Post Gazette — Results of two congressional inquiries released Thursday indicate that the U.S. joint military Central Command, responsible for conduct of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, has been cooking intelligence analysis of U.S. actions against Islamic State forces to exaggerate progress in defeating them.
What appears to have taken place is that CENTCOM intelligence analysts prepared an honest assessment that the command’s senior leaders then modified to provide a rosier picture than what was actually taking place on the ground.
This phenomenon is not new. One of the most glaring examples of such deception was the estimate for years by the CIA, Defense Department analysts and other U.S. intelligence-gathering agencies that the Soviet Union was alive and well, constituting a dangerous enemy for the United States, while the USSR was in fact approaching the end of the road as the world’s second power.
A more recent example of this particular tendency was the judgment that served as the basis for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Inaccurate U.S. intelligence contentions allowed the Bush administration to claim that Saddam Hussein’s regime was developing weapons of mass destruction and had ties to al-Qaida, linking the Iraq regime to the 9/11 attacks.
The most serious aspect of the recent CENTCOM irresponsible mischief was that the command was providing an inaccurate assessment of the enemy to U.S. combat forces on the ground in the Middle East.
Why did they do that? The usual reason is an effort on the part of the generals and other senior leaders to show a positive ledger in these conflicts to political leaders. A second, equally important motivator is a desire to provide justification for continued large budget requests. The problem with the distortion, apart from its fundamental dishonesty, is that America’s resources continue to be wasted in implementation of a flawed policy toward the Islamic State.
Worst of all, more American lives could be lost based on deliberately inaccurate intelligence estimates, a truly self-inflicted tragedy for the American people and especially for the forces involved.