Despite what Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi might think1 misleading Congress is an impeachable offense.
Ron Suskind is really good at burying a lede.
Diligent, linear-minded readers will have to ford through 370 pages of his alternately incisive and gauzy book, “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism,” to reach the accusation that has set the nation’s blogs abuzz. In September 2003, according to Suskind, CIA officials — at the direct command of then-CIA director George Tenet and at the behest of the White House — deliberately forged a backdated letter from Iraqi security chief Tahir Jalil Habbush to Saddam Hussein. The phony letter claimed that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had trained for his mission in Iraq and that al-Qaida had facilitated mysterious shipments from Niger to Iraq. The letter was the “slam dunk” the Bush administration had been seeking so desperately: evidence of a direct operational link between al-Qaida and Saddam’s regime.
Leaked to conservative British journalist Con Coughlin, the letter was made public just as Saddam was captured in his spider hole near Tikrit. In the course of a single news cycle, the war against Saddam had been “vindicated,” Saddam himself had been flushed from hiding, and the Bush administration’s war had seemingly reached its triumphal and foregone conclusion. Or had it?
To further refine the question: Did nobody think it remarkable that an intelligence chief would commit such damning information to paper and then sign it in his own hand?
Since then, that narrative has unraveled thread by thread — as has the Habbush letter. That it was a forgery can no longer be doubted; that it originated with the White House may be harder to prove. Two former CIA officials — Rob Richer and John Maguire — have gone on record as saying they were personally charged with carrying out the forgery, but their marching orders, if they existed, came directly from Tenet (who has fiercely denied the story). The closest thing Suskind has to a smoking gun is Richer’s memory, five years later, of “looking down at the creamy White House stationery on which the assignment was written.” But here, too, a skeptic’s antennae begin to quiver: Why would an operation so patently illegal be printed on official stationery? It’s worth placing Richer’s and Maguire’s charges, too, in the context of the often-rancorous relations between White House officials and CIA veterans, who have seen their sphere of influence severely curtailed in post-9/11
Impeach the bastards, haul them in criminal court for the murder of thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis!Footnotes:
- she famously stated “Impeachment is off the table”, and allows no real discussion of the topic [↩]