May 19, 2006 8:08 AM   Subscribe

CIA vet Michael Scheuer: "I think Iraq is finished. We’ll just find a way to get out. I frankly don’t think we ever intended to win there." And: "As a professional intelligence officer, the last people you want to report to are generals and diplomats. And if General Hayden comes to the CIA, we’ll have Mr. Negroponte [a career diplomat] as head of the community, and a general as the head of the CIA."
posted by js003 (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wonder if the whole national guards to the border thing is a setup for a face-saving excuse to start bringing troops home when it's "discovered" that more bodies are needed to patrol...
posted by slatternus at 8:27 AM on May 19, 2006

We were never short of money to conduct counterterrorism operations. What we were short of was leadership. The agency has had a long track record now of very mediocre people being at its head.

That really says it all.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 8:47 AM on May 19, 2006

"Do we leave with some dignity, or do we leave by flying off the top of the embassy as we did in Saigon?"

posted by taosbat at 8:49 AM on May 19, 2006

very mediocre people

Well, at least they've got the China thing under control.
posted by beno at 8:51 AM on May 19, 2006

Good article, thanks.

It's pretty sad that clearly very competent people like this are relegated to talking about what they ought to be doing in FP, rather than actually getting to do it.
posted by blacklite at 8:59 AM on May 19, 2006

i am still surprised at Karl Rove talking about "game changers" as the NSA/AT&T/Verizon/Domestic Wire Tapping story was about to break bigtime and the following events:

1. Bush does unscheduled press conference telling the public nothing to see here.
2. Hayden rescheduling his senate confirmation hearings
3. Bush making immigration a 24 episode busting speech Monday night
4. A new programme briefing to the senate on domestic spying
5. Hayden stating he hates how intelligence has become a political media football.

Reminds me of my global corporate days...Such coordination of events makes bliss seem even less ignorant, espcially to the masses.

Would find the news linkies, but we all read the same shit.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 9:06 AM on May 19, 2006

The agency has had a long track record now of very mediocre people being at its head.
Like this guy?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:11 AM on May 19, 2006

I don't see the US military leaving Iraq unless it is forced too, and the insurgents don't have the ability to take the Green Zone bunker.
posted by stbalbach at 9:14 AM on May 19, 2006

Remember when Saint Raygun said "government is the problem?"

Well, DubyaCo are doing their best to make it true.
posted by nofundy at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2006

These are the same guys who couldn't prevent 9/11 from happening in spite of tons of information that it would. And anyone ever thought ousting a dictator and establishing a full democracy was something they could contribute to?

I say kill the CIA and give all the funding to local law enforcement. Not that those guys are perfect either, but they're far more likely to stop a terrorist act than any "intellegience expert" at the agency ever will.
posted by bardic at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2006


Urh. See? I don't expect 200K a year, because I know I'm dumb. But I also don't expect to be paid for fighting against terrorists when I don't even know how to speak their freakin' native language(s).
posted by bardic at 9:18 AM on May 19, 2006

posted by russilwvong at 9:20 AM on May 19, 2006

I wonder if the whole national guards to the border thing is a setup for a face-saving excuse to start bringing troops home when it's "discovered" that more bodies are needed to patrol..

No, it's more than likely going to set up an acceptable scenario whereby the guard can be nationalized. At least that's what the beams in the tinfoil are telling me today.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:21 AM on May 19, 2006

I don't see the US military leaving Iraq unless it is forced too, and the insurgents don't have the ability to take the Green Zone bunker.

I don't think they care the least bit about the Green Zone. They are in it for the maintenance and protection of their permanent military bases from which to launch additional strikes in the region (with a side objective of trying to safeguard the flow of oil). Essentially, adopting the French strategy in Indochina, trying to foment division within the country and the region and holing up with the high walls of its forteresses. And we all know how well that worked for them in 1954.
posted by psmealey at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2006

Mr. Negroponte is no "career diplomat." He's a career criminal.

