, 2002, Feith's team briefed Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security advisor, and I. Lewis Libby, a senior aide to Mr. Cheney. By that time, Mr. Cheney was already talking publicly about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. In an appearance on "Meet the Press" just before the first anniversary of 9/11, he said that even without evidence of direct involvement by Baghdad in the attacks, the Hussein regime may have supported Al Qaeda.

"New information has come to light," Mr. Cheney said. "And we spent time looking at that relationship between Iraq, on the one hand, and the Al Qaeda organization on the other. And there has been reporting that suggests that there have been a number of contacts over the years.

Despite Mr. Cheney's assertions and the efforts of Mr. Feith's office, the Bush administration ultimately decided that the terrorism link was not strong enough to use as the central justification for war with Iraq. Instead, the administration focused on Mr. Hussein's illicit weapons, relying on assessments by the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies.

But Mr. Feith said that the evidence of Baghdad's terrorist links, when coupled with the threat of Mr. Hussein providing illicit weapons to groups like Al Qaeda, helped support the administration's case.

After 9/11, the administration reviewed the evidence about Iraq in a new light, he said. "One question was: Was Iraq involved in 9/11? We found no hard link. What about Iraq-Al Qaeda links in general? Well, there were some, but that wasn't the essence of the Saddam Hussein threat. The danger of Saddam's providing W.M.D. to Al Qaeda or another terrorist group — there you had a real problem, because his record on W.M.D. was indisputable."



Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company | Home | Privacy Policy | Search | Corrections | Help | Back to Top
 
The New York Times > Washington > How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence
The New York Times > Washington > How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence
April 28, 2004
How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence
By JAMES RISEN

ASHINGTON, April 27 — Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, a two-man intelligence team set up shop in a windowless, cipher-locked room at the Pentagon, searching for evidence of links between terrorist groups and host countries.

The men culled classified material, much of it uncorroborated data from the C.I.A. "We discovered tons of raw intelligence," said Michael Maloof, one of the pair. "We were stunned that we couldn't find any mention of it in the C.I.A.'s finished reports."

They recorded and annotated their evidence on butcher paper hung like a mural around their small office. By the end of the year, as the rubble was being cleared from the World Trade Center and United States forces were fighting in Afghanistan, the men had constructed a startling new picture of global terrorism.

Old ethnic, religious and political divides between terrorist groups were breaking down, the two men warned, posing an ominous new threat. They saw alliances among a wide range of Islamic terrorists, and theorized about a convergence of Sunni and Shiite extremist groups and secular Arab governments. Their conclusions, delivered to senior Bush administration officials, connected Iraq and Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

In doing so, the team also helped set off a controversy over the shaping of intelligence that continues today.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is investigating whether the unit — named the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group by its creator, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy — exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify the war.

The C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies found little evidence to support the Pentagon's view of an increasingly unified terrorist threat or links between Mr. Hussein and Mr. bin Laden, and still largely dismiss those ideas. Foreign Islamic fighters have sought haven in Iraq since the American-led invasion and some Sunnis and Shiites have banded together against the occupiers, but the agencies say that is the result of anger and chaotic conditions, not proof of prewar alliances.

And with criticism mounting in recent weeks as the conflict has become more bloody, President Bush has found himself forced to defend once more how the war on terror led to Baghdad.

Some critics argue that some of the first steps were taken by Mr. Feith's little intelligence shop. Whether its findings influenced the thinking of policy makers or merely provided talking points that buttressed long-held views, the unit played a role in the administration's evolving effort to define the threat of Iraq — and sell it to the public.

Unable to reach a consensus on Iraq's terrorist ties because of the skepticism of the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Bush administration turned its focus to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as the central rationale for war. Mr. Feith said his team was not involved in the analysis of those weapons.

But, he said in an interview, terrorism and Iraq's weapons became linked in the minds of top Bush administration officials. After Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed it, he said, the administration "focused on the danger that Iraq could provide the fruits of its W.M.D. programs to terrorists."

The president, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, alluded to connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda in their public statements. Mr. Bush also frequently warned of the risks that Mr. Hussein would share his weapons with terrorists.

"The worst thing that could happen would be to allow a nation like Iraq, run by Saddam Hussein, to develop weapons of mass destruction and then team up with a terrorist organization so they can blackmail the world," Mr. Bush said in an interview in April 2002.

The failure to find such weapons in Iraq has prompted a series of investigations into prewar intelligence. The Senate committee plans to complete its review, including its examination of the Feith group, in the next few months. The unit has often been confused with another Feith operation, called the Office of Special Plans, which Pentagon officials say was involved in prewar planning but not intelligence analysis.

Some intelligence experts charge that the unit had a secret agenda to justify a war with Iraq and was staffed with people who were handpicked by conservative Pentagon policy makers to arrive at preordained conclusions about Iraq and Al Qaeda.

"I don't have any problem with them bringing in a couple of people to take another look at the intelligence and challenge the assessments," said Patrick Lang, a former Middle East analyst for the D.I.A. "But the problem is that they brought in people who were not intelligence professionals, people brought in because they thought like them. They knew what answers they were going to get."

Mr. Feith defends his analysts. "I would be happy to have anybody come in and examine the quality of the work, whether it is supported by the data, whether it is logical, whether it is well-reasoned," he said.

He added: "There are real policy issues in this town that are worth fighting and debating. Some of them involve peace and war."

Mr. Feith created his team a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks to study links between terrorist groups and potential state sponsors around the world. Mr. Maloof and his colleague, David Wurmser began work in October 2001 in a 15-by-15-foot space on the third floor of the Pentagon. The pair spent their days reading raw intelligence reports, many from the Central Intelligence Agency, in the Pentagon's classified computer system.

"We began to pull together a mosaic," Mr. Maloof said.

Mr. Feith said his group was not set up as a rival to the C.I.A. "This is what policy people do all the time, they read the existing intelligence," he said. "We were not bypassing, we were not being secretive, we were not cutting the intel community out of this."

Resistance From Within

But the effort immediately aroused suspicions at the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. Mr. Feith and his two analysts were closely linked to Richard N. Perle, then chairman of a Pentagon advisory group and a leading neoconservative who had long advocated toppling Mr. Hussein and was a vocal critic of the C.I.A.

"I think the people working on the Persian Gulf at the C.I.A. are pathetic," Mr. Perle said in an interview. "They have just made too many mistakes. They have a record over 30 years of being wrong." He added that the agency "became wedded to a theory," that did not leave room for the possibility that Iraq was working with Al Qaeda, and that "they went to battle stations every time someone pointed to contrary evidence."

When Mr. Perle was a top defense official in the Reagan administration, Mr. Maloof, a former journalist, worked as his investigator, assembling evidence that the Soviet Union was stealing Western technology. Mr. Wurmser, a Middle East expert who had written a book that attacked the Clinton administration and the C.I.A. for their handling of Iraq in the 1990's, had worked at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank where Mr. Perle was a resident scholar. Mr. Feith had been Mr. Perle's deputy at the Pentagon. And while they were all out of government, Mr. Wurmser, Mr. Feith and Mr. Perle had signed a 1996 paper calling for the overthrow of Mr. Hussein to enhance Israel's security.

Despite their access to the Pentagon leadership, Mr. Maloof and Mr. Wurmser faced resistance from the C.I.A. and D.I.A.

They were initially denied access, for example, to the most highly classified documents in the Pentagon computer system. So Mr. Maloof returned regularly to his previous office in the Department of Defense, where he still could get the material. "We scoured what we could get up to the secret level, but we kept getting blocked when we tried to get more sensitive materials," Mr. Maloof said. "I would go back to my office, do a pull and bring it in."

Sometimes, they said, they were met with open hostility. In the Pentagon one day, a senior D.I.A. official told them, "You are not needed and not welcome," Mr. Maloof recalled.

Each week, they would brief Stephen A. Cambone, then Mr. Feith's principal deputy. By November 2001, as the Bush administration began war planning for Iraq, the unit had produced a slide presentation that they were told would be used by Mr. Rumsfeld in a NATO meeting.

The team's conclusions were alarming: old barriers that divided the major Islamic terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, were coming down, and these groups were forging ties with one another and with secular Arab governments in an emerging terrorist war against the West.

Their analysis covered plenty of controversial ground. The two men identified members of the Saudi royal family who they said had aided Al Qaeda over the years. They warned that Al Qaeda had operatives in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, where they were establishing ties with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. They suspected Abu Nidal, an aging Palestinian terrorist leader living in Baghdad, of being an indirect link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, even though many other analysts believed that he was essentially retired and that his once-fearsome organization had been shattered. Mr. Nidal died under mysterious circumstances in Baghdad in 2002.

The Pentagon conclusions were at odds with years of C.I.A. analysis. The agency was skeptical that governments as diverse as those in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iran could be linked to anything like a cohesive terrorist network. The C.I.A. and the D.I.A. believed that Feith's team had greatly exaggerated the significance of reported contacts among extremist groups and Arab states. The C.I.A. saw little evidence, for example, that the Sunni-dominated Qaeda and the Shiite-dominated Hezbollah had worked together on terrorist attacks.

And there was little proof that Mr. Hussein was working on terror plots with Mr. bin Laden, a religious extremist who viewed the Baghdad regime as a corrupt, secular enemy. "The divides do matter," a senior C.I.A. official said. "But if you work hard enough in this nasty world, you can link just about anybody to anybody else."

Another agency official summed up the Feith team's work by saying, "Leave no dot unconnected."

Mr. Maloof defends their analysis. "We had to justify every single connection we made," he said. "But the intelligence community had preconceived notions, and if the information didn't fit into those notions, then they simply ignored it."

At the end of 2001, Mr. Maloof and Mr. Wurmser briefed top Pentagon officials as well as John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security and a veteran of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Maloof also met with Mr. Perle at his suburban Washington home. As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory group, he had security clearance.

That session was interrupted by a call from Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group. At Mr. Maloof's request, Mr. Perle asked Mr. Chalabi, now a member of the interim government of Iraq, to have his staff provide Mr. Maloof information gleaned from defectors and others. The request was unusual, because Mr. Feith's analysts were supposed to review intelligence, not collect it. And Mr. Chalabi at that time had a lucrative contract to provide information on Iraq exclusively to the State Department, which would send it along to the intelligence agencies.

Mr. Maloof later met with member of the Iraqi National Congress's staff. As it turned out, Mr. Chalabi was a risky source: some of the information his group provided was incorrect or fabricated, intelligence officials now believe.

Sharing Their Findings

A high point for the team was a 45-minute briefing for Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, in November 2001. "Wolfowitz said, `How come I'm not hearing this from anybody else?' " Mr. Maloof said. "We said, because no one else has done the analysis." Mr. Wolfowitz did not respond to several requests for comment.

By early 2002, the team had completed a 150-page briefing and slide presentation for Mr. Feith.

"There was intelligence about contacts among these different players — the organizations, the state sponsors, the nonstate sponsors," Mr. Feith said. "There was intelligence about contacts among them that crossed ideological lines to a greater extent than perhaps some people had appreciated before."

"The connections could be tight or loose," he added. "I don't mean to suggest that all international terrorists are really operating from a single organization. They're not. We use the term `network' advisedly."

Soon after finishing the report, Mr. Wurmser moved to the State Department, and then joined Mr. Cheney's staff. He declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Maloof's Pentagon career was damaged in December 2001, when his security clearances were revoked. He was accused of having unauthorized contact with a foreign national, a woman he had met while traveling in the Republic of Georgia and eventually married. Mr. Maloof said he complied with all requirements to disclose the relationship. Several intelligence professionals say he came under scrutiny because of suspicions that he had leaked classified information in the past to the news media, a charge that Mr. Maloof denies. His lawyer, Sam Abady says that Mr. Maloof was a target because of his controversial intelligence work and political ties to conservative Pentagon leaders.

An appeals board reinstated his clearances after Mr. Feith and Mr. Perle wrote letters to the D.I.A. But the intervention angered some intelligence officials, and a second panel reversed course in April 2003. Mr. Maloof is now on paid leave.

Mr. Feith, meanwhile, was eager to continue the work and turned it over to two D.I.A. analysts detailed to him. In the spring and summer of 2002, Christina Shelton, another agency analyst assigned to him, was reviewing old intelligence reports on Al Qaeda when she saw patterns suggesting connections between the Baghdad regime and the group. She became infuriated when one agency official told her that pursuing such leads "would only help Wolfowitz," a Pentagon official recalled.

She began to fight back. That summer, officials say, the C.I.A. issued a classified report entitled "Iraq-Al Qaeda — a murky relationship." After reading it, Ms. Shelton wrote a critical cover memo urging Pentagon policy makers to focus on the underlying intelligence rather than the agency's assessments, according to officials familiar with the incident. With the other analysts on Mr. Feith's staff, she produced a new assessment of Iraq and Al Qaeda suggesting closer ties than the C.I.A. thought existed.

Confronting the C.I.A.

After they briefed Mr. Feith on their work, they were sent to Mr. Rumsfeld, who urged them to talk to George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence. In August 2002, Mr. Feith led his team to the C.I.A.

Mr. Tenet and other agency officials were skeptical of the Feith team's conclusions, according to one agency official who attended the briefing.

"They did point out some individual facts that we hadn't focused on," the official said, "but I don't think anything they briefed to us fundamentally changed our bottom line on the issue."

The main dispute was over whether the reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda meant that Iraq had been sponsoring the group's terrorist operations.

"We believed in contact, offers of safe haven, but no operational activity," the intelligence official said.

A few weeks later, on Sept. 16, 2002, Feith's team briefed Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security advisor, and I. Lewis Libby, a senior aide to Mr. Cheney. By that time, Mr. Cheney was already talking publicly about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. In an appearance on "Meet the Press" just before the first anniversary of 9/11, he said that even without evidence of direct involvement by Baghdad in the attacks, the Hussein regime may have supported Al Qaeda.

"New information has come to light," Mr. Cheney said. "And we spent time looking at that relationship between Iraq, on the one hand, and the Al Qaeda organization on the other. And there has been reporting that suggests that there have been a number of contacts over the years.

Despite Mr. Cheney's assertions and the efforts of Mr. Feith's office, the Bush administration ultimately decided that the terrorism link was not strong enough to use as the central justification for war with Iraq. Instead, the administration focused on Mr. Hussein's illicit weapons, relying on assessments by the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies.

But Mr. Feith said that the evidence of Baghdad's terrorist links, when coupled with the threat of Mr. Hussein providing illicit weapons to groups like Al Qaeda, helped support the administration's case.

After 9/11, the administration reviewed the evidence about Iraq in a new light, he said. "One question was: Was Iraq involved in 9/11? We found no hard link. What about Iraq-Al Qaeda links in general? Well, there were some, but that wasn't the essence of the Saddam Hussein threat. The danger of Saddam's providing W.M.D. to Al Qaeda or another terrorist group — there you had a real problem, because his record on W.M.D. was indisputable."



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The New York Review of Books: How to Get Out of Iraq
The New York Review of Books: How to Get Out of Iraq
Volume 51, Number 8 · May 13, 2004
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Feature
How to Get Out of Iraq
By Peter W. Galbraith
1.
In the year since the United States Marines pulled down Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square, things have gone very badly for the United States in Iraq and for its ambition of creating a model democracy that might transform the Middle East. As of today the United States military appears committed to an open-ended stay in a country where, with the exception of the Kurdish north, patience with the foreign occupation is running out, and violent opposition is spreading. Civil war and the breakup of Iraq are more likely outcomes than a successful transition to a pluralistic Western-style democracy.

Much of what went wrong was avoidable. Focused on winning the political battle to start a war, the Bush administration failed to anticipate the postwar chaos in Iraq. Administration strategy seems to have been based on a hope that Iraq's bureaucrats and police would simply transfer their loyalty to the new authorities, and the country's administration would continue to function. All experience in Iraq suggested that the collapse of civil authority was the most likely outcome, but there was no credible planning for this contingency. In fact, the US effort to remake Iraq never recovered from its confused start when it failed to prevent the looting of Baghdad in the early days of the occupation.


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Americans like to think that every problem has a solution, but that may no longer be true in Iraq. Before dealing at considerable length with what has gone wrong, I should also say what has gone right.

Iraq is free from Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party. Along with Cambodia's Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein's regime was one of the two most cruel and inhumane regimes in the second half of the twentieth century. Using the definition of genocide specified in the 1948 Genocide Convention, Iraq's Baath regime can be charged with planning and executing two genocides —one against the Kurdish population in the late 1980s and another against the Marsh Arabs in the 1990s. In the 1980s, the Iraqi armed forces and security services systematically destroyed more than four thousand Kurdish villages and several small cities, attacked over two hundred Kurdish villages and towns with chemical weapons in 1987 and 1988, and organized the deportation and execution of up to 182,000 Kurdish civilians.

In the 1990s the Saddam Hussein regime drained the marshes of southern Iraq, displacing 500,000 people, half of whom fled to Iran, and killing some 40,000. In addition to destroying the five-thousand-year-old Marsh Arab civilization, draining the marshes did vast ecological damage to one of the most important wetlands systems on the planet. Genocide is only part of Saddam Hussein's murderous legacy. Tens of thousands perished in purges from 1979 on, and as many as 300,000 Shiites were killed in the six months following the collapse of the March 1991 Shiite uprising. One mass grave near Hilla may contain as many as 30,000 bodies.

