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2003-08-13

CIA Warned Bush Administration of Post-War Iraqi Resistance Prior to Invasion

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We speak with Boston Globe correspondent Bryan Bender who reveals that the CIA briefed the administration in February that the U.S. would face armed resistance from Iraqis following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime and we go to Baghdad to hear from London Guardian reporter Jamie Wilson on the latest Iraqi resistance. [Includes transcript]

Click here to read to full transcript

264 U.S. troops have now died since the invasion of Iraq began. 125 of those, or almost half, have been killed since the war was officially declared over on May 2nd. A rate of more than 1 soldier killed a day.

This should not come as a surprise to the Bush administration.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, the CIA briefed the administration in February that the U.S. would face armed resistance from Iraqis following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The article cites unnamed intelligence sources.

A month after the briefing was produced, Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC’s Meet the Press, "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

The article goes on to say that multiple briefings by both the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency were given to the National Security Council, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush himself.

On July 2nd, despite ongoing attacks by Iraqis, Bush taunted Iraqi militants who planned to attack American troops, saying "Bring them on."

  • Bryan Bender, correspondent for the _ Boston Globe_. He is based out of Washington D.C.
  • Jamie Wilson, reporter for the _ Guardian_ of London. He is recently back from Basra. He joins us on the phone today from Baghdad.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Democracy Now! We’ll be going to Chiapis in a minute. But first, 264 U.S. soldiers have now died since the invasion of Iraq began. 125 of those or almost half have been killed since the war was officially declared over on May 2nd. A raid of more than one a day. This should not come as a surprise to the Bush administration. According to an article in the "Boston Globe", the C.I.A. briefed the administration in February that the U.S. would face armed resistance from Iraqis following the fall of Saddam Hussein. A month after the briefing was produced, Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC’s "Meet The Press" quote, "my belief is we will in fact be greeted as liberators". The article goes on to say, multiple briefings by both the C.I.A. and defense intelligence agency were given to the National Security Council including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush himself. We’re joined on the phone right now by Brian Bender, correspondent for the "Boston Globe" based in Washington D.C., did the piece called "C.I.A. warned administration of postwar guerrilla peril". Talk about how you learned of the C.I.A. report and briefing.

BRYAN BENDER: Actually it goes back I think to even before the war when there was some discussion among Pentagon officials, intelligence officials, some of my sources that some of the predictions that they were hearing at the time, some of the Bush administration seemed to be overly optimistic about what the environment in Iraq would look like after the major fighting was over. And over the last couple of months I’ve been able to piece together a little bit more detail about how many briefings, what indeed they said and at least it appears that there was a concerted effort by some of the intelligence agencies to layout what the postwar environment would look like, and I think if you look at what some of those reports said versus how prepared some of the troops are in Iraq now, I think there is some evidence of a disconnect that some of those warnings were not heeded. It’s not exactly clear why, but certainly there is evidence that some of the administration had this optimistic view of what would happen and really didn’t want to hear anything that would call that into question, or call into question what they planned to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Who did you speak to?

BRYAN BENDER: I talked to some intelligence officials currently in the defense intelligence agency, the C.I.A. as well as some former intelligence officials, folks who worked in the government up until earlier this year. You know, some of these reports go back to just couple months before the war, but I’ve been told that there were reports even going back last year that had taken a look at what Iraq might look like if indeed the U.S. went in there so this is not something, these guerilla attacks, these ambushes against U.S. troops, certainly as you pointed out shouldn’t come as a surprise, although sometimes some officials make it sound that way. I recall that Deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz a couple of weeks ago had returned from Iraq after a four or five day whirlwind tour and gave an update in which he said there were some surprises. Not surprisingly there were some surprises. Things did not turn out exactly the way we intended. And one of the things that he had pointed out as the big surprise was that some of these Ba’ath Party remnants, some of these diehards would continue fighting. And that sort of struck me given what we know about some of the warnings that were given before the war. So he shouldn’t have been, certainly shouldn’t have been as surprised as he made it sound.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Bush administration’s allegiance to Ahmed Chalabi who left Iraq in 1958.

