Why has Iraq turned into a disaster? There's all sorts of reasons - my favourite being that it was a bad idea to go there in the first place - but one thing that isn't helping is the insular mindset of President Bush and his contemptuous disdain for accurate intelligence reports. Salon's Sidney Blumenthal gives the example of the CIA's Baghdad station chief who briefed the President on the growth of the insurgency and predicted that the US would suffer more than 2,000 dead (currently the total is 2,918). The reaction was predicatable: the man was called a "defeatist" and reassigned. But it gets worse. Much worse:
[O]n Dec. 17, 2004, Col. Derek Harvey, the Defense Intelligence Agency's senior intelligence officer for Iraq, was ushered into the Oval Office. Harvey, who had "conversed repeatedly with insurgents, and had developed the belief that the U.S. intelligence effort there was deeply flawed," according to Thomas Ricks in "Fiasco," briefed the president about the insurgency: "It's robust, it's well led, it's diverse. Absent some sort of reconciliation it's going to go on, and that risks a civil war. They have the means to fight this for a long time, and they have a different sense of time than we do, and are willing to fight. They have better intelligence than we do." Harvey also explained that foreign fighters, jihadists and al-Qaida were marginal elements. Ricks reported that after the briefing, Bush in his speeches still "would refer to setbacks only in vague terms."
But there is more to the story. A former high-ranking intelligence officer and close associate of Harvey's told me that during Harvey's briefing the president interrupted, turning to his aides to inquire, "Is this guy a Democrat?" Harvey's warnings, of course, were as thoroughly ignored as those of the CIA station chief.
So, in Bush's eyes, anyone bringing bad news is a "defeatist", a Democrat, or worse. With a leader like this, its no wonder they're losing.