In a more lawful world, the United Nations, or a coalition of willing states, would have removed this regime from power long before 2003. However, at precisely the time that some of the most horrendous crimes were being committed, in the late 1980s, the Reagan and Bush administrations strongly opposed any action to punish Iraq for its genocidal campaign against the Kurds or to deter Iraq from using chemical weapons against the Kurdish civilians.

On August 20, 1988, the Iran–Iraq War ended. Five days later, the Iraqi military initiated a series of chemical weapons attacks on at least forty-nine Kurdish villages in the Dihok Governorate (or province) near the Syrian and Turkish borders. As a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I (along with Chris Van Hollen, now a Maryland congressman) interviewed hundreds of survivors in the high mountains on the Turkish border. Our report, which established conclusively that Iraq had used nerve and mustard agents on tens of thousands of civilians, coincided with the Senate's passage of the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988, which imposed comprehensive economic sanctions on Iraq for crimes against the Kurds. The Reagan administration opposed the legislation, in a position orchestrated by the then national security adviser, Colin Powell, calling such sanctions "premature."

Except for a relatively small number of Saddam Hussein's fellow Sunni Arabs who worked for his regime, the peoples of Iraq are much better off today than they were under Saddam Hussein. The problems that threaten to tear Iraq apart—Kurdish aspirations for independence, Shiite dreams of dominance, Sunni Arab nostalgia for lost power—are not of America's making (although the failure to act sooner against Saddam made them less solvable). Rather, they are inherent in an artificial state held together for eighty years primarily by brute force.

2.
American liberation—and liberation it was—ended the brute force. Iraqis celebrated the dictatorship's overthrow, and in Baghdad last April ordinary citizens thrust flowers into my hands. Since then, however:

• Hostile action has killed twice as many American troops as died in the war itself, while thousands of Iraqis have also died.

• Terrorists have killed the head of the United Nations Mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello; Iraq's most prominent Shiite politician, the Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim; and the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Sami Abdul Rahman, along with hundreds of others.

• Looting has caused billions of dollars of damage, most of which will have to be repaired at the expense of the US taxpayer.

• $150 billion has already been spent on Iraq, an amount equal to 25 percent of the non-defense discretionary federal budget. (By contrast, the first Gulf War earned a small profit for the US government, owing to the contributions of other nations.)

• Discontent with the US-led occupation boiled over into an uprising in the Shiite areas of Iraq on the first anniversary of liberation and a persistent insurgency in the Sunni Triangle degenerated into a full-scale battle in Fallujah. Many on the US-installed Iraqi Governing Council strongly opposed the US military response, and the US-created security institutions—the new Iraqi police and the paramilitary Iraqi Civil Defense Corps—refused to fight, or in some cases, joined the rebels.

• US credibility abroad has been undermined by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Spain's elections, Tony Blair's sinking poll results, and the prospective defeat of Australia's Howard government underscore the political risk of too close an association with the United States.

• Relations with France and Germany have been badly hurt, in some cases by the gratuitous comments made by senior US officials.

• The United States does not now have the military or diplomatic resources to deal with far more serious threats to our national security. President Bush rightly identified the peril posed by the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and rogue states. The greatest danger comes from rogue states that acquire and disseminate nuclear weapons technology. At the beginning of 2003 Iraq posed no such danger. As a result of the Iraq war the United States has neither the resources nor the international support to cope effectively with the very serious nuclear threats that come from North Korea, Iran, and, most dangerous of all, our newly designated "major non-NATO ally," Pakistan.

With fewer than one hundred days to the handover of power to a sovereign Iraq on June 30, there is no clear plan—and no decision—about how Iraq will be run on July 1, 2004. Earlier this month, the Bush administration praised itself generously for the signing of an interim constitution for Iraq—a constitution with human rights provisions it described as unprecedented for the Middle East. Three weeks later, as I write, the interim constitution is already falling apart.


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As is true of so much of the US administration of postwar Iraq, the damage here is self-inflicted. While telling Iraqis it wanted to defer constitutional issues to an elected Iraqi body, the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority could not resist trying to settle fundamental constitutional issues in the interim constitution. The US government lawyers who wrote the interim constitution, known formally as the Transitional Administrative Law, made no effort to disguise their authorship. All deliberations on the law were done in secret and probably fewer than one hundred Iraqis saw a copy of the constitution before it was promulgated. To write a major law in any democracy—much less a constitution—without public discussion should be unthinkable. Now that Iraqis are discovering for the first time the contents of the constitution, it should come as no surprise that many object to provisions they never knew were being considered.

Iraq's Shiite leaders say that the National Assembly due to be elected in January 2005 should not be constrained by a document prepared by US government lawyers, deliberated in secret, and signed by twenty-five Iraqis selected by Ambassador Bremer. In particular, the Shiites object to a provision in the interim constitution that allows three of Iraq's eighteen governorates (or provinces) to veto ratification of a permanent constitution. This, in effect, allows either the Kurds or the Sunni Arabs, each of whom make up between one fifth and one sixth of Iraq's population, to block a constitution they don't like. (It is a wise provision. Imposing a constitution on reluctant Kurds or Sunni Arabs will provoke a new cycle of resistance and conflict.) The Shiite position makes the Kurds, who are well armed, reluctant to surrender powers to a central government that may be Shiite-dominated.

At the moment the Sunni Arabs have few identifiable leaders. The Kurds, however, are well organized. They have an elected parliament and two regional governments, their own court system, and a 100,000 strong military force, known as the Peshmerga. The Peshmerga, whose members were principal American allies in the 2003 war, are better armed, better trained, and more disciplined than the minuscule Iraqi army the United States is now trying to reconstitute.

Early in 2005, Iraq will likely see a clash between an elected Shiite-dominated central government trying to override the interim constitution in order to impose its will on the entire country, and a Kurdistan government insistent on preserving the de facto independent status Kurdistan has enjoyed for thirteen years. Complicating the political struggle is a bitter territorial dispute over the oil-rich province of Kirkuk involving Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, Sunni Turkmen, and Shiite Turkmen.

It is a formula for civil war.

3.
How did we arrive at this state of affairs?

I arrived in Baghdad on April 13, 2003, as part of an ABC news team. It was apparent to me that things were already going catastrophically wrong. When the United States entered Baghdad on April 9 last year, it found a city largely undamaged by a carefully executed military campaign. However, in the two months following the US takeover, unchecked looting effectively gutted every important public institution in the city with the notable exception of the Oil Ministry. The physical losses include:

• The National Library, which was looted and burned. Equivalent to our Library of Congress, it held every book published in Iraq, all newspapers from the last century, as well as rare manuscripts. The destruction of the library meant the loss of a historical record going back to Ottoman times.

• The Iraqi National Museum, which was also looted. More than 10,000 objects were stolen or destroyed. The Pentagon has deliberately, and repeatedly, tried to minimize the damage by excluding from its estimates objects stolen from storage as well as displayed treasures that were smashed but not stolen.

• Hospitals and other public health institutions, where looters stole medical equipment, medicines, and even patients' beds.

• Baghdad and Mosul Universities, which were stripped of computers, office furniture, and books. Academic research that took decades to carry out went up in smoke or was scattered.

• The National Theater, which was set ablaze by looters a full three weeks after US forces entered Baghdad.


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Even more surprising, the United States made no apparent effort to secure sites that had been connected with Iraqi WMD programs or buildings alleged to hold important intelligence. As a result, the United States may well have lost valuable information that related to Iraqi WMD procurement, paramilitary resistance, foreign intelligence activities, and possible links to al-Qaeda.

• On April 16, looters attacked the Iraqi equivalent of the US Centers for Disease Control, stealing live HIV and live black fever bacteria. UNMOVIC and UNSCOM had long considered the building suspicious and had repeatedly conducted inspections there. The looting complicates efforts to understand and account for any Iraqi bioweapons research in the past. A Marine lieutenant watched the looting from next door. He told us, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon, but no one told me what was in that building."

• Although US troops moved onto the grounds of Iraq's sprawling Tuwaitha nuclear complex, they did not secure the warehouse that contained yellowcake and other radiological materials. Looters took materials that terrorists could use for a radiological weapon, although much of that material was eventually recovered. The looted nuclear materials were in a known location, and already had been placed under seal by the International Atomic Energy Commission.

• Ten days after the US took over Baghdad, I went through the unguarded Iraqi Foreign Ministry, going from the cooling unit on the roof to the archives in the basement, and rummaging through the office of the foreign minister. The only other people in the building were looters, who were busy opening safes and carrying out furniture. They were unarmed and helped me look for documents. Foreign Ministry files could have shed light on Iraqis' overseas intelligence activities, on attempts to procure WMD, and on any connections that may have existed with al-Qaeda. However, we may never know about these things, since looters scattered and burned files during the ten days, or longer, that this building was left unguarded.