He's so scummy, I wonder if he and Nick can even talk anymore...
posted by stenseng at 9:24 AM on May 19, 2006

Before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-director of the Office of Management and Budget Mitchell Daniels (now governor of Indiana) put the likely costs at between $50 billion and $60 billion. Former undersecretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz (now president of the World Bank Group) claimed that increased Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the war. When President Bush’s economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey suggested that the actual costs might be closer to $100 billion or even $200 billion, the White House called those figures grossly exaggerated and swiftly fired him.

Those estimates now look Lilliputian. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) currently projects past and future Iraq-related expenditures to surpass $500 billion, and even that figure severely underestimates the full outlay, according to Bilmes and Stiglitz, whose paper indicates that the war will eventually cost Americans in excess of $2 trillion. (A trillion is a thousand billions.) Speaking of those in Congress who agreed early on to appropriate $87 billion to finance the war, Bilmes says, “Every time someone casts a vote, they implicitly make a cost-benefit analysis. Would they have voted the same way if they knew the costs were 10 times as much as advertised?”
The $2-Trillion War

See also The Economic Costs of the Iraq War: An Appraisal Three Years after the Beginning of the Conflict
posted by y2karl at 9:37 AM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Speaking of the CIA and Iraq:
The New York Times and others have reported that in 2003, the CIA station chief in Baghdad authored several special field reports that offered extremely negative assessments of the situation on the ground in Iraq--assessments that later proved to be accurate. The field reports, known as "Aardwolfs," were angrily rejected by the White House. Their author--who I'm told was a highly regarded agency veteran named Gerry Meyer--was soon pushed out of the CIA, in part because his reporting angered the See No Evil crowd within the Bush administration. "He was a good guy," one recently retired CIA official said of Meyer, "well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator."

In 2004 Meyer was replaced with a new CIA station chief in Baghdad, who that year filed six Aardwolfs, which, sources told me, were collectively as pessimistic about the situation in Iraq as the ones sent by his predecessor. The station chief finished his assignment in December 2004; he was not fired, but according to one source is now "a pariah within the system." Three other former intelligence officials gave me virtually identical accounts, with one saying the ex–station chief was "treated like shit" and "farmed out."
The fate of those two station chiefs had a predictable effect. In 2005, I'm told, the Baghdad station chief filed but a single Aardwolf. The report, which one person told me was widely derided within the CIA as "a joke," asserted that the United States was winning the war despite all evidence to the contrary. It was garbage, but garbage that the Bush administration wanted to hear; at the end of his tour, that Station Chief was given a plum assignment. "This is a time of war," said one former intelligence official. "Every day American kids are getting killed over there. We need steady, focused reporting [from Baghdad] but no one is willing to speak out since they know they'll get shot down."

"The CIA's ability to speak honestly is gone," concluded the official, "which is extraordinarily dangerous to our country."
The last National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq, in November 2004, was "a dark but prescient assessment of the U.S. position in Iraq" that President Bush dismissed as "pessimistic predictions."
One former senior agency official told me, "If I were at the CIA now and was asked to work on an NIE [on Iraq], my first response would be, 'How the fuck do I get out of this?' The most courageous, honest person in the place would be reluctant to do it because every time someone says the emperor has no clothes he gets his head lopped off."
posted by kirkaracha at 9:38 AM on May 19, 2006

psmealey is mostly right. Though we won't have any official military bases in Baghdad. We will be nestled safely up north in the newly minted Kurdistan. That is until the Turks decide they are fed up with the kurds and decide to break off a hunk of the territory for themselves.

The idea was either install an obedient secular Saddam Lite with a 'democratic" storefront to the international corporations or let the place balkanize and during the confusion loot it four ways from Sunday.

