A new pentagon investigation found that the use of prewar Iraq intelligence by former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith was "inappropriate," "dubious," and "inconsistent." Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said this news was "devastating."
The worst devastation continues to visit family upon family across the United States. This week Massachusetts lost its first female soldier in Iraq, Marine helicopter pilot Captain Jennifer Harris, 28, of Swampscott. She died in a crash two weeks before the end of her third and final tour of duty in Iraq.
The tributes to her have been classically tragic: She was the best this country had to offer. She was proud to serve her country.
This is no different from March 2003, when the Pentagon announced the first fatalities in the invasion of Iraq.
"Excellent role model," someone said of the late Therrel Childress 30, of Harrison County, Miss.
"This is when the war hits home," someone said about the late Ryan Beaupre, 30, of Bloomington, Ill., "when an all-American family loses someone like Ryan."
A relative said of the late Jay Aubin, 36, of Waterville, Maine, "He believed in what he was doing. He believed that Saddam had to be taken out."
All-American men and women believed in a government that was inappropriately using intelligence. The Defense Department inspector general said in an executive summary released yesterday to the public that Feith, the top policy official under former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community, to senior decision-makers."
The inspector general report went on to say, "While such actions were not illegal or unauthorized, the actions were, in our opinion, inappropriate, given that the intelligence assessments . . . did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the intelligence community."
The failure to consider the "variance" may not have been illegal, but it was incredibly immoral, given the carnage to follow. This report from the Pentagon's own investigator freezes the crocodile tears of the White House as cold as ice, while real tears flow in the families of the now 3,100 soldiers killed and 23,400 wounded.
Rumsfeld said of the first soldiers to die, "we are certainly grateful for their lives, their courage, and their sacrifice." But the Pentagon report once more raises the question of whether they were sacrificed by cowards in the Bush administration, men and women who for the most part never saw war.
It raises again the question of how Congress in bipartisan fashion played more to the politics of fear of losing their seats than soldiers in giving Bush the authorization to go to war. With rare exceptions, it was because they knew they would never be hit as hard as the Beaupre family because senators and members of congress had no direct human stake in Iraq. What would it take for them to truly say, "This is when the war hits home?"
The war has not hit home for even Carl Levin, who requested the report from the inspector general. He calls this report devastating, but then he turns around and helps keep us addicted to the oil-rich Middle East by playing patsy to the fading automobile industry in his state, by fighting higher fuel economy standards.
The day after the first deaths were announced, then-Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in an interview with a Los Angeles television station about Saddam Hussein, "I didn't realize in 1991 just how dangerous this man would be . . . to hang onto to his chemical and biological weapons. I didn't realize he'd developed links to a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda."
The bipartisan 9-11 commission and other congressional reports destroyed all those claims. But the soldiers are still out there in the middle of a civil war, risking and losing their lives because the nation put its faith in men like Feith. With incredible irony, it was Feith who said, just a week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "We note that the Saddam Hussein regime is continuing to pursue weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities . . . The Saddam Hussein regime is a serious threat to its neighbors and the well-being of its own people and we will be taking all of this into account. That's all I want to say at the moment."
Five and a half years later, no one has been held accountable for taking into account only what they wanted to hear.
© 2007 The Boston Globe