Bush Administration Ignored Pre-War Warnings About Iraqby Doug Mataconis
The Washington Post reports this morning that there were warnings two months before the start of the Iraq War that things might not go as planned:
Two intelligence assessments from January 2003 predicted that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and subsequent U.S. occupation of Iraq could lead to internal violence and provide a boost to Islamic extremists and terrorists in the region, according to congressional sources and former intelligence officials familiar with the prewar studies.
The two assessments, titled “Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq” and “Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq,” were produced by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and will be a major part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s long-awaited Phase II report on prewar intelligence assessments about Iraq. The assessments were delivered to the White House and to congressional intelligence committees before the war started.
The assessment on post-Hussein Iraq included judgments that while Iraq was unlikely to split apart, there was a significant chance that domestic groups would fight each other and that ex-regime military elements could merge with terrorist groups to battle any new government. It even talks of guerrilla warfare, according to congressional sources and former intelligence officials.
The second NIC assessment discussed “political Islam being boosted and the war being exploited by terrorists and extremists elsewhere in the region,” one former senior analyst said. It also suggested that fear of U.S. military dominance and occupation of a Middle East country — one sacred to Islam — would attract foreign Islamic fighters to the area.
The NIC assessments paint “a very sobering and, as it has turned out, mostly accurate picture of the aftermath of the invasion,” according to a former senior intelligence officer familiar with the studies. He sought anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about still-classified assessments.
The former senior official said that after the NIC papers were distributed to senior government officials, he was told by one CIA briefer that a senior Defense Department official had said they were “too negative” and that the papers “did not see the possibilities” the removal of Hussein would present.
This report is consistent with information we’ve received from other sources about the build-up and aftermath of the Iraq War. Throughout the time preceding the Iraq War, there was an apparent unwillingness on the part of its proponents — principally Wolfowitz, Cheney, and those around them — to give any consideration at all to the potential negative consequences that could follow the collapse of the Ba`athist regime and, as a result, there was absolutely no planning for such contingencies.
Many war opponents point to the fact that the justification for the war — the existence of a WMD program in Iraq in 2003 — turned out to be faulty, but they’re missing the point. All of the available intelligence, from the United States and elsewhere, indicated that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling WMD’s. His own evasive behavior seemed to confirm it.
The question isn’t whether we were right or wrong to start the war to begin with, the question is how our leaders could have been so negligent, to the point of almost being criminally negligent, in failing to plan for what might happen when the war was over. Because they didn’t we’ve been stuck in Iraq for four years, the nation itself is mired in insurgency, and we’ve placed ourselves in a situation where, the slogans of the protesters aside, there is no easy way out.
That’s what history will remember about George W. Bush’s adventure in Iraq.