T Nation

Pre-War Intelligence


The internet is a wonderful thing for those who don't like it when the narrative of a story changes over time, but one side denies it has.

With that in mind, please follow this link and enjoy the "Carnival* of the Pre-War Intelligence", in which various bloggers have linked to reports or stories showing what we knew before we went into Iraq, irrespective of the subsequent claims that we were "lied" into going to Iraq.


*- NB: It is common practice among bloggers who aggregate posts of other bloggers on some topic or other to refer to such aggregations as "Carnivals".


The Pre-War Intelligence sucked ass and we proved it sucked ass.

This is less likely to happen ever again.

Wrong is wrong...excuses are like assholes.


Pre-war intelligence was not good, however that doesn't materialize into "Bush lied".

These were some good points from the decision '08 blog about what we knew absolutely for sure:

Saturday, November 19th, 2005
What Did We Know In 2002?

When it became clear that the Taliban regime was overthrown, and the remnants of Al Qaeda were either killed in the mountains of Tora Bora, or driven into hiding in Pakistan, the focus turned to Iraq. If Bob Woodward?s account in Bush At War is correct, there were some who wanted to target Iraq in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It is worth considering, if you are among the conspiracy-minded, ?Bush lied? crowd, that Bush resisted and insisted on concentrating on Afghanistan.

Intelligence is a tricky business, but let?s resist the temptation to use hindsight and go back to that time. We can start with some absolute, 100% givens that no serious person would challenge.

  1. 9/11 still provoked a visceral reaction, and the War on Terror was the primary focus of much of the world.

  2. At the heart of modern terror is Islamic fundamentalism.

  3. The most fertile ground for recruiting terrorists was and is brutal rhetoric against the infidels in Muslim lands, such as the Israelis and Americans.

  4. Saddam Hussein, while not a fundamentalist in the Taliban/Iranian mullah sense, was more than happy to feed this aggression, through such gestures as his payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers (a de facto declaration of war against Israel).

  5. Though, leftist rhetoric to the contrary, Bush never claimed a direct link between Saddam and 9/11 (nor did he ever say Saddam presented an imminent threat - in fact, he argued we could not wait until the threat became imminent), we knew that terrorists, Al Qaeda and otherwise, found a friendly refuge in Saddam?s Iraq.

And we knew two other, very important things: one, that the only long-term solution to terror was to bring hope and democracy to the lands where terror flourishes, and two, that Saddam Hussein was a maniacal tyrant, brutally killing opponents, terrorizing any who dared question him, attacking the Kurds of northern Iraq whenever he was not blocked by U.S. air power, and of course, most notoriously, actually USING weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against the opposition in the Iran/Iraq war.

No amount of revisionism can touch the above facts; they are irrefutable, and they provide the backdrop to the runup to the war. Good men can and do disagree about what should have happened next. I think the case remains rock solid that Saddam Hussein had to be removed, and I have long been of the opinion that the ?obstacle to peace in the Middle East/brutal tyrant? route would have been the preferable point of emphasis. Unfortunately, and here at last I allow hindsight to come into play, the WMDs were stressed because the WMDs offered the most politically attractive means of selling the war.

Why WMDs? Because, as we know, Saddam had possessed them and used them. Because we also know that he had nuclear ambitions. Because an attempt could be made to bring the international community on board, since WMD inspectors had been kicked out of Iraq, and the issue was the focus of a dozen unenforced UN resolutions. And because the evidence was overwhelming that Saddam remained in pursuit of and possession of WMDs.

I won?t make the mistake of applying revisionist history on this point myself. I thought, with a high degree of certainty, that we would find the stockpiles of WMDs that were a major selling point of the war. I think it?s pretty plain that most international statesmen and diplomats did, as well, and that even the weapons inspectors were of that opinion. I don?t think anything thus far raises much that would be disputed.


These are the possibilities as to the pre-war intelligence.

  1. The pre-war intelligence was extemely minimul and unconclusive, Bush lied, gorssly exagerrated, and fabricated to push his agenda.

  2. The pre-war intelligence was lousy, but Bush didn't realize it and relied on it.

  3. The pre-war intelligence was good and we able to determine that there are were in fact WMDs, but despite there being credible evidence and grounds to conclude them, they were miraculously able to prevent us from finding them.

I tend to think 2 is most likely, and that's what I hope. I think Bush consistently stretches the truth to push and sell his agenda, but I don't think and hope that he would outright lie about something of that magnitude. #2 is still a problem, and better and more accurate intelligence needs to be a priority. As does the need for the executive branch and Congress to throughougly check it out before relying and acting on said intelligence.


To expand on JS's point...

Item #2 is quite possibly what happened. However, there are some troubling issues related to the administration which would help cause this type of thing.

