Posted by: drew | March 16, 2006

Intelligence, Policy,and the War in Iraq

In a follow-up to the previous post about the pre-emptive policy of the Bush administration, I present Paul Pillar, former CIA Officer in charge of Middle East intel on Iraq:

an acrimonious and highly partisan debate broke out over whether the Bush administration manipulated and misused intelligence in making its case for war. The administration defended itself by pointing out that it was not alone in its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and active weapons programs, however mistaken that view may have been.

In this regard, the Bush administration was quite right: its perception of Saddam’s weapons capacities was shared by the Clinton administration, congressional Democrats, and most other Western governments and intelligence services. But in making this defense, the White House also inadvertently pointed out the real problem: intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs did not drive its decision to go to war.

Look no further than the PNAC foreign policy to see that they knew that it would take a “new Pearl Harbor” event to justify invading Iraq. Given the number of PNAC members in the Administration at the time, it’s no surprise that only hours after 9/11 occurred, they were pushing to invade Iraq.

More below the fold.

Pillar continues

Policymakers thus influence which topics intelligence agencies address but not the conclusions that they reach. The intelligence community, meanwhile, limits its judgments to what is happening or what might happen overseas, avoiding policy judgments about what the United States should do in response.In practice, this distinction is often blurred, especially because analytic projections may have policy implications even if they are not explicitly stated. But the distinction is still important.

The Bush administration’s use of intelligence on Iraq did not just blur this distinction; it turned the entire model upside down. The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting — and evidently without being influenced by — any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.

How interested was the administration in middle-east intel that might not agree with their agenda?

As the national intelligence officer for the Middle East, I was in charge of coordinating all of the intelligence community’s assessments regarding Iraq; the first request I received from any administration policymaker for any such assessment was not until a year into the war.

Forgive me if I’m not enthusiastic about this pre-emptive policy when the Administration in power misleads the American people by ignoring intelligence contrary to their agenda. Further, this administration has, until very recently, run roughshod over the other 3 branches of government. If there was a dependable Congress to counter-balance the administration, like we had when Clinton was in power, this wouldn’t concern me so much.

I cannot imagine how anyone, in good concious, could still argue for pre-emptive policy after the mess we’ve made in Iraq.


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