Friday, February 02, 2007

Just Imagine If Sanity Ruled The White House

Imagine this happening...


Ladies and gentlemen, a few days ago our ambassador to Iraq had been scheduled to present a dossier of evidence that the government of Iran was active in smuggling weaponry to militant elements in Iraq, and were actively involved in planning attacks on both Iraqi and U.S. forces. That conference, as you all know, was postponed indefinitely.

I can now tell you that the conference was postponed on my direct orders. I promised the American people that there would be no more failures of intelligence as there were in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq and I intend to keep that promise, so I ordered a complete and thorough review of all our intelligence. The results of that review disturbed me greatly.

Some of you may be familiar with the concept of Occam's Razor, which says that in any theory we should never create new ideas which are unnecessary to explain all the facts. Well, what the review found is that certain elements of the intelligence community, pressured into believing that we in the administration were looking for a particular answer, failed to observe that simple rule. Let me make a specific example from something that has been in the news a lot recently.

Without any evidence to back such an assumption, it was said that the recent horrific abduction and murder of U.S. servicemen in Karbala was beyond the resources of any Iraqi militant group working alone. Following this assumption, we and others then leapt to assume that the Iranian government were therefore the only party which could have organized such an attack. We now realize that all of this was a leap too far.

Within days of the Karbala attack, units of the Iraqi and U.S. forces discovered a huge cache of U.S. military uniforms and other equipment being sold in a market in Baghdad. Obviously, if these items could be procured by black marketeers then the possibility that they fell into the hands of militant groups is just as likely. The black market may have gotten hold of these items through corruption in Iraqi military circles, which is an ongoing problem so massive that last year the entire Iraqi procurement budget of some $1 billion was stolen, or they may have been part of stockpiles Saddam laid in before the invasion, as was reported by Central Command back in 2003.

Likewise, the office of the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction found last October that thousands of American-made weapons had gone missing in Iraq. We do not have to assume Iranian government involvement to see how such weapons could have made their way into the hands of the Karbala attackers. We assumed that procuring black SUV's of the kind used by U.S. government employees in Iraq was surely the work of Iranian government agents - yet Iran doesn't exactly export U.S. made automobiles to Iraq, American firms do. We've been proud of how well the Iraqi automobile retailing sector has been doing and the Iraqis have paintshops just like everyone else. They also have very fine forgers of identity documents, as would any nation which requires so much paperwork just to move around.

Finally, the fact that some of the Karbala attackers were blonde or spoke American-accented English has been seen as significant. We realize, after a moments thought, that we have always said there was a sizeable contigent of foreign Jihadis in Iraq and that everyone in the Middle east who speaks fluent English does so with an American accent from watching Hollywood movies. Indigent groups working with aid from within the Iraqi military were very capable of carrying out the Karbala attack. These groups have thoroughly penetrated the Iraqi military and are in a prime position to divert equipment and know-how into attacking Americans.

Occam's Razor was again violated when we leapt from our misapprehension of the facts to allegations of Iranian government involvement. Even had indigenous militants been incapable of the Karbala attack, we now realize we had no more evidence for Iranian involvement than for Israeli involvement, Saudi involvement or the involvement of any other nation or group with a possible interest in destabilizing Iraq in such a way that neither Shiite or Sunni can find a happy and peaceful life. If we can suggest Iranian involvement based on no evidence whatsoever, then we can just as blithely suggest that the Karbala murders were the result of a covert operation by another nation, aimed at increasing the tensions and the likelihood of war between the U.S. and Iran. One is as ridiculous as the other.

I now want to go on to discuss the results of the review in regards to wider accusations of Iranian government involvement in arming Iraqi militants and planning attacks.

Obviously, all my remarks about how inefficiency and corruption have made it possible for militants and black marketeers to get their hands on American equipment also apply to the wider picture. To this, we must add the information that much of the arms and munitions of the originally in the hands of Saddam's army were never rounded up or were never disposed off. Vast stockpiles of assault rifles, machine guns, explosives and ammunition still exist and much of these have fallen into the hands of militant groups or black market arms dealers. We are still finding huge caches of Saddam-era equipment on an almost daily basis.

Then there's smuggling. It wasn't until I ordered this review that i realized how porous national borders are in the region. They've been that way for more than two thousand years. Most are just lines on a map with tribes spread out on both sides of any border. I've included a briefing pack in you kit today on something historians call the Silk Road. It isn't a road at all, more a network of paths and tracks which have been used by merchants and smugglers since before Christ and which criss-cross the entire region like a spiderweb. The peoples of the region know these tracks well. They are impossible to effectively police and mean that goods can be smuggled long distances. Weaponry found in Iraq is as likely to have been smuggled across more than one national border from as far afield as Lebanon or the village arms markets of Pakistan as to have been smuggled using the resources of the Iranian government. Those markets in Pakistan even boast that they can copy any weapon up to and including a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile, right down to the serial numbers and markings and so well that you can't tell the difference between their copy and an original.

