Water Man Spouts

Monday, March 13, 2006

Somewhere over the Mushroom Cloud

Somewhere Over the Mushroom Cloud
{1} "Now, however, her role in the Plame scandal cannot be ignored or excused. She alone among senior officials was knowing and complicitous at every successive stage of the great half-baked yellow cake fraud. She alone was the White House peer -- and in national security matters the superior -- to Rove and Libby, who never could have acted without her collusion in peddling Plame's identity. She as much as anyone had a stake in smearing Wilson by any and all means at hand. If Rove and Libby are to be held criminally or at least politically accountable for a breach of national security, our 'mushroom cloud' secretary of state should certainly be in the dock with the."
-- Roger Morris; The Source beyond Rove: Condoleeza Rice at the Center of the Plame Scandal; from Commondreams.com and TruthOut; July 28, 2005
Mr. Morris, who was a senior staff member on the NSC during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, wrote a fascinating article about the role Condi Rice has played in the Plame scandal. His sense of "right and wrong" was documented years ago, when he quit the Nixon administration to protest the illegal invasion of Cambodia. His is a valued voice in any serious discussion of American foreign policy. I find his article about Rice to be important, and I think that it will serve as a good foundation for the discussions of Condi's participation in the Plame and the neocon/AIPAC spy scandals in the next couple of months.
One of my goals in my series of essays on the Plame scandal is to show that interested people can use a combination of progressive media sources (including the internet), along with the corporate media, and books, to come to a fair understanding of what the Plame scandal is about. In a recent essay on my blog ( http://h2oman.blogspot.com ), I had an essay "Your Move," which described the grand jury investigation of the Plame scandal in terms of a chess match. Let's take a moment today to examine Ms. Rice in the context of one of the Bush administration's bishops, and see what we can piece together. I think we will have some fun today.
We will start with a brief background of Ms. Rice.In "American Dynasty," Kevin Phillips (who like Morris, served in the Nixon administration), notes that she had "a specialty in what had been Soviet Central Asia and a particularly strong oil industry background. A former Chevron director, Rice even had a company oil tanker named after her..." (page 150)
Richard Clarke, in "Against All Enemies," noted that "Condi's previous government experience had been as an NSC staffer for three years worrying about the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union during the Cold War." (page 230)
"When it came to Bush presidencies, she was, in a sense, present at the creation," James Mann notes. "Scowcroft had kept in touch with her ever since first meeting her at Stanford three years earlier, making sure she was brought into elite groups, such as the Aspen Strategy Group, that serve as training grounds for future leaders." (Rise of the Vulcans; page 171)
In January, 2000, Ms. Rice had a policy article featured in "Foreign Affairs" (Vol. 79; No.1; Jan/Feb 2000; pages 45-62). The article, "Promoting the National Interest," also promoted Ms. Rice as part of candidate George W. Bush's foreign policy staff. In it, she noted that nations like Iraq and North Korea "are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. Rather the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterence -- if they do acquire weapons of mass destruction, that weapon will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration." (See Mann, page 254, for more.)
Ms. Rice was one of the 2000 Republican National Convention's featured speakers. Phillips notes that, "Cynics bemoaned what they saw as new heights of orchestration-cum-artifiality, and the mere 8 percent of the national black vote that Bush received in 2000 -- down from Dole's 14 percent in 1996 and his father's 12 percent in 1992 -- suggested that the happy talk and camera focus on advisors Powell and Rice counted for little with the constituency at which it was directed." (page 143)
Is it possible that Condi was valued for reasons other than her insight on the late Soviet Union, and her leadership in the black community? While the mere thought may be shocking on the surface, let's take a closer look at her career in the Bush2 administration.
{2} "Now Condi Rice was in charge. She appeared to have a closer relationship with the second President Bush than any of her predecessors had with the presidents they reported to."
-- Richard Clarke; Against All Enemies; page 229.
