Sunday :: Jun 15, 2003

Iraq and National Security Foibles

by Steve

Some developments regarding Iraq, national security, and politics that bear attention.

First, the Washington Post reports in a Page One story on Monday how Rand Beers, a highly respected national security expert left the Bush Administration over its lack of concern for domestic national security needs and went to work for John Kerry’s campaign.

"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

"Counterterrorism is like a team sport. The game is deadly. There has to be offense and defense," Beers said. "The Bush administration is primarily offense, and not into teamwork."

In a series of interviews, Beers, 60, critiqued Bush's war on terrorism. He is a man in transition, alternately reluctant about and empowered by his criticism of the government. After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

He thinks the war in Afghanistan was a job begun, then abandoned. Rather than destroying al Qaeda terrorists, the fighting only dispersed them. The flow of aid has been slow and the U.S. military presence is too small, he said. "Terrorists move around the country with ease. We don't even know what's going on. Osama bin Laden could be almost anywhere in Afghanistan," he said. As for the Saudis, he said, the administration has not pushed them hard enough to address their own problem with terrorism. Even last September, he said, "attacks in Saudi Arabia sounded like they were going to happen imminently."

Within U.S. borders, homeland security is suffering from "policy constipation. Nothing gets done," Beers said. "Fixing an agency management problem doesn't make headlines or produce voter support. So if you're looking at things from a political perspective, it's easier to go to war."

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, he said, needs further reorganization. The Homeland Security Department is underfunded. There has been little, if any, follow-through on cybersecurity, port security, infrastructure protection and immigration management. Authorities don't know where the sleeper cells are, he said. Vulnerable segments of the economy, such as the chemical industry, "cry out for protection."

"We are asking our firemen, policemen, Customs and Coast Guard to do far more with far less than we ever ask of our military," he said. Abroad, the CIA has done a good job in targeting the al Qaeda leadership. But domestically, the antiterrorism effort is one of talk, not action: "a rhetorical policy. What else can you say -- 'We don't care about 3,000 people dying in New York City and Washington?' "

This story follows on the heels of an excellent Fred Kaplan piece in Slate wherein he points out that we are not any safer now than we were before 9/11, and it has all to do with the Bush Administration.

Second, another story in tomorrow’s Post reflects that the Pentagon’s efforts to track down those Al Qaeda cells they just know are there are hit and miss, mostly miss. Is anyone surprised?

Third, we suffered possibly significant losses today in an attack on a convoy in Northern Iraq.

Fourth, here is another example of a member of the media using the emerging GOP misdirection defense of “if Bush was wrong about WMDs, then many others were as well”. Mr. Gurwitz knows full well his column is a pile of crap. As I have said numerous times, the issue is not whether others were also wrong about Saddam’s WMDs. The real issues are numerous. Bush looked at assessments from his own intelligence experts and disregarded them because they didn’t point to an immediate invasion, so he made up a reason. Bush claimed that Saddam had an imminent WMD threat capability, and this to him justified a need for an immediate invasion. And lastly, none of the reasons Bush has given for this war, whether it be a Saddam/Al Qaeda connection, an imminent WMD capability, a role in 9/11, or a readiness and desire by the US to liberate Iraqis have been proven yet, if ever. Read the column and then fire off an email to Mr. Gurwitz at letting him know that we are wise to misdirection ploys like this and we are not fooled.

Steve :: 11:18 PM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!