WASHINGTON (AP), - Rep. Jason Crow keeps a number of war mementos in his U.S. Capitol Office. His military identification tags, the tailfins from a spent mortar, and a piece shrapnel that he had stopped by his body armor are all found on a shelf.
Crow, a 24-year old platoon leader during the American invasion in Iraq 20 years ago, was still a young man. To protect themselves from chemical weapons that the U.S. believed were being used against them, platoon members wore gas masks and other gear over their uniforms.
Crow is currently a member of committees that supervise the U.S. intelligence agencies and military. Crow still remembers the mistakes made in Iraq.
The Colorado Democrat stated that the experience was a life-changing one and a framework through which he views a lot my work.
American spy agencies, as well as a generation of intelligence officers/legislators, were deeply affected by the failures of Iraq War. They prompted a major reorganization in the U.S intelligence community. The CIA lost its oversight role over the other spy agencies and reforms were implemented to allow analysts to better assess sources and challenge conclusions to avoid bias.
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However, the U.S. intelligence community suffered lasting damage from the incorrect statements about Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. These assertions were repeatedly made to support the war in America.
According to Brown University estimates, 300,000 civilians were killed in the conflict in Iraq over two decades. According to Brown University estimates, the U.S. spent $2 trillion on the Iraq War as well as the subsequent campaign in Syria and Iraq against the extremist Islamic State group. The U.S. lost 4,500 soldiers and spent approximately $2 trillion on both the Iraq War and the ensuing campaign.
These assertions made "weapons, of mass destruction" a catchphrase still used by allies and rivals alike. This was even before the Russian invasion in Ukraine, which U.S. intelligence accurately predicted.
Avril Haines, the U.S. director for national intelligence, stated in a statement, that the intelligence community has adopted new standards of analysis and oversight.
Haines stated that "We learned crucial lessons from the aftermath of our flawed assessment regarding an active WMD program for Iraq in 2002." "As with all aspects of our work, our goal is to learn the lessons that will allow us to preserve our thinking and make it more effective for our national security.
According to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 18% of Americans say they have a lot of faith in intelligence agencies. 39 percent have'some' confidence, while 31% don't have any.
Soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion Afghanistan. The Taliban, the Taliban's ruling party, had sheltered Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaida's leader, and allowed the group run training camps.
Bush's administration began to warn about Iraq soon after 9/11, which was long considered to be a threat to American interests in the Middle East.
Iraq had chemical and biological weapons programs and was known to have tried to acquire a nuclear weapon during the 1980s. Before they were expelled in 1998, it was accused of hiding details about these programs from international inspectors.
Bush administration claimed Saddam Hussein's government was still hiding program from inspectors even though they had reentered Iraq in 2002 and found no evidence of resumed production.
In October 2002, U.S. intelligence published an estimate that Iraq had thought about buying uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes for centrifuges, and was also building mobile weapons laboratories. It also suggested that the country was looking at using drones to spread deadly chemicals and had chemical weapons stocks of up to 500 tonnes.
Some U.S. officials suggested that Iraqi officials may have ties with al-Qaida leaders, despite evidence of deep antipathy.
These claims would be largely debunked within a few months. There were no stockpiles. These claims were attributed to outdated information, incorrect assumptions, mixed uninformed sources, and outright fabricators.
Bush repeated incorrect U.S intelligence findings prior to the war as Secretary of State Colin Powell did in a landmark speech before the United Nations in February 2002.
"He said that he'd go back to his grave with the manacles from Iraq," said retired Col. Larry Wilkerson. He was Powell's chief-of-staff at the time and became a prominent critic of the Bush administration. In 2021, Powell died.
It is still a matter of dispute whether Bush would have authorized the invasion without WMD intelligence.
According to a White House spokesperson, Bush made his decision to invade Iraq in 2006 based on intelligence provided by the intelligence community.
Former intelligence officers claim that the Bush administration manipulated the available information in order to justify war, especially when it comes to allegations of ties between Iraqi and al-Qaida.
After the Sept. 11 attacks Congress was already discussing how to make the U.S. intelligence system more efficient. This intelligence failure was partly due to a lack in information sharing between FBI and CIA.
In 2004, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created by lawmakers to supervise the agencies. This took the CIA's leadership role away. The ODNI assumed control of the daily intelligence briefing that was given to the president, as well as the National Intelligence Council made up of top spy analysts.
ODNI supporters claim it can arbitrate between the agencies. However, they often have very different cultures and skillsets. Some criticize ODNI for being an inefficient bureaucratic layer.
The CIA redesigned its training program for analysts to stress the use of'red team' and alternative methods of questioning conclusions. This also required more information sharing to allow analysts to better assess the reports' sources.
Michael Allen, a former member of the Bush White House, wrote the book "Blinking Red" about the 2004 intelligence overhaul. He said that U.S. officials are more open to differing opinions within intelligence.
Allen cited as an example, the Energy Department's recent assessment of the possibility that the COVID-19 viruses leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Although the FBI supports the hypothesis of a lab leak, other agencies believe the virus was transmitted from animals and humans.
The U.S. learned not to take intelligence as it is, but to examine the basis and listen to different views from various intelligence agencies,' Allen, who is now the managing director of Washington-based Beacon Global Strategies.
The U.S. intelligence has seen Ukraine as a bright spot. The Biden administration provided information to Kyiv to help Ukraine strengthen its defenses. It also declassified intelligence findings about Russian intentions to influence Moscow and gain allied support.
They correctly predicted Russia's intent to invade but the spy agencies incorrectly believed that Ukraine's forces will fall in a matter of weeks.
Crow, a member of Congress, has asked the agencies to reexamine how they evaluate a foreign government’s ability to fight. Two years ago, U.S. intelligence wrongly predicted that the Washington-backed government of Kabul would survive for several months following the American withdrawal.
Crow stated, "We've lived with ghosts of Iraq for twenty-two decades and it has impacted our credibility." "Now, we are starting to find it again. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from the past and make it better moving forward.
Those ghosts are still there. Crow, a recent interviewee, said that he is aware of the limitations of military capabilities and the importance to properly use armed forces. Crow said that he still thinks about how he enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard as a private after high school and then moving to active service after Sept. 11.
He pointed out a photo that was on the wall next to his Iraq War mementos. It was a photograph of his company at Fort Bragg in North Carolina before they went to Iraq.
He said, "There are men in that photo who have died, but they're not here anymore." "I think about those guys too."