Thursday, June 24, 2004

Leap Of Feith

"And now there's new intelligence, and this has come since our staff report has been written because, as you know, new intelligence is coming in steadily from the interrogations in Guantanamo and in Iraq and from captured documents. And some of these documents indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al-Qaeda. That still has to be confirmed." 9/11 Commission member John Lehman, on Meet The Press, June 20th
"The administration official said the CIA and U.S. Army obtained the lists of members of the Fedayeen shortly after the invasion of Iraq last year. Some, he said, had names "similar to" Ahmad Hikmat Shakir. But, he said, the CIA had concluded "a long time ago" that none were the al-Qaida associate." Newsday, June 22nd
Didn't Lehman have anyone on the 9/11 Commission staff run this by the CIA? Is the source for Lehman's assertion on Meet The Press so unimpeachable that he could have deemed it unnecessary to check with the nation's intelligence agencies?

The source, according to the Weekly Standard, is one of Dougie Feith's analysts. And who authored the Weekly Standard piece that reported this startling discovery? None other than Stephen F. Hayes, the ever credulous, resident conspiracy nut at the Weakly Slander, who has never seen an allegation of an Iraq-Al Qaeda conspiracy that he didn't believe.

Let's get one thing straight upfront. The 9/11 Commission staff report released last week did indeed confirm contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 1990's, but found that the contacts resulted in a rebuff of Al Qaeda by Iraq and that no "collaborative relationship" had been established. The wingnuts have ever since been engaged in an illiterate and dishonest attempt to argue that any contact is evidence of a "tie", as if my punching you in the face is evidence that we are allies. Mr. Hayes, alas, can find no refuge in such semantic silliness, because he has alleged far more than "ties." Mr. Hayes has unabashedly asserted on numerous occasions that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda, the very assertion definitively rejected by the 9/11 commission. If you don't believe me, read Mr. Hayes book "The Connection: How Al Qaeda's Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America." The title says it all, doesn't it?

Mr. Hayes recounts how one Christopher Carney, an analyst in neocon-man Doug Feith's infamous Office of Special Prevarications, was "poring over a list of officers in Saddam Hussein's much-feared security force, the Fedayeen Saddam." Carney ran across a reference to Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. Carney seemed to recall seeing a similar, though differently spelled name, in a report that suggested an Iraqi may have attended a Kuala Lumpur meeting of Al Qaeda operatives at which the 9/11 plans were discussed.

Mr. Hayes then embarks on a laughable exercise of inflating the hapless Shakir, a low-level factotum for Malaysian Airways, into a steely-eyed intelligence operative for Saddam Hussein. His evidence? When Shakir was detained by Jordanian intelligence while on his way from Qatar to Baghdad, the Iraqi "government" (embassy, perhaps?) sought to obtain Shakir's release. Hayes, before launching into his conspiracy reverie, makes this minor concession: "Some U.S. intelligence officials--primarily at the CIA--believed that Iraq's demand for Shakir's release was pro forma, no different from the requests governments regularly make on behalf of citizens detained by foreign governments." But Hayes won't be fooled by the CIA. No, Hayes cites the Iraqi government's "panicked reaction" as evidence that Shakir was a high-level Iraqi intelligence agent. Hayes' evidence of a "paniched reaction"? Some phone calls from Iraqi officials to Jordanian officials.

But Mr. Hayes is just getting rolling. "CIA officials who interviewed Shakir in Jordan reported that he was generally uncooperative. But even in refusing to talk, he provided some important information: The interrogators concluded that his evasive answers reflected counterinterrogation techniques so sophisticated that he had probably learned them from a government intelligence service." Wow, he was cleverly evasive - he must be an Iraqi James Bond! Can you imagine the much-maligned (and often justly) New York Times publishing such a lunatic leap by one of its reporters? O.K., Judith Miller aside.

Mr. Hayes leaves us with the admonition that the alleged "Shakir connection" is "far from conclusive; conceivably there were two Ahmed Hikmat Shakirs." In fact, the CIA had apparently concluded a long time ago that there are more than one Iraqi Fedayeen with the name Ahmed Hikmat Shakir or a similar name, and that none of them are Mr. Hayes' globe-trotting, cloaked and daggered, deep-cover intelligence agent.

My wingnut friends and the neocon-men will no doubt chirp that the CIA is not infallible. Indeed, it is not. But what do we have here, when you really look hard at it? You have this guy Carney, a fellow working for the same Pentagon operation that peddled all of Chalabi's lies, noting that a list of Fedayeen officers contains a name similar to the name of an Iraqi alleged to have attended a critical Al Qaeda meeting. That's it. There's nothing more than that. All of Hayes' "mideast by north mideast" travelogue is irrelevant to the question of whether the Shakir who attended the Kuala Lumpur meeting is one of the many Shakirs listed on our Fedayeen rosters. It's merely Hayes' speculation that the Shakir in Kuala Lumpur was a member of Iraqi intelligence, and the Fedayeen had nothing to do with Iraqi intelligence!

At this point I could lament the stunning lack of journalistic rigor by the Weakly Slander (and the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, as well, which was shaking this Shakir tree even before the Weakly Slander), but this kind of tendentious, "Keystone Cops" intelligence is fully in keeping with the intelligence produced by Feith's group that formed the basis for the entire Iraq misadventure. Again and again Feith's group, interpreting the same hard data interpreted by the CIA and DIA, found a brilliant, high-definition picture of Iraqi WMDs and Al Qaeda ties where the CIA and DIA found a fuzzy, shadowy picture with a distinct vertical hold problem. Again and again Feith's group filled in the gaps in U.S. intelligence with unqualified claims of Iraqi WMDs provided by Chalabi cronies, sources already deemed unreliable by the CIA and ultimately discredited on March 7, 2003 when Blix reported that none of the Chalabi intelligence had panned out.

Just think of it. A Feith functionary finds a name on a Fedayeen roster similar to the name of an alleged Al Qaeda operative, nothing more, and feeds it into the neocon echo chambers at the WSJ and the Weakly Slander. From there, this bit of non-intelligence finds its way to the ears of an exceedingly weakminded and credulous member of the 9/11 Commission, neocon dupe emeritus John Lehman, and he trumpets it on Meet The Press. And at that point some administration official, no doubt seeing the seeds of yet another humiliating retreat, another "yellowcake", another Kay Report, quietly informs Newsday that there's nothing to this Fedayeen-Al Qaeda claim, that the CIA checked it out a long time ago and there's nothing there.

These neocon-men are shameless. No collaborative relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda? No problem. No Atta meeting in Prague? No problem. Just take one part bullshit, one part cretinous 9/11 Commission member, put it in a Shakir, and voila: a Pentagon Pina Colada, chilled and ready for consumption by any slack-jawed, war-mongering dumbass already drunk on the Deserter's lies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've got wingnut friends? Ewwww.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Yaz said...


11:18 PM  

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