Sunday, November 20, 2005

Prewar Intelligence

factcheck quotes the DIA in 2002:

"Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control."

This is given as a reason for doubt about Saddam's reported cooperation with al-Qaeda, especially as reported by al-Libi, in reports that were later withdrawn. In other words, it's part of an argument that Bush should have known that Saddam's threat was at least partly bogus -- which it was.

Both sentences are reasonable, but can be reasonably questioned. As to "intensely secular", consider Saddam's mosque-building spree, especially the Mother of All Battles Mosque, the "Mosque that thinks it's a missile site", in May 2002; take a look

...inside the mosque, where 605 pages of the Koran are laid out in glass cases.
The custodian said the entire text was written in Saddam's blood, which had been mixed with ink and preservatives, producing a red and brown colour with a tinge of blue. "He dedicated 24 litres of blood over three years," Mr Alani said. The calligraphy was the work of an Iraqi artist, Abas al-Baghadi.
In the middle of the mosque is a pool shaped like the Arab world - "Water has no political boundaries," Mr Alani said - and in the middle of the pool is a 24ft- wide mosaic blob: Saddam's thumbprint. Inside the thumbprint is a magnified version of Saddam's signature.
The mosque is one of three being built by Saddam in Baghdad. The Arahman mosque is due to be finished in two years and the Saddam mosque in 2015. The skeleton of the Saddam mosque is already up and it will be the third biggest in the world after Mecca and Medina.
According to Mr Alani, the Saddam mosque will be a replica of the Mother of All Battles mosque but five times bigger.
"intensely secular"? Well, there's something to be said for that point of view, but it's not clear that the DIA had checked all the facts. (Did Saddam actually donate any blood of his own, or was he just pretending? I don't know, but I suppose it doesn't affect "intensely secular" vs. not.)

And as for Baghdad being "unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control"... Did Baghdad control Bin Laden in 1999? Consider the CNN report "Bin Laden reportedly leaves Afghanistan, whereabouts unknown" from February 13, 1999:

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers.

Given these and other reports, I didn't trust Saddam's secular separation from Islamists (even apart from money for suicide bombers) before the war, and I don't see that more recent data gives me reason to think I was wrong. Sure, al-Libi was lying, but the DIA reasoning looks weak to me, even if in this case it came out with a correct conclusion.

I still don't yet see why I should have believed that he would not assist al-Queda, if he saw a chance to use al-Queda to damage his enemies, including me.


Post a Comment

<< Home