Media Whitewash on Cheney War Crimes Palpable as Whistleblowers Add Up

When I saw Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnell as guest host of Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC show in 2010, I thought the silence was broken. Wilkerson was the first invited guest when Cenk Uyger launched his own MSNBC show in February to elaborate on how he and his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell were manipulated by Dick Cheney and George Tenet, and I imagined it was all going to bust open.

But no one farther up the media food chain has followed up on numerous Bush administration insiders decrying the Iraq war’s illegality, even when Colin Powell demanded action.

A chief advisor on President-Elect Obama’s transition team was Christopher Edley, Jr., the Dean at UC Berkeley Law School. Edley says he was involved in deliberations about prosecuting Bush era officials but the idea was dropped for fear of reprisals from the military, CIA, NSA and Republican party who might block anything Obama tried to do (which they’ve done anyway).

When the Executive and DOJ prove impotent, the Legislative Branch used to enforce US law and treaties but no more. Ironically, the most serious charge on the table could be lying to Congress, but they remain at bay thanks to strong media cover.

One smoking gun lay in a “black site”, itself prohibited by US law and military tradition, outsourced to Egyptian hands. It became the ending point in Colin Powell’s career, a ‘decision point’ that informed a crucial TV speech promising Iraq had links to the 9/11 terror operation.

The dots connect from Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff, to “the generals on the ground” to over forty autopsy reports obtained by the ACLU showing “murder” by torture in US custody. But this one involved scrubbing of internal dissents, preventing Powell from vetting the story he would sell to Congress, the UN and the American people.

Last month, Col. Wilkerson told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that Powell ushered him into a one-on-one deliberation where they shared doubts about the case for an Iraq/al Qaeda link. The country stood on the precipice of war with Iraq at this moment in 2003 with millions marching worldwide in protest.

Steeled by Wilkerson’s support, Powell sent out word his report would disown any link between bin Laden and Iraq. Within an hour, Wilkerson says Tenet rushed in a fresh dispatch from a secret gulag reading: “a high level al Qaeda operative has just been interrogated and revealed significant contacts between al Qaeda and the Mukhabarat (Saddam’s secret intelligence force)”, namely training in chemical and biological attacks.

Powell’s strong skepticism in linking Iraq to 9-11 was bowled away. But only days later, the “high level” detainee recanted everything, a devastating indictment against “enhanced interrogation” in the most pivotal scenario imaginable. His name was Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan jihadi who fought the Russians in Afghanistan. Held in Cairo, he was waterboarded, stuffed into a tiny containment box and punched for 15 minutes. One witness said he couldn’t even make up a story to stop the abuse but eventually proclaimed Osama bin Laden sent two operatives to Iraq. Powell’s skepticism was assuaged, the claim ended up in President Bush’s speech the war was set in motion.

But Powell was informed by 2004 that there was actually not four corroborating sources, that “mistakes were made”. In April 2009, al-Libi was wasting away in a Libyan prison where he was visited by Human Rights Watch and asked about his treatment. US lawyers also had asked for access to al-Libi but three weeks later, a newspaper owned by Muammar Kaddafi’s son reported his suicide. Michael Isikoff doubted the story in Newsweek.

Wilkerson says the Administration would have gone to war with Iraq no matter what and even has tied the atrocities at Bagram and “black jails” elsewhere to the overzealous pressure put on interrogators to find links between Osama and Saddam. This metastasized until the Abu Ghraib scandal went public and descriptions of the alleged off-the-books DoD torture and sexual humiliation operation “Copper Green” were leaked to Seymour Hersh.

The news outlets who take part in this whitewash surely have interesting reasons for disregarding wrongdoing at the highest level of US government, shrugging off a once sacred obligation to the public interest.

New Evidence the State Dept., Congress and US Public Were Bamboozled

What Powell didn’t know at the time of his fateful speeches was that the claims were deemed unreliable by CIA factions and DIA field agents from the start. In this video, Wilkerson references two CIA agents who he believes were actually taking instructions from Cheney when they were supposed to be reporting exclusively to Tenet. The crime was intentional suppression of documented dissents to promote allegations that proved false.

The same lies-by-omission were corroborated by two senior CIA officials in Salon’sBush Knew Saddam Had No WMD (Sidney Blumenthal, September 2007). The European CIA station chief, Tyler Drumheller told the Washington Post in 2006 that Tenet and his team knew Curveball was a liar and psycho. The Post obtained rebuttals from Tenet and his #2, John McGlaughlin saying essentialy they can’t recall. Drumheller even named his 2006 book On the Brink: An Insider’s Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence.

Drumheller’s version was confirmed by the former head of the BND (Germany’s equivalent to the CIA) who interrogated Curveball. Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister at the time agreed, specifically debunking Tenet’s “implausible claim” that he hadn’t seen the BND dissent of Curveball’s wild-eyed stories until two years after the invasion of Iraq.

These are not low-level players. Powell and Wilkerson, the #1 and #2 at state, specifically name Cheney, CIA Director George Tenet and McGlaughlin as the culprits who oversaw the “cherrypick” job. Mr. Powell has called publicly for an explanation from the CIA and DIA but over 90% of major media has “spiked” the story.

O’Donnell’s broadcast pointed out that Karl Rove himself revealed he had knowledge beyond his classification level. A similar breach of security protocol was revealed by Bob Woodward, noting Saudi Prince Bandar was briefed about our planned Iraqi invasion before Secretary Powell, apparently including troop movements. No action was taken.

