"Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom...A long and violent abuse of power is generally the means of calling the right of it in question..."
~Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rumors of Wars

Iraq War: Justification or Rationalization?

On March 19, 2003, US and British forces invaded Iraq. This was a “preemptive” strike, the first in US history. There must have been a really good reason for this unprecedented military action. But, can you remember what the US preempted or prevented from happening? Most people who are supportive of the war believe the war was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime from power, to confront Muslim extremists head on, and to bring democracy to the Middle East. At times, the Bush administration even made statements linking Iraq to Al-Qaeda and to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in order to justify the use of force, although the administration eventually denied making this connection (see also Rumsfeld saying the US has 'Bulletproof' Evidence of Iraq's links to Al Qaeda.)

In addition, most people today believe the continued US occupation of Iraq is necessary to prevent terrorists from taking over the region—essentially the same argument for why supporters believe we went to war in the first place. However, unlike the initial rationalization for war, this view today is shared by supporters and non-supporters of the war alike including leading Democrats. The only argument now is over how soon the troops should be pulled out, not over whether they should be there in the first place.

It was President Bush who first suggested this new justification for the war in his State of the Union Address, January 23, 2007, to promote public support for the announced 'troop surge' of more than 20,000 additional soldiers:

…Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far-reaching. If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country – and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally – their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger. (Applause.)

However, contrary to new and old rationalizations for war, the initial 'justification' for the invasion was not the removal of Saddam’s regime, Muslim extremists, or democracy in the Middle East. Rather, the driving argument for war was Saddam’s active pursuit and possession of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons – or weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The purpose of the US invasion of Iraq was to forcefully disarm Saddam’s WMD arsenal. Unfortunately, after the invasion, the US found only limited quantities of degraded pre-1991 shells. No WMDs, mobile, or underground production facilities were ever found. (See US stops search for WMDs and UN: Iraq had no WMD after 1994).

The intention of this post is not to persuade you to oppose the war. This post should persuade you, however, that support for the war should only be given in the context of certain historical facts as presented here.

“Turned out to be Wrong”

The following is an excerpt from the President's address to the nation where he admits that the intelligence regarding the existence of WMDs was wrong:

President's Address to the NationVideo
December 18, 2005

"...From this office, nearly three years ago, I announced the start of military operations in Iraq. Our coalition confronted a regime that defied United Nations Security Council resolutions, violated a cease-fire agreement, sponsored terrorism, and possessed, we believed, weapons of mass destruction. After the swift fall of Baghdad, we found mass graves filled by a dictator; we found some capacity to restart programs to produce weapons of mass destruction, but we did not find those weapons.

"It is true that Saddam Hussein had a history of pursuing and using weapons of mass destruction. It is true that he systematically concealed those programs, and blocked the work of U.N. weapons inspectors. It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As your President, I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq. Yet it was right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

"He was given an ultimatum – and he made his choice for war. And the result of that war was to rid a – the world of a murderous dictator who menaced his people, invaded his neighbors, and declared America to be his enemy. Saddam Hussein, captured and jailed, is still the same raging tyrant – only now without a throne. His power to harm a single man, woman, or child is gone forever. And the world is better for it."

When I first came upon this statement, I was very surprised. I had no idea that Bush himself had admitted that the intelligence that supposedly justified our preemptive strike was wrong. Naturally, this sparked a lot of questions in my mind: Is it possible the US would go so far as to invade a country on false intelligence? Don't we have the best intelligence agencies in the world? How can we trust the intelligence community's assessments in the future, especially the new intelligence regarding Iran? Why would the US still pursue this war when the major argument behind it turned out to be false?

Many of these questions will be answered in future posts. This post will highlight some of the many documents and historical information that I studied in order to understand the truth behind the 'weapons crisis' that led to war.

