Friday, April 01, 2005

The Counterterrorism Blog: The Senator Robb, Judge Silbermann Whitewash

Larry Johnson, at the Counterterrorism Blog provides the best analysis of the sorry ass report on Iraq's supposed WMD program. Really increadible read, and definitely worth reading the entire thing.
Yes the analysts were wrong. They believed that Iraq was reconstituting the nuke program. But there were important caveats. First, Iraq would only have a nuke if left "unmolested" to develop such a capability. That is not codeword for invasion. Second, even if left unmolested Iraq would not have acquired a nuke until at least 2007. And how strong was this judgment? The analysts made it with "moderate confidence". It was the policymakers, not the analysts, who made the decision to go to war and who misrepresented to the public what the estimate actually said.

I am not saying the CIA is free of blame. There were major mistakes of leadership. For example, the man who led the drafting of the October 2002 estimate surrounded himself with true believers who shared the view of Bush Administration policymakers at the NSC and Department of Defense that military action in Iraq was required. This National Intelligence Officer created obstacles to dissident voices within the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community from being heard. But to pretend that the flaws in the intelligence explains why President Bush took us to war requires that we ignore a host of other uncomfortable facts.

CIA analysts got it right on the lack of operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Yet, notwithstanding the correct judgment of the analysts, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that there was such a relationship. In their words, the war in Iraq was an extension of the war on terrorism.

Analysts also got it right on the alleged link between Iraq and Niger on the question of uranium. The analysts who briefed Congress in October 2002 said there was no truth to the allegation. Yet, the White House wanted to run with it. We know from a previous Congressional report that the Assistant Deputy Director for Intelligence asked George Tenet in early October 2002 to intervene with the White House, who insisted on putting the Iraq/Niger allegation in the President's speech in Cincinnati. Only after Tenet called Stephen Hadley was the info removed. The CIA analysts consistently warned the Administration that the info the Brits had also was unreliable and the reports of Iraq trying to get their hands on a nuke were wrong.

But the policymakers did not want to hear it. In fact, Don Rumsfeld and his minions were briefing TV and newspaper pundits just two weeks before the President's 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Niger.