The Feith Defense

During yesterday’s radio interivew, I addressed something I’d read about Feith in this Red State piece:

Throughout our conversation, Mr. Feith insisted that this entire IG review was based on a misconception. The IG called the Pentagon briefing on Iraq and al Qaida an “intelligence product.” But none of the staffers (from the policy office) who created or presented the briefing thought of it as anything other than a policy product. And no one who received this briefing understood it as an intelligence product. There were only four top officials who received the briefing: Mssrs. Rumsfeld, Tenet, Hadley and Libby. All four knew Mr. Feith, and knew that the briefers worked for him and for Mr. Wolfowitz. None could mistake the briefing for an intelligence product.

And it’s of a piece with what I wrote for the column this week:

So it’s all OK.

That, at least, is the line being pushed by Feith’s defenders. The conservative New York Sun editorialized that Feith should be dancing with delight:

“The vindication of a public figure engulfed in controversy doesn’t get more dramatic than that of the former undersecretary of defense, Douglas Feith. A report by the Pentagon inspector general issued last week found that the activities by Mr. Feith’s Pentagon Policy office were all legal, and the office’s officials did not mislead the Congress. The report followed years of exceptionally ad hominem attempts by the left to discredit Mr. Feith, accusing him, in effect, of an attempt to mislead the Congress into its war declaration. The new report from the inspector general finds that nothing Mr. Feith did broke the law.”

Not illegal! Fantastic news. That means I and all the other bloggers in my book and all the critics of Feith’s office who were paying attention three years ago and Senators Levin and Rockefeller were completely wrong, and we should hang our heads in shame.

First of all, talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Second, I believe there are quite a few policy makers who would object to the idea that a “policy product” didn’t have to be based on reliable information, that policy, in as ideal a political world as we should expect, shouldn’t be factual and realistic.

This moving of the goalposts doesn’t actually help Feith at all, because even if you accept that the briefing was policy, you’re still left with the fact that the briefing was totally and catastrophically wrong. Which, to my mind, was a bigger problem all along than if it was incorrectly labeled in the Pentagon filing cabinet.

Third, oh my God are we seriously having this argument? Three thousand plus dead, thousands more wounded, the American people about as disgusted with an administration as the people ever get, and we’re having an argument over what the information Feith was feeding the administration to sell the war was called.

On the air yesterday I read Jack K.’s piece that was included in the book, and I think the part I highlighted is worth citing here again:

…so Doug Feith gets to saunter away to lucrative private life, after hammering together a poisonous mixture of misstatements, misrepresentations, half-truths, and fables to engineer Gee Dub’s Grand Iraqi Adventure, subsequent to which he did a major portion of the heavy lifting in post-conquest planning that stands as a stark icon to absolute perfection in incompetence. The darkly grim irony in all of this is that, while Feith moseys off into this personal glimmering sunset, tens of thousands of common folk – butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, the guy down the street – found themselves federalized into full-time combat area duty as National Guard and Reserve members, jerked away from their jobs and families for far longer than they ever could have realistically imagined, while thousands of others were held in or called back to military service under stop-loss provisions when they thought their military commitment was about to be or had been completed. They can’t look up one day from their MRE lunch and decide “for family and personal reasons” that they would like to leave this particular branch of government service.

The only “question” any of the multiple talk show hosts who’ve been interviewing Feith should have asked him is, “You were wrong. Why don’t you just apologize?”

A.

ps. I’ll be on the Coy Barefoot show this afternoon talking more about this. Listen in if you get a chance.

5 thoughts on “The Feith Defense

  1. spocko says:

    Did any of you watch The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara?
    Here was the man who designed and pushed the war in Vietnam.
    The part that stuck me as the big lesson learned was the “understanding your enemy” scenes and how 35 years later he FINALLY GETS that they weren’t fighting the same war that he was. They viewed the war and what this was all about very differently.
    Feith is in some ways the McNamara of his era. He enabled the VP and the rest of his PNAC cronies to do what they wanted.
    We had to wait 35 years for McNamara to give something of an apology. And of course he was never found to do anything illegal either.
    But was what Feith did immoral? Here is an administration that likes to wear the mantle of Christianity, yet is actively working to make it possible to kill hundreds of thousands. And since they didn’t have enough “good targets” in the war they had, they had to figure out how to get the war they wanted.
    Cheney is still in power. Is there a new Doug Feith out there feeding Cheney things like IEDs that supposedly come from Iran?
    Are the SAME methods and tricks being used for Iran?
    Are the bloggers seeing it again? Is the MSM being “very serious’ and ignoring the one group of people who got it exactly right?
    We blog you decide.
    ————
    BTW, Allison did a GREAT job on the radio, be sure to listen. And for anyone from the Catholic League or other pearl clutchers who want to find her dirty words on this blog and use that to somehow discount her insights or get her fired? Please note that she DID NOT SWEAR at ALL on the radio. Because as we all know the venue you speak can make a difference.
    And when you want to talk about salty language and how it is used and who it is used by, please note this:
    In his autobiography, American Soldier, Tommy Franks describes a conversation with his subordinates who were upset with Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith; Franks tells them, “I’ll worry about OSD, all of them, including Doug Feith, who’s getting a reputation around here as the dumbest fucking guy on the planet.” –Tommy Franks, American Soldier p. 563.
    General Tommy Franks, according to Bob Woodward’s 2004 Plan of Attack, described Feith as the “fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth” (p.281).
    How DARE Tommy Franks use the F-word! And describing another person! How disrespectful! And incorrect!
    Feith holds a J.D. (magna cum laude) from the Georgetown University Law Center and an A.B. (magna cum laude) from Harvard College!
    So not only was Franks foul mouthed toward someone in the Bush administration, but he was inaccurate. Time for someone to be FIRED from the Bush administration! Right? Because as we all know swearing is the mark of a very unserious person.
    I’ll bet that General Tommy Franks, would have fit right in at the saloon in Deadwood (one of Allison’s favorite HBO shows which she loves to quote) and he would have sworn just as much as Al Swearengen. And I’ll bet he would have used the same words as Mr. Swearengen. Just like Allison uses sometimes here on her personal blog.
    But even it if was a professional blog (like General Frank’s comment in his own book and in Woodward’s book) the point is the content, context and venue.
    There has been a lot of couch fainting regarding language on the blogs lately and “civility”. I’m sure that Doug Faith was VERY civil as he coolly ignored the intelligence that said DO NOT trust “Curve Ball”, “An alcoholic cousin of an aide to Ahmed Chalabi ”
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1451138,00.html
    And I’m sure Feith probably very civilly created and presented plans that led to the death of 100,000’s of thousands of people.
    You want civility Catholic League and pearl clutchers? Doug Feith is your man.

