April 24, 2013

In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted at the beginning of April, 35 percent of Americans expressed a favorable opinion of former U.S. President George W. Bush, while 44 percent viewed him unfavorably. Another poll by Washington Post/ABC this Tuesday, saw 47 percent in favor of the former leader, while 50 percent expressed disapproval of his administration. The poll show a jump in favorability by 11 percent for the once controversial President, who many still blame for the failure of American economy and foreign policy.

On Thursday, Bush will dedicate his Presidential Library and museum in Dallas. The dedication will showcase his legacy and serve as a reminder of his presidency, which many of his critics if asked, viewed as a failure. Since leaving office, Bush has been in seclusion and rarely appears in public. His party shunned him and at the Presidential campaign he got no speaking privilege normally reserved for a former President.

With the economic collapse of 2008 and the nation at the brink of a deep recession, mention of the name Bush, brought disgust, hatred and disapproval of his policies. Many saw a warmonger, the president who brought uncertainty and demise to American economy through a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. His critics saw the need for change and mounted an aggressive opposition that brought Barack Obama to power in 2009. History has not been in favor of the former President and academics consider the Bush administration a failed presidency but is it so?

The idea is to shed lights on Bush’s contribution to the war in Iraq and why the blame over the campaign in Iraq belongs somewhere else and not solely on the former leader. The 9/11 attack on the twin towers changed the way business is conducted in Washington and the world. Though, there were warning signs, intelligence analysts both in the United States and friendly nations failed to effectively process or follow-up on leads.

The war in Iraq, dates back to invasion of Kuwait in 1991, giving rise to the first Gulf War where the U.S. helped drive Saddam Hussein’ troops out of Kuwait. There were indications Saddam was using chemical weapons on the Kurds of Northern Iraq and that he was building his weapons of mass destruction. The beginning of the diplomatic war on Iraq intensified immediately after September 11, based on intelligence that elements of Al Qaeda were recruiting in Iraq creating a so-called link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attack though, turned out false.

When Bush came to power in 2001, the issue of Iraq was already on the agenda however, the new President had no inkling he would become a wartime leader. The road to Iraq and the story behind the invasion was all a product of both U.S. and foreign intelligence. No doubt Bush was the commander in Chief of the Army and therefore, in the place to order American troops to war. However, no American President has ever ordered troops to war without approval of Congress and when such is the case, all actions are on right intelligence study.

On October 1, 2002, the CIA released a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessing the threat represented by Iraq’s WMD activities. Few days after the report, Director of the CIA George Tenet published unclassified document on the subject of Iraq’s WMD program. Two weeks after release of the document, both the Senate and House of Representatives, passed a joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. The resolution did not lead to immediate action on Iraq but the United States, took the case before the UN Security Council with the hope of getting cooperation of Iraq, through establishment of a new inspection regime in the country.

On February 5, 2003 U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, gave a presentation based on U.S. intelligence findings about Iraq’s WMD. The Secretary of State acting on U.S. intelligence stated that Iraq and terrorism go back decades. He claimed that according to U.S. intelligence, Saddam’s government, trained Palestine Liberation Front members in explosives and that Saddam Hussein, used the Arab Liberation Front to funnel money to families of suicide bombers. He said based on U.S. intelligence, Iraq harbored a terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associate of Osama Bin Laden.

Though, remnants of Al-Qaeda operatives were later found in Iraq, intelligence presented by the U.S. turned out false and as the story would unfold, Saddam Hussein had no link to Al Qaeda and 9/11. Bush believed the intelligence was true and acted on what the intelligence community presented, when he ordered U.S. troops to war in Iraq. Any President would have done the same, after intelligence agencies, show with certainty that Iraq had a link to Al-Qaeda and 9/11. The question, which takes the blame intelligence agencies or the President who acted on it?

The Committee set up to check both the (white paper) report presented by George Tenet, and the (NIE) report concluded the white paper presented a stronger characterization of the threat represented by Iraqi WMD, than did the NIE, and that the stronger characterization was not supported by the underlying intelligence. The committee’ report stated that the intelligence community produced reasonable conclusion on the links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda however, it found gaps in the intelligence gathering methods used to arrive at that conclusion.

Much of the committee’s investigation focused on the CIA’s preparation and distribution of the documents on Iraqi’s support for terrorism. A first version of the document got presented to senior Bush officials in September 2002. An updated version was later given to Congress in January 2003 and based on the documents, CIA analysts concluded that though, Saddam Hussein likely had several contacts with Al-Qaeda in the 1990s, the contacts did not rise to the level of a formal relationship. In fact, other CIA intelligence gatherings show that Iraq and Al-Qaeda were cautious of working together.

The committee report further show there was no evidence to the conclusion that Iraq was complicit or offer help in any Al-Qaeda attack. The report criticized the CIA for its lack of human intelligence resources in Iraq to assess Iraq’s ties with terrorism before the invasion. The report points to widespread flaws in the NIE report and attributes such flaws to failure of intelligence analysts, to present accurate information. According to the committee, the NIE report on Iraq’s continuing program for WMD was untrue and not supported by underlying intelligence.

On the issue of whether Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger, the report concludes that before October 2002, it was reasonable to assert Iraq tried to get uranium from Africa though, the committee noted some intelligence flaws in the way the information gathering got handled and the lack of transparency. For example, references to Iraq’s uranium procurement efforts got removed from speeches by intelligence officials but were left in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

The committee stated there was poor communication between the CIA and other intelligence agencies prior to invasion. A part of the report addressing Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons program shows there was poor intelligence gathering in Iraq. Adequate human intelligence was lacking and the NIE report including other statements about Iraq’s biological and chemical weapon’s program, were for the most part not supported by intelligence information provided to the committee.

On the speech presented to the UN Security Council by Colin Powell, to seek support, convince UN members of Iraq’s weapon’s program and link to terror, the committee concluded that much of the information provided or cleared by the CIA for inclusion in the speech was misrepresented, misleading, overstated and incorrect.

The commission also found that U.S. intelligence gathering became fragmented pre-invasion of Iraq. It was poorly coördinated and managed before the attack of 9/11. The commission report described a “loose collection” of intelligence agencies operating independent of one another with little coöperation or communication. It faulted the Director of CIA George Tenet, for lacking a proper management strategy to combat terrorism before 9/11. Many lawmakers blamed the CIA and the FBI for missing “connections” with terrorist and their failure to share tips, gave rise to holes in the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq.

Perhaps, Bush’s failure was over-reliance on intelligence to make personal judgment as commander-in-chief. Analysts believe by going into seclusion after leaving office, he could not make the case for why America should support the decisions he made. Instead, he allowed a not so favored Dick Cheney, to make the case for his administration. His unpopularity within his own party added to his demise and the fact he played no active role in the last election like Bill Clinton did, damaged public view of him. Also, legacy of a tattered U.S. economy lingers and remains a cloud on Bush’s presidency.

No doubt Iraq unlike Afghanistan was not a war of necessity. Nonetheless, blame for the invasion belongs in the intelligence flaws and not solely in George Bush. Any attack on his campaign for the war, is a misconception about a wartime president. Had he failed to react after the 9/11 attack, he would have faced harsh criticism by the American people. George Bush was a wartime leader who acted based on poor intelligence and as such he be remembered. As for whether his presidency is a failure or not, only history can judge.

Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at Follow on Twitter @san0670.




Categories: Politics, U.S. Economy and Policies, U.S. War on Terror

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