What you don’t know can be bad, but what you think you know can be worse.
Administration officials have tied themselves in knots trying to explain why they were so sure Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Faulty intelligence is the scapegoat these days.
Certainly the intelligence community has shortcomings, and its senior officials happily joined the groupthink syndrome by shading their assessments to fit their bosses’ preconceptions. But the truth was not hard to come by at the time. Two weeks before the Iraq war in March 2003, I wrote, “There is simply no hard intelligence of any such Iraqi weapons.” That statement remains uncontrovertible. The proof of what intelligence analysts really knew — and didn’t know — was revealed by the fact, reported in my column then, that “there is not a single confirmed biological or chemical target on their lists, Air Force officers working on the war plan say.”
A president or a military leader who operates on the basis of what he thinks must be true, instead of the specific details of what is known and not known, is headed for trouble.