Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to compare the administration’s pre-war threat assessment to the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Emperor’s New Suit. Just as in the fable, there was a warning that the fabric of the Iraqi threat statements were woven from invisible cloth. In this case it was not a small child stated that the suit was absent. Instead it was a handful of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analysts. This was true of the now famous DITSUM 044-02 document and of the ”Powers that Be”email. DITSUM 044-02 (Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary) warned against believing reports from Al-Libi, a key source purporting to connect Al-Qaeda with Iraq. The “Powers that Be” email rejected DIA skepticism concerning “Curve Ball” a key source purporting to have evidence concerning Iraqi WMD programs.
How could the administration have rejected this information? For an explanation, lets look at Anderson’s famous story.
Two tailors came to sell a vain emperor clothes
clothes made of their material possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid.The emperor was suspicious and sent an old honest minister to the weavers.
“That must be wonderful cloth,” thought the emperor. “If I were to be dressed in a suit made of this cloth I should be able to find out which men in my empire were unfit for their places, and I could distinguish the clever from the stupid. I must have this cloth woven for me without delay.”
“He can judge best how the stuff looks, for he is intelligent, and nobody understands his office better than he.”The fable goes on through two more iterations. Finally, the emperor tries on his new threat assessment, woven from bogus fabric. A small child observes
The good old minister went into the room where the swindlers sat before the empty looms. “Heaven preserve us!” he thought, and opened his eyes wide, “I cannot see anything at all,” but he did not say so. Both swindlers requested him to come near, and asked him if he did not admire the exquisite pattern and the beautiful colours, pointing to the empty looms. The poor old minister tried his very best, but he could see nothing, for there was nothing to be seen. “Oh dear,” he thought, “can I be so stupid? I should never have thought so, and nobody must know it! Is it possible that I am not fit for my office? No, no, I cannot say that I was unable to see the cloth.”
“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.Children’s fables overstate their points in order to make them clear. In the real world of intelligence and policy it was not so easy to see that the assessment of Iraqi threat was contained bogus cloth. There were good reasons to believe that an Iraqi WMD threat existed, as this blog has reported.. The administration's response was to appoint new ministers who would reinforce belief in the fabric.
Who was the emperor in this tale? Maybe we can get a clue from US Army Col. (ret) Patrick Lang
But I think it‘s an interesting coincidence that right after this, the Office of Special Plans was set up in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to look at the same data, and they came to radically different conclusions.
While I can’t identify the emperors, they headed empires inside of the Office of Secretary of Defense and the Defense Intelligence Agency. No one was able, or willing, to tell them that the Iraqi threat statements were woven from cloth containing bogus threads.
I just wish that President Bush had been more forceful when he questioned George Tenet about the Iraqi threat assessment. It seems that he detected bogus threads in the argument. Tenet, assured him that the case was a “slam dunk.”
NOTE: this post linked to Beltway Traffic Jam for 10/10/05