Mission Accomplished. C'ept or that pesky Iran. Damn you IRRRAAAAN!
posted by tkchrist at 9:40 AM on May 19, 2006

posted by zenzizi at 9:46 AM on May 19, 2006

The only justification I've heard for staying in Iraq from the administration is that leaving would send the wrong message to the terrorists. Well........ Since the terrorists clearly have a solid understanding of how to beat us - Kill a few people every single day. Only put a minimum number of soldiers in the field. Eventually we'll get tired of spending billions with no progress - I think the message we'd be sending is 100% moot.

Also - If the message we're trying to send is that America won't back down, I think that's something which plays into the hands of Al Qaeda. They are bankrupting us. That's an Al Qaeda win. America's image as a champion of Democracy is sliding into the toilet. That's an Al Qaeda win. Iraq has become a major training ground and recruiting tool for them. That's an Al Qaeda win.

So it seems to me the message we're sending is that we're really dumb and we don't understand what losing looks like. And the only way to counter that would be to pull out of Iraq and find a more effective front for wiping out Al Qaeda.

Irregardless of the message it might send, pulling out seems like an eventuality at this point.
posted by MrCheese!!! at 9:46 AM on May 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

Quote: "We didn’t have enough HUMINT"...

WTF? I'll have some mashed potatoes with a side of HUMINT
posted by growabrain at 10:14 AM on May 19, 2006

Mebbe you could just pop Saddam back in charge before you go. He'll sort things out in a jiffy.
posted by flabdablet at 10:16 AM on May 19, 2006

Don't go feeling too smug. There are several strategies at work here.

One is the PR strategy and certainly THAT is failing. That's the one where we tried to sell us liberators and marched Iraqi widows with blue thumbs on TV and tried to tell us Iraq would be a democracy. But the PR can't compete with the daily bombing. This is the strategy for which they grossly miscalculated and underplanned, however they never indeed it to be TRUE on the ground. It wasn't for Iraqi's it was for us. That it didn't work out is only embarrassing to Bush. Ultimately he won't care cause the Democrats played right into it as well.

Strategery No. 2 was to establish permanent bases in the North. And that we got. Those are staying no matter what.

Though oil isn't flowing - eventually somebody is going to want to sell that shit. So we will likely get that. Besides in the mean time all of Bush's buddies get fat US contracts to keep fixing things that get blowded up. So there is Strategery No. 3.

So from Bush's perspective there are silver linings.
posted by tkchrist at 10:19 AM on May 19, 2006

"Mebbe you could just pop Saddam back in charge before you go."

What's so surprising about that? We're the ones who put him in charge to begin with.
posted by rougy at 10:29 AM on May 19, 2006

I read this this wondering why the CIA needed animal doctors. Then I thought maybe it was for that secret spying dolphin, or maybe they had a mechanical cat like on "The Prisoner". Then it dawned on me... VETERAN. sheesh. I liked the spying animal thingie better.
posted by Eekacat at 10:35 AM on May 19, 2006

The last act of any criminal administration is to loot the treasury.
...just thinking out loud.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:45 AM on May 19, 2006

Eekacat, LOL, a CIA vet for cross porpoises? The Bay of Pigs takes on a new meaning. There are spy cows. Hey, they do have some connection to animals.
posted by nickyskye at 11:52 AM on May 19, 2006

Strategery No. 2 was to establish permanent bases in the North. And that we got. Those are staying no matter what.

I dunno about "no matter what." Those Islamist have proven themselves to be utterly mad. If they see those bases as a "blight on Islam" you can bet one day there'll be a glass crater forming where one of those bases used to be.
posted by illiad at 11:57 AM on May 19, 2006

posted by randomstriker at 12:33 PM on May 19, 2006

Mr.Cheese!!! writes: If the message we're trying to send is that America won't back down, I think that's something which plays into the hands of Al Qaeda. They are bankrupting us. That's an Al Qaeda win. America's image as a champion of Democracy is sliding into the toilet. That's an Al Qaeda win. Iraq has become a major training ground and recruiting tool for them. That's an Al Qaeda win.

