Tag Archives: Donald Rumsfeld

Declassified JCS report shows U.S. invaded Iraq based on flimsy evidence of Iraqi WMDs

The Iraq War was a protracted armed conflict that began with the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, 1½ years after the traumatic 9/11 attacks, by a U.S.-led coalition.

The invasion began with a “shock and awe” bombing campaign. Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed as U.S. forces swept through the country. The invasion led to the collapse of the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein, who was captured in December 2003 and executed by a military court three years later.

But the war continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government. Worse still, Saddam’s former military officers morphed into ISIS, which became the Islamic State. (See Blowback: ISIS leaders are former officers of Saddam Hussein’s army”) After officially withdrawing from Iraq in 2011, the United States became re-involved in 2014 as the Iraqi government proved itself unable to cope with ISIS.

The George W. Bush administration based its rationale for war principally on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) — yellow-cake uranium poison gas, biological weapons — and that Saddam’s government posed an immediate threat to the United States and its coalition allies. Saddam was also accused of of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda, the terrorist group identified as the instigator of 9/11.

The rationale for the Iraq War has since been discredited. But a newly-declassified report to the then-Joint Chiefs of Staff provides even more evidence that the Bush administration went to war with, at best, flimsy evidence of Iraq’s WMDs.

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense 2001-2006John Walcott, adjunct professor in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, reports for Politico, Jan. 24, 2016, that on September 9, 2002, as the Bush administration began its public-opinion campaign for an invasion of Iraq, a classified report from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld landed on the desk of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Air Force General Richard Myers.

The report began with these words:

“Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD. It is big.”

The report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence didn’t know about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The report admitted that what the U.S. didn’t know about Iraq’s WMD program ranged from 0% to about 75%While the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iraq was at the heart of the administration’s case for war, the JCS report conceded that:

“Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”

Myers already knew about the report because the Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it. Clearly, Rumsfeld’s urgent tone conveyed how seriously he viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war.

But neither Rumsfeld nor Myers shared the 8-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA, according to multiple sources at the State Department, White House and CIA who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Instead, the report disappeared, and with it a potentially powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s argument that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies, which was beginning to gain traction in major news outlets, led by the New York Times.

A month after Rumsfeld’s note to Myers, on October 7, 2002, Bush appeared at a VFW hall in Cincinnati, where he declared without reservation: Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.” In February 2003, Powell appeared before the UN General Assembly to make the administration’s case, with CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind him:

“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What were giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

Below are screenshots of the 8-page report, preceded by Rumsfeld’s memo to Myers, and Director for Intelligence Major Gen. Glen Shaffer’s memo to the JCS (source: Politico). I supplied the red-color emphasis.

Iraq report Rumsfeld memo to MyersIraq report Rumsfeld memo to Myers1Iraq WMD1Iraq WMD2Iraq WMD3Iraq WMD4Iraq WMD5Iraq WMD6Iraq WMD7Iraq WMD8Altogether, the Iraq War exacted a toll of hundreds of thousands in casualties:

  • An estimated 151,000 to 600,000 Iraqis were killed in the first 3–4 years of conflict.
  • 6,045 Americans were killed: 4,491 soldiers; 1,554 contractors. Additionally, 76,106 Americans were wounded: 32,226 soldiers; 43,880 contractors.

The Iraq War cost the U.S. government more than $845 billion — $720 million a day, if one takes into account the long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance professor Linda Bilmes.

The Bush administration justified the invasion of Iraq on the basis that Saddam’s Iraq posed a clear and present threat to the security of the United States because they had Weapons of Mass Destruction. But it turns out that both the U.S. Defense Secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew U.S. intelligence did not support that claim in that there was no hard evidence of Iraqi WMDs.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are fast-tracking a resolution to give Obama unlimited war-making powers — unrestricted in time or geography.

See also:



The most powerful man in the U.S. military

Andrew MarshallAndrew Marshall

He is not a 4-star general, or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Secretary of Defense.

The Daily Caller calls him “likely the most influential person in American national security affairs whom you have never heard about.”

The most powerful — but largely unknown — man in the U.S. military is a 92-year-old man named Andrew Marshall, who was first appointed as director of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Office of Net Assessment (ONA) when the ONA first came into being in 1973 during the Nixon Administration.

More than 40 years later, Marshall, now 92 years old, is still and has never stopped being the ONA director, having been reappointed by successive U.S. presidents, Republican and Democrat.

