One of the most astonishing things about the Bush administration, in my view, is how many former officials have come out and criticized things the administration has done, and how little impact it has had politically. This can partially be chalked up to an uninformed populace, of course, but also to the Bush team's ability to destroy those people in the public eye. Now let's add a couple more to the list. First, it's newly retired Lt. Col. Anthony Christino, former Pentagon military intelligence officer. The Observer reports:
Prisoner interrogations at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, the controversial US military detention centre where guards have been accused of brutality and torture, have not prevented a single terrorist attack, according to a senior Pentagon intelligence officer who worked at the heart of the US war on terror.
Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Christino, who retired last June after 20 years in military intelligence, says that President George W Bush and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have 'wildly exaggerated' their intelligence value.
Christino's revelations, to be published this week in GuantÃ¡namo: America's War on Human Rights, by British journalist David Rose, are supported by three further intelligence officials. Christino also disclosed that the 'screening' process in Afghanistan which determined whether detainees were sent to GuantÃ¡namo was 'hopelessly flawed from the get-go'.
It was performed by new recruits who had almost no training, and were forced to rely on incompetent interpreters. They were 'far too poorly trained to identify real terrorists from the ordinary Taliban militia'...
For six months in the middle of 2003 until his retirement, Christino had regular access to material derived from GuantÃ¡namo prisoner interrogations, serving as senior watch officer for the central Pentagon unit known as the Joint Intelligence Task Force-Combating Terrorism (JITF-CT). This made him responsible for every piece of information that went in or out of the unit, including what he describes as 'analysis of critical, time-sensitive intelligence'.
In his previous assignment in Germany, one of his roles had been to co-ordinate intelligence support to the US army in Afghanistan, at GuantÃ¡namo, and to units responsible for transporting prisoners there.
Bush, Rumsfeld and Major General Geoffrey Miller, GuantÃ¡namo's former commandant who is now in charge of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, have repeatedly claimed that GuantÃ¡namo interrogations have provided 'enormously valuable intelligence,' thanks to a system of punishments, physical and mental abuse and rewards for for co-operation, introduced by Miller and approved by Rumsfeld.
In a speech in Miami, Rumsfeld claimed: 'Detaining enemy combatants... can help us prevent future acts of terrorism. It can save lives and I am convinced it can speed victory.'
However, Christino says, General Miller had never worked in intelligence before being assigned to GuantÃ¡namo, and his system seems almost calculated to produce entirely bogus confessions.
Earlier this year, three British released detainees, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul, and Rhuhel Ahmed, revealed that they had all confessed to meeting bin Laden and Mohamed Atta, leader of the 11 September hijackers, at a camp in Afghanistan in 2000. All had cracked after three months isolated in solitary confinement and interrogation sessions in chains that lasted up to 12 hours daily.
Eventually, MI5 proved what they had said initially - that none had left the UK that year.
The second is Paul Bremer, the Bush administration's second choice to lead the Iraqi occupation government. Bremer has been giving speeches lately pointing out that he repeatedly asked for more troops to secure the country and keep it peaceful and stable but was ignored by Rumsfeld and the President:
The former U.S. official who governed Iraq after the invasion said yesterday that the United States made two major mistakes: not deploying enough troops in Iraq and then not containing the violence and looting immediately after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, administrator for the U.S.-led occupation government until the handover of political power on June 28, said he still supports the decision to intervene in Iraq but said a lack of adequate forces hampered the occupation and efforts to end the looting early on.
"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," he said yesterday in a speech at an insurance conference in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. "We never had enough troops on the ground."
Bremer's comments were striking because they echoed contentions of many administration critics, including Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, who argue that the U.S. government failed to plan adequately to maintain security in Iraq after the invasion. Bremer has generally defended the U.S. approach in Iraq but in recent weeks has begun to criticize the administration for tactical and policy shortfalls.
In a Sept. 17 speech at DePauw University, Bremer said he frequently raised the issue within the administration and "should have been even more insistent" when his advice was spurned because the situation in Iraq might be different today. "The single most important change -- the one thing that would have improved the situation -- would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout" the occupation, Bremer said, according to the Banner-Graphic in Greencastle, Ind....
The argument over whether the United States committed enough troops to the mission in Iraq began even before the March 2003 invasion.
Prior to the war, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, said publicly that he thought the invasion plan lacked sufficient manpower, and he was slapped down by the Pentagon's civilian leadership for saying so. During the war, concerns about troop strength expressed by retired generals also provoked angry denunciations by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
This is much the same thing I've been saying for a long time. They had a great plan for winning the war but they had no idea what to do once the Iraqi army fled. No plan to secure the country, not even the munitions caches that ended up being looted. That was an enormous error in judgement. It sent absolutely the wrong message to the Iraqi people, who watched our military stand guard over the oil ministry while the museums were being looted of priceless artifacts. And the most astonishing thing about it all is this - the only people who were punished or fired for this incredible incompetence were the ones who warned against it in the first place.
General Shinseki told the truth about the force required and the cost to secure Iraq after the war, and for that he was publicly reprimanded by Wolfowitz, the administration started a whispering campaign that undermined his credibility and labeled him a "Clintonite", and Rumsfeld, in an unprecedented move, named his successor 18 months early to complete the shunning. His truth stood in contrast to the story the administration wanted to tell, so the truth has to be gotten rid of one way or another.
Joseph Wilson was sent by the CIA to investigate the Nigerian yellowcake story. He concluded it was false and filed a report that said so, but the administration used it anyway. When he blew the whistle on them, they called a half a dozen reporters and outed Wilson's wife as a CIA agent, in the process committing a felony. As I watched the debate on Thursday, and saw President Bush agree that nuclear proliferation is the greatest threat to the US, I thought Kerry should have said, "I don't believe that you really think that proliferation is that great threat. If you did, you wouldn't have had your underlings destroy a CIA case officer whose job was counter-proliferation, at the potential cost of not only her life, but the lives of all of her contacts, and at the almost certain cost of rendering years of undercover work to stop proliferation useless." Sadly, Kerry didn't have the guts to say it. But it's true, they did exactly that, and hardly a peep has been heard about it in months.
There is a common pattern here, isn't there? If you buck the public line the administration wants, you get burned, and it doesn't matter that everything you said was true. Truth doesn't matter, you see, only political expediency matters. All those right-wing bloggers who screamed this very same thing when it dealt with Dan Rather and the faked memos would have a lot more credibility if they took that position consistently and applied it to the Bush administration.
It doesn't matter how many knowledgeable former officials come out and slam Dubya and his cronies. As far as his devoted followers are concerned you can substitute "Bush" into "In God We Trust" and everyone else is a just a leftist naysayer.