Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WMD in Iraq vs Benghazi

For John, BLUFTurns out that Bush and Blair did not lie about WMD.  The Intel was wrong and they believed it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Yale Law Professor Stephen L. Carter we have this article on reviewing the intelligence on WMD  at the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  His lede:

Remember the debate about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction?  It’s back for an encore, thanks to Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, who remarked at a hearing recently that whatever went wrong in the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi disaster, it wasn’t as bad as the Bush administration’s insistence that those weapons existed.
Key paragraph:
One of my favorite historians, Andrew Roberts, insists that Corera’s research “explodes that myth completely.”  That seems to me too strong.  Rather, Corera offers a nuanced perspective that should serve as corrective to some of the sillier conspiracy theories that still abound.  His account is unlikely to convince all the doubters, but should be studied nonetheless for the lessons it carries—lessons to which President Barack Obama and his administration should pay close attention.
But, perhaps aren't.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Once upon a time WMD meant nuclear weapons.  Then the Soviet Union convinced the United States to include Chemical and Biological weapons.  Today, thanks to the thoughtlessness of the US Congress, it is any not so big chemical explosive bomb.


Mr. Lynne said...

I really need to lend you some stuff from my library. The bad intel they received regarding Iraq was received because they revised the process by which they got intel in a way that more closely matched their preconceptions about Iraq being a threat (that's if you're being charitable - a cynic would say the process was revised to cover their buts after the fact of a policy decision that had been reached before they even looked at intel). The neocon/hawk side of conservatism had a long standing distrust of US intelligence and was seeking to go around them since Vietnam. When W got into power, they implemented even more far-reaching intel policy changes than what they had done previously (which resulted in massive over-estimation of Soviet capabilities - justifying the MX program). Unsurprisinigly, they got the intel they wanted. The fact it was wrong doesn't absolve them. The fact that they made decisions in advance of intel emphasizes this even more.

Mr. Lynne said...

“Everyone, including the spies, was convinced by the intelligence that said Saddam had the weapons,” he writes. Yet “they were not sure it looked strong enough to win the argument.”

This is just plain false.

C R Krieger said...

The question of intelligence and "intelligence failure" has been around for ever.  There is the Pearl Harbor "failure".  Senator John F Kennedy ran for President based upon a missile gap that didn't exist, using the Gaither Report, and declining a briefing from the Administration.  He won.

In the first Gulf War CIA NIO for Warning Charlie Allen pegged the day of attack (and I am told DIA Colonel Pat Lang did also.  Mr Lang does believe people were "Drinking the Koolaid" over the 2003 invasion of Iraq—Middle East Policy Journal, August 2004).  But, back to the first Gulf War, everyone else said Charlie Allen was wrong.  I remember asking a question the day before the attack, at a DIA briefing for Joint Staff Divisions Chiefs and having some DIA Staff Officer stage whisper that it was a stupid question.  I had asked how far Iraq could get if they attacked and didn't stop.

I think it is important to remember that President Saddam Hussein wanted us, and the Iranians, to think he had WMD.  The point of the article was that given how what happened at Benghazi was obscured by the Administration, dragging in the Iraqi WMD seems obscurantist, and, playing to a MEME we don't all accept.

At the end of the day, it isn't on the Intel types, but on the Principal.  He or she is the final analyst.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mr. Lynne said...

Not everyone in the intel community was drinking cool-aid in 2003, just the ones that the principal put in charge and empowered to overrule calmer, more objective heads.

When the principal has policy goals and then cherry picks intelligence to match, that's how you know you've got a recipe for intel failure - or rather analysis failer - or rather analysis reporting failure - or rather executive cart-before-horse failure.

At some point the neocons should figure out that 'Team B' was a failure and produced bad results, but they probably wont.