Based on the historical facts you will learn from the information presented in this post, there are only two possible explanations as to why the Bush administration's WMD claims turned out to be wrong, either:

  1. The Bush administration and US intelligence community made gross misjudgments before the war began,
  2. Or, the Bush administration took an active role in exaggerating the nature, strength, and very existence of intelligence.
While both of these explanations are theoretically plausible, the first, as you will see, cannot withstand scrutiny. As you examine the information presented in this post, it should become clear to you that the US intentionally misled the public in order to rally support to go to war. Understanding this is essential before we can answer any other questions surrounding the war.

A WMD History Lesson

(Right: Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam HusseinVideo)

We tend to think of the Iraq War in terms of a timeline from September 11th to the present. However, to really understand the invasion of Iraq, one must first understand the history of US-Iraq relations. During the 1980's the US supported Saddam and supplied his military with many of the weapons we would later condemn. In addition to weapons, we also gave Saddam funding to fight against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. At that time, Iraq's 'use' of chemical warfare was not a concern to the US because we supported the defeat of Iran.

In 1990 and 1991 however, after Saddam used his military power to invade Kuwait—something against US interests—the US fought against Iraq in the Gulf War. Following this conflict, the UN passed many resolutions regarding Iraq, including resolution 687 which required Iraq to destroy all WMDs as well as their capability to produce them.

In conjunction with these resolutions, UN weapons inspectors were to have free access to Iraq. Over the next 7 years, UN inspectors oversaw the destruction of WMDs but were critical of Iraq's level of cooperation. In 1998, Bill Clinton approved air strikes against Iraq known as Operation Desert Fox in which the US and UK bombed many targets throughout Iraq. (See also Operation Desert Strike – 1996, and Operation Southern Watch 1993). In anticipation of the 1998 air strikes, UN inspectors left and were not "kicked out" as Bush later alleged in his 2002 "axis of evil" speech. After having 100 targets bombed, Iraq refused to allow UN inspectors back into the country to inspect their remaining weapons capabilities.

A War of Words: Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, and Rumsfeld

After President Bush was elected, members of his administration, including Condeleeza Rice and Colin Powell, affirmed in 2001 that Iraq had no WMDs and that Saddam Hussein was not a threat. These statements, which were true, were in stark contrast to the flood of statements purporting the existence of WMDs unleashed on the American public by the the Bush administration less than a year later.

The "War on Terror" shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq after George W. Bush gave his State of the Union address in January, 2002, when he described the "axis of evil.” These remarks were the first in a year long propaganda campaign that eventually led to the Invasion of Iraq. As the time for war drew closer, the administration became increasingly relentless in their claims that Iraq possessed and refused to disarm WMDs, although many politicians and persons in the media were increasingly skeptical.

I will give just four examples (from hundreds) of the administration's statements:

Dick Cheney – March 24, 2002: "This is a man of great evil, as the President has said. And he is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time. And we think that’s cause for concern for us and for everybody in the region."

Donald Rumsfeld – September 26, 2002: "We know they have weapons of mass destruction. We know they have active programs. There isn’t any debate about it. So the idea that if you had an appropriate inspection regime, that they’d come back and say you were wrong, is so far beyond anyone’s imagination, that it’s not something I think about."

Colin Powell – February 5, 2003: "One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq’s biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents."

George W. Bush – February 6, 2003: "Iraq has developed spray devices that could be used on unmanned aerial vehicles, with ranges far beyond what is permitted by the Security Council. A UAV launched from a vessel off the American coast could reach hundreds of miles inland.

"And we have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons, the very weapons the dictator tells the world he does not have."

The claims made in these statements, along with hundreds of documented others, never materialized. Much of the world and the US population mistrusted the Bush administration's claims that Saddam was hiding a massive weapons arsenal. Yet, the US ignored the skeptics and went to war using insufficient intelligence. This point is very important to realize. Any of us who lived through that time can remember the heated debate over whether WMDs existed. The Bush administration's bold assertions were often made to counter intense skepticism regarding the US’s true intentions for invading. Hence, it is hard to imagine the administration didn't know exactly what they were doing when making statements that, "turned out to be wrong." This isn't about "turning out to be wrong," as Bush has claimed. This is about being wrong, and promoting wrong intelligence, from the very beginning, knowingly. (See Scott Ritter, former chief UN weapons inspector (1991 -1998), speak out about the US's true intentions prior to the invasion.)

