National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  February 6, 2004

Faulty intelligence, warring ambitions

Does anyone remember Hans Blix?

He was the United Nations weapons inspector who was seeking more time in Iraq. He had the temerity to suggest that perhaps the United States was going to war prematurely.

Hans Blix got the hook, yanked off the world stage under suspicion of being soft. His sin was not understanding how absolutely Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest held their “with-us-or-against-us” mentality.

This administration knows how to spin a story. It knows the dynamic of providing good visuals and moving on to the next opportunity. It seems to really believe that if you say something enough times it will become the truth.

So even in light of the most recent inspector saying he found nothing remotely close to the weapons of mass destruction described as the primary reason for war exist in Iraq, Vice President Cheney is still spinning tales about mobile weapons labs and other, as he loves to pronounce, “WMD.”

Remember, we were telling the world -- a world that was largely uncomfortable with our rush to war -- that not only did Iraq have WMD, but that the weapons in question were so developed and sophisticated as to pose an imminent threat to the United States. As Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida told TV interviewer Paula Zahn: “I was told that not only did [Iraq] have weapons, but [that it] had the means of delivering them with unmanned drones launched off of ships off of the Eastern seaboard of the United States on Eastern seaboard cities, distributing stuff like anthrax to a place like New York, Washington, Charlotte.

“Now, this turned out to be totally inaccurate. And what I find out after the fact now is that it was disputed in the Intelligence Committee. But, before I cast my vote, I was looked in the eye and told that was the threat. And, of course, I concluded that that was an imminent danger, then, to the interests of the United States.”

It is said that the debate now is whether the fault lies with the intelligence community, which obviously got something wrong, or with the policymakers’ pushing a claim of danger that went well beyond any reliable evidence.

The most reasonable voices, as might be expected, are saying it is a bit of both that has landed us at our current situation, with troops in a dangerous country trying desperately to establish some manner of stability.

Whatever the case, one might reasonably wonder: If our intelligence was so faulty regarding a country in which we had inspectors for a number of years and which for years was under the clamp of the most severe sanctions in history, how it can be trusted in far more complicated circumstances?

The deeper question, of course, is for the administration and all of those in it who were determined to invade Iraq from the earliest days of Bush’s term: How deliberate was the attempt to convince the world of what did not exist?

One suspects, more than faulty intelligence, that the warring ambitions of this administration caused us to rush virtually alone into an invasion on manufactured causes.

There is no turning back from Iraq at this point, but the wider world has been put on notice. Any suspicion about the stated primary reason for going to war has been justified. Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bush, partners in the creation of “imminent threat,” have squandered precious credibility and come away with very little.

National Catholic Reporter, February 6, 2004

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