It's Time to Reject the Ideologically Motivated Scare Tactics that Pass as Intelligence
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It is not that NIEs are beyond reproach. I myself confronted the findings of the NIE produced in October 2002 which was used to help sell an invasion of Iraq to the U.S. Congress (directly) and American people (indirectly). My opposition was factually-based, and driven by a search for truth, not promotion of an ideology. The October 2002 Iraq NIE was produced after the fact to support policy options already decided upon. Ordered produced by the Director of the CIA after U.S. Senators began asking for the basis of the Bush administration's case against Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction, the October 2002 Iraq NIE was never an intellectually-driven piece of analysis, but rather an ideologically-driven document designed to fulfill a cosmetic purpose. In this, the October 2002 Iraq NIE was a deviation from the norm.
The attack by the CDP, AEI and the Heritage Foundation represents the modern incarnation of a historical trend which dates back to the 1950's, when the original CDP was formed in an effort to push for the containment of the Soviet threat, leading to the most confrontational phase of the Cold War. The officials and "experts" who pushed for confrontation a decade later fought to expand the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union by exaggerating American intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) vulnerability in the face of a hyped-up Soviet threat. In the 1970s and 80s the CDP destroyed U.S.-Soviet détente and ongoing undermined arms control initiatives when it lobbied for the creation of a so-called "Team B," a group of like-minded conservative thinkers who openly challenged the findings of a CIA NIE on Soviet strategic capabilities. Many Team B alumni fulfilled a similar function during the Clinton administration, and in the months prior to President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, by exaggerating and misrepresenting the dangers posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
The "Team B" approach was wrong on American ICBM vulnerability in the 1960s. It was wrong on Soviet intent in the 1970s and 80s. It was wrong on Iraq in the 90s and prior to the 2003 invasion. And it is wrong on Iran today. In fact, Team B has yet to get it right on any major point of policy and analysis it has embraced. Why America continues to tolerate this dangerous soap opera in prime time is beyond comprehension. Far from simply crying wolf by challenging a given point of view, the current manifestation of Team B seeks to promote sweeping ideologically-driven policies which would fundamentally impact the nature of America's relationship with entire regions, and indeed the entire world.
We as American's should let the past eight years be our guide in deciding whether or not we want to embrace ideologically motivated scare tactics over intellectually driven debate. Given our historical and fundamental commitment to free speech and debate, I do not seek to silence Team B, or any other outlet of dissent that may exist which I disagree with. I merely want to establish the parameters of credibility and credulity and, as such, when I find that Team B is found lacking in integrity and intellectual viability when it comes to contributing to any meaningful debate on how America should proceed in dealing with the problems of the future, I have no choice but give voice to my conclusions.
Scott Ritter served as chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until his resignation in 1998. He is the author of Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein (Nation Books, 2005) and Target Iran (Nation Books, 2006)