Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bush and the misuse of intelligence

Another day, another top-level former CIA official steps up to tell us what we already know: that the Bush Administration misused intelligence to make the case for war. This time its Paul R. Pillar, the former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, who between 2000 and 2005 was responsible for coordinating all of the US intelligence community’s assessments regarding Iraq. In an article in Foreign Affairs - the top foreign policy journal - Pillar accuses the Bush administration of

[using] 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.

"Faith-based" policymaking, in other words, with no respect for facts or reality because they think they "create their own realities". Is it any wonder they fucked it up so completely?

But it gets worse. While the Bush Administration didn't ask for any "big picture" analysis, they bombarded the intelligence community with narrower questions about Saddam's WMD's and supposed connections to Al Qaeda. In the process, they reversed the proper relationship between policymakers and intelligence agencies; the latter are supposed to determine (to the best of their ability, using the sources available) what the facts on the ground are, leaving policymakers free to decide what to do. Instead, the policy was predecided, the desired facts were predetermined, and the intelligence agencies were told to justify it. Intelligence was "cherry-picked", analysts were repeatedly asked the leading questions, and left in no doubt about the answers that were expected. This distorted the process, but not enough for the Administration; it set up a parallel group within the Pentagon (the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group) to bypass the CIA's analysis process and tell the president what he wanted to hear.

While the Administration was doing all this they were meanwhile ignoring the intelligence community's warnings about the dangers of occupation. The CIA's assessment

...presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. It projected that a Marshall Plan-type effort would be required to restore the Iraqi economy, despite Iraq's abundant oil resources. It forecast that in a deeply divided Iraqi society, with Sunnis resentful over the loss of their dominant position and Shiites seeking power commensurate with their majority status, there was a significant chance that the groups would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it. And it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks -- including by guerrilla warfare -- unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the first few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam.

This was of course ignored. As was their assessment of the wider impacts of ousting Saddam:

[A]ny value Iraq might have as a democratic exemplar would be minimal and would depend on the stability of a new Iraqi government and the extent to which democracy in Iraq was seen as developing from within rather than being imposed by an outside power. More likely, war and occupation would boost political Islam and increase sympathy for terrorists' objectives -- and Iraq would become a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East.

Things have pretty much played out as the CIA expected (the only things missing from this summary of their analysis are the torture and death squads) - and the primary reason they have gone so badly is the total lack of postwar planning. Rather than establish security, US troops allowed widespread looting and a total breakdown of law and order. And rather than planning reconstruction, Rumsfeld seemed to be planning for a victory parade where victorious US troops would be showered with rose petals by grateful Iraqi peasants. Unfortunately, both the US and the Iraqi people will be living with the consequences of that mistake for some time to come.


Soldiers are not cops - nor should they be.

They tend to have only one solution regardless of the crime.

Widespread looting always seems to happen when there is a lack of law enforcement, but it hard to get police onto the ground in a war zone.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/11/2006 01:06:00 PM

And this attitude, boys and girls, is why the US occupation of Iraq was doomed from day one.

Yes, soldiers make extraordinarily bad police. Yes, they tend to shoot people. And yet we're perfectly happy with using them to preserve or restore law and order and prevent looting in the wake of large-scale disasters (e.g. Hurricane Katrina). So why wasn't it done in Iraq? The main reason is that they simply didn't have enough people to do it properly; Rumsfeld's lightweight invasion plan ensured that. But the ultimate reason - and the reason for Rumsfeld's pooh-poohing of repeated warnings that more troops would be needed to handle the immediate post-invasion plan - is that the US military believes that such work is somehow beneath them. The cost of that attitude has been almost a thousand post-war dead, and almost three years of misery (with no end in sight) for Iraqis.

The lootings, kidnappings, rapes and murders didn't have to happen. The US military let them happen. And they're paying the price for it now.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/11/2006 06:55:00 PM