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Londo Mollari, Ambassador to Iraq

May 19th, 2006

I remember an episode from the TV show Babylon 5, when Vir Cotto, the aide to Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari, is assigned to be the Centauri ambassador to Minbar. As part of his assignment, Vir writes intelligence reports on the Minbari for the Centauri royal court. Londo, being “helpful,” intercepts the reports and makes Vir change them:

LONDO: No. No, this report is totally inappropriate. You have to do it again.

VIR: But Londo, why? I’ve spent weeks working on this report. I didn’t even sleep on the flight back from Minbar so I could go over it again. I’ve checked every single detail myself. It’s absolutely accurate.

LONDO: Yes, Vir, I’m sure it is. And that is the problem. Here, you say: ‘The Minbari have carefully preserved their cities over the course of centuries.’

VIR: That’s right, absolutely.

LONDO: No, what you should say instead is: ‘Their cities are very old, indicating a decaying culture.’

VIR: What?

LONDO: And here: ‘The Minbari put great emphasis on art, literature and music.’ Say instead: ‘They are a decadent people, interested only in the pursuit of … of dubious pleasures.’ The ‘dubious’ part is very important. It doesn’t mean anything, but it scares people every time. All right?

VIR [outraged]: Londo! Every time I make a report, you do this to me!

LONDO: Yes, Vir, I’m trying to help you! A report that will be circulated at the Royal Court needs to be phrased carefully to make sure they appear less civilized than we are! It keeps the Emperor happy!

VIR: I thought the purpose of filing these reports was to provide accurate intelligence!

LONDO: Vir, intelligence has nothing to do with politics! Here: “They are tolerant of differences among other cultures.” [Scratches it out.] No. Make that, “They have no well-defined sense of morality.” They’ll love that back home!

The scene is funny, until you realize that it is precisely the way things work in the Bush administration (via Kevin Drum):

A number of current and former intelligence officials have told me that the administration’s war on internal dissent has crippled the CIA’s ability to provide realistic assessments from Iraq. “The system of reporting is shut down,” said one person familiar with the situation. “You can’t write anything honest, only fairy tales.”

The New York Times and others have reported that in 2003, the CIA station chief in Baghdad authored several special field reports that offered extremely negative assessments of the situation on the ground in Iraq—assessments that later proved to be accurate. The field reports, known as “Aardwolfs,” were angrily rejected by the White House. Their author—who I’m told was a highly regarded agency veteran named Gerry Meyer—was soon pushed out of the CIA, in part because his reporting angered the See No Evil crowd within the Bush administration. “He was a good guy,” one recently retired CIA official said of Meyer, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.”

In 2004 Meyer was replaced with a new CIA station chief in Baghdad, who that year filed six Aardwolfs, which, sources told me, were collectively as pessimistic about the situation in Iraq as the ones sent by his predecessor. The station chief finished his assignment in December 2004; he was not fired, but according to one source is now “a pariah within the system.” Three other former intelligence officials gave me virtually identical accounts, with one saying the ex–station chief was “treated like shit” and “farmed out.” …

“The CIA’s ability to speak honestly is gone,” concluded the official, “which is extraordinarily dangerous to our country.”

Life imitates art. In many ways, Babylon 5‘s creator and chief author, Joe Straczynski, was years ahead of his time in much of the political commentary and cautionary storytelling involved in the series. Which is, of course, to say that he is a keen observer of history.

What was comedic in Babylon 5 is tragic in reality, but the TV precedent is quite telling in its warning of the corruption of an intelligence system to satisfy the depravity of a political institution.

The Bush administration is not interested in facts, rather in perpetuating an agenda. One question is, who is getting fooled? Does the administration know the truth but is demanding false intelligence so they can say they are acting on intelligence? Or is the administration truly blinded by its own desire for their world view to be accurate, and they really believe what they demand the intelligence community provide them?

All along we have suspected that the “intelligence” coming out of CIA and other agencies has been directed by the Bush administration, so they can blame someone other than themselves when things go wrong, as they so badly have gone wrong. This new information offers substantiation: the intelligence community has been trying to tell the truth, but Bush has been carefully training them not to, punishing them when the truth does not match what they want it to be.

This Bush policy has damaged the nation to an unbelievable degree, endangering national security, killing and wounding our soldiers, putting the entire nation at risk.

Anyone who now believes that Bush is doing anything but an abysmal job at national security is dangerously mistaken.

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  1. Brad
    May 22nd, 2006 at 14:31 | #1

    Shameful. Deliberate ignorance of the truth (if that’s the case, and the Bush people are, indeed, deliberately ignoring anything that doesn’t fit what they want to see/promulgate) is just unacceptable/intolerable. Very interesting.

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