Sunday, February 12, 2006

Paul Pillar mildly complains about CIA getting screwed

As has been widely discussed, Paul Pillar has decided to take on the White House by giving a few more specifics about who believed what during the run-up to the war. Pillar was the National Intelligence Officer at the CIA from 2000 to 2005, and a 27-year veteran of the agency.

His article in the next Foreign Affairs discusses the conflicts between the intelligence agencies and the Bush Administration in the events before the latest US/Iraq war. It's a mildly written article that says, in brief:
  • The CIA and the White House were both mistaken about WMD in Iraq.
  • The CIA was not mistaken about claiming there were no al-Qaeda connections to Iraq, and no Iraq connection to the 9/11 attacks.
  • The White House "cherry-picked" evidence to suit its political agenda. In this area, he appears to specifically name Vice President Cheney and Doug Feith (the "stupidest fucking guy on the face of the earth") as the guiltiest parties.
  • CIA Analysts were indeed pressured by unnamed policy-markers, but there was no overt change in their analyses in response to this pressure. I read this as "we repeatedly told them that they were wrong." However, the politicization of intelligence can be subtle, as he explains.
  • There was a positive feedback loop, where the White House appeared to draw meaning from hearing increased intelligence reports on the areas for which they specifically requested more intelligence.
  • He suggests repairs in the form of a non-partisan office to manage politicized areas.
In Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, I believe he had a paragraph about the CIA being tired of being blamed for the failures of the various presidents. The presidents come and go, and the CIA is frequently left with the problem, hated by all the world. Of course the CIA has cooperated very closely with the president, including his illegal demands, but they have had little choice here. Now that the hysteria after 9/11 is mostly in our past, they're trying to get things into balance again.

I suppose it would have been nice if Paul Pillar had had more of a napalm bomb of a revelatory article. Unfortunately, he says very little that is new or shocking — if you've been paying attention. He's just confirming for the 10th time, from yet another high reputable source, that Bush and Cheney wanted a war with Iraq, and they were prepared to pursue any means necessary to get that war. Our sons and daughters are dead, because these two draft-dodging liars wanted to play tough.

In another time, that would have grounds for impeachment, but now I guess he'll have to get a blowjob before the august body of the Senate will choose to meet on the issue.

(Image taken from


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