Mr. President: what seems clear to us is that you need an intelligence briefing, not grand jury testimony. Secretary of State Colin Powell effectively showed that Iraq is guilty beyond reasonable doubt for not cooperating fully with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. That had already been demonstrated by the chief UN inspectors. But the narrow focus on that resolution has diverted attention from the wider picture. Intelligence community analysts are finding it hard to make themselves heard above the drumbeat for war. Speaking both for ourselves as veteran intelligence officers and for colleagues within the community who are increasingly distressed at the politicization of intelligence, we feel a responsibility to help you frame the issues. For they are more far-reaching and complicated than "UN vs. Saddam Hussein."
The key question is whether Iraq's flouting of a UN resolution justifies war. Secretary Powell's presentation does not come close to answering it.
You have dismissed containment as being irrelevant in a post-9/11 world. You should know that no one was particularly fond of containment but that it has been effective for the last 55 years. And the concept of "material breach" is hardly new.
In the summer of 1983 we detected a huge early-warning radar installation at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. In 1984 President Reagan declared it an outright violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. At an ABM Treaty review in 1988, the U.S. spoke of this continuing violation as a "material breach" of the treaty. In the fall of 1989, the Soviet Union agreed to eliminate the radar at Krasnoyarsk without preconditions.
We adduce this example simply to show that, with patient, persistent diplomacy, the worst situations can change over time.
You have said that Iraq is a "grave threat to the United States," and many Americans think you believe it to be an imminent threat. Your intelligence agencies see it differently. A letter from the CIA to the Senate Intelligence Committee asserted that the probability is low that Iraq would initiate an attack with weapons of mass destruction or give them to terrorists -- unless Saddam "concluded that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred. (Then) he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions."
For now, continued the CIA letter, "Baghdad appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical/biological warfare against the United States."
With his back against the wall, however, "Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a weapons-of-mass-destruction attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."
Indeed, it is our view that an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centres for terrorists into the indefinite future. In human terms, your daughters are unlikely to be able to travel abroad in future years without a large phalanx of security personnel.
We recommend you reread the CIA assessment of last fall that pointed out that "the forces fuelling hatred of the U.S. and fuelling al Qaeda recruiting are not being addressed," and that "the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist."
With respect to possible Iraqi use of chemical weapons, it has been the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community for over 12 years that the likelihood of such use would greatly increase during an offensive aimed at getting rid of Saddam Hussein.
Listing the indictment particulars, Secretary Powell said in an oh-by-the-way tone that sources had reported that Saddam Hussein recently authorized his field commanders to use such weapons. We find this truly alarming. We do not share the Defence Department's optimism that radio broadcasts and leaflets would induce Iraqi commanders not to obey orders to use such weapons, or that Iraqi generals would remove Saddam Hussein as soon as the first U.S. soldier sets foot in Iraq.
No one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbour illusions that our analysis is irrefutable or undeniable. But after watching Secretary Powell, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion beyond violations of Resolution 1441, and beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic. From Alternet. Ray McGovern worked as a CIA analyst for 27 years. He co-authored this open letter with other members of the Steering Group for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Rally against War in Iraq
February 15, 1 pm,
Yonge and Dundas