Its also highly likely that corruption in other regional governments, including but not limited to Iran, has fed smuggling into Iraq. Iraq is not the only nation in the region where government officials have a record of lining their own pockets at the expense of the government they work for. Obviously, Occam's Razor says that you don't need anything more than free-market entrepreneurship in the form of smugglers and corrupt officials getting rich on the demand for weaponry to explain the vast number of weapons finding their way to various Iraqi groups.

I should add that finding Iranian serial numbers on weaponry in Iraq, if such were to actually be the case, actually argues for the actions of corrupt officials and smugglers rather than a massive Iranian government plot. If the Iranians were as sophisticated in their plotting as some members of my administration would have you believe, they would hardly have forgotten to file off those markings, now would they? Your average Texan knows how to do that! (Chuckles)

Then there's those Improved Explosive Devices or IEDs which until now I have insisted were being provided to Iraqi militants by the Iranian government. I have to tell you that I was seriously misled by my briefers. These devices, including even those using explosively formed copper projectiles, are pretty elementary stuff for anyone trained in demolitions - as many of the former members of Saddam's army now with militant groups were. The method of their manufacture is well known and the tolerances needed are not all that exacting. The IRA made exactly the same devices in Northern Ireland and no-one is suggesting they imported them from Iran. Indeed, such devices can be easily made in Iraq and our evidence now suggests that most were in fact made there. Others were no doubt smuggled into the country after being made in small manufacturies in various countries. If we could point to an Iranian factory under Iranian government control which was making these things then that would be one thing - but we cannot and so again Occam's Razor must apply. There is no reason to suppose other than that these items are being made by non-government manufacturies which could be as small as the average U.S. high school machine shop.

Finally, my administration made much recently of the arrests of senior Iranian government officials in Iraq. We said we had seized evidence proving their complicity in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces. Well, it turns out that the evidence amounts to documentation relating to high level Iraqi/Iranian talks on how Iran could help Iraq bolster its internal security and economy. Thus, they had in their possession maps of sectarian-held areas of Baghdad much like anyone could have gotten from the New York Times in recent weeks. They had lists of equipment that the Iranian government might possibly be able and willing to provide to help equip Iraqi forces. Stuff like that. They had no direct incriminating evidence - believe me, if they had I would not have ordered their release, diplomats or not, and would have already ordered direct action against Iran for blatantly warlike acts. I'm not that incompetent. (Chuckles)

Moreover, some of these Iranian officials were arrested in the homes and compounds of senior Iraqi government members. They had appointments organized with other senior Iraqi government officials. President Talibani had invited them into the country and they had meetings arranged across sectarian and party divides, with Sunni and Shia government members including Prime Minister Maliki. I have to tell you that if there were indeed a sophisticated Iranian government plot to create chaos in Iraq which went that high in the Iraqi government, then I would order an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces and leave the Iraqi government to its fate. They are a sovereign nation and if any such plans went that high then I would have no right to try to dictate otherwise to them. Obviously, the fact that I have not ordered such a withdrawal speaks to the truth of such a grand conspiracy theory.

Applying Occam's Razor to the facts we currently have at hand shows us that we have no hard evidence for Iranian government complicity in actively destabilizing Iraq. We now realize that Iran's involvement in Iraq is of a far less conspiratorial nature and is aimed at preserving its own national interest, just as the Saudis, Israelis and we Americans have on occasion covertly acted in Iraq to preserve ours. If that changes, I will present the facts in their entirety to the American people and then take decisive action. However, for the moment this is how matters stand. Yet my administration has consistently made statements which suggest otherwise even when they were then forced to admit a lack of hard evidence for their claims. Some will ask: "So what went wrong? How could my administration go so far off course with the facts at hand?"

Well, unfortunately, there were senior figures in my administration who put too much trust in the shakiest of intelligence, driven by their own long-standing personal animosity towards the current Iranian regime and their own ambition. They had long been consumed by a wish to change that regime, by force if necessary,and had gone as far as to suggest that Iraq was simply a stopping point in their plans. "Real men go to Tehran", I believe their phrase was.

These officials put far too much stock in anti-Iranian groups such as the MeK, its political wing, and its main American spokesman - Alireza Jafarzadeh. They were far too ready to believe the conspiracy theories of a group which is on the State Department's list of terror organizations. And for good reason - it has been involved in the deaths of U.S. citizens and in helping Saddam perpetrate atrocities against his own people. They even covered up the fact that much of the supposed evidence - including the tip-off which led to the original arrest of Iranian diplomats in Iraq - came from the Mek, saying that revealing their sources would jeoparize those sources ability to gather further information. I will not allow this nation to protect terrorists and I will not allow this nation to be the proxy by which a terror group gains control of another country. These officials were also all too ready to bow to pressure from pro-Israeli, neoconservative groups and pundits in the U.S. Israel may well be in existential danger from Iran - that is a matter for debate and, in truth, is far from settled. However, Israel is not a state in the Union and I, as President of the United States, must uphold the national interest of this country first and foremost. I will not allow this nation's military might to be used as a proxy to fight Israel's wars for it through subterfuge and unconfirmed intelligence leaks.

