Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why 94 senators did not read the National Intelligence Estimate

Why 94 senators did not read the National Intelligence Estimate

By Jerome Grossman.

On October 11, 2002, the United States Senate voted 77 to 23, to give President George W. Bush open ended authority to wage war against Iraq with unrestricted power to use any means, including military force and nuclear weapons, when he alone deemed appropriate. The House of Representatives approved 296 to 35. There was virtually no debate.

The primary justification for the legislation was the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq. To prove this claim, the Bush administration delivered to Congress on October 1, a secret classified report, The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's WMD. This document was considered so sensitive that it was placed in two securely guarded locations in the Capitol for only senators to examine, not even their staffs.

Of the 100 senators, only six took the trouble to read the report. One who did was Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who then voted against the war resolution. Graham was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. On the Senate floor, he told his colleagues that he had access to all available intelligence, that he did not believe that Iraq possessed WMD. Of course he was correct that there was not sufficient threat to U.S. national security

How could the 94 senators, Democrats and Republicans, fail to examine the evidence before voting to send the sons and daughters of the nation off to war? The primary answer is in the historical context of the invasion of Iraq. The balance of power changed dramatically with the collapse and breakup of the Soviet Union. The world system of two superpowers, armed to the teeth, checking each other on every continent, was finished. Now there was only one superpower, the United States, still armed to the teeth, but with no opposing military force to check it.

Without that countervailing force to impose restraint, the U.S, has engaged in nine wars in the last 17 years. No other nation even comes close to the American record, under Democratic as well as Republicans presidents. Most of the wars were justified as “humanitarian interventions “: Panama 1989, Somalia 1992, Haiti 1994, Bosnia 1995-96, Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 1991, Iraq 1998, Iraq 2003-2007 and beyond.

The wars were easy, “slam dunks” or “”pieces of cake”, light in casualties, short in duration. And if the American troops remained in the occupied nations, they were merely following the pattern established in Germany , Japan, South Korea and the 35 other nations where the U. S. has 737 military bases.

To the senators, the invasion and occupation of Iraq was merely another military step in the subjugation of another country that our leaders believed needed “humanitarian intervention” or the installation of “democracy.” September 11, 2001 increased the public’s sense of danger, but the pattern of intervention had already been set and accepted.

The Bush administration is criticized for not having an exit strategy from Iraq. Of course they didn’t - because they had no intention to exit any more than they had strategies to exit Germany, Japan, South Korea or the other 35 nations. The problem for the U.S. is that the unexpected resistance in Iraq may trigger similar insurgencies around the world in countries where the U.S. has military bases.

To maintain world hegemony, the U.S. cannot afford to lose, to withdraw from Iraq. The legislation offered by the Democratic leadership in Congress recognizes this, calling for withdrawal, but with three significant exceptions: U.S. troops to remain in Iraq to protect US embassies and bases, to train the Iraqi army to fight Al Qaeda and the terrorists. This is a recipe for a long occupation.

1 comment:

My Mall & News said...

Thank you for a thoughtful post.

Among those who did not read the National Intelligence Estimate were the leading lights of the Democratic Party, including Reid, Clinton, and Edwards. On one hand, the intelligence agency suffered from an erosion of credability in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and perhaps some thought little could be gained by reading the document. But I think most people-- Democrats and Republicans-- wanted to climb the bandwagon of war, propelled by the illusion of public support. Like most Americans, they were lazy and credulous. I was struck by McCain and Clinton's similar answers to the same question. Yes, they didn't read the NIE, but they had multiple briefings. The question is: briefings from whom based on what? It looks to me that the senators were less interested in doing their homework and in ascertaining the truth than in positioning themselves to do the most political expedient thing. We continue to pay the price for that today in American blood and treasure.


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