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Iraq and intelligence

Taking a break from Christmas-related issues, let’s talk about Iraq. I’ve been growing increasingly irritated with the letters in the Chronicle from war supporters. Opponents of the war haven’t put up much of a defense. So, I hope my contribution will help. You may notice that it’s shamelessly cribbed from Kevin Drum’s excellent list of intelligence distortions.

If you believe supporters of the Iraq war, Bush was perfectly honest with us about pre-war intelligence because Clinton thought Iraq had WMDs too. I hope people realize that this is nothing more than a partisan attempt to avoiding answering substantive questions about Bush’s pre-war conduct.

Clinton didn’t go to war with Iraq. This is the central fact. Leaders that take us to war are to be held to the highest standard. They must evaluate all the evidence thoroughly. Only then should they be given the benefit of the doubt if they turn out to be incorrect. It should also be pointed out that most of the claims the Bush administration made were not made by Clinton. Only the broad opinion that Iraq had some for of WMDs or WMD programs was shared. Did Bush meet the necessary standard? Absolutely not. Let’s take a look at what we now know.

In Powell’s 2003 UN speech he relied on claims by an al-Qaeda prisoner that Iraq had trained members of al-Qaeda. We now know the DIA believed that information to be incorrect. Powell’s chief of staff claims they were not aware of this information.

The claim that Iraq had mobile bio-weapons labs was based on a defector named “Curveball” who was considered him unstable and his allegations second-hand by German intelligence. The only American agent to meet with him found him to be an unreliable alcoholic. It’s possible that the Bush administration didn’t know of this, but if they didn’t, it seems to indicate pressuring the CIA for a desired conclusion, according to this quote:

As I said last night, let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn’t say, and the Powers That Be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about. However, in the interest of Truth, we owe somebody a sentence or two of warning, if you honestly have reservations.

Aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were deemed “irrefutable” evidence of a nuclear program by Cheney. We now know that the Department of Energy (after consulting centrifuge experts) and the State Department believed otherwise. This one is my mind is particularly egregious.

The infamous yellowcake from uranium claim. As best we can tell, this was based on crudely forged documents from Niger. The CIA attempted to persuade the Bush administration not to make this claim in the SOTU, but was overruled.

The claim that Saddam possessed aerial drones that could attack the U.S. with biological or chemical weapons has also been shown to have been suspect. The Air Force believed they could not reach the U.S. and doubted they were made to deliver WMDs.

The overall claims of Iraq-al-Qaeda connections have turned out to be wrong and distorted. The CIA told Bush in September of 2001 that there was little evidence of any significant connection between the two. Also witness the claims of Cheney about Atta’s meeting in Prague, claims that were made after they were debunked by the FBI and Czech intelligence. Also, consider the claims of defector that he helped Saddam’s men bury WMDs in Iraq that were cited by the White House. The defector failed a polygraph and the CIA believed he had made up the account in attempt to get a visa.

This isn’t everything. The Bush administration frequently went beyond simply believing Iraq had WMDs and claimed they “knew” it to be true and knew where the weapons were specifically. There was never agreement about Iraq having a nuclear program, yet the specter of a mushroom cloud was invoked. When the UN inspectors, armed with intelligence shared by us, failed to find an WMDs, this didn’t give the administration a moment of pause. This demonstrates a pattern of at best negligence and at worst outright distortion. This is not the standard we should require of our leaders in taking us to war. I hope that war supporters will eventually put aside partisan politics and engage in a real debate about this issue. Perhaps a case can be made that these errors were honest and understandable mistakes. We won’t know until war supporters ditch the vacuous talking points.

Obviously my submitted letter will be a bit shorter, but I like the full one better.

It seems submitting letters is broken at the moment. Comical indeed.

Categories: Bush, Clinton, Iraq
  1. December 6, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    Heh. The Comical only cares about their money venue, at this point. ‘Just sayin’

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