By Matthew Rothschild on July 16, 2007

February 2, 2004

Cheney Designs Commission to Evaluate Cheney

When I heard that Bush was succumbing to the pressure to name an independent commission to look into the mysterious case of Iraq's vanishing weapons, I joked that he might appoint Dick Cheney to head it, since Cheney was probably the biggest hornswoggler of all.

Turns out that Cheney, while not heading the commission, is playing an instrumental role in its creation, membership, and mandate, according to The New York Times.

Perhaps that's why this panel will not release its results till after the November election. God forbid the voters know who is culpable before they cast their ballots.

And perhaps that's why this panel will look well beyond Iraq to some broader issues of intelligence failures. The more the commission broadens its focus, the less implicated Bush and Cheney may appear.

At least that seems to be the White House's hope.

So, too, the hope that people will buy the claim that, at bottom, this was an intelligence failure, rather than the result of heavy-handed pressure by the Bush Administration.

Though David Kay denied that such pressure existed, that is not the conclusion the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reached in its recent report "WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications."

The evidence "suggests, but does not prove, that the intelligence community began to be unduly influenced by policymakers' views sometime in 2002," the report says. "Although such situations are not unusual, in this case, the pressure appears to have been unusually intense."

It noted Cheney's own repeated, and extraordinary, visits to CIA headquarters, a fact The Washington Post disclosed on June 5, 2003, in an article by Walter Pincus and Dana Priest.

"Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq's weapons programs and alleged links to Al Qaeda, creating an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush Administration's policy objectives, according to senior intelligence officials," the Post article said.

The article quoted a senior CIA official who said the visits "sent signals, intended or otherwise, that a certain output was desired from here."

The Carnegie report also mentions that "political appointees in the Department of Defense set up their own intelligence operations reportedly out of dissatisfaction" with the work of the CIA.

And, as Seymour Hersh has reported for The New Yorker, Cheney and Rumsfeld insisted on getting raw intelligence reports unevaluated by the experts at the CIA.

"It strains credibility," the Carnegie report says, to believe individuals and agencies did not feel pressure "to reach more threatening judgments of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs than many analysts felt were warranted."

It's too easy, and too convenient, to blame the intelligence agencies for screwing up.

Here is a more plausible theory: Bush wanted this war from day one, as did Cheney and Rumsfeld, and their deputies Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz, respectively. All four of those men were part of the Project for the New American Century, which had long advocated the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein as a top U.S. foreign policy priority. To get their way, the President's men breathed heavily on the backs of the intelligence gatherers to come up with anything that could make the President's war wish -- and their own war wish -- come true.

Now to have Cheney appoint his own interrogator is a laughable cover-up.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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