Michael Ledeen, The National Review Online: Don’t read what you are into the big document of Iraq.
"So how exactly do you figure out when something is real, and when it’s a deception?”
I was talking via my rickety ouija board with the spirit of James Jesus Angleton, the former chief of CIA counterintelligence, somewhere in the Great Beyond, concerning the much ballyhooed document found in Iraq and published with great gravitas all over the world. Angleton seemed much amused by the document, which he dismissed as a manifest phony. READ MORE
JJA: Well, the assumption about this piece of paper is that it reflects the thinking of at least one important terrorist leader, right? Otherwise it wouldn’t be important.
JJA: So how come this terrorist leader makes so many mistakes? I mean, blatant factual errors. Let’s start with his statement — #5 in the first set of numbered paragraphs — that there has been “a decline of the resistance’s assaults.”
ML: Well, our casualties are certainly down, aren’t they?
JJA: Not really. May was one of the worst months since the fall of Saddam. Recently there’s been a dramatic increase in assaults and the number of dead innocents. Precisely the opposite of what the unnamed “leader” says.
ML: And then?
JJA: And then — #6 in that first batch — he says that there’s been “an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation.” I guess he doesn’t read Italian, does he? And even the Brits have announced they’re going to leave. Again, the opposite of the facts. I could go on, but you get the point, don't you?
ML: And your point is?
JJA: That this piece of paper does not represent serious thinking about Iraq, it’s something else.
ML: And what might that be?
JJA: Don’t be in such a hurry. Remember Nietzsche’s great line: The mark of an educated man is the length of time between stimulus and response. Take your time. Don't react right away. Let’s work this through.
ML: Okay, but there’s a deadline at NRO, you know...
JJA: Yeah, but it’s not 30 seconds from now. Look at #2 in the second group of numbered paragraphs, the ones that make recommendations. It says that the terrorists should “infiltrate the ranks of the National Guard.”
ML: Well, they certainly would like to do that, wouldn’t they?
JJA: Indeed. In fact they've done it, as everybody knows. The Iraqi people trust the army but they are terrified by the national guard, precisely because there are so many terrorists and terrorist agents in it.
This is very important, because one of the best ways to identify a deception is when its “revelations” are things you are known to know. There are no secrets in this document, only lies, things we already knew, or things so vague that they’re meaningless, such as “unify the ranks of the resistance” without even stipulating a single method to achieve it, or “reorganize for recruiting new elements” without any concrete recommendation.
ML: So what’s the point of it all?
JJA: Aha! It emerges bit by bit, but the whole thrust of the document is that Iran is a sweet innocent, actually an ally of the United States in Iraq, and that the terrorists should do everything possible to foster conflict between Iran and the Americans.
ML: So we should interpret anything suggesting that Iran is hostile to us as part of a terrorist plot?
JJA: Precisely. At a certain point the “terrorist leader” writes about “the big support Iran is offering to America in its war in Afghanistan and in Iraq.”
JJA: You said it! As if organizing the killing of Americans in both countries were “big support.” And that’s only the beginning. He goes on to say that the terrorists should be “disseminating threatening messages against American interests and the American people and attribute them to a Shia Iranian side.”
ML: So we’re supposed to believe that Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, didn’t really threaten us. It was all a trick. Maybe rhetoric-put-out-for-domestic-purposes?
JJA: That’s their plan. And this guy goes on and on and on, saying they have to trick us into believing that Iran has chemical and nuclear weapons and is threatening the West with them, that Iran is organizing suicide operations in the West, and that there is a relationship between Iran and terrorist groups.
ML: But that’s all true! I mean, even the State Department says Iran is the world’s biggest supporter of international terrorism.
JJA: Sure, but they’re trying to plant doubt in our minds. Maybe we’ll wonder, if only a little bit, if it isn’t a giant deception organized by clever Sunni terrorists.
ML: How about the final point? He says the terrorist should disseminate “bogus messages about confessions showing that Iran is in possession of weapons of mass destruction or that there are attempts by the Iranian intelligence to undertake terrorist operations in America and the west and against western interests.”
JJA: Yeah, how about that one? Again, these are things they can reasonably expect us to know.
The ouija was beginning to generate static, and there were a few sparks in the air.
JJA: They’ve had several defectors recently, this sort of thing is designed to throw doubt on the reliability of the defectors.
ML: Oh yeah, I read about that the other day. And there was something in the New York papers about Iranians running around town taking pictures of bridges, tunnels, subway stations...
Now the damn thing was smoking and I could only get a few more fragments before his voice faded out into the ether.
JJA: ...terribly done...shockingly amateurish...unbelievable...
Which is exactly what I think, in case you’re wondering. I think the Iranians put out this sort of nonsense so that we’ll have trouble figuring out what’s real. And by the way, it wasn’t found in Zarqawi’s house, contrary to the triumphant announcement from the office of the Iraqi prime minister. So it’s certainly not a Last Testament. It’s just nonsense.
— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.