Richard Clarke goes on to describe how Sandy Berger and he attempted to help in the transition from the Clinton to Bush administrations, by informing Rice and others of the threat posed by terrorists in general, especially by al Qaeda. "As I briefed Rice on al Qaeda, her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before..." (page 229)
Joseph Wilson quotes Paul O'Neill's book "The Price of Loyalty," in which the former Treasury Secretary tells how Ms. Rice ran the first NSC meeting in January, 2001. Rice announced the topic would be "How Iraq is destabilizing the region..." This was where President Bush announced, "We're going to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict. We're going to tilt it back toward Israel." When Colin Powell questioned the consequences of what Bush was advocating, the president said, "Maybe that's the best way to get things back in balance." O'Neill noted that "Powell seemed startled." (Wilson; The Politics of Truth; pages 438-9)
Ms. Rice part of what Patrick Buchanan described thusly: "...into his entourage there had already been insinuated a cabal that called itself 'the Vulcans.' Recruited by Condoleezza Rice, the best known were Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. ... Thus began the tutoring of George W. Bush in Kristol's 'new find of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy,' ...." (Where the Right Went Wrong; page 42)
John Dean notes much the same: Bush "was, for all practical purposes, a blank slate to be wrirren on. The group of tutors was headed by Condoleezza Rice, and she named her team 'the Vulcans'..." Dean lists others on the team, including Richard Armitage, Robert Blackwill, and Stephen Hadley. (Worse Than Watergate; pages 143 and 227)
In "Chain of Command," Seymour Hersh documents Ms. Rice's connections with the scandals at Guantanamo Bay. (pages 3,6,8,9,11 and 50). In "American Dynasty," Kevin Phillips ties her directly to the scandal with Enron .(page 168; also see: "Chronology of Administration Dealings with Enron," Washington Post, Januaryy 22,2002.)
{3} "July 29, 2001: 'We have been able to keep his (Saddam's) arms from him,' NSC advisor Rice tells the media. 'His military forces have not been rebuilt."
-- Roger Morris; Condoleezza Rice at the Center of the Plame Scandal; July 28, 2005
Let's look at Ms. Rice's involvement with the White House Iraq Group (WHIG). This group "was established in August 2002 by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card, Jr., at the same time the OSP was established in Feith's office. Made up of high-level administration officials, its job was to sell the war to the general public, largely through televised addresses and by selectively leaking the intelligence to the media." (James Bamford; A Pretext for War; page 318)
Besides Rice, the WHIG includes Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Steve Hadley, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, James Wilkinson, and Nicholas Calio. In the summer of 2002, their goal was to convince the American public that there was a direct connection between Saddam and al Qaeda (and hence between Saddam and 9-11), and that Saddam posed a threat to US security with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In August, VP Cheney told tv audiences on three occassions that there was "no doubt" that Saddam had WMD, and was attempting to build nuclear weapons.
On Sunday, September 9, 2002, the NY Times ran a front page story co-authored by Judith Miller, that claimed there was solid evidence that Saddam was attempting to build nuclear weapons. Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice appeared on four major Sunday morning news shows, claiming the Times' story proved that Saddam posed a risk to US security. Rice, on CNN, delivered a line that Mary Matalin wrote for her: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." (Bob Woodward; Plan of Attack; page 179// Wilson; The Politics of Truth; page 231)
As the campaign for war gathered strength, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson writes an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News ("How Saddam Thinks," October 13, 2002). Brent Scowcroft calls Wilson to ask if he can "take it over to the White House" to show to senior officials. It is believed that Scowcroft brought the article to show to Rice and Hadley. (Wilson; The Politics of Truth; page 296)
Still, the claims that there may be a Niger yellow cake uranium connection to Iraq continues to be in the President's Daily Briefing (PDB) in December, 2002. And, in January, both Rice and Hadley will be among those who approve the presidents State of the Union address. (Morris; Condoleezza Rice...; 7-28-05)
In January, French leader Jacques Chirac sends a top aide to warn Rice that the planned US invasion of Iraq will destabilize the Middle East, and increase recruitment for al Qaeda. ( James Mann; Rise of the Vulcans; page 349)
Still, on January 23, 2003, Rice has an op-ed in the NY Times, titled "Why We Know Iraq is Lying." In it, she claims that Iraq's "...false declaration ... fails to account for or explain Iraq's effort to get uranium abroad. Let's take a closer look, and see why we know Condi was lying.
{4} "..I could not understand what Rice thought she was accomplishing by leaving interviewers with the impression that she had no idea who I was. Perhaps she had a poor memory, although I find that as improbable as her claim later that she had simply forgotten about the CIA memoranda dealing with the vital question of purported uranium sales from Niger to Iraq."
--Joseph Wilson; The Politics of Truth; page 297.
How did Condi react when no WMDs were found in Iraq, and when the media began to speak of an unnamed source who had investigated the Niger claims for the CIA, and found them to be false?
