"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Contentious Defense Official to Depart

By Mark Mazzetti
The Los Angeles Times

Thursday 27 January 2005

WASHINGTON - Douglas J. Feith, the controversial policy advisor to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and a hawkish proponent of the war in Iraq, plans to return to the private sector this summer, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

As undersecretary of Defense for policy, Feith, 51, is the Pentagon's third-ranking civilian official. He directs a staff of 1,500 employees who develop the Pentagon's policies for countries in every corner of the world.

It was Feith's advocacy of a hard line toward Saddam Hussein after the Sept. 11 attacks that turned his office into the nerve center for U.S. policy toward Iraq. The changeover caused frequent clashes between his staff, on one side, and the CIA and the State Department, on the other.

A Pentagon announcement gave no specifics about Feith's resignation, saying only that he made his decision for "personal and family reasons."

At a Capitol Hill press event Wednesday evening, Rumsfeld said that Feith notified him in November, shortly after the presidential election, that he intended to resign. He said he asked Feith to remain until a successor could be found.

"I've asked him to stick around. We don't have a replacement. And he's agreed to do that," Rumsfeld said.

In a separate statement released to the media, Rumsfeld said Feith "has contributed to the security of the country. He is creative, well organized and energetic, and he has earned the respect of civilian and military leaders across the government."

A graduate of Harvard University and Georgetown University Law Center, Feith served on the National Security Council and Defense Department staffs in the Reagan administration.

In his current position, he has frequently been criticized by senior military officials, who say he has advanced policies without considering their implications for troops on the ground.

Retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. commander during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reserved particular venom for Feith in his recent autobiography, "American Soldier."

"No one could deny Feith's academic achievements," Franks wrote. "But Feith was a theorist whose ideas were often impractical."

Elsewhere in the book, Franks wrote that Feith was "getting a reputation around here as the dumbest [expletive] guy on the planet."

In an interview Wednesday with Associated Press, Feith said he was proud of his contributions to improving relations between the Pentagon's civilian policymakers and the senior uniformed officers.

"Many people have said it is now better than it has ever been," he said.

Feith has been a lightning rod for criticism on Capitol Hill. Many senior Democrats have long contended that his office manipulated intelligence in order to link Hussein's regime to Al Qaeda and bolster the case for war with Iraq.

Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials dismiss these charges.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Feith established an office at the Pentagon that sifted through raw intelligence to determine whether the CIA might have missed links between rogue states and international terrorist networks.

The intelligence unit, the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, purported to have found new links and briefed the CIA, the National Security Council and members of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff on its findings.

A memo written by Feith about the group's discoveries was leaked to the media, and Cheney touted the memo as the "best source" on the links between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

However, at a subsequent hearing on Capitol Hill, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet said the agency "did not agree with the way the data was characterized in that document."

In the months before the Iraq invasion, Feith oversaw the Office of Special Plans, which became the Bush administration's lead policy office for the war against Hussein.

Feith also was one of the principal architects of Pentagon plans to reposition U.S. troops around the globe, removing them from large Cold War-era garrisons in Germany, Japan and South Korea and moving them closer to potential flashpoints.

But his influence within the Bush administration declined as the U.S. death toll in Iraq grew and Pentagon officials drew criticism for failing to anticipate a deadly insurgency.

The announcement of his resignation came on the day 37 U.S. troops died in Iraq, the deadliest day for the U.S. military since the war began in March 2003.

Times staff writer John Hendren contributed to this report.

The Los Angeles Times

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Milton Frihetsson, 17:49


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