No matter how many experienced and (formerly) well-respected people speak out against the Iraq warâ€”and the planning that led up to said warâ€”there’s always someone hanging around to paint each as an isolated kook who is in the grips of far-left hysteria. Richard Clarke? He’s just complaining to sell copies of his book! John Murtha? Who even knows if he deserved those Purple Hearts! Joe Wilson? Stop whining over your wife, you Democrat hack who just happened to work for previous Republican administrations. I mean, really!
War supporters and Bush apologists, I would like to present your new target: ex-CIA official Paul R. Pillar, who probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about even though he was the “national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005″. A 28-year veteran of the CIA, Pillar was considered to be the agency’s leading counter-terrorism expert and was responsible for coordinating Iraq data from 15 separate intelligence agencies. Obviously, such a rank amateur is destined to hate freedom:
“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.
The Bush administration, Pillar wrote, “repeatedly called on the intelligence community to uncover more material that would contribute to the case for war,” including information on the “supposed connection” between Hussein and al Qaeda, which analysts had discounted. “Feeding the administration’s voracious appetite for material on the Saddam-al Qaeda link consumed an enormous amount of time and attention.”
Of course, this can’t be true because we only invaded Iraq as a last resortâ€”President Bush told us so.
But seriously, how many former officials, intelligence officers and terrorism experts need to raise their voices before we realize that it’s not just one or two bitter people with axes to grind? How many people need to start asking questions before we accept that the frustration over the planning and execution of the war stretches far beyond celebrity spotlight-grabbers and Berkeley hippies?
Some people will say that, since we are already in Iraq, looking back at the decisions that led up to war is counterproductive and pointless. It’s not. Considering the saber-rattling (and woozy deja vu) surrounding Iran at the moment, the best thing we can do is listen to the people who saw the Iraq mistakes being made firsthand, so that we don’t jump headlong into the sequel.