(Lawrence Wilkerson and his regular Thursday students. These are not the ones in the audience referred to below.)
Jeff Stein of Congressional Quarterly has a great recap of what former Pentagon spy-master Pat Lang and former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson had to say at a University of District of Columbia forum on May 7th.
Here’s some Feith fun from Pat Lang:
Patrick Lang told a hilarious story the other night, for example, about a job interview he had with Douglas Feith, a key architect of the invasion of Iraq.
It was at the beginning of the first Bush term. Lang had been in charge of the Middle East, South Asia and terrorism for the Defense Intelligence Agency in the 1990s. Later he ran the Pentagon’s worldwide spying operations.
In early 2001, his name was put forward as somebody who would be good at running the Pentagon’s office of special operations and low-intensity warfare, i.e., counterinsurgency. Lang had also been a Green Beret, with three tours in South Vietnam.
One of the people he had to impress was Feith, the Defense Department’s number three official and a leading player in the clique of neoconservatives who had taken over the government’s national security apparatus.
Lang went to see him, he recalled during a May 7 panel discussion at the University of the District of Columbia.
“He was sitting there munching a sandwich while he was talking to me,” Lang recalled, “which I thought was remarkable in itself, but he also had these briefing papers — they always had briefing papers, you know — about me.
“He’s looking at this stuff, and he says, ‘I’ve heard of you. I heard of you.’
“He says, ‘Is it really true that you really know the Arabs this well, and that you speak Arabic this well? Is that really true? Is that really true?’
“And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really true.’
“That’s too bad,” Feith said.
The audience howled.
“That was the end of the interview,” Lang said. “I’m not quite sure what he meant, but you can work it out.”
Feith, of course, like the administration’s other Israel-connected hawks, didn’t want “Arabists” like Lang muddying the road to Baghdad, from where — according to the Bush administration theory — overthrowing Saddam Hussein would ignite mass demands for Western-style, pro-U.S. democracies across the entire Middle East.
And some Lang on Wolfowitz:
“I remember talking to [Paul] Wolfowitz, in his office, in the Pentagon, and telling him — this was after the propaganda build up had started, before the war. I said, ‘You know, these guys are not going to welcome you.’
“He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘For one thing, these guys detest foreigners, and the few who really like you are the least representative of the various breeds of people there. They’re going to fight you, then, if you occupy the place there’s going to be a massive insurgency.'”
“He said, ‘No, no, they’ll be glad to see us,'” Lang continued. “This will start the process of revolution around the Middle East that will transform everything.’
No, Lang told Wolfowitz, “that’s not gonna happen. It’s just an impossibility. They’re not like that. They don’t want to be us.”
Not everyone agrees with all of Lang’s views about the Arab world, but on this issue he was prescient, of course, as were almost all experts on the region outside of the neocon faithful.
How come we learned so much of this dispute only after the war?
And Lawrence Wilkerson on Tenet and “Curveball”:
Wilkerson provides a damning clue.
In February 2003, Powell’s top aide relates, he “spent five of the most intimate days of my life, and five nights, without sleeping, as did my team, staring into . . . the face” of George Tenet, Tenet’s deputy John McLaughlin, and other top CIA officials working on Iraq, at the agency’s headquarters at Langley.
It was the eve of Powell’s now infamous speech at the United Nations detailing Iraq’s alleged biological, chemical and nuclear programs.
“One of the things Secretary Powell and I told Mr. Tenet and Mr. McLaughlin at the outset of our frenetic five or six days, trying to get ready for the U.N., was ‘multiple sources.’ We will not take anything and put it in this presentation, unless there are multiple, independently corroborated sources for the items we’re putting in the testimony,” Wilkerson said.
“That was the going-in position.”
Subsequently, he learned that there was but “a single source for the mobile biological laboratories; that his code name was Curveball; and that there were several very key dissents as to this individual’s testimony, during or before the preparation of the secretary of State.”
Curveball, an Iraqi refugee, turned out to be a liar.
“None of that, ladies and gentlemen, none of that was revealed to the secretary of State, or to me, or to any member of my team, by either John McLaughlin or George Tenet,” Wilkerson said.
Tenet says in his memoir that he never heard of any serious questions about Curveball.
As readers of this column know , however, Tenet’s chief of European operations, Tyler Drumheller, insists he sent a flurry of warnings about Curveball to Tenet’s deputies.
Both can’t be right.
“Either George Tenet is lying through his teeth, or Tyler Drumheller is lying through his teeth,” Wilkerson says, “with regard to one of the most important pillars of Secretary Powell’s presentation at the United Nations: the mobile biological laboratories.”
We’re waiting now for a third CIA official to come forth with an answer.
Lots of people are dying because of the errors and idiocy perpetrated by Feith, Wolfowitz and yes, Tenet too.
— Steve Clemons