Monday, October 18, 2004

It really is impossible to know how supporters of the President's Iraq policy can find any room to stand anymore. Early criticism of the invasion plans both inside and outside the administration and military centered around dismissals of countering evidence regarding WMD's, troop strength levels, post-war planning, international assistance and involvement and most tellingly that the administration refused to listen to the experts. Often these critics did not even address the question of going or not going, but focused on planning and policy. These critics were not merely anti-war activists, but the Army chief of staff Gen. Shinseki , National Security Council Members, members of the Army War College and our own weapons inspectors who were searching for evidence.

The lead-up to the war in Iraq was not a series of intelligence failures, but a regimented march towards war led by the highest levels of the administration. When international inspectors failed to turn up anything more ominous than administrative deceptions they were pushed out of the country. When the CIA, and the Pentagon's and State Department's intelligence groups brought forth assessments that Saddam was of little threat to the U.S. or his neighbors, any links to terrorists were tenuous at best, and that his weapons programs were virtually non-existant; the administration set up its own intelligence group with a singular directive, to find the evidence the administration wanted. Run by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, the Office of Special Plans spent the lead up time before the war re-evaluating all intelligence concerning Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the group received a great deal of support from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and provided intelligence that supported the administration's assertions, despite criticisms from the rest of the intelligence community.

Now, over a year and a half after the beginning of the war, more and more evidence is emerging to support the pre-war critics. Much of the evidence has been leaking out all along, but the effects of politically motivated planning has driven a number of officials to openly criticize the administrations planning.

The administration's own investigations are turning up evidence that contradicts their own pre-war positions yet goes along with what much of the intelligence community had been saying since before the war.

At this point the administration has taken to accusing critics of undercutting support for the troops. Yet day after day, more and more evidence mounts up that the administration itself undercut support for the troops. Much of which may have been for political reasons. It certainly would have been harder to gain public support for the war if the administration used the recommended numbers of troops (hundreds of thousands according to Gen. Shinseki), or if it had been more honest in admitting what its own planners were saying before the war, that the post-war period was going to be the most difficult and to expect a guerilla type war following the fall of the major military divisions. (Matthew Yglesias has a good rundown of several articles dealing with just these issues here.)

It is far to late to expect a major shift on the administrations part. They have committed themselves to this ill-advised path and Bush has asserted repeatedly that to change paths would be the same as giving the terrorists a victory. Even with a Kerry win in November, there will still be no easy way to deal with the situation. It will take a Kerry administration being forthright with the American people, allowing the intelligence services to once again do their work unfettered by political manipulations and giving the military whatever it needs to do the job (manpower, money, armor, whatever it takes).

There are no guarantees that anything will improve in Iraq very quickly. Yet the evidence shows that the Bush administration is incapable of achieving any kind of actual progress.

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