Sunday, October 10, 2004 How our neocon leaders got conned into fighting Iran's war How our neocon leaders got conned into fighting Iran's war: "How our neocon leaders got conned into fighting Iran's war

Oct. 9, 2004 3:24 p.m.
Judging from the latest opinion polls, few Americans seem to be aware that we have just witnessed the greatest scam ever perpetrated on a sovereign nation, in this case their own country.

The history of this scam was given thorough coverage in the European press. It received practically no coverage in American media.

This whole tragic episode began with Dick Cheney and his cohorts who wrote the "Project for The New American Century" in 1997, an 87-page document advocating the unilateral pre- emptive employment of overwhelming American military power as the primary instrument in exerting U.S. influence and control of events in the 21st century.

The first situation where employment of this doctrine was advocated was in Iraq, to put a regime in place favorable to U.S. policies in the Middle East.

In 1998 they presented this thesis to the Clinton administration as the basis for projection of U.S. power in that unstable region. It was rejected, much to the chagrin of Cheney and his associates.

When Cheney became vice president he saw to it that many of the principal authors of that document along with their disciples were given positions of responsibility within the Department of Defense, State Department, and the White House, whereby the "Project for the New American Century" could be implemented.

Donald Rumsfeld became secretary of defense; Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense; Richard Perle, chairman, Defense Policy Board; Douglas Fieth, under secretary of defense; William Luti, under secretary of defense; Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state; John Bolton, under secretary of State; Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff for the vice president; as well as others were put into policy positions.

In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, these neoconservatives (neocons) engineered the opportunity they were previously denied through manipulation of intelligence.

One of the first questions reportedly asked in the Situation Room on Sept. 12, 2001, was whether an Iraq connection to the attacks could be established.

Eventually the ranking neocons came to rely upon Ahmed Chalabi as their principal source of intelligence on Iraq. Remember Chalabi?

He was guest of honor at the State of the Union address, the distinguished, impeccably tailored gent seated behind first lady Laura Bush.

Recent discoveries of the damage he has done to the state of our union will preclude any further invitations from the White House.

How did Chalabi arrive at his place among history's greatest con men? He left Iraq in 1958 at the age of 13 when his aristocratic family was forced to flee following a coup overthrowing the last king. He received all of his formal education in the United States.

He became head of the Petra Bank in Jordan, where in 1992 he was convicted in absentia of a massive bank fraud and sentenced to 22 years at hard labor.

Fortuitously, that same year President George H.W. Bush established a covert $100 million fund for the overthrow of Saddam.

Chalabi immediately presented himself to the CIA and the Department of Defense as the next leader of Iraq to replace Saddam, establishing himself as the head of a dissident group called the Iraqi National Congress (I.N.C.).

When President George W. Bush took office, Chalabi and the I.N.C. were embraced by Cheney and the crew of senior policy makers he had placed in the Pentagon who accepted his intelligence assessments at face value. Once the neocons took over word went out that questions about the veracity of Chalabi and the I.N.C. were no longer appreciated.

As one Pentagon official said, "The view was that if you weren't a total I.N.C. guy, then you're on the wrong side."

When CIA and State Department questioned Chalabi's popular support in Iraq and accused him of misappropriating U.S. government funds, he forged an alliance with major conservative Republicans in Washington.

He went overboard to ingratiate himself with the neocons in the Department of Defense, especially those in the Office of Special Plans, an intelligence unit to plan the war on Iraq created by Under Secretary Feith as soon as the Bush administration came into office.

Chalabi targeted his pitch to his audience. Knowing of the neocon's predisposition to invade Iraq, he fed them everything they wanted to hear.

Their nave belief that the invasion of Iraq would be a short-term diversion from the principal conflict on terrorism in Afghanistan was based upon Chalabi's fantasies.

As Robert Baur, a former CIA official who worked in Iraq put it, "Chalabi was scamming the U.S. because the U.S. wanted to be scammed."

At the insistence of the neocons, Chalabi was flown into southern Iraq in the first weeks of the war.

Rather than the tumultuous welcome with flowers that he predicted, the crowds proved to so hostile that he had to be rescued by U.S. forces.

According to national polls published on the Provisional Authority Web site, Iraqis distrusted Chalabi more than Saddam. The self-appointed leader of the I.N.F. was not about to be the self-anointed leader of the new Iraq.

This should have given Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, et al. some inkling that they had been duped, but ideologues never admit mistakes.

When confronted with the fact that all of the I.N.C. information submitted to the DOD Office of Special Plans was bogus, Chalabi boasted with remarkable frankness: "We are heroes in error. What was said before does not matter. American troops are now in Baghdad!"

Indeed they are, being fired at from all sides by Sunni, Shia and whoever else seeks such an opportunity. They have been put in a virtual shooting gallery.

Prior to American occupation there were no al- Quaida in Iraq, Bin Laden having despised Saddam as the secular leader of a Muslim state.

Now there are members of al-Quaida and others pouring across the porous borders of Iraq for the opportunity to do battle with the latest Western occupiers of an Arab nation.

The American occupation of Iraq has allowed bin Laden to transform the U.S. campaign against terrorism as a Western crusade against Islam in the eyes of the Muslim world.

Egyptian President Mubarek was right in the prediction he made to Secretary of State Powell two months before this U.S. military action: "If you invade Iraq you will create another 100 bin Ladens."

Contrary to the daily Bush/Cheney mantra that the world is now a safer place, the intelligence services of every major nation now conclude that in the wake of the American occupation of Iraq the world is a much more dangerous place.

The London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies estimates that since the war in Iraq began al-Quaida cells have expanded from 60 to 90 countries, with some 18,000 members.

And these latest recruits are for the most part younger, savvier, and computer-literate.

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, describes the U.S. incursion into Iraq as, "The wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." It was not only needless, but also self-defeating within the context of a global strategy against terrorism.

It has strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic movement worldwide, alienated our traditional allies and diverted resources which should have been concentrated and utilized in the still ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Our opportunity to have captured bin Laden at Tora Bora was thwarted by lack of sufficient forces to seal off escape routes. The stalled campaign in Afghanistan has that country reverting to its traditional warlord fiefdoms which, collectively, have now made it the world's largest exporter of opium.

Chalabi's close relationship with the U.S. came to an abrupt end in May when it was found that senior members of his Iraqi National Front had been spying for Iran all of this time, a fact which became apparent when the Iranians were tipped off that the U.S. had broken their code.

Chalabi's offices in Baghdad were raided under U.S. forces' oversight. President Bush terminated his $340,000 monthly stipend.

Like an embittered rejected suitor, Chalabi did a 180- degree about face. He became allied with the radical Shia clergyman, Moqtada al-Sadr, in calling for the end of American occupation.

As an astute politician, Chalabi recognizes the extent to which we have antagonized the majority Shia population of Iraq, whose clergy always maintained close ties with their fundamentalist counterparts in Iran.

In the wake of the current unrest and possible civil war, the embittered Iraqi Shia clergy will probably form a theocratic alliance between the 60 percent Shia population of Iraq and the 90 percent Shia population of Iran.

The last thing the U.S. wanted to see evolve was the fundamentalist Shia clergy of Iran having dominant influence through their Iraqi counterparts over that country's foreign and domestic policies.

Many intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the neocons in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighboring government, thereby paving the way for a fundamentalist Shia-ruled Iraq.

Harry Petrequin was a former faculty member, Department of National Security Policy Studies at the National War College. As a Coast Guard officer he served in the Korean theater and in Vietnam during those conflicts. He lives in Black Mountain."


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