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February 11, 2006

CIA's Top Iraq Analyst: White House Ignored Intelligence Iraq  Politics

Somehow, the White House continues to get away with claiming that the decision to invade Iraq was based on "flawed intelligence", an "intelligence failure," when it's long been clear that they came into office already looking for a pretext to justify an attack. Iraq was in their crosshairs from the outset.

Now the CIA's leading counterterrorism analyst, the man who was responsible for coordinating all Iraq assessments for the entire intelligence community, confirms that the administration requested no strategic assessments and paid little attention to the intelligence that was available to it. WaPo:

The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Paul R. Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies' mistakes in concluding that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction. But he said those misjudgments did not drive the administration's decision to invade.

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting — and evidently without being influenced by — any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote.

Pillar's critique is one of the most severe indictments of White House actions by a former Bush official since Richard C. Clarke, a former National Security Council staff member, went public with his criticism of the administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and its failure to deal with the terrorist threat beforehand.

It is also the first time that such a senior intelligence officer has so directly and publicly condemned the administration's handling of intelligence.

Pillar, retired after 28 years at the CIA, was an influential behind-the-scenes player and was considered the agency's leading counterterrorism analyst. By the end of his career, he was responsible for coordinating assessments on Iraq from all 15 agencies in the intelligence community. He is now a professor in security studies at Georgetown University.

It's remarkable that over, and over, and over again, the left's critique of administration actions and policies is proven right — but nobody notices. Politics is driven by psychology, not rational judgments. When you pick your auto mechanic, say, or your doctor, you want somebody who usually gets it right. But in politics, people tend to go with the person who confirms their prejudices and resonates with them on an irrational, psychological level. Even if they're wrong about absolutely everything. It's hard not to conclude that we are just superstitious primates, after all. Superstitious primates with guns.

Posted by Jonathan at February 11, 2006 12:36 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb