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Also, Rumsfeld can — and must — clarify how the post-invasion insurgency was organized, run, and manned not only by al-Qaeda, but also by Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. He knows, as well as anyone, how those nations directly interfered in Iraq, at the cost of American lives. Perhaps he might be willing to explain why the president — presented not later than December 2005 with conclusive evidence of Iranian arms and forces taking American lives — chose not to take the actions necessary to save American lives being spent in the self-imposed quagmire of nation-building.
But Rumsfeld must also explain how he made the error of allowing the U.S. generals to make their headquarters in Saddam’s old palaces, taking up residence in his lavishly-decorated mansions. By doing so, they gave the appearance that Iraq had traded a home-grown dictator for a foreign one. Was that Rumsfeld’s decision or the president’s? We hope to know.
ANY HISTORY OF THE IRAQ WAR will have to address the failures of the intelligence community. The CIA, as I’ve written so many times, was just as surprised when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 as it had been when it was built in 1961. Its long record of ineffectiveness was obvious to Rumsfeld long before 2003.
In 1997, Congress appointed Rumsfeld to chair the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, which reported in July 1998. In a little-known “Intelligence Side Letter” to the report, dated March 18, 1999, the commission reported shortcomings in the intelligence community that foreshadowed its failures to give warning of the 9/11 attacks and the mistakes in assessing Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
The letter began with three findings from the main report, one of which was that the intelligence community’s capability to monitor, assess, and warn of the ballistic missile threat was eroding. Remember that the commission’s charter was limited to ballistic missile threats, but what it said about the intelligence agencies’ activities was equally applicable to terrorism.
The letter warned of the dangers posed by the “highly charged political atmosphere, foreign penetration of the intelligence community and stovepiping of functions and information within the IC.” Stovepiping — the separation of access among intelligence functions — was one of the biggest failures of intelligence cited by the 9/11 Commission: the failure to “connect the dots.”p>Rumsfeld’s side letter also criticized the ad hoc nature of intelligence tasking, blaming Congress and the White House for confusing priorities and imposing short-term tasks on the intelligence agencies that deprived them of the assets to look at longer-term threats. It also criticized the intelligence community for not being positioned to address the missile threat — and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. It said: br> /p>
The underlying fact is that the IC is not yet well positioned to address the ballistic missile threat today. Its analysts are relatively inexperienced, lacking technical in-country and language skills and, if our experience is indicative, trained for the most part in non-scientific and non-technical disciplines.br> Those same disciplines are essential to dealing with WMD and terrorist threats. p>And then there was the issue of “fudging.” That is, Clintonian “fudging”: br> /p>
The President’s recent discussion of “fudging” occurred in the context of a discussion of the effects of sanction laws on his flexibility to conduct diplomacy. Faced with the prospect that sanctions might automatically be imposed on a nation should certain information about its activities become known, and believing the sanctions would not advance US interests, the President allowed as how he and other senior policy makers were likely to “fudge” the issue.