(Please see an excellent documentary called Leading to War that chronicles the build-up of the war using only video clips of statements made by the Bush administration; or read a transcript of the documentary.)

What's worse, and unbeknownst to most American's, during the three months of UN weapons inspections prior to the invasion, Iraq was complying with weapons inspectors more than ever before.

Resolution 1441—One last ‘chance’

Towards the end of 2002, Iraq's government agreed to allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country and the US, and the UK made a push to pass UN resolution 1441. This resolution alleged that Iraq was still in violation of the earlier mentioned Resolution 687 that required Iraq to destroy its WMDs following the Gulf War. This new resolution (1441) required Iraq to comply "immediately, unconditionally and actively," with every term of the resolution, giving Iraq its final chance to destroy its WMDs before having to face "serious consequences.”

Progress and Cooperation

Weapons Inspectors entered Iraq for the first time in 4 years on November 27, 2002. On March 7, 2003, after only three months of inspections, Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix reported substantial progress and cooperation in Iraq:

"Inspections in Iraq resumed on the 27th of November 2002. In matters relating to process, notably prompt access to sites, we have faced relatively few difficulties, and certainly much less than those that were faced by UNSCOM [U.N. Special Commission] in the period 1991 to 1998." He stated that, "The Iraqi side has tried on occasion to attach conditions, as it did regarding helicopters and U-2 planes. It has not, however, so far persisted in this or other conditions for the exercise of any of our inspection rights. If it did, we would report it."

