Miller and the Saddamite

Judith Miller once collobarated with the right's leading conspiracy theorist on Iraq.

By Aaron Kinney
August 19, 2005 9:43PM (UTC)
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It's well established that jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller has close ties to the Pentagon and Bush administration officials who were the architects of the slipshod Iraq war, ties that go on to this day. Arianna Huffington claims that United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, who was undersecretary of state for arms control from 2001 to 2005, recently visited Miller in prison. As Miller sits in a Virginia jail, her visiting hours booked with powerful figures from Washington and elsewhere, Huffington and others are wondering about the nature of Miller's relationships with the people who orchestrated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

One person who hasn't received much attention, however, is Laurie Mylroie, an expert on Middle East affairs who works at the American Enterprise Institute, a highly influential right-wing think tank. Miller and Mylroie co-wrote a book in 1990 about Iraq and the Gulf War titled "Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf," a historical overview of Saddam's regime. But while that book was regarded as evenhanded, Mylroie has gone on to become the foremost anti-Saddam conspiracy theorist in the neoconservative movement. In a book published in 2000, "Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America," Mylroie took a few bits of circumstantial and highly speculative evidence and wove them into an argument that it was Iraq, and not Islamic terrorists, who were behind the first World Trade Center bombings in 1993.


But she didn't stop there. Here's how Peter Bergen described it in a Washington Monthly piece from 2003: "In what amounts to the discovery of a unified field theory of terrorism, Mylroie believes that Saddam was not only behind the '93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade, from the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to the leveling of the federal building in Oklahoma City to September 11 itself."

As Bergen noted in his article, Mylroie thanked Bolton and "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, in her acknowledgments for "Study of Revenge," and doffed her cap to former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz for his "crucial support." Richard Perle, a hardcore proponent of Iraqi regime change and Mylroie's colleague at the AEI, called Mylroie's argument "splendid and wholly convincing" in a blurb on the book's back cover.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 only added to her zealousness. On Oct. 18, 2001, when neoconservative hawks had long since begun agitating for an invasion of Iraq, Mylroie told "Frontline" unequivocally that Saddam had a hand in 9/11. "Bin Laden and Saddam are working together; they're both in it together," Mylroie said. "But between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaida, the far more important party is Iraqi intelligence."


Mylroie added that at a post-9/11 meeting of the Defense Policy Board, the eminent consulting group that advises the Defense Department and that Perle chaired at the time, her "Study of Revenge" was discussed. "I was not at the Defense Policy Board meeting," she told "Frontline." "Some people who were, some friends, told me about it. And what I heard was that, in some respects, my work on terrorism played a prominent role."

Mylroie was asked if she thought the theory laid out in her book had been influential. "The evidence did convince other people of this, many other people," she said, "including senior people in national security circles and journalists." This brings us back to Miller, whose conviction that Saddam's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction backed up the Bush administration's decision to go to war. Much of the evidence that Miller relied upon came from sources like former Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi. Not accidentally, senior officials in the White House and the Pentagon were putting their eggs in the same basket. As Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker, officials in both buildings set up special procedures that bypassed normal intelligence channels -- Wolfowitz established the Office of Special Plans, while Dick Cheney's team "stovepiped" the raw intelligence they wanted to hear straight into the vice president's office. How exactly did Miller, who had high-level sources in both outfits, fit into this feedback loop, which wound up getting everything so wrong on Iraq's WMD capabilities?

Miller's behavior in Iraq in 2003 while embedded with the military's top WMD-hunting unit raises still further questions about her mindset -- allegations of attempting to steer the MET Alpha Unit rather than follow it, using her high-level connections and threats of negative articles to get her way and participating in a military ceremony honoring the unit's commander. It ain't how they teach it at journalism school, that's for sure.


There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Miller saw the rules of her profession not in black and white, but in a thousand shades of gray. We still have no idea what special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald thinks Judith Miller's role was in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, but plenty of people have begun to think it was as murky as her role in the WMD fiasco.

Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

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