Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Does the CIA Deserve its Reputation? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A team of American and Iraqi researchers working in the field of public health estimates that 655,000 people have been killed in Iraq since the invasion – four times as much as the number of those killed in the year that preceded the war. Of the 655,000 civilian deaths, 601,000 were victims of violence, while the rest died of diseases or other causes. This means that 500 people die in Iraq on a daily basis. Who is responsible for this bloody legacy?

When he was first elected, President Bush announced his intention to adopt a ‘modest’ foreign policy in a debate that took place in October 2000. A year later after September 11th, this statement manifested into the invasion of Afghanistan then Iraq, which he executed without holding an official meeting with his senior advisers to examine the situation as he should have done, or as some would have expected. The gravest decision following these invasions was the dissolution of the Iraqi Army; a decision that was made by the then-Presidential Envoy to Iraq, the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority Paul Bremer. He implemented it in coordination with Rumsfeld without consulting Bush on the matter, furthermore going against the recommendations of the National Security Council. In brief, the absence of a real and effective administration, which is a US foreign policy feature, allowed for the quick execution of critical decisions without the slightest degree of prior examination and analysis.

No institution failed in performing its task in the President Bush Jr. Era as the CIA did. Upon the end of his tenure, the CIA looked like the government counterpart of Enron, whose bankruptcy raised calls for its reform. In the period preceding the invasion of Iraq, the CIA presented to the White House foundations for excuses and allegations, which do not rise to the level of authentic, professional intelligence reports. These are the residues of corruption dating back to the end of the Cold War. Talking about the Iraqi situation, in November 2002, chiefs of CIA stations operating in the Middle East held a secret meeting at the US Embassy in London to discuss the issue of the war on Iraq, which was about to happen. There was indeed a deep split among the officials dealing with the Iraqi affairs, those working for the Middle East Department from their offices, and CIA personnel. One of the conspirators, excuse me, one of the conferees embarked on discussing plans for acts of sabotage to topple the Iraqi regime of Saddam. The plans left some in a state of shock because of the foundation on which the CIA was trying to base its war, such as sinking a ferry transporting goods from Sharjah, Dubai, and other Gulf seaports to the Iraqi Qasr seaport. The ferry is one of the main means of transporting embargoed commodities. It is as if the mere sinking of a ferry is a reasonable excuse for waging a war like the one waged later, and as if that ferry had no passengers on board, whose murder did not seem that important. A CIA official said: “The conferees, in that presentation, did not have any serious plans for secret action or any real intelligence information. All they had were crazy ideas.”

Discussing such a mess is partially due to the limited information the CIA had, which reduced its options. The discovery and recruitment of spies in the sensitive state posts takes years. When Bush Jr. took over the presidency and Iraq once again topped priorities, the CIA’s closet was at the time empty. Although it is true it had influence in parts of northern Iraq via the Kurdish region, its sources in the south were either simple Iraqi agents or smugglers who can move between Iraq and Kuwait and convey impressions about the prevailing conditions in Iraq. Those were ready to bring with them samples of rags near suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and handing them over to the CIA to examine them. Where will the true news come from in light of the scarcity of references? To cover up the situation, the Bush administration started to escalate the tone of its rhetoric about the danger the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction pose. Rumsfeld said the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction from rogue states like Iraq was a matter of time, and Bush later warned against terrorists getting these weapons from a state like Iraq. In other words, after Kabul, attention was redirected toward Baghdad.

It remains to be said that around 30 Iraqi immigrants had agreed to cooperate with the CIA by returning to Baghdad to contact weapons of mass destruction scientists. In their reports, months before the invasion of Iraq, They were unanimous that Saddam had given up his program to develop nuclear weapons. What is certain is that the Iraqi nuclear program was, before Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, a main project involving no less than 3,000 workers, and had only two to three years left to manufacture its bomb. By coincidence, however, the program neared its end when it (the site of the project) was destroyed by a US warplane, whose pilot did not know the importance of the site he bombed. Another, this time intentional, strike destroyed the Uranium enrichment plant called Al-Safa Plant. In October 2002, the US Intelligence services issued its “National Intelligence Assessment” report, and, as an excuse to invade Iraq, announced boldly and unhesitatingly that Iraq intends to rebuild its nuclear program. A final word: The war on terror displaced more than 4.5 million people, is responsible for %70 of the total deaths of Iraq, and displaced 18,000 Iraqi physicians. The war on Iraq, as the CIA admits, contributed to the emergence of a generation of extremists and the growing threat of terrorism. The question is: “Will Washington, in its intended war on Iran, use CIA information similar to the information on Iraq? If it continues to be obstinate, will it realize the expected size of losses? The cost of the war on terror, to date, can repay the debts of all the poor countries.