"The bloodletting has begun.
I'm not referring to the latest attempt to reconquer Iraq, but rather the wholesale political revenge campaign being waged by the hard-liners in the Bush administration against anybody and everybody inside the government who challenged the way the second Persian Gulf war in a decade was marketed and run.
Out: Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose political epitaph should now read, "You break it, you own it" for his prescient but unwanted warning to the president on the danger of imperial overreach in Iraq.
Out: Top CIA officials who dared challenge, behind the scenes, the White House's unprecedented exploitation of raw intelligence data in order to sell a war to a Congress and a public hungry for revenge after 9/11.
Out: Veteran CIA counterterrorism expert and Osama bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer, better known as the best-selling author "Anonymous," whose balanced and devastating critiques of the Iraq war, the CIA and the way President Bush is handling the war on terror have been a welcome counterpoint to the "it's true if we say it's true" idiocy of the White House PR machine.
Meanwhile, incompetence begat by ideological blindness has been rewarded. The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under U.S. rule. In fact, despite calls for their resignations — from the former head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Anthony Zinni, among others — the neocon gang is thriving. They have not been held responsible for the "16 words" about yellowcake, the rise and fall of Ahmad Chalabi, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the post-invasion looting of Iraq's munitions stores and the disastrous elimination of the Iraqi armed forces.
As of today, the neocons on Zinni's list of losers — Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz; the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby; National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams; Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld — are all still employed even as Bush's new director of central intelligence, Porter J. Goss, is eviscerating the CIA's leadership.
This is the culmination of a three-year campaign by the president's men to scapegoat the CIA for the fact that 9/11 occurred on Bush's watch.
So far, half a dozen of the nation's top spymasters have been forced out abruptly — a strange way to handle things at a time when Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are still seeking to attack the U.S. Ironically, this all comes as Goss is suppressing a lengthy study, prepared for Congress by the CIA's inspector general, that, according to an intelligence official who has read it, names individuals in the government responsible for failures that paved the way for the 9/11 attacks.
Thus Bush, with Goss as his hatchet man, is having it both ways: He can be seen to be cleaning house at the CIA — when he is simply punishing independent voices — while denying Congress access to an independent audit of actual intelligence failures.
We should remember that as flawed as its performance was under former Director George J. Tenet, the CIA at least sometimes tried to be a counterweight to the fraudulent claims of Rumsfeld's and Dick Cheney's neoconservative staffs. All of the nation's traditional intelligence centers were bypassed by a rogue operation based in Feith's Office of Special Plans. Feith was given broad access to raw intelligence streams — the better to cherry-pick factoids and fabrications that found their way into even the president's crucial prewar State of the Union address.
Now, by successfully discarding those who won't buy into the administration's ideological fantasies of remaking the world in our image, the neoconservatives have consolidated control of the United States' vast military power.
With the ravaging of the CIA and the ousting of Powell — instead of the more-deserving Rumsfeld — the coup of the neoconservatives is complete. They have achieved a remarkable political victory by failing upward."