"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Feith-Based Initiative

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, September 10, 2003; Page A17

With a great chunk of President Bush's proposed $87 billion scheduled to flow to Iraqi reconstruction "big time," as they say, we've come across a most timely announcement from the highly regarded international corporate and commercial law firm of Zell, Goldberg & Co.

The firm "has recently established a task force dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the recently ended war with Iraq," its Web site announced. With offices in Israel and Washington, the firm says it "is assisting regional construction and logistics firms to collaborate with contractors from the United States and other coalition countries in implementing infrastructure and other reconstruction projects in Iraq. Through its Washington, D.C., office, ZGC is also assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."

Interested parties can reach the law firm through its Web site, at Hmmm. Rings a bell. Oh, yes, that was the Web site of the Washington law firm of Feith & Zell, P.C., as in Douglas J. Feith, former Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and now undersecretary of defense for policy and head of -- what else? -- reconstruction matters in Iraq.

It would be impossible indeed to overestimate how perfect ZGC would be in "assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects."

Exiled, but Prescient

That $87 billion request for Iraq is making former Bush White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey look brilliant. Lindsey, Loop Fans may recall, estimated last September in the Wall Street Journal that the effort in Iraq could cost between $100 billion and $200 billion.

Other officials called that vastly inflated and the Office of Management and Budget put the figure at less than $50 billion. Lindsey was dispatched to the doghouse for the next three months after that and then, for this and other sins, shown the door.

With the total cost now at about $150 billion, Lindsey's prescience is stunning. Maybe his people will even stop insisting that the Journal misquoted him. Of course, he also said, "The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy."

Gosh, but the Palaces Looked So Nice

It is a rare, perhaps unique, moment when a White House official admits error. Naturally that's in part because they hardly ever make any errors or fail to anticipate every contingency. So national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's straightforward admission yesterday of a mistake in Iraq planning was indeed stunning. And what was that error?

". . . if there was something that was really underestimated, it was how really awful Saddam Hussein was to his own people," she told a British reporter during a Q&A session at the Foreign Press Center.

Nah. Really? They didn't know how bad Saddam was? Yes, it's true, they didn't.

" I know it's hard to believe that you could underestimate that," Rice said. "But when you look at an infrastructure that looked gleaming, if you looked at pictures of Baghdad -- but when you think about it, it was pictures of presidential palaces -- and you look instead at the living conditions of people in Basra or in Sadr City; if you look at the fact that the electrical power grid was serving really only 50 percent of the country; if you look at the fact that there were large parts of the country with no sewage, yes, this is a hard task."

Didn't we have some "assets" in Iraq who might have told us a little something about the U.N. embargo and living conditions? Maybe a CIA type or two?

Leaving the Team

Speaking of the CIA . . . Alan Foley, a 26-year agency veteran and most recently head of the Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center, is calling it quits next month. Foley made headlines a few months back in the to-and-fro with the White House National Security Council over whether to include that bogus reference about Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium in Niger in President Bush's State of the Union address.

"While I can't prevent the inevitable speculation that will be generated by the timing of my decision," Foley said in a note to his staff, referring to the Niger flap, "I want you to know that this is something that I decided entirely on my own."

"I can't deny that the pressures of the past few months have not weighed heavily in my mind," he said, but there were many other factors, he noted, including wanting "a second career in the private sector."

Meanwhile, at the State Department, Carl Ford, head of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) is said to be moving on. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is pushing to elevate INR deputy chief Tom Fingar, a career State Department official, to take over the office. This is being viewed with alarm amongst folks aligned with the Pentagon and the White House, who would prefer a political appointee. During the Iraqi threat assessment struggles, INR annoyed some by not being a total team player in showing how Iraq was an imminent threat.


Alcoholics Anonymous officials called to say that, contrary to an item in Monday's column, they do not take dues or fees from their members.

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Milton Frihetsson, 08:16


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