So what is the Office of Net Assessment?

Wikipedia calls the ONA “an internal think tank” for the Department of Defense. The original main task of the office was to provide strategic evaluations on nuclear war issues. Today, according to the DOD’s Defense Directive 5111.11 of Dec. 23, 2009:

“the term ‘net assessment’ is defined as the comparative analysis of military, technological, political, economic, and other factors governing the relative military capability of nations. Its purpose is to identify problems and opportunities that deserve the attention of senior defense officials. […] This shall include, as required, net assessments of:

(1) Current and projected U.S. and foreign military capabilities by theater, region, function, or mission.

(2) Specific current and projected U.S. and foreign capabilities, operational tactics, doctrine, and weapons systems.”

The ONA has a small staff of just 13 military officials and outside contractors. Most of its reports are classified (and released from the office one copy at a time), but the office has a big influence. The Director of the ONA reports directly to the Secretary of Defense, as well as communicates “directly with the Heads of the DoD Components, as necessary, to carry out assigned responsibilities and functions.”

Who is Andrew Marshall?

Born on Sept. 13, 1921, Andrew Marshall was raised in Detroit, Michigan. He earned a graduate degree in economics from the University of Chicago, after which he joined the RAND Corporation  — the original think tank — in 1949.

During the 1950s and ’60s Marshall was a member of “a cadre of strategic thinkers” that coalesced at the RAND Corporation, a group that included Daniel Ellsberg, Herman Kahn, and James Schlesinger, who later became the U.S. Secretary of Defense and oversaw the creation of the Office of Net Assessment.

Marshall established a talent for original thinking early – a report he wrote at RAND laid the groundwork for the U.S. Navy’s plan to bottle the Soviet navy in the Arctic Sea. At RAND, he also helped develop the discipline of “net assessment,” the analysis of possible future threats.

In 1973, then President Richard Nixon appointed Marshall to be the Director of the new Office of Net Assessment. As such, Marshall’s job isn’t to analyze what has happened, but to predict threats to the United States over the next two to three decades.

In 1992, Marshall was consulted for the draft of Defense Planning Guidance, created by then-Defense Department staffers I. Lewis LibbyPaul Wolfowitz, and Zalmay Khalilzad.

Marshall is noted for fostering talent in younger associates, who then proceed to influential positions in and out of the federal government. A slew of his Marshall’s former staffers have gone on to industry, academia and military think tanks. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Deputy Defense Secretary and former President of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz, and former Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, have been cited as Marshall “star protégés.” Among Marshall’s closest friends are former Defense Secretary William J. Perry and former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff William Owens.

In an interview in 2012, the People’s Liberation Army’s General Chen Zhou, the main author of four of China’s defense white papers, named Marshall as one of the most important and influential figures in changing Chinese defense thinking in the 1990s and 2000s: “Our great hero was Andy Marshall in the Pentagon. We translated every word he wrote.”

Foreign Policy named Marshall one of its 2012 Top 100 Global Thinkers, “for thinking way, way outside the Pentagon box.” The Washington Post calls Marshall the DOD’s Yoda.

Marshall and his office have been credited with significant insights that have been both prescient and important to America’s national security posture:

  • Henry Rowen, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council under President Reagan, said Marshall “early on figured out that the Soviet Union economy was in really bad shape, before anybody did, before the intelligence community. I’m speaking now of the 1970s, and at that time it was thought that it was doing quite well.”
  • Paul Bracken, professor at Yale University’s School of Management, credits Marshall for providing the larger strategic framework for precision-strike weapons. 
  • Bracken also credits Marshall for seeing, before anyone else, that Asia was a rising region of influence and potential concern. 
  • James Carafano, a security expert at the Heritage Foundation, identifies another area of Marshall’s considerable influence — what military historians call the Revolution in Military Affairs“There were some areas where [the Office of Net Assessment] was intensely influential,” Carafano said. “One is the whole military transformation movement of the post Cold War era … You can’t really talk about the thinking about, or emphasis of, transformation post-Cold War without really thinking about Marshall’s office.”
  • In a rare interview in February 2003 given to Wired magazine, Marshall seemed to foreshadow the future use of predator drones, which the American military now commonly and successfully employs to strike terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and beyond. 

Sources: Wikpedia, Washington PostThe Daily Caller.

H/t CODA’s John Molloy