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The Big Lie: Intelligence Failure in Iraq

If you repeat a line over and over again, eventually people will start to accept it. In this case, the line is that we had a big intelligence failure in Iraq.

Even Bush has caved in: he is appoint a “commission” to look into the problems with our “intelligence community.”

There are so many things wrong with this that I’d better make a numbered list.

1. Of course there are things wrong with our “intelligence community”: the left has been adding layer upon layer of shackles to them since the Church Committee fiasco of 1973. Now that the Left (with the avid support of Libertarians) has succeeded in gutting the CIA, they are shocked, shocked that the CIA is neither infallible nor omniscient.

2. The errors or omissions, if any, in the pre-war intelligence on Iraq are as nothing compared to the errors and omissions during the whole Cold War regarding the communist bloc. We knew practically nothing. Or at least, if we did know anything it never seemed to influence either foreign policy or public opinion. The only exception I can think of was the Cuban missile crisis, when U- 2 spy-planes got photographic evidence.

3. Why is the failure, if any, something wrong with American intelligence, when exactly the same conclusions were reached by the intelligence “communities” in England, Russia, Israel, and France?

4. What is the evidence for any failure? Even David Kay concluded that WMD could well have been either destroyed or shipped to Syria at the outbreak of the war. In the Wall St. Journal (February 2, 2004), R. James Woolsey reports that the stockpile of anthrax Saddam was thought to have had would fit, in powder form, into about a dozen suitcases. And Woolsey was the CIA director from 1993 to 1995, under President Clinton.

5. If there was some failure in intelligence–so what? The whole Manhattan Project in World War II was largely based on wrong intelligence about how well the Nazis were doing in their WMD program to produce an atomic bomb. I don’t recall any recriminations about that “intelligence failure.” And our government learned the truth about a year before the Manhattan Project was completed. But the Project went ahead full steam anyway—-which was absolutely the right thing to do–even though we knew the Nazis were on the wrong track, going nowhere.

6. Intelligence? Why did we need intelligence? Was it a closely guarded secret that Saddam was a dictator, a madman, a hater of America, near to the heart of terrorism? Was it unknown that Saddam had invaded Kuwait? Was it unknown that Saddam had tried to murder George W. Bush’s father? Weren’t we already constantly running minor sorties in Iraq–dozens of them–because Saddam kept violating the “no fly-zone” and otherwise breaking the terms imposed by our victory in the Gulf War? Did it require special espionage to uncover a possibility that Saddam would cooperate with bin Laden, as rival Mafia families do? And wasn’t it on television that bin Laden issued an official endorsement of Saddam against America?

Three thousand Americans died in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the wake of that, the only intelligent question was: which lousy Middle East pesthole-dictatorship are we going to crush first? Not: was or was not the threat from this particular statist sewer “imminent” or only “growing”?

The Democrats do have something to pillory Bush with–and they’d get my vote if they used it. It’s not: “Why did you think the threat from Iraq was 82% when it was only 58%?” It’s: “Why did you go against the Little Satan, Iraq, while turning a blind eye to the Great Satan, Iran?”

Since our own State Department lists Iran as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, our failure to act against Iran is not a failure of intelligence but of wisdom and courage.