Friday, February 10, 2006

Learning From History?

Two interesting items in the news today illustrate just how badly BushCheney has bolloxed America’s security in the post 9-11 world.

The first is an article in Foreign Relations by Paul Pillar who served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. In that capacity, Mr. Pillar was responsible for analyzing intelligence on Iraq prior to the American invasion. He argues that the administration “cherry picked” intelligence to support its decision to launch the war and concludes:

“If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath. What is most remarkable about prewar U.S. intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policymakers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important U.S. policy decisions in recent decades.”

The consequences of that decision are now well known. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) just issued a report that summarizes the difficulties America faces in rebuilding Iraq. The report is written in typical auditor neutral style but it’s conclusion is clear: Iraq is a mess with no real end in sight. America lacks both the resources needed to stabilize Iraq and the metrics to measure progress toward that goal. The graph on page 6 is especially enlightening. It shows that US forces are not fighting international terrorists “over there so we won’t have to fight them here.” Instead, the US is fighting “an intrinsic part of Iraq’s population” that objects to foreign troops and concentrates attacks on the occupiers. (Thanks to Fred Kaplan at Slate who brought the GAO study to my attention.)

BushCheney claims that the origins of the war are past history, not worthy of discussion at this point. But as the GAO report makes clear, that history has created consequences that will plague America for years.

That history is not even past; it’s about to repeat itself in Iran. Americans would do well to understand how BushCheney created a counterproductive war as they try to lead this nation and the world into yet another conflict.


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