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Intelligence Matters
by Michael Nevin, Jr.
27 July 2003CIA

We went to war based on a plethora of information regarding Iraq, including its failure to destroy weapons of mass destruction and allow for exhaustive inspections.


The primary function of our government is defense against threats, foreign and domestic.  It is not civil rights, abortion rights, religious rights, speech rights, privacy rights, copy rights, or any other ''right'' that comes to mind.  The federal government has the antaean task of protecting American interests both at home and abroad. 
 
Quite a flap has ensued since the White House acknowledged that a statement made by President Bush in his State of the Union address fell short of the necessary standards and should not have been included in his speech.  Bush stated, ''The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.''  The president’s critics, including Democratic opponents in the 2004 election, have jumped all over the story in an attempt to score political points.  However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stands by his country’s intelligence.  ''It’s not as if this link between Niger and Iraq was some invention of the CIA or Britain,'' said Blair.  ''We know in the 1980s that Iraq purchased from Niger over 270 tons of uranium, and therefore it is not beyond the bounds of possibility -- let’s at least put it like this -- that they went back to Niger again.''   
 
Let’s assume that the British are wrong.  Does this mean that we went to war based solely on this one intelligence claim?  Certainly not.  We went to war based on a plethora of information regarding Iraq, including its failure to destroy weapons of mass destruction and allow for exhaustive inspections.  The United Nations didn’t pass resolution 1441 because they thought Iraq may possess these weapons, but because they knew that Iraq did possess these weapons.  The argument at the time was how to deal with the threat as virtually all credible intelligence gathering supported Iraqi deception and danger. 
 
The critics of the current administration have hardly found a ''smoking gun'' proving that Bush lied to advance his case for war.  Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose Labor Party is to the left of Howard Dean, stated, ''If our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership.  That is something history will not forgive.''
 
The Central Intelligence Agency is charged with gathering and analyzing foreign data relating to national security.  An interesting interview of former CIA Director James Woolsey in Salon Magazine took place on December 20, 2001.  Woolsey stated, ''We’ve done a very bad thing in the 1990s, by the Clinton administration being so feckless and flaccid in dealing with Iraq for eight years.  We are in a much more dangerous situation today that we were eight, nine years ago.  It’ll be even more dangerous tomorrow.''  Woolsey spoke about Clinton’s decision to respond to the attempt to assassinate former President Bush (41) by launching cruise missiles into empty buildings.  ''I think killing some night watchman and Iraqi cleaning women had the opposite effect on Saddam that one would want.''  Interviewer: ''Were you not part of the group of advisors that decided on that action?''  Woolsey: ''Those decisions were not made on the advice of the people who were involved with intelligence.  Indeed, the intelligence agencies during the Clinton administration were told they were not to give policy advice.''  Ouch!
 
It is obvious from our recent past that our intelligence efforts need a boost.  Need examples?  World Trade Center attack(s), African embassy bombings, and the USS Cole bombing are just a few examples of America’s need to respond to her enemies in a timely fashion (or to be blunt: seek and destroy.)  The CIA needs the tools, money, and manpower to continue as the preeminent intelligence agency in the world.         
 
The primary focus today must be on achieving postwar success.  It is something even Democratic presidential hopefuls should be praying for, because failure is not an option.  Combat has not ended and our troops face daily attacks.  The world is watching and failure in Iraq would spell disaster for future generations.
 
Where are the weapons of mass destruction?  Our military and intelligence officers will have better success in the near future as they sift through the tons of secret papers and documents.  Our troops are also busy uncovering mass graves, unlocking torture chambers, and dodging car bombs.  The weapons existed and one could only hope they will be found or proven to be destroyed.  But if they ended up in Tehran, Damascus, or the Bakkar Valley of Lebanon be afraid -- be very afraid.
 
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice summed up this main point before the war when she stated: ''The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he (Saddam) can acquire nuclear weapons.  But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.''
 
Michael Nevin is a California law enforcement officer.

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