Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review August 27, 2003 / 29 Tamuz, 5763

Michael Ledeen

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time | One of the central themes of ""The War Against the Terror Masters," is that we weren't ready for September 11 because the intelligence community did not want to see it coming. Over many years, people in the field and analysts in Washington and Langley had seen careers ruined because somebody tried to warn the policymakers that trouble was coming. The policymakers didn't want to hear that sort of thing because they were not prepared to do the unpleasant things that knowledge of the real situation required. The ultimate example was the Clinton White House, where the top people simply refused to even receive information about Osama bin Laden's activities in Sudan. Clinton was hardly unique; the NSC under Bush the Father simply refused to believe that Saddam would invade Kuwait, and even ignored seemingly incontrovertible information provided the night of the invasion, when General Scowcroft went home early.

When people lower down the food chain, perhaps driven by love of country, insisted on making their superiors face the facts, they often became living examples of "no good deed goes unpunished in Washington." Bob Baer, for example, who both proved the Iranian and PLO involvement in the Beirut-embassy bombing of 1983, and got inside the terror network a decade later, was threatened with criminal prosecution. And today, Michael Maloof, whose nearly 30 years of service in the Department of Defense uncovering all manner of anti-American skullduggery by various enemies should be rewarded with medals and high praise, is instead subjected to an internal inquisition and nasty leaks to the popular press.

Moreover, whenever either the CIA or FBI aggressively went after suspected terrorists, Congress was ready to investigate, to rewrite guidelines, and to punish anyone who actually succeeded. By September 10, the FBI could not even clip newspaper articles about openly anti-American groups, Muslim or otherwise. It was illegal.

The intelligence community accordingly learned that it must not take risks, and must not bring forward alarming information. So, over the years, the case officers and the top bureaucrats adapted to the political requirements, and they developed elaborate stratagems to ensure that they did not know the things that the policymakers did not want to know. On those occasions when, despite their best efforts, the information became so manifestly clear that it could not be ignored, the intelligence community denied its significance, or whispered darkly about the unreliability of the sources. Thus, for example, when some of the Ayatollah Khomeni's sermons were translated and published in the popular press, CIA sent experts to tell Senator Scoop Jackson's committee that the material was probably forged. And, at the same time, the CIA neatly refused to call the PLO a "terrorist" organization.

This convenient self-deception soon spread to the State Department, where in recent times it has taken on the characteristics of a full-blown obsessive/compulsive neurosis. No matter how many times State's policies fail, no matter how often the "peace process" produces more bloodshed than the preceding period, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William J. Burns fly off to beg our Palestinian, Iranian, Saudi and Syrian enemies to behave better, and warn our allies in Israel to show restraint at all costs. No matter how many times Iran makes monkeys out of our policymakers, Powell and Armitage insist that Iran is a democracy, redefine the bloody internal conflict as a "family squabble," and beg the mullahs for some of the al Qaeda leaders now acknowledged to be in Iran. That is not in the cards. Iran supports al Qaeda and is not about to betray them merely to give our secretary of state a nice day.

Donate to JWR

Although clinically interesting, the patient most likely to die from this syndrome is the national security of the United States, with collateral damage throughout the Western world. Our policymakers are now willfully blind, if not always to the facts themselves, at least to their plain meaning. The BBC announced over the weekend that Iraqi police had arrested Iranian terrorists planning operations in Baghdad, and turned them over to the Americans. The general phenomenon is well known, as Jerry Bremer invariably notes in his many interviews and public statements. Yet even Bremer, a man of great talent and courage, has bought into one of the major State Department myths, namely that Sunnis and Shiites don't actively cooperate. When Brit Hume asked whether the large number of terrorists pouring across the Iran/Iraq border showed that the mullahs were supporting anti-American terrorism in Iraq, Bremer said one could not say that with confidence, since most of the terrorists were Sunni, and the Iranian regime is famously Shiite.

I suppose that, if asked about Syrian support for the terrorists pouring into Iraq from Syria, our experts would remind us that the Damascus regime is secular (Baathist, like Saddam), and does not endorse jihad.…

And so we dither and debate, and go to the Security Council in order to lure more young soldiers to face the terror masters in Iraq, even as Imad Mughniyah, the lethal chieftain of Hezbollah, has now begun his operations against us in both Iraq and Jordan, and as the Iranian mullahs send out orders to begin taking American and British hostages. As Bashar Assad told us some months back, they are going to turn Iraq into a second Lebanon. This is total terrorist war, and we are trying to limit our losses, playing defense instead of taking the war into our enemies' havens.

Our inability to see the world plain carries over into more specialized areas of intelligence, even those of enormous importance. On some occasions, CIA and State have refused to even talk to sources whose previous information saved American lives, and promising leads on the location of WMDs in Iraq were dropped as well.

It is hard to believe that the president approves of this state of affairs, especially as he sees the poll results that document the American people's mounting dissatisfaction with developments in Iraq. They are right to be upset, and they are likely to get angrier still if, as I expect, the terror war against us gets uglier. I am an admirer of George W. Bush. He seems to have extraordinarily good instincts and the kind of faith-based courage that makes for good leadership under terrible circumstances. But I do not think he has come to grips with the systematic myopia of our policymakers, and the culture of self-deception that afflicts our intelligence community.

You don't need master spies to see what's going on in the Middle East, or brilliant diplomats to tell you that we are playing for enormous stakes. Most normal Americans, unencumbered by visions of diplomatic breakthroughs and negotiated settlements, sense that we are losing the initiative, and that this is costing us money, blood and prestige. We are indeed at war, but we have inexplicably stopped waging it.

Faster, please.

Like this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen