The disagreed with these views, and a reliance

The role of intelligence
in the years running up to the invasion was significant as those responsible
made false assumptions and made a series of unpredictable decisions upon which
the livelihood of thousands rested. In government, it is often that ‘decisions
are reached first, with reasons to support it coming later.’37 This was demonstrated in
the case of Iraq where the administration had already settled on a decision to use
military action, and as a result moulded intelligence to support it. There was
a lack of consideration given to alternative explanations that disagreed with
these views, and a reliance on estimates and untrustworthy sources.

In his address to the
UNSC, Powell affirmed that ‘every statement I make today is backed by solid
sources. Facts and conclusions that are based on solid intelligence.’38 Bush later referenced
intelligence in a speech in February 2003, in which he stated that ‘intelligence
gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues
to possess and conceal lethal weapons.’39 Post-invasion it was
acknowledged that this was a complete overstatement by the administration, and intelligence
that was promoted was inaccurate and taken out of context. Kent describes
policy makers as using the intelligence agencies “the way a drunk uses a
lamppost – for support instead of illumination.’40 Young states that a
president waits for opportunities to increase his power.41 The role of the intelligence
agencies prior to the invasion of Iraq provided Bush with these opportunities. Prior
to the invasion, it was obvious that Bush had a commitment to regime change in
Iraq. The objective was to displace Saddam Hussein and re-establish American
hegemony. Iraq was a problem for the US as it tested its position in the
international sphere. It challenged American interests and security, rejected
democracy, and acted as a threat to US hegemony. What was shown in the prelude
to September 11 was ‘a process of American pursuit of Saddam rather than an
international disarmament programme.’42  Allison emphasises that perceptions are biased
by ‘personality predispositions and prior experience and future expectations.’43 Bush as a president was
encouraged by a neo conservative agenda which encourages military intervention
and promotes conflict as a means of establishing primacy.

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The administration and
the intelligence community are intended to be kept separate, however Cheney often
interfered in the actions of the agencies, which demonstrates the meddling of
those in power. There is an interconnectedness that can lead to failures by
intelligence agencies. Stages of the intelligence cycle are incomplete if
agencies rely only on certain types of information. One of the key roles of
intelligence is to present clear and accurate information even if it doesn’t
fit with the agenda of the policy maker. However due to the politicisation of
intelligence, policy makers often ignore intelligence that does not support
their argument. The White House Iraq Group was set up to inform the American public
about the Iraq war. Its intention was ‘the escalation of rhetoric’ about the
danger Iraq posed to the US.44 Claims about the danger
of Iraq were overstated significantly, in order to sell the American public on
the threat. It became a means of propaganda in order to push an agenda. The
group demonstrates the politicisation of intelligence as it exaggerated cherry
picked intelligence data as a way of justifying a response.

Shelton focuses on the
idea of ‘scotoma’, the Greek word for blindness.45 It indicates that individuals
can be blind to alternatives due to ‘preconceived beliefs and past
Politicised views mean the intelligence community often fosters a mind-set of
political biases.47 The concept of group
think has been blamed for contributing towards the ultimate decision to go to
war in Iraq. It demonstrates how ambiguous information is taken as conclusive
due to the certitude that ‘comes from mutual agreement and approval.’48 Relying on unproved assumptions
meant that intelligence allowed itself to be misused by the government to strengthen
an agenda. The absence of the discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
is seen as evidence of group think. Badie states that ‘cognitive and
psychological explanations attribute the decision to individual and group level
The decision to invade Iraq was motivated by group think in an environment of
politicisation, and tainted the decision making process by eradicating
sufficient evaluation of the situation in Iraq, resulting in inaccurate
assessments of the threat. Cognitive psychology demonstrates ‘that people tend
to look for information that confirms what they already believe and discount
information that is inconsistent with those predispositions.’50 Negative intelligence
that didn’t fit the case for going to war was dismissed and ignored by both
intelligence and policy makers. The intelligence community therefore failed
it’s in effectiveness as it was warned about unreliable sources, but shunned
reports that dissented with their argument.


Bush claimed that ‘he
would have launched the war even if he had known that Iraq did not have WMD.’51 This demonstrates that Bush
had an agenda to wage war in Iraq irrespective of the discovery of weapons of
mass destruction. Defenders of the intelligence agencies involvement argue that
‘the complexity of modern government creates confusion with collection,
communication and coordination.’52 The significance of the
failures of intelligence both before 9/11 and Iraq cloud over success.  Betts states that ‘the American intelligence system
often succeeds very well but the successes get far less attention.’53 It is known that Saddam Hussein
purposely concealed his intentions in order to mislead international
intelligence agencies, therefore it would have been difficult to retain
completely accurate information. Whilst the intelligence agencies are not
absolved of blame, there are limits to its power of prediction. With such a
high volume of information it is not uncommon for intelligence to get lost in communication.
Betts stated that to ‘people paying attention to the issue the conclusion
seemed obvious due to the accumulated observations and experiences of the
previous decade.’54 The repercussions of 9/11
were devastating and shattered the reputation of intelligence agencies in the
western world. The intelligence agencies found that they had misjudged Iraq’s
WMD capabilities before, and the failure to predict in the first Persian Gulf
War also meant that intelligence agencies wanted to be safer rather than sorry.
The impact of the Persian Gulf War coupled with the events of September 11
meant that intelligence was infused with paranoia. In the case of Iraq in 2002,
many analysts were doubtful about the certainty of sources and warned about
repercussions of the absence of discovery of WMD and the political and economic
costs of military intervention. Pillar stated that ‘intelligence failure played
a relatively small role in the decision making process, going to war was a
political decision.’55

However Betts argues ‘that
no sensible intelligence estimator would have concluded that Iraq held a WMD
program at that time.’56 It shows a motivation to
go to war as the administration had already identified Iraq as a rogue state that
needed to be challenged, and therefore wanted to pursue regime change and
remove Saddam Hussein from power. The administration viewed America as leading
hegemony and was focused on pursuing an agenda which led to an atmosphere of hyper
politicisation. In the midst of uncertainty, intelligence agencies could have
claimed they were unsure about the existence of weapons of mass destruction,
rather than relying on assumptions, paranoia and fear.

and Neo Conservatism

Different theories have
addressed the issue of the role of intelligence in the Iraq war. Realism puts
the struggle for power at the centre of its analysis and emphasises how this
struggle is the foundation of international relations. It holds that nations
are primarily motivated by increasing their own power. The intelligence
community itself holds its own inescapable biases. Naturally humans are
competitive and are motivated by their own interests. This is demonstrated in
the case of Iraq as analysts were motivated by their own interests and the drive
for America as the primary actor in the international sphere. It maintains the
idea of self-preservation and many thought that the threat to American hegemony
in the Middle East meant that America needed to pursue military action. Neo
classical realism looks at state institutions in foreign policy. It asserts
that ‘the personalities and perceptions play an important role in shaping
foreign policy.’57
This can be understood in the case of Iraq where personal biases within the
agencies influenced the outcome. It also demonstrates the preferences of the
political elite who justified decisions based on intelligence they were given.
This intelligence already embraced preventative war and fitted pre-existing
prejudices.  Realists criticise the
invasion of Iraq as ‘the product of a post-cold war liberal expansionism that
led the US militarily to intervene’58 and advance regime change
and democracy promotion. The primary objective of the war was the drive for
American primacy in the Middle East in order to pursue national interests.
Fabricated intelligence was used to support this as a means of convincing the
American public.

The invasion has been criticised
for pursuing a neo conservative agenda. The Project of The New American Century
was neo conservative think tank that concentrated on promoting American global
leadership. It encouraged regime change and advocated for the removal of Saddam
Hussein in Iraq through military action, as they perceived him as a threat to US
primacy. It participated in a propaganda campaign by encouraging fabricated
intelligence concerning WMD and Saddam’s support for terrorists. Neo conservatives
saw America as the leader of the free world and the promoters of liberty, which
could only be achieved through military dominance. As a result neo conservatism
helped to convince the administration that military action in the form of an
invasion of Iraq was the appropriate response. The aim was to suppress the
threat of Saddam, and the administration used the intelligence they were
provided with to shape an argument in favour of intervention in Iraq. The
intelligence agencies failed in their role to provide reliable information and
to act in the best interests of the country. The administration used tactics of
manipulation against the intelligence agencies in order to undertake an
operation of preserving American hegemony.


Intelligence was used as
a political weapon and the campaign for a war in Iraq was dominated by fear
rather than facts.59 The intelligence agencies
‘fell prey to fitting evidence to prove Iraq maintained substantial stockpiles
of chemical weapons.’60 The intelligence
community made fundamental errors in the prelude to the invasion of Iraq. As
one of the most sophisticated intelligence communities in the world, it is
expected to serve as a reliable unit that acts in the best interests of the
nation. However it failed to produce data that was trustworthy or precise, and
instead relied on weak and dubious sources. As a result it failed in many
stages of the intelligence cycle, with incorrect analysis which created a
domino effect, resulting in unreliable dissemination. Intelligence played a
role in the decision to go to war in Iraq as it was lethargic in its approach
and presented a one sided argument to the administration. However,
politicisation dominated the drive towards the invasion of Iraq. Political bias
that existed within the agencies meant that intelligence analysts worked to
satisfy hegemonic interests which resulted in manipulative tactics to push a
pre conceived pro war agenda. Intelligence fails in its role ‘if does not
adequately collect and interpret intelligence information and make sound policy
based on this intelligence.’61 To justify the invasion
of Iraq the American public needed persuading and ‘intelligence was the key
resource at the government’s disposal.’62