Published on
the Chicago Sun-Times

US Intelligence Usually Wrong

Would you buy a used car from the so-called intelligence community? Or a used spy? What reason is there to trust a National Intelligence Estimate created by the same crowd that said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Are we now to trust those who filled poor Colin Powell's U.N. presentation with what was, if one may not use scatology, rubbish? Mr. Secretary, I knew Adlai Stevenston and you are no Adlai Stevenson.

The same combine of 15 intelligence agencies (patently, we need that many!) that provided a rationale (a slam dunk) for the Iraq war now tells us there's no reason for a war with Iran. Historically, U.S. intelligence has almost always been wrong (since the time it got it right about Pearl Harbor). Why should anyone have much faith today? Call the zoo and find out if the other leopards have changed their spots!

Consider a random list of their failures -- we did not know the Soviets had stolen secrets of the atom bombs, we were unprepared for the invasion of South Korea, we were astonished that the missile gap of the '60 election debates never existed, we were surprised by Sputnik, we were dumbstruck when the Russian rockets showed up in Cuba, we were taken aback by the collapse of the "evil empire," we were unprepared for the Iranian revolution, we didn't anticipate the Serbian invasion of Kosovo, we weren't prepared for the civil war in Iraq. We aren't very good at spying and never have been.

Nor are we all that skilled at diplomacy. Now that we have been reassured by the National Estimate, we are being told by the usual suspects to turn to diplomacy. Wood-row Wilson was taken in by Lloyd George and Clemen-ceau at Versailles and Roosevelt by Stalin every time they sat down together. All the summits during the Cold War accomplished little. Henry Kissinger did open the door to China, but he kept the Vietnam War going for four years (doubling the casualties) to maintain "credibility." Jimmy Carter couldn't negotiate the release of the hostages in Iran. North Korea seems reluctant to fulfill its recent commitments. Anyone who believes the recent meeting at Annapolis will produce peace in Palestine will believe the Bears are going to win the Super Bowl.

Those who rejoice in the NIE point out that this is the first time in the history of intelligence activity in the United States the experts haven't shaped their estimates to fit an administration's policies -- as Tim Weiner describes the CIA's history in Legacy of Ashes. One can only hope this NIE is not only a change but also a pattern for future reports. One can also hope that in the future our moles and our striped-pants brigade would be better educated, especially about religion, a little more cynical and a little less self-righteous.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Andrew Greeley

Andrew W. Greeley is a progressive Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and popular novelist. He is of Irish decent and resides in Chicago.

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