Tuesday, June 20, 2006
"Frontline" documentary makes case that Cheney used 9/11 to go to war
By Mark Rahner
Seattle Times staff reporter
Last week's grim milestone of 2,500 American military deaths in Iraq
will look even grimmer after tonight's "Frontline" documentary, "The
The damning 90-minute exposť (10 p.m. PBS) stops short of laying
those bodies at Vice President Dick Cheney's feet. But it does finger
Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - through more than 40
interviews with CIA veterans, journalists, politicians and others -
as the ones who ignored, suppressed and manipulated intelligence
after the 9/11 attacks to lead us into war with a country that had
nothing to do with our attackers.
And you wonder why the GOP hasn't exactly been a sugar daddy for
Comedians have made countless Darth Vader jokes about Cheney, but the
film's title is no joke about The Force. It's from Cheney's own words
about America's response to terrorists: "We have to work the dark
side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the
intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to
be done quietly without any discussion, using sources and methods
that are available to our intelligence agencies."
But apparently he didn't use the actual intelligence from the agencies.
The CIA and its then-director, George Tenet, knew immediately that
al-Qaida in Afghanistan was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and said
so. But author James Bamford says that while the Pentagon was still
smoking, Rumsfeld said, "We've got to see, somehow, how we can bring
Saddam Hussein into this."
"The Dark Side" claims that 9/11 provided Cheney and Rumsfeld with a
pretext for achieving their longstanding ambition to go after the
Iraqi dictator and to boost executive power that they'd seen diminish
ever since their days as allies in Nixon's administration. As
consummate political infighters, they resented and continually
undermined Tenet - a sports-loving man's man who had become pally
with George W. Bush.
The CIA repeatedly insisted that there was no connection between
Saddam and al-Qaida, and Tenet explicitly warned that invading Iraq
would "break the back" of our counterterrorism effort. Tenet even
ordered the agency's records scoured 10 years back for links. CIA vet
Michael Scheuer, who led that effort, says, "There was no connection
between al-Qaida and Saddam."
But Cheney, the chief architect of the war on terror and the most
powerful vice president in U.S. history, had made up his mind,
according to "The Dark Side." CIA vets say Cheney and his
now-indicted chief of staff, Scooter Libby, made unprecedented trips
to CIA headquarters to pressure and "harangue" analysts who were
compiling the National Intelligence Estimate. Analyst Paul Pillar,
one of its primary authors, says he regrets his role in the hastily
prepared, fatally flawed document, which was "clearly requested and
published for policy-advocacy purposes ... to strengthen the case for
going to war with the American public."
The apparent circularity of the pro-war machinations is especially
disturbing. Then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller would get
off-the-record info from the White House about weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq, print the claims in Sunday's paper, and then
Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and others would cite the articles as
evidence on the Sunday talk shows to justify the invasion.
While Tenet and Secretary of State Colin Powell had strong
reservations about Iraq, sources quoted in "The Dark Side" say the
two eventually caved in. Tenet, says former weapons inspector David
Kay, "traded integrity for access" to power, while Powell was
ultimately a team player.
"The Dark Side" is especially timely in light of those who persisted
in equating the Iraq war with the fight against terrorism in the
debate leading to last Friday's pro-war House resolution.
These are the guys who want our phone records now. If "The Dark Side"
is as credible as it looks - and it's no cheap Michael Moore job -
they can't even be trusted to go after the right bad guys when
they've got the right intelligence handed to them on a platter.