Friday, February 09, 2007

The National Estimate Strikes Again

The sixteen interagency intelligence organizations of the US Intelligence Community, also known as the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, has produced another national intelligence estimate. This one is called, PROSPECTS FOR IRAQ’S STABILITY: A CHALLENGING ROAD AHEAD. Its publication had been intentionally stalled by the Administration until after the 2006 general election, since it essentially bears bad news for GW Bush's impossible dream in Iraq.

Let us get one thing straight from the beginning: the document is a political statement rather than a substantive intelligence estimate of the situation. That unclassified part open to the public is a summary; a summary that even had to be negotiated among the gang of sixteen. This corporate committee approach to the production of intelligence can only produce a spongy, carefully construed piece of ambiguity that means all things to each of its participants. When you read the text, it is like taking a bite of cotton candy: it is there and then it is not. Even the elliptical economic statements of ex-Federal Reserve Chairman, artful dodger Alan Greenspan, that could challenge talented Talmudic scholars, are examples of clarity when compared to the text of National Intelligence Estimates.

You do not need to read this national intelligence estimate to conclude that the situation in Iraq is grave and out of control – the war, probably lost. Just study the growing US and Iraqi casualties. TV films of the the burning cities and massive destruction of property by insurgents and by US forces trying to destroy insurgent firing ports, illustrate the hopelessness of reconstruction of the country in combat. Iraq is being demolished faster than reconstructed. Concrete is poured into fortifications rather than buildings and infrastructure. What was once an architectural jewel in the Arab world is being smashed daily by forces unleashed by war. Going after Saddam, Bush succeeded in throwing the baby out with the bath water. And that, will be his brutal legacy. In no way can the country be rebuilt with the presence of US troops who will have to destroy even more to defend themselves. Had there been apolitical participation in the national intelligence estimate, this point would have been driven into the summary or failing, an agency should have tried to prevent inter agency concurrence in the flawed document.

In all fairness, the summary portion of the national intelligence estimate does not normally contain footnotes or dissents by the agencies, but given the tone of the summary, seriously doubt any bureaucratic entity fell on its sword over any issue. That the Administration published it was not an act of courage or forthrightness. It was compelled by the widely broadcast miserable military and political situation in Iraq and charges that Bush delayed publication until after the 2006 election.

The national intelligence estimate does its best to straddle the fence. One thesis in the estimate that Bush apparachiks seized on in the cascading debris of bad news was that US troop withdrawal from Iraq could cause even more chaos than if they remained. It would be interesting to read the arguments to support this contention. You would find lots of "WHAT IFs". On the contrary, US troop presence is exacerbating the situation. US commanders in Iraq argued against surge for that reason. Even General Casey, triangulating, trying to appeal to a skeptical Congress to approve his confirmation for Army Chief of Staff, said two brigades would be sufficient rather than the five proposed by Team Bush. Let us hope at least one agency in the Intelligence Community had the courage to footnote the negative impact of continued occupation. I believe that the national intelligence estimate was released now, as contorted and qualified as it is, to buttress the Bush surge by arguing things could be worse in Iraq if the US retreated. This provides cover for the politicians who vote to stay the course or even surge in Iraq. When things go haywire, they can always argue they were misled by faulty intelligence. It worked for Bush before; why not run the same play again?

Carnage in Iraq is reaching new heights with the killing of over 125 Shiites in a Baghdad Market last weekend by a suicide bomber in a truck loaded with fresh produce. Sure the Sunnis will be blamed, the Maliki government will be blamed along with its keystone cops and ragtag army and al Qaeda, but in the end, the US will be the object of more intense hatred for its failure to provide security. As the US put more pressure on el Sadr Militia, it pulled back from its check points in Baghdad Shiite areas and it was not replaced by Maliki or US forces; as a result the bomber, disguised by his vegetables, penetrated, and struck in a very deadly way. Perhaps the change of the US command in Baghdad contributed to the disarray and this failure. If these were the circumstances, it will take a lot of free soccer balls and candy from US troops to the Iraqis to compensate for that unacceptable, bloody tactical blunder.

SECDEF Gates in a sophist, banal and analytical word game, declared that the situation is very complicated in Iraq – there is an anti American insurgency, Sunni vs Shiite sectarian killing, and of course, the al Qaeda terrorists who try to kill everybody; meanwhile, Iranians are insidiously undermining the whole US effort. Any leadership with brains would depart from this charnel house soonest rather than permit its troops to be ripped apart, imbedded in the chaos without a clear mission. What is the mission? Kill Sunnis? Kill Shiite Militia? Kill al Qaeda? Kill Iranians? One thing for certain, US troops are killed regularly at higher rates each day, while US politicians, detached, posture and play with nuances. Edwards and Obama are the only serious Democratic presidential candidates who want out of Iraq. New York Senator Clinton, a pitiful captive of the Israeli lobby, criticizes Bush on the war, but wants to stay the course with permanent war. As for Republican candidates such as McCain, they believe dying is patriotic even if there is no clear mission except stand and die... Republican Hagel, though he categorically disagrees with this sick attitude, is still not a candidate.

When Edwards was asked on MEET THE PRESS last Sunday to explain why in the beginning he supported the Iraq war and Obama did not, he, with candor, surprisingly replied that he had read the national intelligence and Obama had not! If you get a chance, read Obama's statement made while he was still a state senator in Springfield, Illinois. Not only did he come out strongly against the invasion, he very presciently predicted the resulting chaos. Obama may not have the experience or gravitas to be president, but his high IQ and better judgement surpass most of his bumbling colleagues in congress. Moral of this story – do not rely on warped US national intelligence products if you are a policy or law maker. Use your head and judgement, and keep your finger out of the wind... Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

*Photograph: Devota Profesion, an etching by Francisco de Goya


Anonymous Anonymous said...


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