By PAUL KRUGMAN
More than half of the U.S. Army’s combat strength is now bogged down in Iraq, which didn’t have significant weapons of mass destruction and wasn’t supporting Al Qaeda. We have lost all credibility with allies who might have provided meaningful support; Tony Blair is still with us, but has lost the trust of his public. All this puts us in a very weak position for dealing with real threats. Did I mention that North Korea has been extracting fissionable material from its fuel rods?
How did we get into this mess? The case of the bogus uranium purchases wasn’t an isolated instance. It was part of a broad pattern of politicized, corrupted intelligence.
Literally before the dust had settled, Bush administration officials began trying to use 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark says that he received calls on Sept. 11 from ”people around the White House” urging him to link that assault to Saddam Hussein. His account seems to back up a CBS.com report last September, headlined ”Plans for Iraq Attack Began on 9/11,” which quoted notes taken by aides to Donald Rumsfeld on the day of the attack: ”Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
But an honest intelligence assessment would have raised questions about why we were going after a country that hadn’t attacked us. It would also have suggested the strong possibility that an invasion of Iraq would hurt, not help, U.S. security.
So the Iraq hawks set out to corrupt the process of intelligence assessment. On one side, nobody was held accountable for the failure to predict or prevent 9/11; on the other side, top intelligence officials were expected to support the case for an Iraq war.