There was a time when Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith seemed to
run a secret foreign policy from his office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. As creator of the Office of Special Plans, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith presided over a secretive intelligence unit that was briefed by Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi and sifted through CIA intelligence looking for evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. His underlings Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin jetted off to Rome in December 2001 for secret meetings with Iran-Contra figures Michael Ledeen and Manucher Ghorbanifar. Who knew where the revolution would spread after Iraq?
President Bush's decision to create an independent commission to investigate what went wrong with U.S. intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (or lack thereof) is literally too little, too late, according to intelligence and proliferation experts.
The commission was handpicked by White House officials and vetted by the vice president, whose alleged mishandling and manipulation of intelligence should be the subject of investigation, some experts say. In addition, the commission's Republican co-chairman, Laurence Silberman, was one of two judges who reversed Iran-Contra figure Oliver North's conviction on charges of obstructing Congress and unlawfully destroying government documents.
Let's face it. "Unresolved ambiguity" is not a phrase that rolls easily off the tongues of Dick Cheney or George W. Bush.
So when chief Iraq weapons inspector David Kay told the news media this week that Saddam Hussein apparently had no weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded Iraq last spring, and that Americans were going to have to face the fact that "there will always be unresolved ambiguity" about why U.S. intelligence got things so wrong, observers braced themselves for blood -- specifically Kay's blood.
For several weeks, one emerging aspect of the situation in Iraq has puzzled me: Why does the Pentagon -- longtime disparager of post-conflict nation building -- seem to want so desperately to control postwar Iraq?