Thursday, September 16, 2004

NIE vs. GWB on Iraq

The New York Times reports that a National Intelligence Estimate prepared last July contains, in the words of a government official who has read it, "a significant amount of pessimism" regarding the prospects for peace and stability in Iraq. In the worst case outlined by the NIE, Iraq would be on a path toward civil war. Even in the best case, the political and economic situation in Iraq would remain tenuous through the end of 2005.

Since late July when the NIE was delivered to President Bush, the Iraqi insurgency has increased in strength. August was the worst month ever in terms of the number of attacks against American troops in Iraq. September thus far has seen some of the worst violence in Baghdad since the end of major combat operations.

In late August, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush was upbeat about Iraq. "We're making progress on the ground," he told reporters. At the Republican National Convention and in political stump speeches since then (including his address to the National Guard Association in Las Vegas this week), the President has said, "Our strategy is succeeding."

Retired military officers have a view closer to that of the July National Intelligence Estimate. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, said of the situation in Iraq, "This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile, and we're in much worse shape with our allies." Gen. Joseph Hoare, former Commandant of the Marine Corps and head of the U.S. Central Command, said, "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground." Many additional concerns have recently been raised by professional strategists and soldiers.

Much has been made of intelligence failures in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. It seems clear now, however, that the intelligence on Iraq is simply being ignored.