Friday, September 29, 2006

Is incompetence worse than lying or the other way around?

Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlahan: You lied to me, Frank! That's
worse than stealing!
Frank Burns: Well, I happen to think that stealing is worse than lying!
Margaret: And you did both!
Frank: So I oughta know!

--M*A*S*H, episode 85, aired December 2, 1975

I don't know which is worse - the incompetence of this administration or the lying. You tell me. Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," by way of The New York Times who got a copy before it's release, describes galactic dysfunction, division and plain old incompetence in the Bush administration on Iraq. "The White House ignored an urgent warning in September 2003 from a top Iraq adviser who said that thousands of additional American troops were desperately needed to quell the insurgency there," the book tells us. In late November 2003, Mr. Bush is quoted as saying of the situation in Iraq: “I don’t want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don’t think we are there yet.” Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is portrayed as detached from the nuts-and-bolts of occupying and reconstructing Iraq and was so hostile toward Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, that President Bush had to tell him to return her phone calls. The American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, is reported to have told visitors to his headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that “Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore” to make a public case for the American strategy for victory in Iraq. And yet Rumsfeld did just that and continues to do so.

Robert D. Blackwill, the top Iraq adviser on the National Security Council issued his warning about the desperate need for as many as 40,000 more ground troops in a lengthy memorandum sent to Ms. Rice. She was later briefed by Mr. Blackwill and L. Paul Bremer III, then the top American official in Iraq, about the urgent need for more troops during a secure teleconference from Iraq. The White House took no action. Well it did take action. It told the American public that the commanders haven't asked for more troops and were comfortable with the troops levels.

Even before September 11, 2001, the members of this administration earned their incompetence medals. "Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda. On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously."

"The book describes an exchange in early 2003 between Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired officer Mr. Bush appointed to administer postwar Iraq, and President Bush and others in the White House situation room. It describes senior war planners as having been thoroughly uninterested in the details of the postwar mission. After General Garner finished his PowerPoint presentation — which included his plan to use up to 300,000 troops of the Iraqi Army to help secure postwar Iraq, the book says — there were no questions from anyone in the situation room, and the president gave him a rousing sendoff. But it was General Garner who was soon removed, in favor of Mr. Bremer, whose actions in dismantling the Iraqi army and removing Baathists from office were eventually disparaged within the government."

At one point, when David Kay, the top U.S. weapons inspector, warned that it was possible the Iraqis might have had the capability to make such weapons but did not actually produce them, waiting instead until they were needed, the book says he was told by John McLaughlin, the C.I.A.’s deputy director: “Don’t tell anyone this. This could be upsetting. Be very careful. We can’t let this out until we’re sure.” Translation: we need to cover up and lie about not finding weapons of mass destruction.

This Sunday on CBS's 60 Minutes, Woodward will say that insurgent attacks against coalition troops in Iraq occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. “It’s getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That’s more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces,” says Woodward.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. “The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh, no, things are going to get better,’” he tells Wallace. “Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know,” says Woodward.

So the incompetence is followed by the lying. Stay the course, We're winning the war on terror, Mission Accomplished, no one could have predicted the insurgency, the commanders on the ground have told us they have all the troops the need, to name a few. So which is worse - the incompetence or the lying? The administration did both so they ought to know.

BONUS POSTING: If Iraq really is the central front in the war on terror and that this is not a war of civilizations but for civilization and if you think, as the Bushies do, that al Qaeda is an existential threat to our country, then why do we only have 140,000 troops in Iraq and only 20,000 in Afghanistan? We had 500,000 to merely kick Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. Shouldn't we have at least that there now? If society could unravel after a nuclear terrorist strike here wouldn't it be wise to send 1,000,000 to area like it's really the World War they claim it is? Just wondering.


Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

And yet, they still natter on about the French, about Teddy Kennedy, about Theresa Kerry, about Michael Moore.

They still think Democrats stand for big government and they think it's morally wrong to criticize the government.

They're still twittering about Monica and flag burning and all the rest of the stupid shibboleths and symbols and straw men.

I'm almost to the point where I wish the country would simply go totalitarian just to spite these bastards, but of course they would be quite pleased to throw away liberty, put on armbands and march.

2:24 PM  
Blogger d.K. said...

I read the same surreal accounts. There is a confluence of incompetence and idiosy that occurs when the stars align pathologically, and rarely in our history. This is almost as good as fiction - except that it is true. This is so Fucked up.

11:38 PM  
Blogger d.K. said...

Oh, and don't miss the Washington Post Magazine (online) about the duping and plotting against Powell that went on for four years as well. The president's chief diplomat was lied to and ignored. The 500,000 troop Powell doctrine was completely overruled by the idiocy of Rummy. And the senior ranking Army General, Shinseki, was unceremoniously retired for suggesting that additional troops would be needed for the post war. There ought to be more convictions of members of this administration that we saw under Nixon, if justice is served.

2:26 PM  

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