The Senate Intelligence Committee has had its say on the intelligence disaster leading up to the war in Iraq. Not surprisingly, the Republican controlled committee has whitewashed what really happened in order to provide an out for the Revisionist and Chief, George W.
Most certainly there were intelligence failures aplenty. Let’s face it; it would have taken an overwhelming body of evidence for any reasonable person in 2002 to think that Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of chemical and biological agents. He had used them in that past. Intelligence organizations all around the world came to same conclusion. We were relying too much on reports from exiled Iraqi’s, and not bothering to otherwise confirm the information or vet the sources.
It was really on the nuclear question certainly the most important issue that the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies truly dropped the ball. They bought into the idea that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear weapons programs largely on the basis of flimsy reports of possible Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium and centrifuge components from abroad. Even if those reports had all been true, the imports would have been nothing more than raw materials for a nuclear program that would have required several more years to produce even a crude bomb. The reports obviously largely debunked by a U.S. Ambassador’s report (who was subsequently punished for disagreeing with the administration, by having his wife’s identity as a U.S. covert operative illegally revealed by the Administration).
Again, less-than-credible reports from less-than-credible people were used to confirm assumptions that intelligence analysts should not have allowed themselves to believe so strongly in the first place. It’s likely, that having been caught off-guard after the first Gulf War about how far along Saddam was with his nuclear program then, the CIA wanted to ensure they didn’t under-react a second time.
But remember that CIA Director George Tenant made several attempts to keep the information about the nuclear program out of Bush’s State Of The Union Address, yet he was foiled at every turn. Bush was determined to terrify Americans into believing in the sanctity of his war.
As Michael O’Hanlon said in an op-ed piece in the New York Times:
As for the supposed links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the available evidence points strongly to one conclusion, the same conclusion that the intelligence community consistently reached: the Bush administration’s frequent insinuations that Saddam Hussein may have had an active collaboration with Al Qaeda, perhaps even assisting the 9/11 hijackers in some way, are without foundation. The intelligence community clearly stated this throughout the debate over Iraq. Even when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was talking about “bulletproof” evidence of strong linkages in the summer and fall of 2002, the intelligence community demurred ? within the halls of the executive branch and in public.
Remember, The United States provided the inspectors with detailed intel on where to find Iraq’s WMD stockpiles. Every single follow-up turned out to be a big goose egg. Inspectors were in Iraq as little as three months before the invasion and found nothing there except a handful of missiles that violated UN limits by a few miles. Saddam destroyed them.
France wanted Hans Blix’s inspection team to do more intrusive inspections for another month or so prior to the invasion. While the Bush team constantly sounded the drumbeat that Saddam was refusing inspections, the reality was different. Certainly there was always lots of bluster from the Iraqi government, but they had always relented and allowed the inspections.
The fact is that by March 2003 we didn’t have to rely on CIA estimates or on the estimates of any other intelligence agency. We had been on the ground in Iraq for months and there was nothing there. There was nothing there and we knew it.
Did the CIA screw up? Probably. Did it matter? No. George Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 not because he was convinced Iraq had WMD, but because he was becoming scared that Iraq didn’t have WMD and that further inspections would prove it beyond any doubt. Facts on the ground have never been allowed to interfere with George Bush’s worldview, and he wasn’t about to take the chance that they might interfere with his war. Giving his buddy Dick Cheney’s employer, Haliburton, access to the regions oil was far more important than telling the truth. Even more important, it seems, than thousands of American and Iraqi lives.
Whatever faults the CIA has, let’s not blame them for the war in Iraq. Don?t allow Fox News to deceive you again, we all know exactly whose mistake it was.