The administration is in fact one which very much attempts to control media and message. To the point of rewriting scientific viewpoints.

As I've tried to discuss before, the management style appears to be one of, go find this for me. So that people are tasked with supporting a predefined position, instead of forming a position based on best analysis.

There also seems to be a real view that the ends justify the means. For example, torture is not a problem, nor is making sweeping forays into the system of checks and balances placed on the government.

For example, White House legal counsel has continued to develop support for various actions. This isn't done randomly -- this is something that is done before undertaking these actions. It looks as if it is like this... find a way for me to legally detain these bastard terrorists for ever and use whatever means I want to extract information from them.

Then, out of that, highly motivated people come up with convoluted legal analysis to support such things.

To most of the world it doesn't matter if such things can be legally supported or not, they are just plain wrong.

Anyway, to get back to the point, this administration is in fact one which appears to pick a path and then find ways to justify that path. If that is the case, regardless of what happened with the intelligence, then you have a very poor management team.

It's hard to tell though... the water is muddied by both sides all the time.


Proving someone 'lied' is impossible but you can bet you would not be defending Clenis if he did the same thing your good buddy Bush did...


This seems a good spot for this post about some disputed pre-war intelligence:


ATTA IN PRAGUE [Andy McCarthy]
Ed Epstein has stayed on the case and has done the 9/11 Commission one better: he has actually conducted something resembling an investigation into whether the top hijacker met with in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence agent five months before 9/11. Ed?s report on what he found out, after traveling to the Czech Republic and meeting with the BIS (i.e., Czech Intelligence) officials who were personally involved in the matter is featured in the Wall Street Journal this morning ( http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110007584 registration required).

His article will not be good news for the Richard Clarkes of Clinton revision-world, who maintain that the previous administration so intimidated Saddam after the attempted murder of the first President Bush in 1993 that the Iraqi dictator foreswore collaboration with terrorists against the U.S. ? a claim that has never made any sense given that top Clinton officials (including the former president himself) continue to defend their Augugst 1998 bombing of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan on the ground that it was a joint Iraq/Qaeda/Sudan effort to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bottom line, as Ed puts it, is that the Atta/Prague connection remains ?consigned to a murky limbo? ? largely thanks to American officials leaking the possibility while the Czechs were still trying to investigate it.

But this much is known ? notwithstanding the energetic effort to suppress it by some former Clinton officials, Democrat partisans, and members of the intelligence community invested in the delusion that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. In 1998, Saddam began trying to blow up an American target, Radio Free Europe in Prague, by having Jabir Salim, his consul to the Czech Republic (but in reality, his top intelligence agent there), attempt to recruit terrorists to carry out the mission. This intelligence became known when Salim defected, and Clinton administration was so concerned about it that it took several steps to protect the facility.

Salim was replaced by Ahmad al-Ani, whom the BIS was obviously interested in ? interest that only intensified when the BIS learned he was trying to access explosives and make contacts with ?foreign Arabs.? It came to a head on or about April 9, 2001, when al-Ani was observed getting into a car with an unknown Arab male who was later identified as Atta ? an identification that has never been disproved, despite Herculean efforts to knock it down. The Atta identification did not happen until after 9/11 (when Atta?s photo was splashed across the international press), but the Czechs were so worried about whomever al-Ani had met with back in April that they decided to take no chances: al-Ani was expelled due to suspicion of terrorism ? four months before 9/11.

In the end, the FBI cannot account for where Atta was between April 4 and April 11, 2001, or how he spent the $8000 cash he abruptly withdrew on April 4 before he disappeared for a week. (They?ve pointed to use of his cellphone in the U.S. during that timeframe, but that, of course, does not mean Atta was the one using the cellphone.) Nor can the FBI explain why Atta stopped in Prague in June 2000 right before flying to the U.S. to begin the 9/11 preparations. The Czechs, meanwhile, regard as ?pure nonsense? al-Ani?s protestations that he was nowhere near Prague the day he was seen meeting the man a witness has identified as Atta.

This is Able Danger all over again. The "Atta in Prague" possibility never fit the 9/11 Commission?s narrative, so it was buried with a shoddy, slap-dash investigation -- the same treatment Able Danger got; the same treatment the Clinton Justice Department's dramatic heightening of "the wall" between criminal investigators and intelligence agents got; the same treatment the internal assessment of the Clinton administration's performance in the run-up to the Millennium bombing plot got, and so on.

