Bullshit Senate Report on "Intel before War" Fools Some Of the People
IN the techno-speak jargon of California’s silicon valleys, “group think” is where everyone in a project speaks the same language, has the same understanding of what a project is about and how to achieve its goals. The term’s meaning was strangely morphed last week when the Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, said there had been a “collective group think” which had led intelligence analysts to presume Iraq had active and growing weapons of mass destruction programmes – when in fact there was none.
The “group think”, he said, not only affected US intelligence but also “extended to our allies” and “several other nations” and had led to ambiguous evidence being regarded as conclusive . According to Roberts, this was a “global intelligence failure”.
To use less technocratic, but nevertheless apposite, terminology we suggest the senator’s summary of his committee’s 500-page report is full of collective absurdity. Prior to the Iraq war, numerous foreign countries questioned almost all US assessments on Iraq’s WMD. French intelligence experts at the DGSE (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure) came up with a widely different interpretation of what was inside Iraq; the DGSE also insisted that Saddam’s regime did not represent a nuclear threat and branded White House claims as “phoney”. Equally the Russians openly said they were not convinced by either the September 2002 dossier from Britain or by the October report from the CIA. President Vladimir Putin said: “Fears are one thing, hard facts are another.”
After US Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations in February 2003, France, Germany and Russia were among the leading voices to say he had presented no “evidence” strong enough to support the US claim that Iraq was a threat. Having made clear their misgivings , these countries pushed the idea that the UN-authorised inspections taking place inside Iraq by weapons inspectors should be given more time. There was no “global” intelligence failure, unless Senator Roberts is so poorly informed or naive that he believes the word “global” refers only to the US and UK.
The fall guys in the Senate report are the CIA. We knew this would be the case even before the report was published. The CIA’s director, George Tenet, went before he was pushed. The report said the CIA evaluations on Iraq’s WMD were either “overstated or not supported by raw intelligence reporting”. The result? “That mistakes leading up to the war in Iraq rank among the most devastating losses and intelligence failures in the history of the nation.” The vice-chairman of the committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, said the Senate would “not have authorised that war if we knew what we know now”. Even George W Bush says he “needs to know” and wants to know how to make the agencies better.
Another collective term is needed here: collective amnesia. These senators are saying they were unaware of the international reporting and investigating that questioned Bush’s neo-conservative administration and its decision to take on Iraq immediately after September 11, 2001. Former UN weapons inspectors, such as Scott Ritter, made public their belief that WMD existing inside Iraq was not a black-and-white issue. Ritter is on record as saying that there was no evidence that Iraq had retained, post-1998, WMD capability and material.
So is Bush really saying that the White House viewed all CIA assessments as 100% gold-edged truth? And how would the Senate committee know, without a doubt, if the Bush administration never tried to coerce or put pressure on officials to adapt their findings? This issue – whether or not Bush and his colleagues exaggerated the case for the Iraq war – is being investigated separately in a report conveniently timed to be published after November’s presidential election .
Abraham Lincoln said you couldn’t fool all of the people all of the time, but Bush and a large section of the Senate Intelligence Committee clearly don’t think such an exercise is that difficult.
Lord Butler will next week give us his take on this “global intelligence failure”. As a career civil servant of the old school, we can be fairly confident the noble lord will not resort to language such as “ collective group think’’. But it is unlikely that his report will address the real issue: the political pressure on the intelligence services to justify a war Tony Blair and George Bush had already decided to wage. Until that information is dragged into the public arena, one worry remains: the prospect that it might be allowed to happen again.
If Blair wants to use the army as a global police force he has to pay for it
LAST week was dominated by the anguished sound of long-retired senior officers deprecating the fact that, unless there is a last-minute change of heart, historic regiments will face the axe under the government’s latest Comprehensive Spending Review. Nothing wrong with that: infantry regiments are as much family concerns as fighting formations and one under threat is the Royal Scots, Britain’s oldest infantry regiment with a long and proud fighting tradition. Of course, it is sad that Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard (its nickname) might disappear from the army’s order of battle, along with another four or five regiments, but the fact is that the Royal Scots failed to meet their recruiting targets and are badly under-strength.
Either the regimental hierarchy has not worked hard enough in an increasingly crowded market or it might be that young Scots are no longer willing to take the Queen’s shilling for a career which offers great challenges but also includes considerable dangers and disruption. It is also true that for all the sentimental talk about a regiment’s links to its community, the reality is that the traditional recruiting grounds appear to have dried up, perhaps forever.
But the defence cuts are not just about preserving time-honoured names. The navy and air force are also being forced to make savage cuts to equipment, much of which was introduced for cold war confrontation and is not much use in the kind of role which Tony Blair favours today. The Gulf war of 1991 showed alarming deficiencies in the ability of Britain’s armed forces to support themselves in the field . Successive defence reviews undertaken by the Conservative government failed to address the problem and in some areas, such as contracting out services to the private sector, caused an even bigger muddle. The present government has also made a number of stabs at the problem by promising that the three services should be realigned as “a force for the good” and given an expeditionary capability. The truth is that the defence budget has stagnated and the amount of money available bears little relation to the requirements of defence and foreign policy.
Yet all the while the armed forces have been on constant operational service. Since the first Gulf war they have served with distinction in Sierra Leone, East Timor, the Balkans and the Congo, usually restoring order and bringing relief to people torn apart by internecine wars. At the same time they gave aid to the civil powers during periods of flooding, in the recent foot-and-mouth epidemic and in the firefighters’ strike.
Then came the war against terror, and the war in Iraq. This newspaper has been sceptical about the justification concocted by Bush and Blair for the invasion of Iraq, but that is not to argue against operations that would end tribal fighting or put a stop to ethnic cleansing. However, to carry out this task effectively the forces have to be given the tools for the job. They need equipment which is suited to the demands of interventionist and peace-keeping operations, they need the capability to get themselves quickly and effectively into potential trouble spots and, above all, they need sufficient personnel to do the tough but often unglamorous work of keeping the peace on the ground. Britain’s armed forces have built up an enviable reputation in the fields of conflict prevention and post- conflict reconstruction, yet find themselves overstretched and under-funded by a government which insists that these operations be undertaken.
This cannot continue without placing unacceptable strains on the armed forces. If the government wishes a task to be undertaken, it is up to it to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of trained personnel , provided with enough equipment of the right kind and a sizeable pool of replacements. The argument is not about saving historic cap badges; it is about realigning and re-equipping the forces so that they can meet the challenges of bringing stability to troubled areas around the world.
(Still waiting for American Media to Take Chimp_junta to task for LYING? You better not hang by the neck waiting for it.)