After three months, UN inspectors received a level of cooperation from Iraq never reached during the entire decade after the gulf war. Keep in mind, this progress was reported two weeks before the US invaded.
A Substantial Measure of Disarmament
Blix went on to point out specific areas of progress made over the three month period, including the destruction of 96 missiles that exceeded the 150 km range allowed by UN resolutions:
"While during our meetings in Baghdad, the Iraqi side tried to persuade us that the Al Samoud 2 missiles they have declared fall within the permissible range set by the Security Council. The calculations of an international panel of experts led us to the opposite conclusion. Iraq has since accepted that these missiles and associated items be destroyed and has started the process of destruction under our supervision.
"The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament, indeed the first since the middle of the 1990s. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks; lethal weapons are being destroyed."
The destruction of the Al Samoud 2 missiles was one of the outstanding (incomplete) objectives of the Operation Desert Fox airstrike in 1998. In Blix’s words, this was 'the most substantial measure of disarmament...since the middle of the 1990's.’
According to the Commission on the intelligence capabilities of the US regarding WMDs, the Intelligence regarding the existence of the Al Samoud 2 missiles was the only intelligence the US ended up being right about prior to invading. All of the WMD intelligence was wrong. Is it merely coincidence that the US invaded after significantly weakening Saddam's actual weapons capabilities? (See BBC news report the destruction of the Al Samoud 2 missiles.)
The ‘official’ objective of the 2003 invasion and the ‘official’ objective of Operation Desert Fox were one in the same, the disarmament of Iraq’s WMDs by military force. However, half of the targeted sites by Operation Desert Fox were the known sleeping quarters of Saddam and his regime. Only 13 of the 100 targeted sites were associated with chemical warfare, biological warfare, and ballistic missiles. Apparently, the real objective of Operation Desert Fox was the elimination of Saddam's regime.
In 2003, US troops would invade and remove Saddam’s regime, completing what was the US’s real objective all along. As the convenient timing of the invasion indicates, the 2003 invasion was also primarily concerned with the removal of Saddam's regime, not the disarmament of WMDs.
Remaining Tasks
Despite the notable progress and increased cooperation, Blix acknowledged that remaining tasks needed to be completed and said:
"How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks? While cooperation can – cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament, and at any rate verification of it, cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions. It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.
"Neither governments nor inspectors would want disarmament inspection to go on forever. However, it must be remembered that in accordance with the governing resolutions, a sustained inspection and monitoring system is to remain in place after verified disarmament to give confidence and to strike an alarm if signs were seen of the revival of any proscribed weapons programs."
Here, UN weapons inspectors gave a short timeline of what the US could anticipate going forward. After over a decade of conflict, based on the current Iraqi cooperation, verification of disarmament was to take months, and a remaining monitoring system would ensure our continued safety.
Where were the WMDs according to US intelligence? Underground and Mobile...Of Course.
In addition to reporting substantial progress and cooperation, Blix went on to emphasize that, contrary to US intelligence estimates, UN inspectors had found no evidence of mobile or underground weapons facilities:
Mobile facilities:
"...intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks, in particular that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist.
"Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food-testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen as well as large containers with seed-processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found. Iraq is expected to assist in the development of credible ways to conduct random checks of ground transportation."
Underground facilities:
"...There have been reports, denied from the Iraqi side, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on any underground structure suitable for the production or storage of weapons of mass destruction.
"During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspection teams have examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground-penetrating radar equipment was used in several specific locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far."
Absent for 4 Years
Towards the end of his report, Blix explained that a draft working document was to be submitted to the UN Security Council for approval the same month. The document addressed "unresolved disarmament issues," and identified "key remaining disarmament tasks." Notice what Blix said about the amount of information contained in the working document for the period between 1998 and 2003:
"...I should note that the working document contains much information and discussion about the issues which existed at the end of 1998, including information which has come to light after '98. It contains much less information and discussion about the period after 1998, primarily because of paucity [scarcity] of information.
Nevertheless, intelligence agencies have expressed the view that proscribed programs have continued or restarted in this period. It is further contended that proscribed programs and items are located in underground facilities, as I mentioned, and that proscribed items are being moved around Iraq. The working document does contain suggestions on how these concerns may be tackled."
Because weapons inspectors were absent 4 years, they could not confidently say whether mobile or underground facilities existed. When UN weapons inspector's demanded to see US intelligence evidencing the existence of those facilities, the US refused to reveal that intelligence. The WMDs were exactly where the US wanted them, underground and mobile, so that no one in the international community, including UN weapons inspectors could determine whether WMDs actually existed. In reality, if the US had waited to invade, the UN would have confirmed to the world that the WMDs and mobile and underground weapons facilities did not exist.
Nuclear Weapons Programs