Quoted for truth. In terms of American national interest, there is no "win" any longer. There is the potential looting of Iraqi resources, but some of you give Bush and his cronies too much credit, or the contingencies of infrastructure not enough--oil pipelines are incredibly hard to defend, and easy enough to blow up. Over and over and over. Iran? Don't make me laugh--the best case scenario now, and the only one that could lead to a semi-stable Iraq, would involve Iranian influence in the form of Shiite mullahs, militias, and cash going to guys like Sadr. A stable, oppressive theocracy is now the most America can hope for, and even that's a fleeting possibility.

No irony here--Worst President (and Administration) Ever For America. (As Smedleyman and tkchrist point out, not so much for KBR and anyone with short and long-term interests in energy companies, arms makers, mercenary groups like Blackwater, etc., i.e., wealthy Republicans.)
posted by bardic at 12:54 PM on May 19, 2006

I read this this wondering why the CIA needed animal doctors.

Maybe to work on Acoustic Kitty?
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:44 PM on May 19, 2006

They are bankrupting us.

It amazes me that American conservatives, who love to crow about the idea that Reagan outspent the Russians in the arms race to the point where the USSR bankrupted itself, don't see (or don't care to see) any parallels there to the U.S.'s current situation in the Middle East.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:48 PM on May 19, 2006

illiad; surely you don't still think the people shooting and blowing shit up are all "islamists" and that's why they're doing it, do you?

Good heavens Odinsdream. Where did I say that's what I thought? Jump to conclusions much?

I just think it's more likely an Islamist will do something as extreme as set off a nuclear device than anyone else.
posted by illiad at 2:20 PM on May 19, 2006

illiad the north is Kurd territory. They keep a tight lid on the Islamists. As do all their northern neighbors like Turkey. For some darn reason we don't mind it when people we LIKE beat the shit out of people and enact repressive laws against people we don't like.

My friend. We are keeping those bases, by hook or by crook, until the kurds decide they hate us. Which they won't because we are their sugar daddies and the wall that keep the Turks out.

I have to say SOME of the play Bush made - though he was following an entirely different game plan with the stuff that worked - worked out ok. And that was the stuff that wasn't invented by his dark little cabal of Neoconista wizards in Mordor.

The stuff I refer to was the stuff left to the professional elves in the bowels of the Pentagon. They do thier thang, not based in reckless ideology to serve their dark lord Sauron, but because they understand the facts of the world we live in and plan based on facts.

Understanding that we would need a hedge in the region (due to peak and China's energy sector growth) was smart. And yes it's Realpolitik. But we need some of that.

What we didn't need was an all out invasion.

Stomping in there thumping our shields and screaming unilateral shock and awe to bring the dark magic ring of democracy to a region that does not have the critical mass to support it. Not so much smart.

(lol. so what movie am I watching.... heh.)
posted by tkchrist at 2:42 PM on May 19, 2006

We are keeping those bases, by hook or by crook, until the kurds decide they hate us.

Nothing like overconfidence to blot out any concerns over what some freak might end up doing, eh what? ;-)
posted by illiad at 4:14 PM on May 19, 2006

Ain't over confidence it's geopolitical arithmetic. A simple forcast by looking out the window and seeing what the weather is dong now. Trust me, man.

Tell ya what - revisit the topic in ten years and bet you a fiver and a beer there are still US bases in what WAS norther Iraq. That is if the oceans haven't boiled away, the sky turned to blood, and the Rapture commenced.
posted by tkchrist at 4:21 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Make it two beers so either way we both get to drink. And the bet should be that there aren't any glass craters or similar in Northern Iraq where there used to be a US base. Even one means that the freaks can get at them. You're on!

