Iraq: better intel and fairer perspective needed
Heads of State rely on the information provided by their staffs at their peril. Years ago, the Queen of the Netherlands fell into that trap.
The Queen wanted to recognize the contributions of the world’s leading pediatric heart surgeon. Her staff told her Dr. Michael Debakey was that person. Unfortunately, while Dr. Debakey had performed vascular heart surgery miracles on dozens of adult patients, Dr. Debakey had never operated on a child. The heart surgeon performing equally miraculous work on children was Dr. Denton Cooley.
Rightfully, Dr. Cooley took exception to Dr. Debakey being recognized for work Debakey had not done and so informed the Queen. This set off the infamous and, on-going, enmity between the two talented surgeons.
When President Bush said “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” he was relying on a British intelligence report. But the Democrat-led brouhaha over those 16 words is useful in that it reminds us of our own human intelligence shortcomings.
But this wasn’t always the case. Following the reorganization of our defense and intelligence organizations in 1947, the U.S. developed a fairly robust human intelligence capability based on the premise that the ends justify the means. Sir Winston Churchill, said it best: “In wartime, the truth is so precious that she must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies.”
We lost most of our human intelligence capability because former President Jimmy Carter did not believe the ends justify the means. President Carter brought his personal mores to bear on our intelligence services. His appointment of Admiral Stansfield Turner as the Director of Central Intelligence accelerated the decline of our human intelligence capabilities by shifting to a massive reliance on satellite photography and electronic eavesdropping. Agents, who had taken years to put in place, were dismissed. The United States voluntarily, and I might add unilaterally, blinded itself when it came to human intelligence assets.
Moreover, Bill Clinton declared our intelligence agencies could not deal with anyone who was not “politically correct.” Clinton even refused to meet with the man he appointed to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Instead, the CIA’s daily intelligence summary was delivered to low-ranking White House officials whose attitude toward classified documents was so lax the CIA became reluctant to include really important intelligence in the daily intelligence summary.
For the record, it should be noted no foreign intelligence agencies, not even the French, have asserted that what the British told President Bush was incorrect. Those assertions are coming entirely from the anti-Bush, anti-Blair media and some of those Democrat presidential hopefuls.
History will make its judgment on Operation Iraqi Freedom. Meanwhile, the left-leaning media give little coverage to the substantial progress being made to restore municipal services to Iraq and, in some cases, raise them to higher than pre-war levels. Scant coverage is given to Iraqi’s new civilian governing council and the fact its first act was to declare, April 9, 2003, (the day Saddam’s statue came down in Baghdad) a national holiday.
In many TV newsrooms, the operative motto is: “If it bleeds, it leads.” As a result, the tragic death of an American soldier will get more coverage than the fact that virtually everything in the Iraqi National Museum is back in place or that our troops are cheered far more often than they are jeered. Recently, a neighbor told this observer of her son’s work with the Kurds and how, in one day, his hands were kissed by over 100 school children.
And while we are sure to lose more troops to Saddam’s guerillas, the desire of the Iraqi people for peace will eventually prevail. We should not minimize the sacrifices our troops are making, but Iraq should be kept in perspective. Chicago, with almost 1,000 murders each year, is a far more dangerous place than Baghdad. And, we’ll see peace in Baghdad long before Chicago.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today , served several years in Europe as an intelligence officer. He is also the co-author of two novels on terrorism directed against the United States.
©2003. William Hamilton.