A week later (just four days before the invasion), intelligence documents the US had claimed were 'strong evidence' of Iraq's nuclear weapons programs were dismissed by the UN as forgeries. However, the question has never been answered as to who forged these documents originally identified by the US as such 'strong evidence.' According to a CNN article, "experts said the suspects include the intelligence services of Iraq's neighbors, other pro-war nations, Iraqi opposition groups or simply con men. Most rule out the United States, Great Britain or Israel because they said those countries' intelligence services would have been able to make much more convincing forgeries if they had chosen to do so. President Bush even highlighted the documents in his State of the Union address on January 28." (See Fake Iraq documents 'embarrassing' for US).
A year after the invasion, Hans Blix accused the US and UK of dramatizing the threat of WMDs in order to strengthen the case for the war in an interview with the BBC. (See also Hans Blix questioned the way Tony Blair and George Bush managed intelligence prior to the invasion and Former chief UN weapons inspector Dr Hans Blix: "The intelligence was not so strong").
Manipulating the Reported Progess
The Bush administration countered the progress reported on March 7, 2002, by repeating the claim to the American public that our intelligence indicated that Saddam was using mobile and underground weapons facilities to hide his WMD programs.
Such an opposite and defiant reaction from the administration to reported progress from weapons inspectors was foreseeable. Months before the inspections began, the Bush administration had hedged against the possibility of reported progress and cooperation from Iraq. In August 2002, three months before inspections, Cheney had voiced his disapproval of inspectors entering Iraq altogether, claiming that inspections would only be detrimental by giving a false sense of security:
"A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his [Saddam's] compliance with the UN resolutions. On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box."
If the US was so sure of the existence of WMDs, why would Cheney be worried that that inspectors would not find them, months before inspections began?
Enter Bush and Powell
In addition to the administration's attempt to counter the possibility of reported cooperation and progress months before inspections began, on the same day Hans Blix reported, Colin Powell was also prepared to ward off the reported progress before the UN. According to Powell, the progress and cooperation reported by weapons inspectors fell short. After all under resolution 1441, Iraq had to comply “immediately, unconditionally and actively” or else face "serious consequences.” He also continued to assert that he “knew” underground and mobile facilities existed:
…[Colin Powell] said today’s meeting concerned a very, very important question, namely, whether the Iraqi leadership had made the decision to comply with Security Council resolutions and to rid itself of all weapons of mass destruction and infrastructure for such weapons. The answer was not about how many inspectors were on the ground, or how much more time and effort should be given, nor whether more benchmarks were needed. The answer depended on whether Iraq had made the choice to actively cooperate in every possible manner in the immediate and complete disarmament of its prohibited weapons.
Today’s briefings had shed more light on that difficult question, he said. He had listened very carefully to hear if Iraq had finally understood that the will of the international community must be obeyed. He was pleased to hear some new progress and activity with respect to substance, but he was sorry that that was all still coming in a grudging manner and that Iraq was still refusing to offer immediate, active and unconditional cooperation – not late, but immediate, not passive, but active, and not conditional, but unconditional in every respect. Despite some progress, he still found a catalogue of non-cooperation. If Iraq genuinely wanted to disarm, he would not have to worry about setting up the means to look for mobile biological units, and search extensively for the underground facilities he knew existed
“I Cannot Tell a Lie” ~George Washington
Unfortunately, the next day, President Bush misled the public with regard to the reported progress and cooperation in a radio address, leading the unquestioning public to believe that the March 7 report by UN weapons inspectors actually concluded that Iraq did in fact have WMDs:
March 8, 2003
President Bush: The Chief United Nations Weapons Inspector reported yesterday to the Security Council on his efforts to verify Saddam Hussein's compliance with Resolution 1441. This resolution requires Iraq to fully and unconditionally disarm itself of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons materials, as well as the prohibited missiles that could be used to deliver them. Unfortunately, it is clear that Saddam Hussein is still violating the demands of the United Nations by refusing to disarm. (Notice how this last statement appears to be the UN inspector's conclustion but nothing could be further from the truth.)
our intelligence shows that even as he is destroying these few missiles, he has ordered the continued production of the very same type of missiles…If the Iraqi regime were disarming, we would know it – because we would see it; Iraq's weapons would be presented to inspectors and destroyed. Inspection teams do not need more time, or more personnel – all they need is what they have never received, the full cooperation of the Iraqi regime.
The attacks of September the 11, 2001 showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terror states could do with weapons of mass destruction. We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. And, as a last resort, we must be willing to use military force. We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force.
Military Force…One way or another
Based on the logic Powell and Bush use, it is clear the use of military force never hinged on proof of the existence of WMDs. After all, the administration already ‘knew’ Saddam had WMDs—they didn’t need proof from the UN. No, the invasion hinged on whether Saddam complied with every term of resolution 1441, “immediately, unconditionally and actively,” as Colin Powell emphasized in his retort to Hans Blix's report.
Rather than grant the few months requested by weapons inspectors to complete the UN inspection, the US and UK took action. Incredibly, on the same day of Hans Blix report, the US, UK, and Spain presented a drafted UN Security Council resolution that said:
"Iraq will have failed to take the final opportunity afforded by resolution 1441 (2002) unless, on or before 17 March 2003, the Council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation in accordance with its disarmament obligations under resolution 1441 and previous relevant resolutions, and is yielding possession to UNMOVIC and the IAEA of all weapons, weapon delivery and support systems and structures, prohibited by resolution 687 (1991) and all subsequent relevant resolutions, and all information regarding prior destruction of such items."
