- China City of America mulled for New York — with $65M tax dollars
- Yemen defense ministry rocked by suicide bomber, gunfire
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- Mystery deepens over radioactive cobalt-60 stolen in Mexico
- No mas: Principal bans Spanish language in intercom announcement
- Hacking software could put ‘zombie drone army’ in user’s hands
- Support for stricter gun laws drops: poll
- 10 whales dead, 41 others stranded in Everglades
- John Boehner faces bipartisan pressure to allow gay-rights vote
- Martin Bashir resigns from MSNBC over ‘ill-judged’ comments about Sarah Palin
Walking back the cat
First in a three-part series.
Time to walk back the cat — except this is a tiger of a subject with a very long tail. “Walk back the cat” is spy slang for retracing the train of evidence and assumptions until the double agent, the false source or the analytic error is identified. The cat unraveled the ball of string. Rewind the twisted yarn to find the flaw.
The objective is correcting mistakes so they don’t happen again. After a fault-ridden story runs, newspapers review their fact-checking process. It’s painful, but credibility matters. Intelligence failures, however, exact a more heinous price. Pearl Harbor and September 11. 2001, illustrate the costs of intelligence debacles.
This column starts a three-part series on Western intel assessments regarding America’s long war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And I mean long. Thirteen years is the proper metric for the Saddam War, which began on Aug. 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Iraq’s attack on Kuwait surprised the United States. It was an intel flop based on the assumption Saddam was bluffing. Iraq had pulled the trick before, putting troops on Kuwait’s border. Short hours before the Iraqis moved, the “he’s bluffing” assumption held sway. Then Iraqi military radio traffic spiked and Saddam’s tanks rolled.
Walk back — Kuwait showed Saddam didn’t always bluff, even if he risked war with America.
Israel’s June 1981 air attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor isn’t the first “cat track” regarding Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction programs. Iran suspected Saddam might seek nukes.
After concluding Saddam was building the bomb, Israel destroyed Osirak. It received global condemnation for its pre-emptive attack. However, the Middle East, from Riyadh to the ayatollahs’ Tehran, was relieved. In 1981, Iraq’s neighbors knew if Saddam had a nuke, he would use it.
Track to 1984. ABC News documented Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War. Iran claimed 80,000 chemical casualties from mustard gas, and possibly nerve gas. Saddam didn’t bluff when it came to using chemicals against enemies.
His enemies included many Iraqis. Halabja is a damning track. In 1988, troops under Gen. Ali Hassan Al-Majid used gas to kill 5,000 Kurds in Halabja. The message: Weapons of mass destruction helped Saddam retain internal power. Revolt by Shi’ites or Kurds could be stopped with gas dropped on defenseless villages.
Iranian casualties and Halabja established not only Saddam’s chemical capability, but culpability.
Kuwait and the 1991 Iraqi rain of missiles on Israel and Saudi Arabia led to U.N. Resolution 687. It established the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspection regime. Resolution 687 required the “destruction, removal or rendering harmless under international supervision” of chemical and biological weapons and “all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities.”
Iraq couldn’t “acquire or develop nuclear weapons or … material” or components for “research, development, support or manufacturing facilities.” Missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers were forbidden. Resolution 687 was the United Nations at its best, a diplomatic strike on a despot with a demonstrated appetite for mass destruction.
Enforcing 687, however, meant prosecuting a “slow” war. The brunt of that taxing job fell on the Clinton administration. Next week’s column backtracks events and assumptions from 1994 through September 2001.
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Apple wins facial recognition patent for iPhone 6
- 'Harry Potter' and 'Hunger Games' fans debate over political messages in films
- Democratic infighting erupts with squabble over entitlements
- Young and healthy millennials create risky imbalance by shunning Obamacare
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- Allen West warns Obamas backdoor gun control is moving forward
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- Susan Rice slams Russia, China on human rights
- U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion tops $17 trillion for first time
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.
Playing Through covers the world of PGA golf, as well as tips your the average golfer to play better.