The looting demoralized Iraqi professionals, the very people the US looks to in rebuilding the country. University professors, government technocrats, doctors, and researchers all had connections with the looted institutions. Some saw the work of a lifetime quite literally go up in smoke. The looting also exacerbated other problems: the lack of electricity and potable water, the lack of telephones, and the absence of police or other security.

Most importantly, the looting served to undermine Iraqi confidence in, and respect for, the US occupation authorities.

4.
In the parts of Iraq taken over by rebels during the March 1991 uprising, there had been the same kind of looting of public institutions. In 2003, the United States could not have prevented all the looting but it could have prevented much of it. In particular, it could have secured the most important Iraqi government ministries, hospitals, laboratories, and intelligence sites. It could have protected the Iraq National Museum and several other of Iraq's most important cultural and historical sites.

In the spring of 2003, Thomas Warrick of the State Department's Future of Iraq Working Group prepared a list of places in Baghdad to be secured. The Iraq National Museum was number two on the list. At the top of the list were the paper records of the previous regime—the very documents I found scattered throughout the Foreign Ministry and in other locations. What happened next is a mystery. My State Department informants tell me the list was sent to Douglas Feith, an undersecretary in the Department of Defense, and never came out of his office. Feith's partisans insist that uniformed American military failed to take action. In either case, the lack of oversight was culpable.

During the war in Kosovo, the Clinton White House was criticized for insisting on presidential review of proposed targets. President Bush, notorious for his lack of curiosity, seems never to have asked even the most basic question: "What happens when we actually get to Baghdad?"

The failure to answer this question at the start set back US efforts in Iraq in such a way that the US has not recovered and may never do so.


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The Bush administration decided that Iraq would be run by a US civilian administrator—initially, Retired General Jay Garner—and American advisers who would serve as the de facto ministers for each of the Iraqi government ministries. All this was based on the expectation that the war would decapitate the top leadership of the Saddam Hussein regime, and the next day everyone else would show up for work.

Predictably, this did not happen. In 1991, all authority disappeared in the areas that fell into rebel hands. But even had things gone as the Bush administration hoped, it was not prepared to run Iraq. As the war began, the Bush administration was still recruiting the American officials who would serve as the de facto Iraqi ministers. The people so recruited had no time to prepare for the assignment, either in learning about Iraq or in mastering the substantive skills needed to run the ministry assigned to them. Many mistakes were made. For example, the US official in charge of prisons decided to work with Ali al-Jabouri, the warden of Abu Ghraib prison, apparently unaware of the prison's fearsome reputation as the place where tens of thousands perished under Saddam Hussein. The coalition rehabilitated Abu Ghraib and today uses it as a prison. The symbolism may be lost on the US administrators but it is not lost on Iraqis.

In late 2002 and early 2003, I attended meetings with senior US government officials on Kirkuk, the multi-ethnic city that is just west of the line marking the border of the self-governing Kurdish region. When Kirkuk, which is claimed by the Kurds, was held by Saddam Hussein, horrific human rights abuses had taken place there. I had been to Kirkuk in the 1980s, and I was concerned that Kurds brutally expelled in the 1980s and 1990s would return to settle scores with Arabs who had been settled in their homes. The week the war began, I asked the US official responsible for Kirkuk how he planned to deal with this problem. We will rely on the local police, he explained. I asked whether the local police were Kurds or Arabs. He did not know. It remains astonishing to me that US plans for dealing with ethnic conflict in the most volatile city inall of Iraq rested on hopes about the behavior of a police force about which they did not have the most basic information.

The Kirkuk police were, in fact, Arabs, and had assisted in the ethnic cleansing of the city's Kurds. They were not around when Kurdish forces entered the city on April 10, 2003. Many other Arabs also fled, although this was largely ignored by the international press.

The United States' political strategies in Iraq have been no less incoherent. General Garner arrived announcing that he would quickly turn power over to a provisional Iraqi government. Within three weeks Ambassador Bremer and a new structure, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), replaced him. US officials indicated that Iraqi participation would be limited to an advisory council and that the United States expected to stay in Iraq for up to three years. The US would write a democratic constitution for the country and then turn power over to an elected government. After a few weeks, Bremer changed course and announced he was sharing power with a representative Iraqi governing council. In November, as Bush's poll numbers plummeted, Bremer was summoned back to Washington to discuss a new strategy. The United States, it was decided, would turn power over on June 30, 2004, to a sovereign Iraqi government that would be chosen in a complicated system of caucuses held in each of Iraq's "governorates (or provinces)." By January this plan was put aside (it was widely described as "election by people selected by people selected by Bremer").

The latest strategy—based on the interim constitution and a takeover of sovereignty on June 30 by an as yet undetermined body—the fifth in a year by my count, is now falling apart in the face of Shiite opposition and mounting violence.

The Bush administration's strategies in Iraq are failing for many reasons. First, they are being made up as the administration goes along, without benefit of planning, adequate knowledge of the country, or the experience of comparable situations. Second, the administration has been unwilling to sustain a commitment to a particular strategy. But third, the strategies are all based on an idea of an Iraq that does not exist.

5.
The fundamental problem of Iraq is an absence of Iraqis.

In the north the Kurds prefer almost unanimously not to be part of Iraq, for reasons that are very understandable. Kurdistan's eighty-year association with Iraq has been one of repression and conflict, of which the Saddam Hussein regime was the most brutal phase. Since 1991, Kurdistan has been de facto independent and most Iraqi Kurds see this period as a golden era of democratic self-government and economic progress. In 1992 Kurdistan had the only democratic elections in the history of Iraq, when voters chose members of a newly created Kurdistan National Assembly. During the last twelve years the Kurdistan Regional Government built three thousand schools (as compared to one thousand in the region in 1991), opened two universities, and permitted a free press; there are now scores of Kurdish-language publications, radio stations, and television stations. For the older generation, Iraq is a bad memory, while a younger generation, which largely does not speak Arabic, has no sense of being Iraqi.

The people of Kurdistan almost unanimously prefer independence to being part of Iraq. In just one month, starting on January 25 of this year, Kur- dish nongovernmental organizations collected 1,700,000 signatures on petitions demanding a vote on whether Kurdistan should remain part of Iraq. This is a staggering figure, representing as it does roughly two thirds of Kurdistan's adults.

In the south, Iraq's long-repressed Shiites express themselves primarily through their religious identity. In early March I traveled throughout southern Iraq. I saw no evidence of any support for secular parties. If free elections are held in Iraq, I think it likely that the Shiite religious parties —principally the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa (the Call)—will have among them an absolute majority in the National Assembly.


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The wild card is Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Shiite uprising. If he is allowed to compete in elections, he will certainly take a share of the Shiite vote. If he is excluded (or imprisoned or killed), his supporters will likely influence the policies of the mainstream Shiite parties, or conceivably disrupt the elections. None of this is good for hopes of creating a stable, democratic Iraq.

The Shiites are not separatists but many of them believe their majority status entitles them to run all of Iraq, and to impose their version of an Islamic state. They also consider connections with Shiites elsewhere as important as their nationalist feelings about Iraq. Iranian Shiites, such as the Ayatollah al-Sistani and, from the grave, Ayatollah Khomeini, have enormous political and spiritual influence in southern Iraq. Their portraits are ubiquitous. Mainstream Iraqi Arab Shiites, such as SCIRI's leader Abdel Azziz al-Hakim, often advocate a very pro-Iranian line.

Sunni Arabs have always been the principal Iraqi nationalists, and a part of the anti-US uprising in the Sunni Triangle is a nationalist one. The Sunni Arabs have long been accustomed to seeing the Iraqi state as a part of a larger Arab nation, and this was a central tenet of the Baath Party. As Sunni Arabs face the end of their historic domination of Iraq, they may seek to compensate for their minor- ity status inside Iraq by further identifying themselves with the greater Arab nation. Connections with other Sunni populations may eventually become even more important among the Sunni Arabs than pan-Arabism. As elsewhere in Arab Iraq, the Sunni religious parties appear to be gain-ing ground in the country's Sunni center at the expense of the secular parties.

Radical Sunni Islamic groups, including those with recent links to al-Qaeda, appear to have an ever more important part in the uprising in the Sunni Triangle (which explains the increasing use of suicide bombers, not a tactic that appeals to the more worldly Baathists). By attacking Shiite religious leaders and celebrations (for example the deadly bombings this March during the as-Shoura religious holiday in Baghdad and Karbala, and the car bomb assassination of SCIRI leader Baqir al-Hakim), Sunni extremists seek to provoke civil war between Iraq's two main religious groups.

6.
The United States strategy is to hold Iraq together by establishing a strong central government. So far, all its successes have been on paper. The interim constitution gives the central government a monopoly on military force, control over natural resources, broad fiscal powers, and oversight over the judiciary.

