High Level CIA Analyst Fires The Agency's First Shot At Bush's War
With George Tenet off writing a book while admiring his presidential medal of freedom on the mantle, one wonders if there is still major pushback still to come from the Agency over their treatment by the Cheney cabal?
Wonder no more.
The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Paul R. Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies' mistakes in concluding that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction. But he said those misjudgments did not drive the administration's decision to invade. "Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."
Note that the article was written by the best beat writer on the Agency.
"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote.
Pillar is only saying what the Bush critics have been saying for years about how Bush had made his decision to invade regardless of what Saddam did, and that intelligence supportive of that decision was selected to sell the war.
The Bush administration, Pillar wrote, "repeatedly called on the intelligence community to uncover more material that would contribute to the case for war," including information on the "supposed connection" between Hussein and al Qaeda, which analysts had discounted. "Feeding the administration's voracious appetite for material on the Saddam-al Qaeda link consumed an enormous amount of time and attention."
Pillar wrote that the prewar intelligence asserted Hussein's "weapons capacities," but he said the "broad view" within the United States and overseas "was that Saddam was being kept 'in his box' " by U.N. sanctions, and that the best way to deal with him was through "an aggressive inspections program to supplement sanctions already in place."
But it is Pillar’s comments about the post-war Iraq that also point out problems for the administration.
Pillar describes for the first time that the intelligence community did assessments before the invasion that, he wrote, indicated a postwar Iraq "would not provide fertile ground for democracy" and would need "a Marshall Plan-type effort" to restore its economy despite its oil revenue. It also foresaw Sunnis and Shiites fighting for power.
Pillar wrote that the intelligence community "anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks -- including 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."
Pillar wrote that the first request he received from a Bush policymaker for an assessment of post-invasion Iraq was "not until a year into the war."
Cheney had no problem hearing from Paul Bremer and Ahmad Chalabi, but didn't want to hear anything from the Agency until a year after the mistake?
That assessment, completed in August 2004, warned that the insurgency in Iraq could evolve into a guerrilla war or civil war. It was leaked to the media in September in the midst of the presidential campaign, and Bush, who had told voters that the mission in Iraq was going well, described the assessment to reporters as "just guessing."
Keep in mind that the State Department had already warned the White House of what could wrong in Iraq even before the invasion took place, and they were ignored also. Simply put, even if you still believe that the invasion was a necessary step for this country’s supposed war on terror, you cannot conclude that the White House isn’t responsible for the invasion’s aftermath, and the fact that this war has not made us any safer nor reduced the number of terrorists attacks around the world. Those policy mistakes rest squarely on the shoulders on George W. Bush, and not his critics.