All of this meant that these officials, in an attempt to create political pressure behind their desires, arranged official leaks to the media. These leaks were without substance, based on hearsay and skewed evidence, yet because they came from officials of my administration they created a narrative. By constant reinforcement, the narrative became its own evidence and many people, myself included, took unsubstantiated and anonymous rumor to be gospel truth. Matters were made worse by the natural tendency of analysts in the lower levels of the intelligence community to conform to the accepted line. If your boss is obviously looking for a certain result, you're career is unlikely to be advanced by telling him other than what he wants to hear.

The way in which this narrative has been constructed and the facts fixed around the policy is identical to the way in which the nation's intelligence community and my senior advisors failed both in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and during the period of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Thankfully other members of my administration urged caution, which led to this review. I cannot and will not allow this nation to be dragged into another conflict by such failures. Not on my watch.

Accordingly, I have this morning spoken to Vice President Cheney, national Security Advisor Hadley and to outgoing Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. All have tendered their resignations and I have accepted them. There will be further widespread changes in the administration which will be announced in due course.

Thank you for attending this morning, ladies and gentlemen. That will be all. God bless America.

OK, the above is never going to happen - I'm pretty certain the Bush administration is aware of all of it and I'm even more certain that they don't care. They aren't interested in the truth, only in scaring votes into the GOP camp and advancing the neocon agenda for American hegemony.

Still, I stand by what is above and as far as i can see an application of Occam's Razor really does show gaping holes in the administration's narrative over Iranian activity in Iraq. The above, for me, is the benchmark for any evidence the administration provides. It must answer these questions in clear ways, with clear sources, if it is to be credible.

This is the last I'm posting on the subject unless and until such evidence surfaces. When the uber-right insist on ignoring logic to keep the narrative-as-its-own-evidence going, I'll just refer them to this post.

Update The LA Times plays catch-up with Newshog and quotes this admission from Defense Secretary Gates:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seemed to concede Friday that U.S. officials can't say for sure whether the Iranian government is involved in assisting the attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

"I don't know that we know the answer to that question," Gates said.

Earlier this week, U.S. officials acknowledged that they were uncertain about the strength of their evidence and were reluctant to issue potentially questionable data in the wake of the intelligence failures and erroneous assessments that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
To which Dr. Stephen Taylor - practically the definition of a sane conservative - has this to say:
This story underscores why I noted earlier in the week that the administration’s assertion of the existence of a dossier that they couldn’t release to the public was a move that might could be characterized as “too cutsey by half.”

The bottom line in the case of Iranian influence in the region is that the administration is making claims and then going to look for evidence to back those claims. This sounds altogether too much like the build-up for the Iraq war wherein in guesses and assumptions were treated as facts (both in public pronouncements on the subject and behind closed doors).

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald notes that the neo-conservative New York Sun is forthright about what lies behind recent hawkish anti-Iranian speeches by Democrat presidential wannabes:
according to The New York Sun (and the sources it cites): (1) financial support from groups like AIPAC is indispensable for presidential candidates; (2) the New York Jewish community of "influential" donors is a key part of the "ATM for American politicians"; (3) the issue which they care about most is Iran; and (4) they want a hawkish, hard-line position taken against Iran. And the presidential candidates -- such as Clinton and Edwards -- are embracing AIPAC's anti-Iran position in order to curry favor with that group.
Yup again.

The narrative is going to be hard to stop.

Update 10th Feb. Did everyone notice how quickly the "Iranians were responsible for Kerbala" meme got dropped when it was pointed out how ridiculous it was?

The new meme de jour is that Iranians are supplying missiles to shoot down U.S. helicopters. I'm indebted to a commenter at Glenn Greenwald's blog for the following link, from the WaPo in 2004, which suggests that yet again Occam's Razor would suggest that there is no need to suppose anything more than local efforts:
Several thousand shoulder-fired missiles -- the kind that could be used to shoot down aircraft -- are missing in Iraq, and their disappearance has prompted U.S. military and intelligence analysts to increase sharply their estimate of the number of such weapons that may be at large, administration officials said yesterday.

Some U.S. analysts figure that as many as 4,000 surface-to-air missiles once under the control of Saddam Hussein's government remain unaccounted for. That would raise the number of such missiles outside government hands worldwide to about 6,000.
The rest of that article is well worth a read. It notes the thousands of tons of advanced munitions and weapons which remained unsecured after the invasion, the thriving black market in these munitions, the dozens of missile attacks on aircraft in the past couple of decades and even the downing of a Chinook in Iraq in 2003 using one of these missing missiles. No Iranian involvement required by the facts, so the burden of proof remains upon the Bush administration to conclusively prove what Occam's Razor says is superfluous to logic.

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