Pentagon Accused of Disinformation

Libération (France)

Allegations about the Iraqi arsenal are put largely in doubt.

A classic press altercation: in the beginning of May, John Burns, Baghdad Bureau Chief for The New York Times, sends an angry email to Judith Miller, bio-terrorism specialist for the same paper, who, without warning him, had just published an article on the formerly exiled Iraqi Ahmed Chalabi, a controversial personality and the Pentagon’s darling: “It isn’t professional and it isn’t team work”, he writes. Miller responds, primly: “I’ve covered Chalabi for ten years, I’ve written most of the articles about him for our paper”, etc. Carried away by her own enthusiasm, she adds, to make her case: “He was the source for most of the exclusives we published on WMD.” Huh ? In other words, Chalabi would have been virtually the unique source of The Times’ scoops on the existence of weapons of mass destruction?

This comment opportunely found its way to The Times’ competitor, The Washington Post, which did not fail to gloat: “Could Chalabi have used the Times to insinuate the idea that Iraq hid weapons of mass destruction?,” The Post suggests.


The New York Times is not the only institution whose information concerning Iraq is challenged. A great confession has begun. It is specifically aimed at the Pentagon, the CIA, and the other intelligence services. No one excludes the possibility that weapons of mass destruction may eventually be found in Iraq, but one is constrained to recognize that, up to now, hundreds of experts who streaked through Iraq looking for them have come up empty-handed. Everyone asks how that’s possible given that Bush swore to have “overwhelming proof” of their existence. Elected officials are aroused, such as the very anti-war Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia), who denounces “a house of cards built on deceptions.”

In “The New Yorker”, the decorated journalist Seymour Hersh questions the trustworthiness of the Pentagon’s intelligence, he also affirms that one of its principle sources was none other than.the Iraqi National Congress, directed by Chalabi. One Pentagon lair is especially suspect: the Office of Special Plans, created after September 11 and entrusted to two die-hard “hawks”: Retired Captain William Luti and the expert, Abram Shulsky. It’s this lair that agitated, often against CIA opinion, to convince the White House that Iraq not only hid weapons of mass destruction, but also had guilty relations with Al-Qaeda.


The CIA was subjected to intense pressure to corroborate the necessity of a war against Iraq. It fussed a little about Pentagon exaggerations, but, at the end of the day, also denounced the existence of a gigantic arsenal of prohibited weapons. Now the hour of reckoning arrives. Several weeks ago CIA Director, George Tenet, ordered that a fine tooth comb be passed through all the reports on Iraq drawn up by the different intelligence agencies. Irony of a sort: Tenet’s basis for initiating the internal inquiry is a request of Donald Rumsfeld, the very let’s-go-to-war Secretary of Defense, dated… last October. At the time, Rumsfeld raged against the CIA’s inability to demonstrate the links between Baghdad and Al-Qaeda. Today, it’s the CIA’s caution that looks to be rewarded and the politicization of intelligence by the Pentagon that threatens to be revealed.

At the Capitol, Congress bestirs itself to try to understand the sudden disappearance of the casus belli. The House Intelligence Committee asked the CIA last week to throw some light on the “accuracy” and the “impartiality” of the intelligence which served as justification for the war. Without much conviction, California Democrat and Vice Chair of the Committee, Jane Harman, does not altogether exclude the possibility that we be faced with “the greatest disinformation campaign of all time”.

Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

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