Hear No Evil

by digby

I think one of the enduring mysteries for tinfoilers about the Iraq war invasion must be, "why didn't they plant WMD?" My guess is that such a dangerous mission would require far too many people to keep the secret considering that they would have to produce at least some kind of believable stockpile. One of the benefits of international anti-proliferation regimes is that scientists from various places would have to be involved to vouch for the origins and authenticity of such things, so it prevents people like Dick Cheney from doing what you know he wanted to do.

But could they forge and plant documents right from the White House? It appears they did:

A new book by the author Ron Suskind claims that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein.

Suskind writes in “The Way of the World,” to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery – adamantly denied by the White House – was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war.


“The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001,” Suskind writes. “It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq – thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.”

There's obviously been a ton of speculation about administration involvement in forgeries relating to the war, including the Niger documents, so this isn't completely shocking. Apparently they even delivered it on White House stationery to the CIA to create the forgery. Talk about arrogant ...

As interesting a piece of data as this is, I'm actually more interested in this revelation:

Suskind contends Cheney established “deniability” for Bush as part of the vice president’s “complex strategies, developed over decades, for how to protect a president.”

“After the searing experience of being in the Nixon White House, Cheney developed a view that the failure of Watergate was not the break-in, or even the cover-up, but the way the president had, in essence, been over-briefed. There were certain things a president shouldn’t know – things that could be illegal, disruptive to key foreign relationships, or humiliating to the executive.

“They key was a signaling system, where the president made his wishes broadly known to a sufficiently powerful deputy who could take it from there. If an investigation ensued, or a foreign leader cried foul, the president could shrug. This was never something he'd authorized. The whole point of Cheney’s model is to make a president less accountable for his action. Cheney’s view is that accountability – a bedrock feature of representative democracy – is not, in every case, a virtue.”

Isn't that interesting? We know Cheney believed the executive branch should have virtually untrammeled power and should operate without any restraints from the congress. Now, we also know that he believed the president himself should be a genial figurehead who didn't have a clue about what was being done in his name while unnamed deputies carry out the wishes they supposedly think he's vaguely "signaled" he wants them to. No wonder he picked himself to be Bush's VP. He knew he had a chance to put his theory perfectly into practice with a manchild who would be more than satisfied to merely strut for the cameras and wouldn't ask too many questions.

Someone should write a book called "The Lessons Dick Cheney Learned from Watergate and Its Aftermath" because it would reveal in stark terms just how this administration came to be even worse than Nixon.

The White House is characteristically subdued in its response:

The White House plans to push back hard. Fratto added: "Ron Suskind makes a living from gutter journalism. He is about selling books and making wild allegations that no one can verify, including the numerous bipartisan commissions that have reported on pre-war intelligence."

Yeah, if there's one thing the Bush administration can't abide it's making wild accusations no one can verify.