Meanwhile, in 1998 alone, we have $300K going from Iraq to Zawahiri (al Qaeda?s number 2); bin Laden?s famous February fatwa calling for the murder of all Americans and prominently featuring, as part of the justification, U.S. actions against Iraq; meetings in Iraq between Qaeda members and Iraqi officials in March; meetings in Afghanistan between Iraqi officials and al Qaeda leaders in July; the embassy bombings in August, after which, of all potential targets, the Clinton administration chose to retaliate against al Shifa, believed to be an Iraq/Qaeda joint weapons venture; an Iraqi member of al Qaeda (now held in Guantanamo Bay) traveling with Iraqi Intelligence to Pakistan to plot chemical mortar attacks on the American and British embassies there; and Iraq seeking to recruit Arab terrorists to blow up Radio Free Europe. Oh, and in February 1999, Richard Clarke objected to a suggestion that U-2 flights be used to try to find bin Laden because, if bin Laden learned the walls were closing in, Clarke wrote to Sandy Berger that ?old wiley Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad.?

But the anti-war left is probably right. There was no connection between Iraq and terrorism. None at all. I don?t know why the right-wing nuts keep insisting there was.
Posted at 07:42 AM


If Bush lied, didn't he think he knew he would be caught?

If he knew there were no WMD's he would have planted them.

He fully expected to find WMD's.


Then he really would've been in trouble. Not only impeached, but facing criminal sanctions if not treason. He doesn't have to have lied to not fully have expected to find WMD's. He easily could've ALLOWED himself to rely on tenuous and inconclusive evidence because he had other reasons for wanted to go in. Namely deposing Saddamn and potentially economic, oil-related reasosn.


The (previous) chairman of the joint intelligence committee was just on CNN exlaining the following:

1) There was a classified document, which outlined a lot of doubts and nuances, with respect to Iraq.

2) The administration commissioned the creation of a new document, leaving out all the doubts and nuances for presentation to the public.

Now, if this is in fact true, and holds water, I'd expect the public to be very pissed off about it. Picking and choosing what to represent to the public in this way is propaganda.

The public does not really want to be fed propaganda by their own government.

I'm sure we'll see follow up which will attempt to distract, deflect and discredit, but I think the ball is rolling pretty quickly now, it might be hard to push this out of sight.


If this document does in fact turn out to be true then the nation should be pissed. Wait and see I guess. It scares me though after the whole CBS thing. The whole discretit and deflect thing goes both ways.


Truth is the first casualty of war.

I do not expect any government to fully share all information in this area.

I expect them to evaluate the information and make the best decision from there. What they let the public see is not the whole story.

What the media reports is not the whole story.


Zap, if it wasn't for the apparent use of propaganda, I'd agree with you.

But, you see, the public didn't get a fear on and a lust for war until the administration chose which information to promote.

That is very different than simply not releasing information. In my opinion anyway.


Governments do not and should not divulge specific information. Arguments as to why we are actually going to war (or engaging in any other action militarily or otherwise, for that matter) should be honest and correct. It is unnaceptable to engage in an action for one reason and to the the country that you are doing it for another. That's not necessarily what happened, but an intelligence mistake merely means there wasn't fraud and culpability. It still calls attention to the fact that improved attention needs to be made a priority and something to be focused on.


In the first place, let's stop this mincing around with "Saddam and the terrorists" and "Saddam and 9/11". The issue to be talked about is the lie Bushco pumped out about "Saddam and al Qaeda".

I'm sorry, you can murk up the Atta thing all you want. Even if we say it was a potato, they made much too much soup out of it, with no accompanying vegetables in sight. And it is a pretty dubious potato.

As for the intelligence, yes that's right. The cleaned up intelligence picture delivered to Congress never talked about how the sources were rotten, or how the data had more than one possible interpretation. What we got instead was a slam dunk.

And the American people have a right to be very, very pissed about that. They have a right to investigate it minutely. They have a right to devise better safeguards against government use of disinformation and propaganda against the citizenry.

You might say, democracy is on the march.


In this case, it seems Truth bought the farm before the hostilities ever commenced.


You left one out:

  1. The pre-war intelligence was extemely minimal and inconclusive, but since Bush had already decided to invade Iraq, he cherry-picked the most exciting parts (which it turned out came mainly from 'sources' that had an interest in involving the US in Iraq) to get us all in an uproar, and carefully didn't mention how bad the information was.


I think I sort of covered that in my second post. Based on the actions of the administration as a whole during the course of his presidencies, I think Bush had a agenda that rendered him willing and suceptible to grasping at straws as a justification for invading. I don't think he explicitly and overtly lied. But neither do I think he did or wanted to do his homework or engdendered the intelligence agencies to do the same.


For any other human that would be called criminal negligence resulting in loss of life.

Shying away from "lies" with this is just as bad.

However, I would not be surprised, this is the same guy that kept running his companies into the ground with the this methodology, you don't expect him to change his stripes now do you?


The shooting war started 9/11.

In WWII we decided to expand the war beyond the narrow confines of who attacked us, the current War on Terror is similar.

Hitler was stupid enough to declare war on the US. If he had not FDR would have found good reasons to go after Hitler too.