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Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who -- 10 years ago -- had been transformed by the U.S. government and the national press corps into an imminent threat to the security of the American people.
Ten years ago today, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) wrote a Memorandum to President George W. Bush, pleading with him not to attack Iraq. It had long been painfully clear that the "intelligence" upon which the attack on Iraq was being based was fraudulent (not "mistaken," but fraudulent). We thought it best to assume that President Bush did not know chapter and verse, so we felt a certain responsibility to make sure we made them available to him.
The folks who gave us Iraq now have Iran in the crosshairs. What happened before the war on Iraq needs to be remembered. Too few Americans and others know the chapter, much less the verses. For this reason, we thought it would be instructive to publish our March 18, 2003 Memo again in its entirety. See below...
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March 18, 2003
Memorandum for: The President
From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Subject: Forgery, Hyperbole, Half-Truth: A Problem
We last wrote you immediately after Secretary of State Powell's UN speech on February 5, in an attempt to convey our concerns that insufficient attention was being given to wider intelligence-related issues at stake in the conflict with Iraq. Your speech yesterday evening did nothing to allay those concerns. And the acerbic exchanges of the past few weeks have left the United States more isolated than at any time in the history of the republic and the American people more polarized.
Today we write with an increased sense of urgency and responsibility. Responsibility, because you appear to be genuinely puzzled at the widespread opposition to your policy on Iraq and because we have become convinced that those of your advisers who do understand what is happening are reluctant to be up front with you about it.
We cannot escape the conclusion that you have been badly misinformed. It was reported yesterday that your generals in the Persian Gulf area have become increasingly concerned over sandstorms. To us this is a metaphor for the shifting sand-type "intelligence" upon which your policy has been built. Worse still, it has become increasingly clear that the sharp drop in US credibility abroad is largely a function of the rather transparent abuse of intelligence reporting and the dubious conclusions drawn from that reporting -- the ones that underpin your decisions on Iraq.As veterans of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the posture we find ourselves in is as familiar as it is challenging. We feel a continuing responsibility to "tell it like it is" -- or at least as we see it -- without fear or favor. Better to hear it from extended family than not at all; we hope you will take what follows in that vein.
Flashback to Vietnam
Many of us cut our intelligence teeth during the Sixties. We remember the arrogance and flawed thinking that sucked us into the quagmire of Vietnam. The French, it turned out, knew better. And they looked on with wonderment at Washington's misplaced confidence -- its single-minded hubris, as it embarked on a venture the French knew from their own experience could only meet a dead end.
This was hardly a secret. It was widely known that the French general sent off to survey the possibility of regaining Vietnam for France after World War II reported that the operation would take a half-million troops, and even then it could not be successful.
Nevertheless, President Johnson, heeding the ill-informed advice of civilian leaders of the Pentagon with no experience in war, let himself get drawn in past the point of no return. In the process, he played fast and loose with intelligence to get the Tonkin Gulf resolution through Congress so that he could prosecute the war. To that misguided war he mortgaged his political future, which was in shambles when he found himself unable to extricate himself from the morass.
Quite apart from what happened to President Johnson, the Vietnam War was the most serious US foreign policy blunder in modern times -- until now.
In your state-of-the-union address you spoke of Iraq's pre-1991 focus on how to "enrich uranium for a bomb" and added, "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." No doubt you have now been told that this information was based on bogus correspondence between Iraq and Niger.