William Rivers Pitt: The Heart of the Matter
The Heart of the Matter
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 17 October 2005
Well, I screwed it up real good, didn't I?
- Richard M. Nixon
In a New York Times article published on Sunday, columnist Frank Rich buried the dart right in the center-black. "What matters most in this case," wrote Rich, "is not whether Mr. Rove and Lewis Libby engaged in a petty conspiracy to seek revenge on a whistle-blower, Joseph Wilson, by unmasking his wife, Valerie, a covert C.I.A. officer. What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney."
That last sentence strikes sparks, for it takes us beyond the minutiae of a case surrounding two senior White House aides. However important Rove and Libby may be to this administration, neither represents the end of the story. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, with deliberation and intent, took this country to war in Iraq based on false premises, inflated intelligence and bald-faced scare tactics. They used September 11 against their own people to get what they wanted. That is the heart of this matter. If Fitzgerald's investigation ends at Rove and Libby, it will have ended too soon.
Rich, in his article, details the existence of the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG. "Its inception in August 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq," wrote Rich, "was never announced. Its eight members included Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, Condoleezza Rice and the spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its mission: to market a war in Iraq. Of course, the official Bush history would have us believe that in August 2002 no decision had yet been made on that war. Dates bracketing the formation of WHIG tell us otherwise. On July 23, 2002 - a week or two before WHIG first convened in earnest - a British official told his peers, as recorded in the now famous Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration was ensuring that 'the intelligence and facts' about Iraq's W.M.D.'s 'were being fixed around the policy' of going to war."
WHIG, and its intention to sell an unnecessary war to a shell-shocked public, is only half the story. The other half of the manipulative sales team could be found in the neighborhood occupied by the Department of Defense. The Office of Special Plans, or OSP, was created by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld specifically to second-guess and reinterpret intelligence data to justify war in Iraq. Think of it like baseball: the OSP pitched, and WHIG caught.
The OSP was on no government payroll and suffered no Congressional oversight. Their tainted information and interpretations overtopped the Iraq data being provided by the State Department and CIA. The OSP was able to accomplish this thanks to devoted patronage from high-ranking members of the administration, most prominently Vice-President Cheney.
The highest levels of the OSP were staffed by heavy-hitters like Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and William Luti, a former Navy officer who worked for Cheney before joining the Pentagon. When the OSP wanted to intimidate analysts into shaping conclusions to fit the already-made war decision, Cheney went to CIA headquarters on unprecedented visits. Once there, he demanded "forward-leaning" interpretations of the evidence. When Cheney was unable to go to the CIA, his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, went in his place.
That's it, right there. Mr. Libby may be a target of Mr. Fitzgerald, but no one should forget the trips Cheney personally made to Langley in order to wring war-supporting evidence out of the analysts. He went himself. His fingerprints are all over the scene.
One name that has been lost in the shuffle of history is that of Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the office of Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith until her retirement. Kwiatkowski charged two years ago that the operations she witnessed during her tenure in Feith's office, and particularly those of the OSP, constituted "a subversion of constitutional limits on executive power and a co-optation through deceit of a large segment of the Congress."
"What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline," Kwiatkowski wrote after her retirement. "If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of 'intelligence' found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense."
According to Kwiatkowsky, the political appointees assigned there and their contacts at State, the NSC, and Cheney's office tended to work as a "network." Feith's office often deliberately cut out, ignored or circumvented normal channels of communication both within the Pentagon and with other agencies. "I personally witnessed several cases of staff officers being told not to contact their counterparts at State or the NSC because that particular decision would be processed through a different channel," wrote Kwiatkowsky.
That "different channel," we now know, was almost certainly WHIG.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson's public attack on Bush for using the now-rubbished Niger uranium evidence, his attack upon the entire rationale for invasion, was a direct and ominous threat to the latticework of disinformation and lies put forth by WHIG and OSP. They didn't attack Wilson's wife because they didn't like her, or because they were bored. They did it because Wilson could have almost singlehandedly dismantled the administration's case for war. They did it to warn any other insiders who might have wanted to talk that there would be serious consequences for public statements. The administration's case for war was championed not by Rove and Libby, but by Bush and Cheney. It was their party, and Wilson was looking to stop the music.
Two questions remain: why would the administration take such a fantastic risk in attacking Wilson, and where are Bush's fingerprints on this thing? Both questions can be answered by another tidbit that has fallen down the memory hole. On May 22nd, 2003, two months after the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush signed an Executive Order titled "Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Property in Which Iraq Has An Interest."
The so-called "Development Fund for Iraq" was, by the way, one of the most grandiose money-laundering schemes ever devised. All of the profits made from plundering Iraq's oil were to go into this fund, ostensibly for use by the Iraqi people. In fact, this was the clearing-house for payouts to companies like Halliburton and its subsidiary, Kellog Brown & Root.
The May 22 Executive Order reads:
I hereby order: Unless licensed or
otherwise authorized pursuant to this order, any attachment,
judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other
judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and
I, GEORGE W.
BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that
the threat of attachment or other judicial process against
the Development Fund for Iraq, Iraqi petroleum and petroleum
products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations,
or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever
arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof,
and interests therein, obstructs the orderly reconstruction
of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and
security in the country, and the development of political,
administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq. This
situation constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to
the national security and foreign policy of the United
States and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal
with that threat.
I hereby order: Unless licensed or otherwise authorized pursuant to this order, any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void."
This Executive Order, declaring a national emergency, gave complete and total legal cover to Halliburton and every other petroleum and quasi-petroleum corporation currently operating in Iraq. No one can sue them, no one can touch them, no matter what they may do. By Executive Order, George W. Bush released Halliburton and the others from the need to display any kind of responsibility or legal behavior. Halliburton was removed from the sphere of civilization, and the laws that govern civilization, with the stroke of Mr. Bush's pen.
George W. Bush declared a national emergency in this Executive Order for one reason: to lock down the oil, and to give total legal cover to Dick Cheney's Halliburton, so they could do whatever they wanted to get their hands on it, and to get paid for it. Here we have Bush's fingerprints, and here is the reason for not only attacking Wilson, but for chucking up a war that was not necessary.
The Office of Special Plans to the White House Iraq Group, Cheney to Langley and Bush with his Executive Order, a war to get paid and cash money, honey, for Halliburton and friends. Rove and Libby are small fish. If and when they get fried, the stink may well fill the Oval Office. If George and Dick come out of this unscathed, Mr. Fitzgerald may as well have stayed in Chicago.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.