If passed, the resolution would have given UN authorization to carry out the "serious consequences" warned of in resolution 1441—the use of military force. However, after facing opposition in the UN from other countries, the US, UK, and Spain abandoned their efforts to pass this new resolution. Instead, the administration invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, under authorization they had received in October, 2002 when congress circumvented the Constitution by granting power to the President to use military power to disarm Iraq, without officially declaring war. Reminiscent of Viet Nam, congress has never actually declared war on Iraq.
Hindsight is 20/20
After the invasion, the Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq's WMD program was essentially destroyed in 1991 and that Saddam ended the country's nuclear program after the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The Iraq Survey Group also concluded that UN inspectors were in the process of confirming these facts before the invasion. Bush's continued defense of the war, regardless of these findings, only makes sense when you realize the US never cared whether WMDs existed.
History Rewritten
The buildup to the war using false intelligence is consistently explained away by the media and politicians as a "mistake" or "intelligence failure" and the responsibility of the Bush administration is left out of the equation. Today, no one ever explores the possibility that the Bush administration distorted the facts in order to scare the public and fuel support for the invasion. At worst, the administration's culpability is explained away as a willingness to "rush to war."
The “Report on the US Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assesments on Iraq” is an example of an attempt to cast the blame on the intelligence community and away from the Bush administration:
Ordered Reported on July 7, 2004
Overall Conclusions - Weapons of Mass Destruction
Conclusion 1. Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting. A series of failures, particularly in analytic trade craft, led to the mischaracterization of the intelligence...
Conclusion 2. The Intelligence Community did not accurately or adequately explain to policymakers the uncertainties behind the judgments in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate…
Conclusion 3. The Intelligence Community suffered from a collective presumption that Iraq had an active and growing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program. This "group think" dynamic led Intelligence Community analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs. This presumption was so strong that formalized Intelligence Community mechanisms established to challenge assumptions and group think were not utilized…
Conclusion 4. In a few significant instances, the analysis in the National Intelligence Estimate suffers from a "layering" effect whereby assessments were built based on previous judgments without carrying forward the uncertainties of the underlying judgments…
Conclusion 5. In each instance where the Committee found an analytic or collection failure, it resulted in part from a failure of Intelligence Community managers throughout their leadership chains to adequately supervise the work of their analysts and collectors. They did not encourage analysts to challenge their assumptions, fully consider alternative arguments, accurately characterize the intelligence reporting, or counsel analysts who lost their objectivity…
Conclusion 6. The Committee found significant short-comings in almost every aspect of the Intelligence Community's human intelligence collection efforts against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction activities, in particular that the Community had no sources collecting against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after 1998. Most, if not all, of these problems stem from a broken corporate culture and poor management, and will not be solved by additional funding and personnel.
At the time this 2004 report was released, the Senate Committee decided to postpone "phase II" of their investigation: their investigation of how senior policymakers (i.e., the Bush administration) misused intelligence to build a case for war.
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, in regard to whether the committee should complete "phase II" of the investigation, "I don't think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further." (See Senator Roberts remarks on the WMD Comission Report.)
To date, there has been no assessment released regarding the Bush administration's conduct, handling of intelligence, or influence on the intelligence community. The "phase II" report is due to be released June 2008, 5 years after the war began.
How Policymakers used the Intelligence
The US government’s official account of the WMD controversy, authorized by the president, is summarized in a document called the ‘Commission on the intelligence capabilities of the US regarding WMDs’:
On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the United States government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities, and had stockpiled and was producing chemical weapons. All of this was based on the assessments of the US Intelligence Community. And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over.
While the intelligence services of many other nations also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, in the end it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public—and most damaging—intelligence failures in recent American history…
While laudable steps were taken to improve our intelligence agencies after September 11, 2001, the agencies have done less in response to the failures over Iraq, and we believe that many within those agencies do not accept the conclusion that we reached after our year of study: that the Community needs fundamental change if it is to successfully confront the threats of the 21st century…
we were not authorized to investigate how policymakers [the Bush administration] used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community. Accordingly, while during the course of our investigation, we interviewed a host of current and former policymakers, the purpose of those interviews was to learn about how the Intelligence Community reached and communicated its judgments about Iraq’s weapons programs—not to review how policymakers subsequently used that information
