15 February 2007 Edition

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International: Former Rumsfeld aide found to have fabricated intelligence

Lies, damned lies


In early February, a special investigative unit of the US Government revealed how a key aide to Donald Rumsfeld had manufactured intelligence reports designed to show how Saddam Hussein co-operated with al-Qaida. And having reached that momentous conclusion, they promptly excused his behaviour. Sometimes, it’s good to lie.

The revelations came from the Defence Department’s own Inspector General’s Office. Their investigation concluded that former Under-Secretary of Defence Douglas Feith had produced “alternative” intelligence reports purporting to show the link. Feith was a key aide to disgraced former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which may explain the lack of any sanction for his fabrications.

That Feith’s fabrications helped make the case for wa, is undeniable. As late as January 2004, draft-dodging  US Vice-President Dick Cheney described the reports as “the best source of information” regarding links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. Thus Cheney contradicted not only every Middle Eastern expert alive but also the Pentagon and the CIA.

The investigation had been requested by Democratic Senator Carl Levin, in an unusual display of resolve from the party that tries to face both ways on the war. Levin characterised the findings as “about as damning a statement as one can hear, and I think the American people will be absolutely furious”.

The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, was angered at the failure to sanction Feith and is to review whether his actions breached the 1947 National Security Act. Rockefeller pointed out:

“The Inspector General has concluded that [Feith’s] office was engaged in intelligence activities. The Senate Intelligence Committee was never informed of these activities. Whether these actions were authorised or not, it appears that they were not in compliance with the law.”

Incidentally, Feith the fabricator resigned from the Pentagon in 2005 and now ‘teaches’ at Georgetown University, which is also home to another well-known disseminator of falsehoods, former Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar.

While these revelations come too late for the 650,000-plus now dead as a result of the invasion, they may prove timely for US soldiers who are refusing to go to war for the neo-con cause.

On 9 February, a military judge declared a mis-trial in the court martial of Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer prosecuted for refusing to go to Iraq. It was a significant victory for the anti-war cause.

Watada maintained that his refusal to participate in an illegal war was justified, if not required by the US Army’s own Uniform Code of Military Justice, which allows soldiers to resist illegal orders, such as those demanding they commit mass murder or breach the Geneva Convention.

However, Judge Head made a determined effort to prevent Watada from “putting the war on trial” by ruling that his motivations for refusing to deploy to Iraq were “irrelevant” and that no witnesses could testify on the illegality of the war. This was despite the Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v Rumsfeld, which established that US officers are bound by national and international law.

The US Army maintains that the duty to refuse an illegal order applies only to orders to commit particular criminal acts, such as executing a prisoner. But Watada argued that it extended beyond individual war crimes:

“It includes the greatest crime against the peace, which is, as they determined after Nuremburg, wars of aggression, wars that are not out of necessity but out of choice for profit or power or whatever it may be.”

More than 1,000 active-duty soldiers have now signed the Appeal for Redress, which demands an end to the Iraq War.

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