Tuesday :: Sep 28, 2004

Bush Administration At War With Itself Over Iraq


by Steve

While I have been off tilting at Gallup windmills the last couple of days, there have been significant developments about Iraq. First, there is more and more frustration and anger beginning to seep out of the Bush Administration unofficially about the fate of the occupation and our long-term prospects there. A Page One in Wednesday’s Washington Post reveals how much dissension there is within the administration over the fantasy world approach taken by Bush, Cheney, and Rummy in peddling a positive line to the American people.

A growing number of career professionals within national security agencies believe that the situation in Iraq is much worse, and the path to success much more tenuous, than is being expressed in public by top Bush administration officials, according to former and current government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense.

While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say.

People at the CIA "are mad at the policy in Iraq because it's a disaster, and they're digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper," said one former intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials. "There's no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments."

"Things are definitely not improving," said one U.S. government official who reads the intelligence analyses on Iraq.

"It is getting worse," agreed an Army staff officer who served in Iraq and stays in touch with comrades in Baghdad through e-mail. "It just seems there is a lot of pessimism flowing out of theater now. There are things going on that are unbelievable to me. They have infiltrators conducting attacks in the Green Zone. That was not the case a year ago."

All of this highlights the internal battles going on:

As for a war between the CIA and White House, said one intelligence expert with contacts at the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon, "There's a real war going on here that's not just" the CIA against the administration on Iraq "but the State Department and the military" as well.

When a recently issued National Intelligence Estimate came to light showing the CIA’s estimate that Iraq would end up in one of three ways, all of them much less than optimal, Bush dismissed the Agency’s estimate as “guessing” which pissed off the spooks.

President Bush called the assessment a guess, which drew the consternation of many intelligence officials. "The CIA laid out several scenarios," Bush said on Sept. 21. "It said that life could by lousy. Life could be okay. Life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like."

Two days later, Bush reworded his response. "I used an unfortunate word, 'guess.' I should have used 'estimate.' "

"And the CIA came and said, 'This is a possibility, this is a possibility, and this is a possibility,' " Bush continued. "But what's important for the American people to hear is reality. And the reality's right here in the form of the prime minister. And he is explaining what is happening on the ground. That's the best report."

Except that according to Dana Milbank today, Allawi’s account seems to have been written by the White House.

Of course, no matter what the CIA said about Iraq now or even before the war, this administration would have ignored it unless it contained assessments that Bush wanted to hear. This was confirmed by the New York Times Tuesday in a story which revealed that the Agency told the White House about the likely problems and costs of the occupation, which the White House then ignored.

Steve :: 11:58 PM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!