In October 2002, at the request of members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council produced a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)—the most authoritative intelligence assessment produced by the Intelligence Community— which concluded that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program and was actively pursuing a nuclear device. According to the exhaustive study of the Iraq Survey Group, this assessment was almost completely wrong. The NIE said that Iraq’s biological weapons capability was larger and more advanced than before the Gulf War and that Iraq possessed mobile biological weapons production facilities. This was wrong. The NIE further stated that Iraq had renewed production of chemical weapons, including mustard, sarin, GF, and VX, and that it had accumulated chemical stockpiles of between 100 and 500 metric tons. All of this was also wrong. Finally, the NIE concluded that Iraq had unmanned aerial vehicles that were probably intended for the delivery of biological weapons, and ballistic missiles that had ranges greater than the United Nations’ permitted 150 kilometer range. In truth, the aerial vehicles were not for biological weapons; some of Iraq’s missiles were, however, capable of traveling more than 150 kilometers. The Intelligence Community’s Iraq assessments were, in short, riddled with errors.
Notice once again that the only claims that were correct were those regarding the short-range missiles. The incessant criticism of the intelligence community is an obvious effort to remove the blame from the truly culpable parties. In the middle of this statement is the glaring admission that no investigation into how the Bush administration used the intelligence was ever authorized. Then, despite their findings, the report sickeningly seeks not only to submerge, but to perpetuate the scandal by again promoting the WMD scare, claiming that, "no matter how much we improve the Intelligence Community, weapons of mass destruction will continue to pose an enormous threat."
Ironically, the intelligence community had not erred at all, in fact it worked hand in hand with the Bush administration, deceiving the international community and pursuading UN inspectors of the necessity of disarming Iraq before the invasion. In addition to assisting in the WMD deception, our intelligence community even spied on the UN Security Council during this time.
Bugging the UN
A year after the invasion, evidence of a proposed effort to bug UN security council representatives (around the time the US was seeking approval from the council) came to light. A British government translator leaked a document "allegedly from an American National Security Agency" requesting that British intelligence put wiretaps on delegates to the UN security council. So, While US and British intelligence agencies 'failed' to get the intelligence regarding our enemies correct, they, for what ever reason, saw the importance of snooping on our allies. Why was this necessary if they believed so strongly in their evidence of Iraq's WMDs at the time?
Even Hans Blix revealed that he suspected the US had bugged his home and office. Blix's comment on the situation says it all: "It feels like an intrusion into your integrity in a situation when you are actually on the same side."
In conclusion, I agree with Colin Powell that there was no justification for the invasion absent the existence of WMDs. If the invasion was not justified then, as Colin Powell explained, how can the continuation of the war be justifiable now? Freedom, terrorism, and removing Saddam weren't good enough reasons for war from the outset, so how can these reasons be good enough now? The Bush administration would never have garnered enough international or domestic support for a war based on those reasons. (See Scott Ritter, former chief UN weapons inspector (1991 - 1998), summarize the WMD and Iraq war issue.)
It is sometimes difficult to accept information that contradicts what we have held to be true for so long. I, for one, was once very supportive of President Bush. I sought to justify the Iraq War using much of the information that I later learned to be false. However, when I decided to research the war in depth, on my own, the truth about the war was surprisingly clear. I was able to take things in little by little, and to answer many of my own unanswered questions.
Today, it is the natural reaction of almost everyone I present this information to, who supports the war, to question my sources and criticize me for being narrow-minded and for refusing to examine the 'other side' of the issue. What is ironic about these accusations is that primary sources that prove the truth about the war are abundant. After seeing direct contradictions made by the Bush administration as they seek to justify the invasion, where am I supposed to look for credible information in favor of the war? One would have to be unaware of hard historic facts to believe there was still an initial justification for the invasion, or to believe that our government merely made a "mistake” by using the WMD justification. Simply put, to imagine that there was justification for war, or that the Bush administration perhaps didn’t realize the extent to which they were wrong, flies in the face of reason.
To summarize, let's say I were to use my best efforts to make a pro-Iraq War argument. An informed argument would still have to take into account the indisputable facts that:
  • Iraq had no WMDs after all
  • Each of the highest ranking officials in the Bush administration continually spoke of the existence of WMDs as fact
  • Two weeks before the invasion, chief UN weapons inspectors reported that no WMDs, or weapons facilities, including mobile or underground facilities, had been found
  • The US ignored the lack of WMD findings by UN inspectors and misled the public regarding those findings, continuing to emphasize the existence of underground and mobile facilities
  • Two weeks before the invasion, chief UN weapons inspectors reported the highest level of progress and cooperation from Iraq since the Gulf War
  • The US ignored the reports by UN inspectors of Iraqi cooperation and misled the public regarding that reported cooperation
  • The US went to war without a declaration, having never been attacked by Iraq and, to the contrary, after attacking Iraq for decades
  • The intelligence community is consistently blamed for the erroneous WMD claims
Do you see why President Bush changed the 'justification' argument from WMDs to raging tyrants, extremists, and al Queda? Even he knows the 'other side' of the argument is unsubstantiated. Jon and I have many times discussed how we would be happy to support the Iraq War if we could find reasons to do so. Our searches for the truth began by looking for reasons to support the war. After all our research we found only reasons to believe this war is about something very different than WMDs, freedom, terrorists, threats to our country and tyranny.
Please post your comments. We invite any questions, doubts, or additional information regarding this topic.


