Tenet Says 2 Iraq Policies Weren't Debated




 
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Tenet Says 2 Iraq Policies Weren't Debated
 
May 7th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Tenet Says 2 Iraq Policies Weren't Debated


Tenet Says 2 Iraq Policies Weren't Debated
Wall Street Journal
May 7, 2007
Pg. 3

By Gerald F. Seib
WASHINGTON -- The former director of central intelligence says his analysts never forecast the likely results of two major U.S. policy moves during the occupation of Iraq because those steps weren't considered or debated in advance.
George Tenet, who led the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader intelligence community before, during and after the Iraq invasion in early 2003, said intelligence analysts weren't asked to predict the consequences of the decisions to purge members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from positions of authority in Iraq, and to demobilize the Iraqi army. Those decisions, he said in an interview, weren't contemplated before the invasion and weren't the subject of extensive discussion among top policy makers.
"None of us knew that this was the implementation that was going to occur," Mr. Tenet said. "De-Baathification occurs. The disbanding of the army occurs. There wasn't a serious policy discussion of how to do that."
He added: "It's very hard to make a prediction if you don't know the game plan."
Those two moves have sparked intense debate as critics charge they added to the instability and weak institutions that have plagued the country in the invasion's aftermath.
Mr. Tenet has just published a book, "At the Center of the Storm," describing his time at the helm of the CIA and the rest of intelligence community. In the book, he chronicles intelligence analyses written in early 2003 that predicted with accuracy much of the turmoil that has plagued Iraq since American forces expelled Mr. Hussein from power in March 2003.
One intelligence paper prepared about two months before the invasion, for example, said "a post-Saddam authority would face a deeply divided society with a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so." In another paper prepared closer to the time of the invasion, analysts predicted that "Iraqi patience with an extended U.S. presence after an overwhelming victory would be short."
In the book, Mr. Tenet says CIA analyses on those points were "prescient."
But he said that senior CIA officers weren't told of the purge of Iraq's governing structure of members of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party until after the decision was made, and that the CIA's top officer in Iraq argued against it once it became known. Critics have cited the de-Baathification order as a significant mistake, because it robbed the fledgling post-Saddam government of thousands of experienced civil servants whose skills were needed but who were sidelined because of their political affiliation.
The assumption as the war began, Mr. Tenet said in the interview, was that "the only people who will have to go are Saddam and his top level." Instead, the order to purge the government of Baathists was issued in May, about two months after the invasion.
At the same time, Mr. Tenet said, pre-war analyses of Iraq suggested that any demobilization of the existing Iraqi army would have to wait for a time after the invasion because the army would be needed to provide goods and services and minimize chaos. But an order demobilizing the Army also was issued in May, without, Mr. Tenet said, a top-level policy debate or intelligence analysis. Critics have pointed to the decision as a mistake, because it left thousands of former soldiers unemployed and disgruntled and may have pushed them to join the insurgency.
In a separate interview, L. Paul Bremer, a career diplomat chosen to run the Coalition Provisional Authority that oversaw Iraq after the invasion, said Pentagon officials handed him the order purging Baath Party members in early May, just as he was about to leave for Iraq, and told him it was about to be issued. Mr. Bremer said he asked for a brief delay so he could consider the order and discuss it with American officials once he reached ground in Iraq.
Mr. Bremer said that once he reached Iraq, he showed the order in advance to political experts in the American diplomatic mission in Baghdad before issuing it. There was, he says, a prediction by one official there that the order would produce "some unhappy people," but no strong objections to it. The CIA, he said, was asked at that time to estimate how many Iraqis would be affected by such an order.
The decision to demobilize the Iraqi army didn't arouse objections from U.S. military officials at the time, Mr. Bremer said, because the army was disintegrating on its own.
"The key point about the army is that the issue was not at any point whether we should disband the army, because the army didn't exist," he said. There wasn't any disagreement with American officers on the ground, who then were trying to control the situation, about "the fact that we were disbanding the army, because there was no army." The debate, he said, was on whether or when to recall the army later.
 


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