Rachel Maddow also had promoted Wilkerson as a credible witness to White House knowledge of “evidence-free” detentions and human rights violations, but Maddow stopped short of airing Wilkerson’s most hair-raising admonitions. Cenk Uygur was pushed out of his MSNBC hosting gig for refusing to “be cool” with management and change his “tone”.

Wilkerson’s Mystery Media Tour

Going back to February 2006, PBS had the first exclusive with Wilkerson in a show called NOW hosted by David Brancaccio – in the same broadcast Hans Blix said he was accosted and threatened by Dick Cheney who told him to lie to President Bush about nukes in Iraq. But as early as October of 2003, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker had been publishing leaks of the “stovepiping” of information that led to the Bush Iraq Team pimping bad intel and burying good intel.

Using second-hand intelligence obtained from a rabid anti-Saddam exile in Germany, from black sites run by Egyptians, and reports relying on forged documents coming from Niger and Berlusconi’s “governmedia” complex in Italy, the evidence showing the war was a hoax has been pouring out steadily for at least eight years.

The key witness ‘Curveball’ had been covered in the past by 60 Minutes, but it was only last February when Huffington Post and others reported he admitted making everything up – and the Germans knew this. This was kept from Powell whose credibility dwarfed the others in the Bush White House. George Bush valued the war hero who defeated Saddam in the first Gulf War, but overrode his objections and ultimately used Powell as the foil after the Iraq descended into civil war and the fiasco turned into a quagmire.

Powell became a political target but Wilkerson was the witness who couldn’t be smeared, a 31 year Army vet and distinguished sideman to Powell at JSOC, experienced military nuts-and-bolts policy planner and senior US Marine Corp War College administrator, honors-level instructor in national security and military policy at George Washington University at William and Mary. If God wanted to put someone in a position to help the US stay out of a dumb war, this was it.

Wilkerson told Cenk Uygur in a 2009 broadcast of The Young Turks he felt the Bush White House was fishy from the start. Early on, the State Department’s Ambassador at large Richard Haass tasked Wilkerson with creating a George Marshall-style inter-agency panel linking the military’s Joint staff and State Department planners, but Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld forbade it.

Vice President Cheney also prevented State from establishing diplomatic talks with Iran using bureaucratic “rope-a-dope”, in stalling, delaying and “stymying” national security staff and “principles meetings”.

The most biting attack I’ve seen on Wilkerson – painful because it’s true – was that if the intel was bad, he was a part of the operation that produced it – he wrote the report that was supposed to corroborate sixteen intelligence agencies and vet the Iraq war for the office of the Secretary of State. He and Powell were dissenters that capitulated, that didn’t resign, that didn’t immediately go public, that coordinated stories for the 9/11 Commission report. They were the military brass that ironically fell on their swords first.

Powell and Wilkerson have amped up their rhetoric since learning of the BND, CIA and DIA dissents that were never relayed. In truth, Wilkerson has been telling his story for years, but no one was listening. If the network news really wanted ratings, public trust or even revenue, they would be fighting over exclusives to headline what Wilkerson says about Cheney.

Powell, who resigned with two wars raging, has said he believes that after a storied career, history will view him as the guy who made bogus speeches. Powell asked Al Jazeera this weekend to “imagine my surprise” when “four corroborated sources” turned out to be one shady exile, adding “Hello?”.

New Whistleblowers Joining Old Whistleblowers

With Wilkerson making headlines saying he is “willing to testify“, interest grows anew. Another report comes from an intelligence operative codenamed “Iron Man” at the Asymmetrical Threats Division of Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) who was tracking and monitoring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda since 1999 but says he was pulled off the case as the 9-11 attacks were imminent. He saw major portions of his research disappear in reports given to Congressional investigators.

“Iron Man” also complained internally about this and recently shared a copy of such a complaint, obtained by FOIA request, with Jefferey Kaye and Jason Leopold of TruthOut. Iron Man joins many who came before:
Hugh Shelton, Bush’s own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who said the Iraq War was based on ‘series of lies’ and that WMD deception was intentional.

David Wurmser, Cheney’s former Middle East adviser resigned in disgust after we spent $20 million manipulating elections in Gaza, paying Fatah intimidation squads only to see Hamas win anyway.

J. Gerald Hebert was another Bush DOJ veteran calling for an investigation of Bush era crimes and now we hear of Obama involvement as well.

Retired Army Maj. General Antonio Taguba investigated Abu Ghraib for the Army and found “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.” In Bush Administration Committed “War Crimes”, he writes “the only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, once commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq agreed to testify, noting: “the knowledge and responsibility goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.”

In Four-Star General Calls for Probe of Bush White House General Barry McCaffrey says we should investigate “unmerciful tortures” and “murders” of detainees.

Robert Baer, a twenty-one year CIA veteran agent and the subject of the Academy Award winning film Syrianahas called for prosecution of lawbreaking during interrogations.

Former White House Secretary Scott McClellan revealed in 2008 that Karl Rove’s ties to “friendly” media allowed him to “call Sean…call whoever” when they wanted talking points on the radio to push the Iraq war. It worked because US citizens do not demand accurate or relevant reporting from their major network media.

Update: USA Today reports Cheney’s response to Wilkerson’s accusations by saying “I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Wilkerson…I know he speaks out from time to time, and that strikes me as a cheap shot.”

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