Nothing New under the Sun

Recently, while reading about Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980’s, I was struck by the way that Israeli politicians ignored, or cherry-picked, intelligence in order to achieve a political goal. Sound familiar?

Israel’s Secret Wars, about Mossad, IDF Intelligence, Shin Bet, and the rest, is an amazing look into the kinds of stuff that intelligence services do (of course, this is just the operations that come to light).

Israeli leadership wanted to invade southern Lebanon (for several security and strategic reasons). According to the book, the US would only politically support an Israeli invasion of Lebanon if the PLO in Beirut (Arafat) broke a previously signed cease-fire.

Soon enough, Israel’s ambassador to England was murdered by a Palestinian outside a hotel in London. Israeli intelligence found that the murderer wasn’t part of Arafat’s PLO at all.

But Israeli leadership didn’t care. They wanted in to Lebanon, and in they went. The authors say, “The intelligence facts were being selectively marshalled to suit the grand political and military design.”

This is exactly the charge leveled at the Bush administration by Paul Pillar, who should know. History is great.

[One thing Israel didn’t have the cynicism to do in Lebanon, which the Bush administration does, is to to blame the intelligence community for its own failings. Yes, the intelligence was wrong about whether there were WMD, but it also said that regardless of WMDs, Iraq wasn’t a threat to the US. Guess which part of that message the hawks in DC decided to believe?

And now that it’s all gone to hell? Guess which part of that message they’ve decided to blame for their mistakes? Bush was recently asked:

“Before we went to war in Iraq we said there were three main reasons for going to war in Iraq:

weapons of mass destruction,

the claim that Iraq was sponsoring terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11,

and that Iraq had purchased nuclear materials from Niger.

All three of those turned out to be false. My question is, how do we restore confidence that Americans may have in their leaders and to be sure that the information they are getting now is correct?

After some preliminaries, Bush replied, “Your question, however, the part that’s really important is, how do we regain credibility when it comes to intelligence?”

But, Mr. President, the question was about the credibility of the leaders, not of intelligence. After all, US intelligence didn’t claim either of the last two items on the list.]

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