Thursday, May 04, 2006

McGovern's Circular Firing Squad

The liberal blogosphere (yes, we occasionally visit the dark side) is euphoric over today's public "calling out" of Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, regarding his "lies" about WMD in Iraq. Speaking in Atlanta, Rumsfeld was sharply questioned about his 2003 statement that "we know where they are" [Iraqi weapons of mass destruction].

When Rumsfeld denied making the statement, the questioner read the quote to the defense secretary, and cited the media source. According to the liberal blogs (and the MSM), the episode left the defense secretary "speechless," if for only a moment. CNN reported that the Atlanta heckler, err...questioner was none other than retired CIA analyst (and persistent Bush Administration critic) Ray McGovern.

But Rumsfeld's critics ignore a salient fact in this game of "gotcha." What was Rumsfeld's 2003 statement based on? Intelligence reporting--much of it from McGovern's old employer, the CIA. In the late 1990s, there was a sizeable body of reporting about Iraq's WMD programs and locations of potential stockpiles, based on the reporting of multiple agencies, including the CIA. If Rumsfeld got it wrong (the final verdict on Saddam's WMD programs has not been rendered), it was because the spooks got it wrong, with the CIA leading the charge. In fact, prior to the creation of the National CounterProliferation Center, the CIA was the intelligence community lead for WMD proliferation issues, including Iraq.

The left still claims that the Administration "cherry-picked" intelligence to support its war plans, but the Robb Commission report debunks that myth. You may recall Conclusion #26 from the commission's findings:

"The Intelligence Community did not make or change any analytic judgments in response to political pressure to reach a particular conclusion, but the pervasive conventional wisdom that Saddam retained WMD affected the analytic process."

On the other hand, the Robb Report was highly critical of the CIA's efforts in detecting and reporting on WMD proliferation issues, through its Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), which served as the community's all-source center for WMD analysis. From page 212 of the report:

"...[WINPAC] was at the heart of many of the errors discussed earlier, from the mobile BW case to the aluminum tubes. Just as bad, some WINPAC analysts--and WINPAC as an institution--showed great reluctance to correct these errors, even long after they had become obvious."

On the surface, McGovern achieved his primary goal in Atlanta--creating an embarassing "media moment" for Rumsfeld that will run through today's news cycle. But look beyond the headlines, and you'll see McGovern also accomplished something that was very unintended--he reminded us of how the CIA became "screwed up" when "Veteran Intelligence Professionals" like him were running the show. Lest we forget, the intelligence failures in Iraq (and elsewhere) began at Langley, not on the E-Ring in the Pentagon.


blert said...

The US Army has found plenty to crow about in Iraq: binary nerve gas shells for instance.

PROBLEM: Can't crow about CB ordinance that is VERY likely still in possession of the unlawful combatants -- but they don't recognize it.

Saddam created his chemical munitions to look virtually identical to conventional rounds. That way he could shoot them off right in front of French military advisers during the Iran war.


We're in a double bind: Saddam had chemical weapons, we've found them, yet we can't dwell on them -- certainly can't expose them to the media.

The same is true for biological weapons.

It never occurred to us that it is AND ALWAYS WILL BE impossible to present discoveries of WMD ordinance.

Those who argue that Saddam didn’t have these programs will be shamed by history. But it’s going to take quite a while to turn the cards over.

In the meantime, Bush & Co have to suffer yapping fools while holding a poker face. War is hell.

Before OIF virtually everyone expected to find substantial fixed installations that would greatly resemble the surprises found in occupied Nazi Germany. No one expected that Saddam had long structured his entire WMD program to be deniable.

Binary shells that look identical to base-bleed chemical explosive rounds: hidden in plain sight.

Mobile, dual use anaerobic culture grow out rooms: perfect cover in place.

Huge investment in ballistic missile systems lacking any serious military-economic utility – lacking NBC warheads: “Look at what a rich fool I am.”

‘Crop-dusting’ jet fighter-bombers: what a technical breakthrough.

Yes, yes, yes… no WMD here…. Close your lying eyes!

blert said...

10:32 PM cynical joe said...

“So Iraq does have WMD and its the liberal press's fault that US forces can't disclose this information”

It’s impossible to disclose such a truth while these weapons are still in the possession of an enemy in the field. The politics of the media are irrelevant. All aspects of such discoveries must remain hush-hush even though the administration would love to go public.

“…OR Iraq doesn't have WMD and its Clinton's CIA's fault. This is a pretty neat trick and cleverly answers any possibilities that, just maybe, the present administration had to make a very difficult call and got it wrong.”

What are you talking about?

“I understand the political football this has become and Republican supporters being loathe to give in on this issue, but we've got to get to the truth so that a)we can attempt to fix the intelligence agencies if they failed or b) advertise the prescence of WMD so we don't continue to hang out our allies to twist over this.”

Overwhelming military need demands that politics take a back seat. More generally, this will ALWAYS be true. In a world war against unlawful combatants it is IMPOSSIBLE to publicize any NBC warfare specifics.

For all other powers, it has been the rule that NBC munitions received special handling. We now know that our opponents have stocked this stuff all over hell’s half acre and that it takes an expert to discriminate between chemical munitions and conventional explosives. No outsiders figured on that.

A single binary nerve gas round could kill thousands. The FBI and CIA have to be going nuts trying to keep this stuff out of our country.

“Apparantly Mr. Rumsfeld is in the enviable position of making all the decisions but not having to take any of the responsibility.”

You seem to have lost any comprehension of the gravity of this problem. The nation is trying to stop mass murder on a 9/11 scale and you’re tossing the matter around as a political talking point.

“If errors were made lets admit them and move on rather than dig up all manner of past 'gotchas' and 'you did it firsts' that are getting us nowhere.”

Well… no errors were made. Beyond that, I’m not into the blame game versus any American administration.