BRYAN BENDER: That’s a little murkier. People I’ve talked to claim that a lot of the sort of rosy optimistic predictions that we heard out of some of the administration came at least in large part from Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress which has been this exile group for many years that has pushed For regime change in Iraq is said to have close relationship with the Pentagon in particular. And, so there’s certainly some suspicion that the glowing predictions didn’t come from nowhere, they came from Ahmed Chalabi and some other people in the Iraqi National Congress who were very much in support of a military invasion and perhaps you can argue as a result tried to painted a fairly pleasant picture of what Iraq would be like after the war.

AMY GOODMAN: Of course you have Bush’s July 2nd statement despite the ongoing attacks of the Iraqis, taunting Iraqi militants who plan to attack American troops, saying, bring ’em on. And then the administration now trying to talk about the forces that are opposed, resisting the invasion. Being pro-Saddam, I wanted to bring Jamie Wilson into this conversation. Brian Bender is with the "Boston Globe". Jamie Wilson is a reporter for "The Gaurdian" of London, just out of Basra You did a piece called "Basra, betrayed and pushed to the brink". Who are the people who are rising up this past weekend? A major uprising there, Jamie.

JAMIE WILSON: They’re just normal people really in Basra. I think Basra is in quite a unique situation, very different to Baghdad. The people in Basra were oppressed for years under Saddam Hussein, much worse than anybody in Baghdad was in terms of after the uprising in 1991 and actually maybe 250,000 people were killed in Baghdad by Saddam Hussein’s regime. So they are on the whole very friendly towards the coalition, very welcoming towards the coalition. What happened in Basra over the weekend was a slightly unique event in that temperatures were rising up to 57 degrees Celsius which is unbelievably hot. And as I’m sure people know in America when it gets really hot on the street tempers start to fray. After that, there was a major problem with electricity in Basra over the weekend. The coalition provisional authority claims that a lot of people or some people had stripped some of the electricity wires and blown up some pylons which resulted in big power problems at the power plant there. As a result they couldn’t get any electricity to the oil making refinery where they make gas so people couldn’t buy gas to feed their generators to make electricity. I think it’s just a combination of these things. People were welcoming the British forces and U.S. forces but because there was this incredible heat and the power and everything else, I think there was just sort of a spontaneous uprising, sort of, you know, four months on. I think they thought it was going to happen overnight. The moment Saddam’s regime was gone, life for them in Basra would get better. And I think it was partly a realization that actually that isn’t going to be the case, that it’s going to take a long time for things to get better there. And I think it’s just a general, you know, just a general uprising as a result of that. I don’t think people should read too much into what happened in Basra. It certainly can’t be compared to what has been happening in Baghdad in terms of the attacks against U.S. forces in the north of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Bender we just have 30 seconds but you’re doing a new piece now on also what the C.I.A. said about domino affect. First Saddam Hussein could be taken out then they move on around the Middle East.

BRIAN BENDER: Yes. You know, again there’s been a lot of talk of surprises and things not being predicted. One of the thing we’ve heard is a justification, if you will, for the war in Iraq. That this would be the first step in speeding democracy, pushing some of these autocratic regimes in the Middle East to reform, it turns out that some of the U.S. governments, many of the U.S. government’s experts on the Middle East in the Defense Intelligence Agency, in the CIA, also something called the National Intelligence Council which is kind of a collection of representatives from different agencies, came out before the war and are continuing to say that this domino theory as they call it of this new domino theory, where democracy would spread throughout the Middle East really has no basis in reality. They can’t point to something or a reason to think that that really is a possibility in the near term, mid term let alone you know, next week or next month when the Iraqis plan to have a constitutional convention, and set up democracy or even the beginnings of democracy. Again I think it’s all an example of, or another example of some of these instances where the policy makers in the Bush administration say one thing or make certain claims whether it’s weapons of mass destruction, democracy in the Middle East, Iraqis will welcome us with open arms, which doesn’t really jive with what the quote, unquote, experts in the U.S. government were briefing them on multiple occasions before the war.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Bender, I want to thank you for being with us from the "Boston Globe" and Jamie Wilson from "the guardian" of London, speaking to us from Iraq. You are listening to Democracy Now! as we move to southern Mexico.

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