Little of this will come to pass. The Kurdistan National Assembly has put forward a comprehensive proposal to define Kurdistan's relations with the rest of Iraq. In it the Kurdistan National Assembly retains lawmaking power for the region, preserves its fiscal autonomy, and would eventually own the region's natural resources. Kurdistan will retain the Peshmerga (which would be converted into an Iraqi Kurdistan National Guard nominally under the overall authority of the Iraq central government) and other Iraqi armed forces could only enter Kurdistan with the consent of the Kurdistan National Assembly. Iraq would be fully bilingual (Arabic and Kurdish) and Kurdistan would remain secular.

This places the Kurds on a collision course with the Shiites and the Sunni Arabs. The Shiite religious parties insist that Islam must be the principal source of law throughout Iraq. Both Shiites and Sunni Arabs object to downgrading Arabic to one of two official languages. Sunni Arab nationalists and Shiite religious leaders object to Kurdistan retaining even a fraction of the autonomy it has today.

There are also acute conflicts between Shiite Arabs and Sunni Arabs. These have to do with the differing interpretations of Islam held by the two groups' religious parties and conflicts between pro-Iranian Shiites and Arab nationalist Sunnis.

Shiites are now providing moral and material support for the Sunni insurgents in Fallujah. An anti-American alliance of radicals from both confessions will not necessarily lead to political unity, nor will it erase Sunni fears of Shiite domination. That said, the confessional divide between Iraq's Arabs is far less than the ethnic gulf between Arabs and Kurds. Democracy requires tolerance and a willingness to compromise. Except tactically, none of these traits is apparent in a political culture (except for the north) which has been ruled by absolutists.


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In my view, Iraq is not salvageable as a unitary state. From my experience in the Balkans, I feel strongly that it is impossible to preserve the unity of a democratic state where people in a geographically defined region almost unanimously do not want to be part of that state. I have never met an Iraqi Kurd who preferred membership in Iraq if independence were a realistic possibility.

But the problem of Iraq is that a breakup of the country is not a realistic possibility for the present. Turkey, Iran, and Syria, all of which have substantial Kurdish populations, fear the precedent that would be set if Iraqi Kurdistan became independent. Both Sunni and Shiite Arabs oppose the separation of Kurdistan. The Sunni Arabs do not have the resources to support an independent state of their own. (Iraq's largest oil fields are in the Shiite south or in the disputed territory of Kirkuk.)

Further, as was true in the Balkans, the unresolved territorial issues in Iraq would likely mean violent conflict. Kirkuk is perhaps the most explosive place. The Kurds claim it as part of historic Kurdistan. They demand that the process of Arabization of the region—which some say goes back to the 1950s—should be reversed. The Kurds who were driven out of Kirkuk by policies of successive Iraqi regimes should, they say, return home, while Arab settlers in the region are repatriated to other parts of Iraq. While many Iraqi Arabs concede that the Kurds suffered an injustice, they also say that the human cost of correcting it is too high. Moreover, backed by Turkey, ethnic Turkmen assert that Kirkuk is a Turkmen city and that they should enjoy the same status as the Kurds.

It will be difficult to resolve the status of Kirkuk within a single Iraq; it will be impossible if the country breaks up into two or three units. And while Kirkuk is the most contentious of the territories in dispute, it is only one of many.

The best hope for holding Iraq together—and thereby avoiding civil war—is to let each of its major constituent communities have, to the extent possible, the system each wants. This, too, suggests the only policy that can get American forces out of Iraq.

In the north this means accepting that Kurdistan will continue to govern its own affairs and retain responsibility for its own security. US officials have portrayed a separate Kurdistan defense force as the first step leading to the breakup of Iraq. The Kurds, however, see such a force not as an attribute of a sovereign state but as insurance in case democracy fails in the rest of Iraq. No one in Kurdistan would trust an Iraqi national army (even one in which the Kurds were well represented) since the Iraqi army has always been an agent of repression, and in the 1980s, of genocide. The Kurds also see clearly how ineffective are the new security institutions created by the Americans. In the face of uprisings in the Sunni Triangle and the south, the new Iraqi police and civil defense corps simply vanished.

Efforts to push the Kurds into a more unitary Iraq will fail because there is no force, aside from the US military, that can coerce them. Trying to do so will certainly inflame popular demands for separation of the Kurdish region in advance of January's elections.

If Kurdistan feels secure, it is in fact more likely to see advantages to cooperation with other parts of Iraq. Iraq's vast resources and the benefits that would accrue to Kurdistan from revenue sharing provide significant incentives for Kurdistan to remain part of Iraq, provided doing so does not open the way to new repression. (Until now, most Iraqi Kurds have seen Iraq's oil wealth as a curse that gave Saddam the financial resources to destroy Kurdistan.)

In the south, Iraq's Shiites want an Islamic state. They are sufficiently confident of public support that they are pushing for early elections. The United States should let them have their elections, and be prepared to accept an Islamic state—but only in the south. In most of the south, Shiite religious leaders already exercise actual power, having established a degree of security, taken over education, and helped to provide municipal services. In the preparation of Iraq's interim constitution, Shiite leaders asked for (and obtained) the right to form one or two Shiite regions with powers comparable to those of Kurdistan. They also strongly support the idea that petroleum should be owned by the respective regions, which is hardly surprising since Iraq's largest oil reserves are in the south.

There is, of course, a logical inconsistency between Shiite demands to control a southern region and the desire to impose Islamic rule on all of Iraq. Meeting the first demand affects only the south; accepting the second is an invitation to civil war and must be resisted.


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Federalism—or even confederation —would make Kurdistan and the south governable because there are responsible parties there who can take over government functions. It is much more difficult to devise a strategy for the Sunni Triangle—until recently the location of most violent resistance to the American occupation—because there is no Sunni Arab leadership with discernible political support. While it is difficult to assess popular support for the insurrection within the Sunni Triangle, it is crystal clear that few Sunni Arabs in places like Fallujah are willing to risk their lives in opposing the insurgents.

We can hope that if the Sunni Arabs feel more secure about their place in Iraq with respect to the Shiites and the Kurds, they will be relatively more moderate. Autonomy for the Sunni Arab parts of Iraq is a way to provide such security. There is, however, no way to know if it will work.

Since 1992, the Iraqi opposition has supported federalism as the system of government for a post-Saddam Iraq. Iraq's interim constitution reflects this consensus by defining Iraq as a federal state. There is, however, no agreement among the Iraqi parties on what federalism actually means, and the structures created by the interim constitution seem unlikely to move from paper to reality.

Last November, Les Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, created a stir by proposing, in a New York Times Op-Ed piece, a three-state solution for Iraq, modeled on the constitution of post-Tito Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav model would give each of Iraq's constituent peoples their own republic.[*] These republics would be self-governing, financially self-sustaining, and with their own territorial military and police forces. The central government would have a weak presidency rotating among the republics, with responsibilities limited to foreign affairs, monetary policy, and some coordination of defense policy. While resources would be owned by the republics, some sharing of oil revenues would be essential, since an impoverished Sunni region is in no one's interest.

This model would solve many of the contradictions of modern Iraq. The Shiites could have their Islamic republic, while the Kurds could continue their secular traditions. Alcohol would continue to be a staple of Kurdish picnics while it would be strictly banned in Basra.

The three-state solution would permit the United States to disengage from security duties in most of Iraq. There are today fewer than three hundred coalition troops in Kurdistan, which would, under the proposal being made here, continue to be responsible for its own security. By contrast, introducing an Iraqi army and security institutions into Kurdistan, as the Bush administration says it still wants to do, would require many more coalition troops—because the Iraqi forces are not up to the job and because coalition troops will be needed to reassure a nervous Kurdish population. If the United States wanted to stay militarily in Iraq, Kurdistan is the place; Kurdish leaders have said they would like to see permanent US bases in Kurdistan.

A self-governing Shiite republic could also run its own affairs and provide for its own security. It is not likely to endorse Western values, but if the coalition quickly disengages from the south, this may mean the south would be less overtly anti-American. Staying in the south will play directly into the hands of Moqtada al-Sadr or his successors. Moderate Shiite leaders, including the Ayatollah al-Sistani, counseled patience in response to al-Sadr's uprising, and helped negotiate the withdrawal of al-Sadr's supporters from some police stations and government buildings. The scope of the uprising, however, underscores the coalition's perilous position in the south. The failure of the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to respond highlights the impotence of these American-created security institutions. The sooner power in the south is handed over to people who can exercise it, the better. Delay will only benefit anti-American radicals like al-Sadr.