The suckhole part of this bet is that I don't really want to win, y'know?
posted by illiad at 4:47 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Acoustic Kitty? You must be joking! No way.
Omg, way. Interesting that the guy, Jeffrey Richelson, who outed the spy cat thing, is the one who has made so many of the CIA's declassified documents available to the public, including some astounding ones.

From an Iranian site, a chronology of the 1980-1988 Iraq situation:"What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran."
posted by nickyskye at 6:20 PM on May 19, 2006

Time to read The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012. Et tu Hayden?
posted by augustweed at 6:49 PM on May 19, 2006

The American military has performed so badly in Iraq, that it has called into question its very reason for existence.

Clearly, despite complete and uncontested (except for small arms fire) air superiority, complete and uncontested satellite and electronic intelligence coverage, hundreds of billions of dollars in economic and material support, and massively superior communications, and arms, the U.S. military does not fully control even the 5 1/2 mile road from the airport to the Green Zone in Baghdad, and took 2 1/2 years to begin getting a handle on this basic and highly visible security element. The "all volunteer force" has become a ludicrously expensive, ineffective, self-congratulatory bunch of mercenaries, that is getting whipped by an "insurgency" shooting AK-47's and improvising explosive devices.

Worse, because Iraq has become a primary terrorist training ground under this occupation, the American military has clearly reduced the overall security of the U.S. homeland, all the while claiming that it has, in fact improved American security, with a 1.6 billion dollar PR budget over the last 2 1/2 years, in addition to all the spin coming through regular White House controlled channels.

There is a growing chorus of criticism from professional military men with Iraqi conflict experience, essentially saying that the U.S. military effort in Iraq is badly planned, badly led, hugely expensive, and ineffective. There is no dignity to be had in Iraq for the U.S. military as an operational force any longer, and the sooner they get done losing another foreign adventure, the better and cheaper for all concerned. Bring the weekend warriors home, and let them get back to war gaming in the woods near their homes one weekend a month, and we'll all have a clearer vision of what we can really do in the Middle East.
posted by paulsc at 12:51 AM on May 20, 2006

On the day of the inauguration of the new national unity government in Iraq, bombs kill 24 in Iraq, and two European newspapers, The Independent and The Guardian, publish reports that raise the spectre of "ethnic cleansing" and liken Iraq to Bosnia.

Last month, the New York Times reports some US soldiers in Iraq are remarking upon similarities to Bosnia.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 1:22 AM on May 20, 2006

We're fighting a hopeless war in terms of money....it won't take much of an investment to cost the US huge sums...take this gem:

"So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy ." "...for example, al-Qaida spent $500 000 on the event, while America, in the incident and its aftermath, lost – according to the lowest estimate – more than 500 billion dollars." "Meaning that every dollar of al-Qaida defeated a million dollars by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs."

It's a timeworn cliche at this point: you can have the biggest, bestest military in the world, but if you don't have their hearts and minds, it won't matter a bit.
posted by nevercalm at 5:33 AM on May 20, 2006

This is tangentially related to the Hayden mention in this post -- What happened to the testimony by Russ Tice?

He was supposed to provide closed-door testimony last Wednesday that revealed activities much more sinister that what's been reported. He's completely dropped off the radar with Hayden's Wednesday testimony -- was Tice rescheduled? I can't find any mention after earlier last week, before the testimony was supposed to take place. The few commentors on the old thread at ThinkProgress have no news either.

“I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It’s pretty hard to believe,” Tice said. “I hope that they’ll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn’t exist right now.”
posted by VulcanMike at 1:50 PM on May 20, 2006

Yea, I thought I must have missed it, but I've been keeping tabs this week, because of the hype Tice got... Let me know if you hear anything.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 5:16 PM on May 20, 2006

NYT reports White House plans for police in Iraq flawed from the beginning, and many say "the country's future — and the ability of America to withdraw its troops — rests in large measure on whether the police can be reformed and rogue groups reined in."
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 5:56 PM on May 20, 2006

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