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Musings and Meanderings

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

That New York Times Article

You may have heard about the NYT article from Sunday on the Iraqi Aluminum tubes that were supposedly purchased to make weapons grade Uranium before the war. This one fact pushed the Senate and the Administration to war more than any other "fact". That the Intelligence was incorrect, and may have been pushed onto the Senate, UN and American people by people with an agenda is very alarming.

Or maybe not. The reality is that it is a very long and involved article, more suited to the Times Magazine or the Atlantic, which I doubt many American's will take the time to read about. Well I finally took the time to read it tonight.

In excruciating detail it covers the process from discovery that Iraq was buying these Aluminum tubes, through to the speech Secretary of State Powel made to the UN. This article dovetails very nicely with the Hirshfield articles in the New Yorker (which he has developed into a book that has just come out) regarding the "stove piping" that the Bush Administration did regarding intelligence leading up to the Iraq war.

The key issue was a massive failure of oversight and competitive theories regarding what these tubes really represented. 20 20 hindsight has shown that the tubes in question were actually purchased for a missile system that the Iraqi's had been utilizing for some time. The incredible stretch to apply the specifics of the tubing to alleged use in Uranium centrifuges simply boggled my mind. All the intelligence coming from the CIA was from one expert. Just one. On the other hand the competing theories, which inconveniently did not fit the Cheney/Bush requirements for a "smoking gun" came from a panel of experts at the State Department and, get this, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. No way they could have been experts at Uranium centrifuges huh!!

Summarizing this article is not easy by any means. One conclusion that it does make however is arguing that "group think" was not the factor in this massive intelligence failure. Competing voices were there stating uncatagorically what these tubes were really to be used for (this has been confirmed by now, by the way). They were crowded out quite skillfully, so that by the time decisions needed to be made to go to war, the one conclusion that would most likely create a favorable outcome for the hawks in the Senate and the Administration was assured.

It equally criticizes the Bushies as well as Kerry & Edwards in their roles in the Senate. Very few Senators apparently read the Intelligence briefing from alpha to omega, and some who did, like Sen Graham of Florida promptly saw holes in the report and voted against the war.

So what have we learned from this? The moderate view would be that depending upon one expert in any intelligence agency is a massive mistake. The "forest from the tree's" syndrome can affect even the most diligent analyst. The more paranoid view, one that I fully ascribe to by the way, is that Cheney (especially) wanted a smoking gun and kept asking the CIA to go back and find it. Again this dovetails nicely with the Hirshfield book (nee articles) that has come out recently.
posted by Mike 10:45 PM


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The musings and meanderings of an overworked and underemployed mind