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The Bush orthodoxy is in shreds

by Open-Publishing - Saturday 29 May 2004

Governments USA Sidney Blumenthal

A series of investigations has shattered neocon self-belief

By Sidney Blumenthal


The Guardian (UK)

At a conservative thinktank in downtown Washington, and across the Potomac at the Pentagon, FBI
agents have begun paying quiet calls on prominent neoconservatives, who are being interviewed in an
investigation of potential espionage, according to intelligence sources. Who gave Ahmed Chalabi
classified information about the plans of the US government and military?

The Iraqi neocon favourite, tipped to lead his
liberated country post-invasion, has been identified by
the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency as an Iranian
double-agent, passing secrets to that citadel of the
"axis of evil" for decades. All the while the neocons
cosseted, promoted and arranged for more than $30m in
Pentagon payments to the George Washington manque of
Iraq. In return, he fed them a steady diet of
disinformation and in the run-up to the war sent
various exiles to nine nations’ intelligence agencies
to spread falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction.
If the administration had wanted other material to
provide a rationale for invasion, no doubt that would
have been fabricated. Either Chalabi perpetrated the
greatest con since the Trojan horse, or he was the
agent of influence for the most successful intelligence
operation conducted by Iran, or both.

The CIA and other US agencies had long ago decided that
Chalabi was a charlatan, so their dismissive and
correct analysis of his lies prompted their suppression
by the Bush White House.

In place of the normal channels of intelligence
vetting, a jerry-rigged system was hastily constructed,
running from the office of the vice president to the
newly created Office of Special Plans inside the
Pentagon, staffed by fervent neocons. CIA director
George Tenet, possessed with the survival instinct of
the inveterate staffer, ceased protecting the sanctity
of his agency and cast in his lot. Secretary of state
Colin Powell, resistant internally but overcome,
decided to become the most ardent champion, unveiling a
series of neatly manufactured lies before the UN.

Last week, Powell declared "it turned out that the
sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases,
deliberately misleading. And for that I’m disappointed,
and I regret it". But who had "deliberately" misled
him? He did not say. Now the FBI is investigating
espionage, fraud and, by implication, treason.

A former staff member of the Office of Special Plans
and a currently serving defence official, two of those
said to be questioned by the FBI, are considered
witnesses, at least for now. Higher figures are under
suspicion. Were they witting or unwitting? If those who
are being questioned turn out to be misleading, they
can be charged ultimately with perjury and obstruction
of justice. For them, the Watergate principle applies:
it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

The espionage investigation into the neocons’
relationship with Chalabi is only one of the
proliferating inquiries engulfing the Bush
administration. In his speech to the Army War College
on May 24, Bush blamed the Abu Ghraib torture scandal
on "a few American troops". In other words, there was
no chain of command. But the orders to use the abusive
techniques came from the secretary of defence, Donald

The trials and investigations surrounding Abu Ghraib
beg the question of whether it was an extension of the
far-flung gulag operating outside the Geneva
conventions that has been built after September 11. The
fallout from the Chalabi affair has also implicated the
nation’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, which
published yesterday an apology for running numerous
stories containing disinformation that emanated from
Chalabi and those in the Bush administration funnelling
his fabrications. The Washington Post, which published
editorials and several columnists trumpeting Chalabi’s
talking points, has yet to acknowledge the extent to
which it was deceived.

Washington, just weeks ago in the grip of
neoconservative orthodoxy, absolute belief in Bush’s
inevitability and righteousness, is in the throes of
being ripped apart by investigations. Things fall
apart: the military, loyal and lumbering, betrayed and
embittered; the general in the field, General Sanchez,
disgraced and cashiered; the intelligence agencies
abused and angry, their retired operatives plying their
craft with the press corps, seeping dangerous truths;
the press, hesitating and wobbly, investigating its own
falsehoods; the neocons, publicly redoubling defence of
their hero and deceiver Chalabi, privately squabbling,
anxiously awaiting the footsteps of FBI agents; Colin
Powell, once the most acclaimed man in America,
embarked on an endless quest to restore his reputation,
damaged above all by his failure of nerve; everyone in
the line of fire motioning toward the chain of command,
spiralling upwards and sideways, until the finger
pointing in a phalanx is directed at the hollow crown.

· Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to
President Clinton, is Washington bureau chief of