Stop Calling It ‘Intelligence'
by Jack Kenny
by Jack Kenny
I've had it with intelligence. I know I'm just a simple layman with only a layman's vague understanding of the kind of "intelligence" important people in government talk about, but I don't care, I'm against it. "I say it's spinach and to hell with it!"
Go ahead, call me a Philistine, I don't give a damn. Lecture all you want about the high price of ignorance. I may know not but at least I know that I know not. It's the people who think they know so much who cause most of the trouble in the world. Ronald Reagan said it best: "The problem with the liberals is not that they're ignorant; on the contrary, they know so much that isn't so."
Yeah, and not just the liberals, either. The Bush administration appears to have "known" a great many things about Iraq that were not so, most notably those "weapons of mass destruction." In fact, Rummy the Great, our recently deposed Secretary of War-making told a TV interviewer not long before the invasion that we not only knew ol' Saddam had those weapons, but "We know where they are."
Sometimes we overlook the obvious. At the time, the United States, Great Britain and others launched "Operation Iraqi Freedom," United Nations weapons inspectors had been in Iraq for nearly six months. If Rumsfeld knew where the weapons were, why didn't he notify the inspectors, instead of ordering them out of the country so we could start our bombing? Now that Rumsfeld is out of the Pentagon, maybe Bush should authorize another "extraordinary rendition" so Rumsfeld can tell highly persuasive interrogators in Syria or some other friendly locale where those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are — or were.
The other day I had my radio tuned to a National Public Radio broadcast of the confirmation hearing on the nomination of former chief spook Robert Gates for Defense Secretary. I was getting ready to go out and was only half listening when one of the senators asked Dr. Gates about something he had written some time after the 9/11 attacks. In it, Gates said that "We know" that one of the 9/11 hijackers had met in Prague with the leader of Iraqi intelligence. The senator wanted to know on what that conclusion was based, since "the intelligence community had not yet reached that conclusion."
"Just a couple of newspaper reports," Gates said, as though there were nothing unusual about basing such potentially significant intelligence on "a couple of newspaper reports." I could hardly believe what I was hearing. And apparently the senator dismissed its import, because he went on to ask about something else and did not question Gates about it any further. To the best of my knowledge, neither did any of the other Senators. By the time I tuned in on my car radio Senator Sessions of Alabama was talking about the need for more prisons in Iraq. (It's all part of nation-building, I guess.)
Amazing, isn't it? Here was the former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency telling the world that a key bit of "intelligence" (which turned out to be bogus) leading up to the Iraq War was something he had gleaned from "a couple of newspaper reports." And none of the senators, apparently, thought that was at all remarkable.
Imagine how many people repeated what Gates said "We know," thinking it had the backing of "intelligence" behind it. What does intelligence normally consist of, anyway? Is it not often third-hand reports from second-hand sources? Is it not often based on the testimony of some shadowy underworld figure whose word you would not trust on a stack of Bibles? In fact, you would likely want to count the Bibles again after he had touched the stack.
Or, as appears increasingly to be the case, intelligence may come from someone who has been tortured until he "confirmed" for the interrogators what they already believed and wanted to hear. Such is the stuff we call "intelligence."
I think again of my friend, whom I have quoted before, who said in the summer of '02, when I asked him why he believed we should go to war with Iraq, "I believe my government!" Apparently, he believed Saddam Hussein's government as well, for much of the "intelligence" about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is said to have come from generals in Saddam's army. Quite a ruse, wasn't it?
The succession of presidents from Washington to Grant, said a shrewd observer in the 19th Century, pretty well discredits the theory of evolution. The succession from Grant to "Dubya" Bush casts it even further in doubt. So, too, has the succession of U.S. Congresses from the First Continental to the current collection of likely extras from the old "Lost in Space" TV series. It is unlikely either this Congress or the next will do anything useful over the next two years, but I hereby make a modest proposal. Let the Congress enact legislation that says simply the following:
"No part of the United States government shall be called ‘Intelligence.'"
Call it the Truth in Government Act of 2007.
December 7, 2006
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.
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