  2. Tom Sumner says:

    Yes, exactly, Allison.
    The only thing I could add to this point is that the IG report (or rather, the summary we’re allowed to see) states Feith did nothing illegal or unauthorized. The word “unauthorized” should get as much or more attention than the word “illegal.” It is from this point that congressional investigations could begin.
    Just like in the Libby trial, everything points back to Cheney (and I would add his old buddy Rumsfeld, too). We have known that for years, of course, but public consciousness has a chance of getting there if congress and the press can find it in themselves to hammer on the big points of Feith and Libby.
    By the way, anyone else ever notice other overlap between the Plame story and the OSP story?
    1. Both have key figures nicknamed “Prince of Darkness” (Perle and Novak).
    2. In one story, the key figure under investigation looks he oughtta be nicknamed “Scooter”; in the other story he IS nicknamed “Scooter.”
    3. The stories are about the two big lies: On the one hand, it had to be shown that Iraq had WMD and wanted to expand their ability (via yellowcake acquired from Niger); on the other hand, it had to be demonstrated that Saddam had an operational relationship with terrorist orgs (as the OSP focused on).
    Are there others that could be added to this list? Undoubtedly.
    I also find it interesting that Karen Kwiatkowski’s coming out about the OSP coincided with Joseph Wilson’s NYT op-ed. She never got NY Times real estate with her revelations; but what she said was just as damning, she was the main source for Bob Dreyfuss’s “The Lie Factory” in Mother Jones, and she told her story all over the place.
    Yet she was never smeared like Wilson. Why? Is it true what some say, that the point about Wilson was not to discredit what he said, but to put an end to Plame’s intelligence gathering?
    Obviously, the run-up to Iraq is important history. Feith and Libby tell us it’s all about exercising a totalitarian control of the message.

  3. MapleStreet says:

    I’ve learned a lot reading the two above posts. Thank both Tom Sumner and Spocko. But one thing I’d like to interject – I don’t see where they even got that the Iraqis could do things that have traditionally be done in war operations. For example, IEDs. How long have underground fighters fashioned explosives? And now we act like IEDs are something novel and new?

  4. spocko says:

    MapleStreet, an interesting thing about IEDs. Why do they call them that instead of what they are? Bombs. Land mines. Booby Traps.
    In some ways it’s lingustic dodge. “IEDs in the streets are a real problem” doesn’t sound as scary as, “Bombs in the streets are a real problem.” Also by naming them IMPROVISED it positions them as created by a rag tag group of poorly organized terrorists. Not “These bombs were made from the stockpiles of weapons we failed to secure.” and “These bombs were made by members of the disbanded army that Doug Feith suggested we disband with no new role for them to play or new jobs for them.”
    Remember those people in the army who “faded” into the wood work? Might some of them have skills making bombs? Might some of them know where the weapons stock piles were? Might some of them have time on their hands?
    Next thing you know they will be calling coffins something generic like “transfer tubes” can you imagine people who aren’t willing to call a coffin a coffin?
    What we call things is important. The term IED isn’t as scary sounding as, “a bomb that will blow your limbs off from 50 yards away.”
    Like Detainees instead of prisoners. Abuse instead of torture.
    Word choice is important:
    Which has more power?
    28 detainees died from abuse in Abu Ghraib?
    Or 28 prisoners died from torture in Abu Ghraib?
    Both are true statements.

  5. Tom Sumner says:

    Now that I’ve had a chance to listen to it, I agree with Spocko–A. did a great job in this interview. I especially liked the important point she made about how clowns like Feith undermine security when they play games with intelligence. As Krugman likes to say, there’ll be a hell of a mess to clean up when the adults get back in power.
    Also, I heard her articulate my first point above: Feith likes to point out the IG report claim that he did nothing illegal. Let’s just take that a face value for now. So what about the other part of the equation? If what Feith did was inappropriate and not unauthorized, then who authorized this inappropriate action? How far does all this go before we get to something we can call illegal in spirit and by the letter?

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