Richard Clarke scored well with the 911 families when he apologized for the government’s intelligence failure. But why stop there?
As this column is written, 590 US service men and women have died in the invasion and occupation if Iraq. Their families are due an apology. Another 3,000 or so have been wounded, some permanently. These survivors and their families are also due an apology.
And what about the thousands of dead, maimed, and orphaned Iraqis? Aren’t they and their families owed an apology?
The salient fact that emerges from Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies, is that the neoconservatives who control the Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon gave the neoconservatives the opportunity they wanted. All they had to do was to spin the terrorism issue and point the finger at Saddam Hussein.
Prior to the US invasion on March 19, 2003, Iraq was not a major problem for the US. One year later, it is. The occupation strains our military and budget. The US seeks to install a puppet regime, but the majority Shi’ites are having none of it. Will civil war and the breakup of the country come next?
A failure of US domestic security has turned into a military and foreign affairs blunder. The recent nine-country poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that the US is isolated internationally, with large majorities in most countries believing that the US and the UK lied about the reasons for invading Iraq.
Stung by criticisms that the invasion of Iraq has undermined the war on terrorism, the Bush administration has pressured its Pakistani puppet to risk the stability of his own rule by sending his army into tribal areas in search of bin Laden.
The Pew poll found that 65% of Pakistanis have a positive view of Osama bin Laden, but only 7% have a positive view of President Bush. A symbolic capture of bin Laden that resulted in the overthrow of the US puppet, Musharraf, would be a bad bargain.
The US invasion of Iraq has made secular Middle Eastern governments less secure. Large majorities of Muslims are opposed to the US invasion, opening a wider gulf between them and their governments, which have cooperated with the US. Impotence breeds anger, and Muslims’ feelings of impotence from being turned into de facto American puppets by their complicit governments could be explosive.
The invasion of Iraq is a far greater intelligence failure than 911. The mistake is too great to be acknowledged. Denial will rule while unintended consequences play out to America’s disadvantage.
The question for the 911 Commission is not whether the Clinton administration missed chances to assassinate bin Laden or whether the Bush administration’s loose immigration controls and interagency communication failures ensured the terrorists’ success. The only question is: why does the US persist with a foreign policy that breeds terrorism?
The challenge for the US is to break free from the folly and arrogance that power begets.
Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.