Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Iraq War: When was the invasion decided upon?

"I think we are winning.  Okay?  I think we're definitely winning.  I think we've been winning for some time." - Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Iraq War 04/26/05

"I just wonder if they will ever tell us the truth." - Harold Casey, Louisville, KY, October 2004.

Via Laura Rozen's invaluable blog War and Pieceone more piece of evidence that the Bush administration had decided on war with Iraq long before March of 2003:  Creating the Inevitable: The CIA visits Iraq in April 2002 by Ken Silverstein Harper's Online 06/05/06.  He writes:

One former officer described how in April of 2002, nearly a year before the invasion, the CIA sent a special unit of eight men to “set up shop” in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. The team had no support from the Pentagon and was told that if it got into trouble, team members would have to get out on their own. At the start the team had fixed communications “windows” when it made contact with Washington, but otherwise operated with little input from CIA headquarters. “[They] had an enormous amount of autonomy,” this officer said.

One of the team's chief goals was to develop a network of intelligence sources that could support the invasion and, afterwards, the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq.

Silverstein is careful to state that this CIA mission in itself does not mean that the decision to invade had been taken at that time:

The CIA's prewar activities don't, of course, constitute a smoking gun regarding the administration's determination to go to war. A former agency station chief in the Middle East said the special unit's actions could have been the opening gambit in a plan meant to force Hussein to make concessions desired by the U.S. “If the President's intention was to prepare for war in order to pressure Saddam, to make him give in,” he said, “that type of intelligence work would have been important. That's exactly what the agency would have been doing.”

While that might have been the case, the former station chief said he believed Bush “was planning to go to war all along.” His view was shared by the two sources involved with the special unit. One said that, by the summer of 2002, he was absolutely convinced that war was coming based on discussions and activities at the CIA.

This incident and Silverstein's article joins a growing body of evidence, mostly dramatically the "Downing Street Memorandum", showing that Bush's exercise in peaceful diplomacy during the second half of 2002 and the first weeks of 2003 was simply to provide cover for the invasion of Iraq he had already decided upon.  Even some of the information in Bob Woodward's court history Plan of Attack () contributes to constructinig the real timeline.  The information in Silverstein's article would indicate a decision point of latest April 2002.

Silverstein also makes a good point about the line we hear over and over from the war's supporters, that all those other countries thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, too:

“They say everyone else was wrong,” said this former official, “but we conditioned them to be wrong. We spend [tens of billions of dollars per year] on signals intelligence and when we reach a conclusion, the people who spend less than that tend to believe us. They weren't wrong, they chose to believe us. The British, Germans, and Italians don't have all those overhead assets, so they rely on us. Historically they have been well-served, so they believe us when we tell them the earth is round. The  French have their own assets—and guess what? They didn't go with us.”

And he concludes with a possible analogy to attacking Iran:

As the Bush Administration rattles its sword in the direction of Iran, it's important to remember how rapidly a “last resort” can become a “fait accompli.”

"Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of." - George McGovern and Jim McGovern 06/06/05

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