Thursday, January 29, 2004

Who is to Blame For Faulty WMD "Intelligence?" The Buck Stops In the White House

As you may be aware, I've get criticized occasionally for mixing Iraq/war issues into a workplace safety blog. Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's directly relevant. More than 500 young Americans have died in Iraq, and thousand seriously wounded -- just doing their jobs. And I have a serious problem with the people and policies that put them there.

For example......

Former American WMD lead inspector David Kay has blamed the missing WMD's on the failure of intelligence gathering, in other words, on the CIA. Like all the rest of us, our well-meaning President was allegedly duped.

Ain't so. There are two steps to the wise use of intelligence. First, it has to be gathered, second, it has to be properly analyzed and interpreted.

As Seymour Hersh revealed in his October 2003 New Yorker article, this Administration -- chiefly Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney -- "stovepiped" raw unanalyzed CIA intelligence right to their offices, used it to justify their pre-determined quest to invade Iraq, and then sent it to the White House where Condoleeza Rice dutifully provided it to the President.
The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematic--and potentially just as troublesome. Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book "The Threatening Storm" generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein, told me that what the Bush people did was "dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them.

"They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information," Pollack continued. "They were forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis so aggressively that the intelligence analysts didn't have the time or the energy to go after the bad information."

The Administration eventually got its way, a former C.I.A. official said. "The analysts at the C.I.A. were beaten down defending their assessments. And they blame George Tenet"-- the C.I.A. director --"for not protecting them. I've never seen a government like this."
While David Kay attempts to shift the WMD "buck" from the White House to the CIA, Bush attempts to shift justification of the war from WMDs to "Saddam was a bad person." And as David Broder points out in today's Washington Post,
By shifting the argument, Bush fuzzes the basic issue in assessing his policy. Many shared his fear of the Iraqi dictator, and many others believed Hussein had these weapons. But Bush alone decided the threat was so grave that it justified a preventive war -- one that already has cost more than 500 American lives and billions of dollars, with more to come.

That he now evades the issue and gives scant evidence of a searching reappraisal of his administration's decision-making is profoundly disturbing. It is, and ought to be, an issue in this election.
Let's not allow him to get away with it.