Tyler said...

Eric too? You guys are awesome. Great looking blog. Keep up the good work. We need to get more people to listen.

Nyall said...

Months ago, when Jon and Eric began to convey to me the role our government played in invading Iraq, I had two objections. These objections have since been corrected.

The first erroneous impression I had was that Iraq was not letting in weapons inspectors prior to our invasion, therefore we had no choice but to assume they were doing something they should not have been doing. In this blog, Jon and Eric provide significant evidence that the opposite is true. Blix, chief UN weapons inspector, reported several weeks prior to our invasion of Iraq that no evidence of any WMD or chemical weapons could be found. In fact, Iraq was complying to even destroy missiles that could potentially exceed the 150km permissible range, hardly threatening to our personal security here in the United States. Even after this, President Bush said in a radio address that “[Blix] reported to the security counsel yesterday . . . Unfortunately, it is clear that Saddam Hussein is still violating the demands of the United Nations by refusing to disarm.” I don’t recall the attempts of UN weapons inspectors, probably because all I was hearing were statements like this one from President Bush.

The second objection I had was that if the American people were being manipulated, and that circumstance in our government were truly this terrible, that someone in the Bush administration would come out and tell us. Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, did just that about a month after I had this initial concern in his book entitled ‘What Happened’. McClellan has continued by asserting that Bush relied on political propaganda rather than fact to sell the Iraq war to the American public.

We as American citizens assume that our government will always make the correct decision. Perhaps we should begin asking ourselves fundamental questions about where our federal government is really leading us.

Greg Reeves said...

Before I read Jon and Eric's blog I agreed with them regarding their stance on the Iraq war and the erroneous nature of the U.S. invasion of Iraq; however, I did not have a good idea of all the reasons why we went to war and why we are still there. Since reading their blog, I feel much more informed and confident that we went to war based on false information (that the Bush administration was completely aware of) and assumptions for other reasons than freedom and democracy.

Now when I speak with other people about how we should not be there I usually get a similar response. They say, "Although no weapons were found we can't just pull out of Iraq or we'll have another Vietnam, we have to be there until there is at least a stable government and the people are safe."

My response is that it was wrong to go to war in the first place and staying there longer will not make it a good thing.

In business and organizational behavior their is a term known as "escalation of commitment" or "sunk cost fallacy" which means escalating a commitment to a chosen course of action. These terms have been used to describe the phenomenon where people justify increased investment (i.e. money) in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment, despite new evidence suggesting that the decision was probably wrong. Such investment may include money, time, or human lives. We cannot continue to escalate our commitment of being in Iraq and thinking that "everything we've worked for will go to waste if we pull out now."

I propose that we stop supporting the Bush administration's business interests at the expense of American lives, the American economy, and millions of Iraqi people.

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