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As for the Sunni Triangle, one hope is for elections to produce a set of leaders who can restore order and end the insurrection. Presumably this is an outcome the Sunni rebels do not want to see happen; they will use violence to prevent a meaningful election in large parts of the Sunni Triangle. In these circumstances, the United States may face the choice of turning power over to weak leaders and living with the resulting chaos, or continuing to try to pacify the Sunni Triangle, which may generate ever more support for the insurrection. There may be no good options for the United States in the Sunni Triangle. Nevertheless the three-state approach could limit US military engagement to a finite area.

Baghdad is a city of five million and home to large numbers of all three of Iraq's major constituent peoples. With skilled diplomacy, the United States or the United Nations might be able to arrange for a more liberal regime in Baghdad than would exist in the south. Kurdish and Shiite armed forces and police could provide security in their own sections of the capital, as well as work together in Sunni areas (with whatever local cooperation is possible) and in mixed areas. Such an arrangement in Iraq's capital is far from ideal, but it is better than an open-ended US commitment to being the police force of last resort in Iraq's capital.

Because of what happened to Yugoslavia in the 1990s, many react with horror to the idea of applying its model to Iraq. Yet Yugoslavia's breakup was not inevitable. In the 1980s, Slovenia asked for greater control over its own affairs and Milosevic refused. Had Milosevic accepted a looser federation, there is every reason to think that Yugoslavia—and not just Slovenia— would be joining the European Union this May.

Still, a loose federation will have many drawbacks, especially for those who dreamed of a democratic Iraq that would transform the Middle East. The country would remain whole more in name than in reality. Western- style human rights are likely to take hold only in the Kurdish north (and even there not completely). Women's rights could be set back in the south, and perhaps also in Baghdad.

In administering elections and allowing a federation to emerge, the US would badly need the help of the UN and other international organizations and, if it can get it, of the principal European nations as well. The alternative is an indefinite US occupation of Iraq in which we have fewer and fewer allies. It is an occupation that the US cannot afford. It also prevents the US from addressing more serious threats to its national security.

7.
The American involvement in Iraq will be a defining event for the US role in the world for the coming decades. Will it be seen as validating the Bush administration's doctrines of preventive war and largely unilateral action?

In my view, Iraq demonstrates all too clearly the folly of the preventive war doctrine and of unilateralism. Of course the United States must reserve the right to act alone when the country is under attack or in imminent danger of attack. But these are also precisely the circumstances when the United States does not need to act alone. After September 11 both NATO and the United Nations Security Council gave unqualified support for US action, including military action, to deal with the threat of international terrorists based in Afghanistan. After the Taliban was defeated, other countries contributed troops—and accepted casualties—in order to help stabilize the country; and they have also contributed billions to Afghanistan's reconstruction. Because the US so quickly diverted its attention to Iraq, many acute problems remain in Afghanistan, including warlordism and the deprivation of basic rights. International support for helping Afghanistan remains strong, however, and the effort can be revitalized with a new administration.

In Iraq the United States chose to act without the authorization of the Security Council, without the support of NATO, and with only a handful of allies. Aside from the British and the Kurdish Peshmerga, no other ally made any significant contribution to the war effort. The United States is paying practically all the expenses of the Iraq occupation. Even those who supported the unilateral intervention in Iraq seem by now to realize that it cannot be sustained. The Bush administration, having scorned the United Nations, is now desperate to have it back.

It turns out that there are some things that only the United Nations can do—such as run an election that Iraqis will see as credible or give a stamp of legitimacy to a political transition. But the most urgent reason to want United Nations participation is to share the burden. Internationalization is a key element of John Kerry's program for Iraq. Unfortunately, it is a far from easy policy to achieve. While a less confrontational US administration would certainly be able to win greater international support and contributions, it will be a challenge to persuade the major European countries to have either the United Nations or NATO take over the major responsibilities in Iraq.

The reason is cost. Taking all expenses into account, one year of involvement in Iraq costs between $50 billion and $100 billion. Under the mandatory assessment scale for the United Nations this would cost France and Germany some $5 billion to $10 billion each, and they would face pressure to put their own troops in harm's way. NATO assessments are similarly costly. While our allies may wish a Kerry administration well, they may not be willing to commit resources on this scale to help the United States get out of Iraq. As a European diplomat told me before last year's war, "It will be china shop rules in Iraq: you break it, you pay for it."

I believe United States policy is most successful when it follows international law and works within the United Nations, according to the provisions of the Charter. This is not just a matter of upholding the ideals of the UN; it is also practical. As our war in Iraq demonstrates, we cannot afford any other course.

—April 15, 2004
Notes
[*] I describe here my application of the Yugoslav model to Iraq, not Les Gelb's. We differ in our understanding of the Yugoslav model and of the subsequent history of that country. The differences, however, are not material to the arguments advanced here.



 
The New York Review of Books: A Matter of Truth
The New York Review of Books: A Matter of Truth
Volume 51, Number 8 · May 13, 2004
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By Brian Urquhart
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror
by Richard A. Clarke
Free Press, 304 pp., $27.00

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States Staff Statements Nos. 1-8
www.9-11commission.gov
1.
During an election year in Washington, there is no such thing as an election-free statement. This phenomenon has reached a climax of sorts with the publication of Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke's account of his ten years as the country's leading counterterrorism coordinator. The hostile reaction of the administration has boosted his book to the top of the national best-seller list and made it a leading news story. The coincidence of its publication with the public testimony of Clarke and others before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States has been denounced as a shameless act of commercial and personal self-promotion. (Clarke maintains that his hope that the book would be published before Christmas 2003 was dashed by the White House taking so long to clear it for security.) There have been welcome moments of farce during this furor, as when the vice-president kicked the ball into his own team's goal by stating that Clarke, the administration's ranking expert on counter-terrorism, "wasn't in the loop" much of the time. This assertion had to be hurriedly corrected by the national security adviser.

Most of the reaction was, and is, directed at Clarke's allegations of the Bush administration's inattention to the al-Qaeda threat in the months before September 11. The task of rebutting this story has been made more difficult by President Bush's own frank comment about the al-Qaeda threat, quoted in Bob Woodward's Bush at War (2002), that "I was not on point... I didn't feel that sense of urgency. My blood was not nearly as boiling."[1] Accounts of the Bush administration's early indifference to the imminent threat of al-Qaeda have already been published in a number of books and in the press.[2] What is different about Clarke is that, in the fight against terrorism, he was the ultimate insider with a formidable reputation for dedication, drive, and effectiveness. Clarke's other stinging criticism of the Bush administration, his denunciation of the Iraq war as a gross and extremely costly strategic error, must have hit an even more sensitive nerve in a White House that cannot admit either question or error. It is a criticism that gets more difficult to answer every day.

It would be a pity if this Washington firestorm were to lead people to conclude that Clarke's book is simply another Bush-bashing exercise and that there is therefore no need to read it. (The Bush administration makes its full appearance only on page 227 of a three-hundred-page book.) Against All Enemies is a highly readable, often exciting, and authoritative account of America's most dangerous immediate problem, how to deal with terrorism and al-Qaeda. It is also the story of one man's effort to make the complex bureaucracy of the federal government respond to undefined but devastating threats as well as to unforeseen emergencies. It is an important book.

2.
Richard Clarke made his way from a working-class family in Boston, through the University of Pennsylvania and MIT, to government service, in which he rose to the highest ranks of the policymaking world in Washington. Starting as an intelligence analyst in the Pentagon, he became, at the age of thirty-four, the deputy chief of intelligence and research at the State Department. In 1992, after an argument with Secretary of State James Baker, he was assigned to the National Security Council staff, where he became the acknowledged national expert and leader on terrorism and counterterrorism. In 1998, Clinton appointed him as coordinator of counterterrorism with a seat at the cabinet table. Considering that he is currently being accused of grandstanding, self-aggrandizement, and self-importance, it is striking that Clarke's name was virtually unknown to the public until very recently.

In Washington Clarke assumed none of the easygoing and affable airs and graces of a grandee in the capital. He was tough, outspoken, arrogant, and abrasive and had no desire to be liked. Indeed without these qualities it is difficult to see how he could again and again have cut through the jungle of the federal bureaucracy to achieve effective responses to the new and appalling threat of global, ideological, suicide terrorism.

Even the authors of the excellent Staff Statements of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks feel the need to devote a paragraph to Clarke's unusual personality, tactics, and skill:

Clarke was a controversial figure. A career civil servant, he drew wide praise as someone who called early and consistent attention to the seriousness of the terrorism danger. A skilled operator of the levers of government, he energetically worked the system to address vulnerabilities and combat terrorists.... Some officials told us that Clarke had sometimes misled them about presidential decisions or interfered in their chain of command. National Security Adviser Berger told us that several of his colleagues had wanted Clarke fired. But Berger's net assessment was that Clarke fulfilled an important role in pushing the interagency process to fight Bin Laden. As Berger put it, "I wanted a pile driver."[3]
According to Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon in The Age of Sacred Terror, "This time Dick has gone too far," was a frequent refrain in the offices of the Clinton National Security Council.