"Maybe someone in the bowels of the Agency knew something about this, but nobody in my circles," Condi told Tim Russert on Meet the Press. (June 8, 2003)
"If there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that National Intelligence Estimate, those doubts were not communicated to the president, the vice president, or to me," Condi said during a July 11, 2003 press briefing.
On Fox News on July 13, 2002, Rice said, "Had there ever been even a peep that the Agency did not want that sentence in or that George Tenent did not want that sentence -- it would have been gone. .... It is ludicrous to suggest that the president of the UnitedStates went to war on the question of whether Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa. This was part of a very broad case that the president laid out in the State of the Union and other places."
On July 27, 2003, a front page Washington Post article, "Iraq Flap Shakes Rice's Image," addressed her responsibility for the "faulty intelligence." Three days later, in an interview with PBS's Gwen Ifill, Ms. Rice attempted to blame others for her errors: " What we learned later, and I did not know at the time, and certainly did not know until just before Steve Hadley went out to say what he did last week, was the director had also sent over to the White House a set of clearance comments that explained why he wanted this out of the speech. I can tell you, I either didn't see the memo, or I don't remember seeing the memo." ( Also see Wilson, pages 352-3)
On October 12, 2003, the Washington Post ran a story "Rice Fails to Repair Rifts." Woodward tells how Rice tried to blame Richard Armitage for "leaks" that hurt the administration. (Plan of Attack; pages 414-5) This is a tactic which continues. (See "The Unknown Soldier" on my blog.)
{5) "March 5, 2004: Newsday's Tom Brune reports that the grand jury has issued subpoenas summoning phone logs of Air Force One from July 7-12, from the July 12 press gaggle, and records of the White House Iraq Group from July 6-30."
-- Joseph Wilson; The Politics of Truth; page 454.
"Rice was aboard Air Force One: Rice was one of several senior administration officials on a July 2003 flight to Africa, during which it was decided that she would appear on the Sunday shows to 'protect Cheney by explaining that he had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue.' (Think Progress.Org; quoting Newsweek, 7-17-05)
"... Condi Rice, the ultimate good soldier ... was on the Africa trip with the president, and wouldn't be getting back until Saturday night. To allow her to prepare on the long flight home to D.C., White House officials assembled a briefing book, which they faxed to the Bush entourage in Africa. The book was primarily prepared by her National Security staff. It contained classified information -- perhaps including all or part of the memo from State. The entire binder was labled TOP SECRET." (Newsweek; 7-25-05)
"Powell discusses the memo with Rice and other presidential aides on board, including press secretery Ari Fleischer. Witnesses later see Fleischer 'perusing' the memo. .... Rice and Fleischer both call contacts at the Washington Post and New York Times 'to make it clear,' the Times will report, 'that they no longer stood behind Mr. Bush's statement about the uranium -- the first such official concession on the sensitive issue of the intelligence that led to war."
--Roger Morris; Condaleezza Rice at the Center....; July 28, 2005.
"Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, was as cogent as he was concise. Since the Bush people never backed down, he pointed out, the fact that they had been so quick to admit their error this time meant that they must have something more important to protect." (Joseph Wilson; The Politics of Truth; page 4.)
{6} "How does somebody whose job it is to track nuclear weapons development, especially in rogue states, receive such critical information and then proceed to forget it? This was not a grade school homework assignment. The short answer is that they don't forget, unless they are derelict. Regrettably, disingenuousness is another possibility. Condoleezza Rice may be many things, but she is hardly derelict."
-- Joseph Wilson; The Politics of Truth; pages 331-2.
"I know nothing of any such White House effort to reveal any of this," Rice told Fox News on September 28, 2003. "And it certainly would not be the way the president would expect his White House to operate."
On July 11, 2003, Rice stated, "On Ambassador Wilson's going out to Niger, I learned of that when I was on whatever TV show it was, because that mission was not known to anybody in the White House." (Think Progress; 3-3-2006)
"I have, like everybody else, cooperated with Prosecutor Fitzgerald and I'm quite certain that he will make his report," she told Fox News on October 16, 2005.
"As the WMD controversy grew in 2004, the president expressed his concerns to Rice. To air all of the CIA's problems could have two negatives that he wanted to avoid. First, the controversy would lead to congressional investigations like the Church and Pike Committees in 1975-76 that revealed CIA spying on U.S. citizens ..." (Bob Woodward; Plan of Attack; page 442)
Perhaps it is time for that congressional investigation.


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