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April 01, 2005

How I Love People

On the one hand, it's sad we invaded Iraq on the basis of lies about WMD. But there is an upside, too, which is the endless stream of government reports about our lies about WMD. Read carefully, these reports demonstrate something I've always believed—the US government is filled with human beings. Which is to say, lovable numbskulls.

Too many people believe the CIA, White House, etc. are filled with supergeniuses, either malevolent or benign. WRONG WRONG WRONG AND WRONG. They are just like you and me; ie, big doofuses. And while they are often malevolent, this arises from weaknesses of which we're all capable... greed, vanity, pettiness, and lust for the large office on the second floor that Tom got but that we deserve.

A truly beautiful example of this is found on page 89 of the government report released yesterday (pdf). Apparently at the beginning of the 2003 the CIA had started to have doubts about the key defector "Curveball." (Nice codename!) So they sent email to a Division Chief at the Defense Intelligence Agency asking for more information on Curveball.

The DIA division chief was irritated by this request and forwarded the CIA's email to subordinates, saying "CIA is up to their old tricks" and did not "have a clue" about how Curveball had been handled.


Who among us hasn't made this type of embarrassing email faux pas? And that's my point: you assume that people who have the power of life and death over so many would be more careful than the rest of us. But you assume wrong.

Best of all, it's not just Americans who assume the US government has some idea what it's doing. The final CIA report on Iraq's non-existent WMDs described the thoughts of those in Saddam's inner circle as war approached:

Saddam told them, “What can they discover, when we have nothing?” But some of the ministers were not as sure. [Minister of Military Industry] Huwaysh said he began to wonder whether Saddam had hidden something: “I knew a lot, but wondered why Bush believed that we had these weapons,” he said. Huwaysh could not understand why the United States would challenge Iraq in such stark and threatening terms, unless it had irrefutable information.
Posted at April 1, 2005 11:23 AM | TrackBack

The excerpt from Huwaysh reminds me of something similar I read and have thought a lot about - I think it was Nasser who said this. In paraphrase, he said that the Americans seemed so confident, powerful, and smart, not because they were - in fact, almost everything they did was really pretty stupid - but that all of their undertakings were stupid *AND* incredibly complicated.

On a different note, I read a couple of pages of the Khadduri web site yesterday, too. Do readers here really think it's possible that there are 136 American servicemen being held hostage in Iraq? Blows my mind if so.

Posted by: Aaron at April 1, 2005 12:06 PM

Here's the Nasser quote:

The genius of you Americans is that you never made clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which makes us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing.

The 136-hostage-soldiers story seems very unlikely to me. It appears to be insurgency propaganda, which is possibly even more unreliable than US propaganda. But who knows?

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 1, 2005 12:28 PM

In a similar vein: once I heard (anecdotally) that the Iranian students who held the Americans hostage in the American Embassy in 1979 were scared to death of their captives. They had seen so many American movies where the intrepid average-Joe single-handedly demolishes squadrons of enemies that they were convinced they held a team of supermen, just waiting to explode and tear some Iranian heads off.

Posted by: saurabh at April 1, 2005 01:20 PM

Saurabh--And that was before "24" and Jack Bauer! If the students had been watching that show, they would have surely all killed themselves to avoid the far-worse fate to come.

Posted by: Bob at April 1, 2005 06:47 PM