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Benjamin and Simon ascribe Clarke's effectiveness to three principal characteristics. He had a deep understanding of "all the levers and pulleys of foreign policy," of what could be done and how to do it. He was relentless, and many of his senior colleagues

shook their heads as he overplayed his hand in bureaucratic battles and needlessly alienated people who might have helped him. But...he delivered considerably more than most. Third, Clarke had a preternatural gift for spotting emerging issues.[4]
During the Clinton administration the new shape and nature of international terrorism began to emerge. Clinton reacted to government-sponsored terrorism in a way that effectively discouraged further terrorist acts. In response to Iraq's attempt to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush during a 1993 visit to Kuwait, Saddam's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad was destroyed by cruise missiles. During the same year, however, the bombing of the World Trade Center was not immediately linked to a Saudi veteran of anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan called Osama bin Laden. Nor was bin Laden linked with the unwelcome presence during the war in Bosnia of a force of foreign Islamic militants, or with some terrorist operations that were thwarted, like the plan to bomb US airliners in the Pacific or to attack New York landmarks, including the UN. The movement called al-Qaeda was not recognized until later.

Clinton's national security adviser, Tony Lake, began to pester the CIA for more information about bin Laden until his connection with particular acts of terrorism was established, and Clinton began to seek more legal authority and more money in order to go on the offensive against terrorism both at home and abroad. Between 1995 and 2000 the counterterrorism budget increased from $5.7 billion to $11.1 billion, and the authority of the FBI and other government agencies to take action against potential terrorists was steadily enhanced. There was considerable resistance to these measures. Republicans in Congress objected to expanding organized-crime wiretap provisions to terrorists, while Tom DeLay and others agreed with the National Rifle Association that the proposed restrictions on bomb-making infringed on the right to bear arms. The FBI opposed the Federal Air Marshals program.


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Clarke describes the new concern for homeland security in the 1990s and Clinton's enthusiastic involvement in the process of making terrorism and bin Laden a major national priority. There was also a growing awareness of al-Qaeda's ultimate goal of a global Islamic caliphate, and of its plans to exploit the policies of Western countries. "The ingredients al Qaeda dreamed of for propagating its movement," Clarke writes, "were a Christian government attacking a weaker Muslim region, allowing the new terrorist group to rally jihadists from many countries to come to the aid of the religious brethren."

In August 1998, the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were simultaneously struck with powerful truck bombs. Clinton accepted the advice of Clarke and his other advisers to retaliate with cruise missiles on a supposed chemical plant in Sudan and on an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden was reported to be having a meeting. The Monica Lewinsky scandal was at its height, and Clinton told his advisers to propose action to him without regard to his messy personal problems. If they thought this was the best time to hit the Afghan camps, he would order it and take the heat for the "Wag the Dog" criticism that would inevitably follow.

Clarke comments with disgust that the public reaction to the nearly successful attempt to wipe out the al-Qaeda leadership in retaliation for two deadly terrorist attacks was just as perverse as the White House had foreseen, ascribing the retaliation exclusively to Clinton's supposed desire to distract attention from the Lewinsky affair. This episode made Clarke's attempts to get approval for follow-up attacks on al-Qaeda far more difficult.

At Clinton's request, Clarke produced a combined political and military plan for the destruction of al-Qaeda, entitled—appropriately for an alumnus of the Boston Latin School—"Delenda" after Cato the Elder's injunction "Carthago delenda est"— Carthage must be destroyed. The plan included aid to the Northern Alliance, which was fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, wholesale attacks on the al-Qaeda camps, the use of Predator drones for reconnaissance and later, so it was hoped, to fire missiles at al-Qaeda targets, and the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Clarke's ideas were largely frustrated by the caution of the CIA, by a lack of reliable and timely "actionable" intelligence, by the fear of alienating Pakistan, and by the administration's anxiety that Clinton might be labeled a mad bomber for relying too heavily on cruise missiles.


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There were, however, other counter-terrorism successes, including the foiling of the so-called millennium plots to attack Los Angeles International Airport and American targets in Jordan. The first Predator flights were promising, one of them visually identifying Osama bin Laden walking with his bodyguards, but the flights were then suspended for the winter. When the USS Cole was attacked in Aden in October 2000, Clarke's proposal to retaliate by attacking al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan was thwarted by the CIA's reluctance to identify al-Qaeda as the Cole culprit and by the Pentagon's refusal to contemplate military action by special forces or bombing.

The Clinton period was certainly the summit of Clarke's government career, and he seems to have been involved, mostly covertly, in an extraordinary number of active foreign policy matters. Sometimes the obsession with covert action got out of hand. Clarke describes a "secret" plan, Operation Orient Express, "reflecting our hope that many nations would join us in doing in the UN head [Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali]." He describes "racing to the Oval Office" to prevent Clinton making any compromises on this matter. Clarke does not explain why "doing in," i.e. ousting, Boutros-Ghali was such an urgent national objective. It was, of course, a rather shoddy election-year tactic to steal for the Clinton campaign, as early as possible, Bob Dole's politically profitable verbal assaults on Boutros-Ghali. "Doing in" Boutros-Ghali was eventually easily achieved by the normal public method of using the US veto in the UN Security Council. Clarke comforts himself that "the entire operation had strengthened [UN Ambassador] Albright's hand in the competition to be Secretary of State in the second Clinton administration." This is not Clarke at his best.

3.
"In general," Clarke comments, "the Bush appointees distrusted anything invented by the Clinton administration and anything of a multilateral nature...." The incoming administration was focused on confronting China, going ahead with a missile defense system ("Star Wars"), developing its relationship with Vladimir Putin's Russia, and withdrawing from various multilateral obligations. As General Don Kerrick, Clinton's deputy national security adviser, put it, the new crew had the "same strategic perspective as the folks in the eighties."[5] The new national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, knew Clarke and kept him on, but she disliked, as inappropriate for the National Security Council, the many different operational functions and the large office that had grown up around him. She therefore downgraded the office of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism so that Clarke was at the deputy level and no longer made reports to the top-level meetings of "Principals"—among them the heads of the State and Defense Departments and the FBI and CIA.

On January 25, 2001, in the first week of the new administration, Clarke asked for a cabinet-level meeting to review the al-Qaeda threat. Rice told him that he and the other deputies should "frame" the issue first. He also submitted an updated version of the proposals for action he had made in the late Clinton period. The deputies only managed to meet on this subject in April. It was at this meeting that Clarke heard a warning of future strategic trends. After Clarke outlined to the meeting his ideas for dealing with the threat of al-Qaeda,

Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld's deputy at Defense, fidgeted and scowled. Hadley [Rice's deputy] asked him if he was all right. "Well, I just don't understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden," Wolfowitz responded.
I [Clarke] answered as clearly and forcefully as I could: "We are talking about a network of terrorist organizations called al-Qaeda, that happens to be led by bin Laden, and we are talking about that network because it and it alone poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States."
"Well, there are others that do as well, at least as much. Iraqi terrorism for example," Wolfowitz replied.
Clarke and the CIA deputy director, John McLaughlin, pointed out that there had been no Iraqi-sponsored terrorism since 1993, when cruise missiles had destroyed Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters. Wolfowitz replied that bin Laden was being given too much credit and couldn't possibly do all these operations without a state sponsor, i.e., Iraq.

As things turned out, although there had been many Principals meetings on other subjects since Bush's inauguration, the cabinet-level meeting on al-Qaeda that Clarke had requested in January only took place on September 4, a week before the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

During the summer of 2001 Clarke had become more and more frustrated with the new administration's low priority for working on the threat of al-Qaeda and his own inability to do anything about it. George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, shared this frustration. Telling Rice and Hadley that "maybe I'm becoming like Captain Ahab with bin Laden as the White Whale," Clarke asked to be reassigned to a post dealing with critical infrastructure protection and cyber security, a relatively new source of concern that Clarke felt strongly might be the next threat and the next point of vulnerability for the United States. It was agreed that he should take up this position on October 1.


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The summer of 2001 brought a crescendo of intelligence reports of an impending, though unspecified, major attack by al-Qaeda, and Clarke asked that the relevant government agencies and the airlines be put on full alert. He deeply regretted that the almost-daily cabinet-level meetings of the agencies concerned with intelligence and security that had been held during emergency periods in the Clinton administration no longer took place.[6] Such meetings were designed to "shake the tree," to make sure that vital information in one agency would be shared with all the others. "Somewhere in CIA," Clarke writes,

there was information that two known al Qaeda terrorists had come into the United States. Somewhere in FBI there was information that strange things had been going on at flight schools in the United States. I had asked to know if a sparrow fell from a tree that summer. What was buried in CIA and FBI was not a matter of one sparrow falling from a tree, red lights and bells should have been going off.... None of that information got to me at the White House.... I certainly know what I would have done, for we had done it at the Millennium: a nationwide manhunt, rousting anyone suspected of, maybe, possibly, having the slightest connection.
Condoleezza Rice, in her testimony on April 8, characterized the just declassified "President's Daily Brief" for August 6, 2001, as "not a particular threat report," and as "historical information based on old reporting." Maybe, but some might consider alarming phrases like "Bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington" [for the 1998 missile strike on his Afghan base]; or that "Al-Qaeda members...have resided in or traveled to the United States for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks"; or that the FBI's information "indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks...." The red lights and bells evidently failed to go off in Crawford, Texas.

In a message to Rice before the September 4 Principals meeting on al-Qaeda urging her to consider whether or not al-Qaeda was "an existential threat to the American way of life," he asked Rice to "put herself in her own shoes when in the very near future al Qaeda had killed hundreds of Americans: 'What will you wish then that you had already done?'" Clarke does not record a reply to this message, but in her April 8 testimony Rice said that she took Clarke's message as an encouragement to press the Principals hard and not be dragged down by the bureaucracy.

4.
Clarke's account of the day of September 11 is his opening chapter—a breathless, tough-talking, take-charge narrative that is quite unlike the rest of the book. It is a crisis manager's account of the White House on one of the most terrible and frightening days in American history. Clarke does not maintain that September 11 could definitely have been stopped if his ideas had been adopted; he claims only that there were serious failures of organization, that much more could have been done, and that in any case, if thwarted, al-Qaeda would certainly try again. In his comment on Condoleezza Rice's April 8 testimony, he added that regular "shaking the tree" at cabinet level might have had some effect.[7]

Clarke believed that after September 11 the government would deal with the terrorist threat fully and systematically. Instead, after going into Afghanistan first with bombing and then with a relatively small force to remove the Taliban and, it was hoped, bin Laden, the old obsession with Iraq soon began to dominate the administration's "war on terror." Clarke, who was by then working on cyber-security, was appalled, not least because 70 percent of the American people had been persuaded that Saddam Hussein was responsible for September 11. As one of America's most dedicated students of al-Qaeda, Clarke writes:

Nothing America could have done would have provided al Qaeda and its new generation of cloned groups a better recruitment device than our unprovoked invasion of an oil-rich Arab country. Nothing else could have so well negated all our other positive acts and so closed Muslim eyes and ears to our subsequent calls for reform in their region.
And later, he comments,

Rather than seeking to work with the majority in the Islamic world to mold Muslim opinion against the radicals' values, we did exactly what al Qaeda said we would do. We invaded and occupied an oil-rich Arab country that posed no threat to us, while paying scant time and attention to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable and made it difficult for friendly Islamic governments to be seen working closely with us.
In the process, the operation in Afghanistan was shortchanged, and the military resources of the United States seriously overstretched. In the current state of affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Clarke's words ring horribly true.

5.
The Staff Statements of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks are direct and unemotional documents that nonetheless contain large quantities of fascinating, and sometimes agonizing, information. From beginning to end they reveal systems, states of mind, and policies that were not attuned to the originality and monstrosity of September 11. None of the nineteen hijackers was on the FAA's list of people posing a threat to commercial aviation. Any knife with a blade of less than four inches was permitted to pass through airport security. The priority in airline instructions for dealing with hijackers was to ensure that the hi-jacked aircraft landed safely, and there was therefore to be no physical opposition to the hijackers. This was the first recorded occasion on which the hijackers actually piloted a plane; no cockpits were "hardened" to prevent intruders from entering them. The reconstruction of what probably happened in the four hijacked aircraft on September 11 is heartbreaking. These and hundreds of other details of the process, from the entry of the hijackers into the United States until the catastrophe itself, will be of immense value in devising new systems and regulations. They make grim reading.

On the diplomatic, political, military, and intelligence front the papers are equally revealing without being judgmental. The same problem of a general inability to conceive of an attack like September 11 remained. Statement 8, on national policy coordination, relies heavily on Richard Clarke's testimony, which follows the same lines as his book, but is summarized in the cool and unemotional style of the commission's staff.

The continental United States had not had a violent attack on its soil for nearly two hundred years, and the idea of domestic intelligence was a foreign and unwelcome one. In the April 8 commission hearings, Condoleezza Rice referred again and again to legal and structural problems that especially affected the cooperation of the CIA and the FBI and prevented them from sharing intelligence and information. "The country," she told the commission, "was not properly structured to deal with the threats that had been gathering for a long period of time." Rice also pointed out that the Bush administration, in its early months, was searching for a more strategic approach to al-Qaeda that would take into account relations with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries in the region. It would also include long-term plans for reform and democratization that would, among other things, change the nature of the Middle East. She did not refer to the Israel–Palestinian problem in this context—a striking omission.

6.
There is nothing in Clarke's government career to substantiate his critics' charges of a desire for personal publicity—if anything quite the contrary. He has also, predictably, been characterized as a disgruntled employee getting his own back on the Bush administration for his demotion from cabinet rank. He told Tim Russert that he felt he could not go on working on terrorism for an administration "that was treating it in such an unimportant way" and therefore asked for the cyberspace security job, which he did not consider a demotion, and he left government service when that ended.[8]

From his book, Clarke appears to be an apolitical but strong-minded public servant of a now rather old-fashioned kind, whose ultimate loyalty is to what he perceives to be the public good and the long-term interests of the people of the United States. He needed, he writes in the epilogue to his book, to tell the public "why I think we failed and why I think America is still failing to deal with the threat posed by terrorists distorting Islam." These are certainly vitally important public issues. Robert McNamara has sometimes been criticized for continuing as secretary of defense out of loyalty to President Johnson long after he had personally concluded that the war in Vietnam could not be won. That is one form of loyalty. To Lesley Stahl, who commented that Against All Enemies was not a loyal book, Clarke replied, "When the president starts doing things that risk American lives, then loyalty to him has to be put aside."[9] That sums up another kind of loyalty.

Clarke's book suggests the most likely reason why this very private man finally went public. As a professional public servant Clarke had, for thirty years, devoted all his formidable ability and energy to the defense and security of his country. Even in the best of times, he was notoriously short of patience with anyone or anything that seemed to get in his way. During the Clinton years he had had considerable success in alerting the government at the very highest level to the growing threat of al-Qaeda. In the Bush administration he encountered a determined refusal to give al-Qaeda priority over other issues at the very moment when intelligence was indicating ever more ominous security threats to the United States.


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Before September 11 Clarke had already had some inkling of the extent to which ideologues and fixed ideas would dictate policy in the new administration, and as a professional public servant this tendency shocked him. He assumed, however, that the catastrophe of September 11 would produce a strong and objective approach to the dangers of terrorism that undoubtedly lay ahead. He was aghast when the administration willfully galloped off in the wrong direction and began to prepare for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a move that he considered an immensely self-destructive strategic error. He presumably felt that the public ought to hear the views of an authoritative source before another presidential election.

In what circumstances are highly placed public servants justified in abandoning their loyalty to a particular administration for what they see as a larger and more compelling loyalty to the truth and to the future? In today's Washington, in full knowledge of the likely consequences, it takes courage and conviction to take this step. But the stakes for the United States are now very high. Disasters and ominous trends abroad and serious challenges at home demand more than vitriolic partisan politics, spin and secretiveness, dogmatic decisions and a total inability to admit, or learn from, mistakes, and contempt or worse for dissenters. The current situation and the future of the United States demand united policies based on recognition of past errors, on the truth however disagreeable, on a reasonably shared view of the future, and on serious discussion and debate. Clarke's experience and his opinions on the United States' greatest immediate danger are important to the future health and security of his country.

Notes
[1] In her testimony to the Commission on Terrorist Attacks on April 8, Condoleezza Rice maintained that Bush said this in answer only to a question about the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

[2] For example, in The Age of Sacred Terror by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon (Random House, 2002), in Time magazine in August 2002, and more recently in Steve Coll's Ghost Wars (Penguin, 2004).

[3] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, Staff Statement No. 8, p. 3.

[4] Benjamin and Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror, pp. 232–233.

[5] See Benjamin and Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror, p. 336.

[6] In her April 8 testimony Condoleezza Rice pointed out that Clarke's group of agency deputies was meeting several times a week. Clarke has replied that frequent cabinet-level meetings specifically on the al-Qaeda threat and subsequent orders by cabinet members to their various departments would have been far more effective in revealing vital information (ABC News, April 8, 2004).

[7] ABC News, April 8, 2004.

[8] Clarke's interview with Tim Russert, NBC News, March 28, 2004.

[9] CBS, 60 Minutes, March 21, 2004.




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