The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing today at which the Inspector General of the Pentagon, Thomas Gimble, testified that – and I'm loosely paraphrasing – the Iraq War was launched on a pack of lies.
Gimble has produced a report documenting the actions of the Office of Special Plans, which included the gathering of "intelligence" and the presenting of that "intelligence" to top administration officials. The Pentagon is not an agency authorized to gather intelligence, and no agency is authorized to do that sort of work without informing the Congress.
Chairman Carl Levin called the hearing, and for much of it was the only Democrat present. Most of the Democrats on the Committee never showed. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and James Webb (D., Va.) participated briefly. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) never showed, and her office said she was in New York, according to Medea Benjamin, a CoFounder of Code Pink and my main source for what happened today.
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"Levin was fabulous," Medea said. She and Lori Perdue, who both broke down crying during the hearing (see below), gave me an account after the committee had gone into closed session. "Levin was really tough, charged, determined. But most of the Democrats were missing in action. Three Republicans, Sessions, Warner, and Chambliss grilled Gimble." This grilling, Medea explained, was all in defense of the work of Doug Feith and the Office of Special Plans, a defense that apparently used some strangely contorted arguments. The grilling was only countered by Levin with a little help by Webb and a short assist by McCaskill.
McCaskill asked whether the intelligence agencies that legitimately gather intelligence shouldn't carry more weight than an office assigned only to analyze it. But the Republicans, Medea said, kept insisting that nothing illegal had been done, and that the Inspector General's report had been poorly conducted. He had failed to interview Stephen Hadley or Condoleezza Rice. Gimble countered that Hadley had refused to be interviewed and that as the IG for the "Defense" Department he had no authority over Rice. Levin then spoke up with the most encouraging comment of the day: We will make sure they come, he said. If there is any information that you want, we'll get it!
Let the subpoenas fly!
Medea and Dave Barrows managed to get themselves thrown out of the hearing today. Sessions was busy alleging that nothing was wrong with an alternative intelligence operation, especially considering how flawed the work of the intelligence community has been. Are you insinuating, he asked, that intelligence was misused on purpose to take us to war?
Medea said that she and Dave jumped up and said Yes, it was lies to take us to war.
Somehow, that got them thrown out, but not before Medea and Lori broke down sobbing with satisfaction when Levin that nothing could be more devastating than using alternative intelligence to decide whether we go to war or not….It's" as critical as anything I've seen," Levin concluded. He asked Gimble if the work of Feith's office had affected the public's understanding of why we needed to go to war. Gimble replied in the affirmative.
But, said Medea, Sessions kept insisting that the information from Feith's office had forced the intelligence community to go back and look at things and do a better job. And Gimble kept replying that, no, it had not changed the conclusions of the intelligence community. And, in a dramatic twist of revisionist history, Sessions brushed it all off by claiming that none of this had anything to do with why we'd gone to war anyway, that we'd gone because Iraq was supposedly violating UN resolutions and shooting down US planes.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need a hearing on President Bush's proposal to try to get Iraq to shoot down a plane, something Iraq – like Iran now – was then refraining from doing.
There was discussion in the hearing of this slideshow presentation produced by Feith and his Feith-based intelligence squad.
The first slide, the one criticizing the work of the intelligence community was removed when the presentation was made to the intelligence community. Gimble said that the CIA disagreed with half of the 28 points Feith made. Republicans latched onto that to claim that the other half must have been useful information. Gimble said that it was not, and that it amounted to a one-sided presentation with no required balance.
However, Gimble claimed that a process had been in place to prevent this sort of behavior, and that the process had been disregarded. McCaskill asked whether such a thing might not happen again, and Gimble replied that he did not think it would. Yet we know that Feith's work was authorized by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, and we have strong reason to believe Cheney was behind it. Last time I checked Cheney was still the Vice President and Levin had yet to subpoena anyof those three.
Call Senator Carl Levin's office and thank and encourage him: (202) 224-6221.
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