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Feature: CIA veterans' warning on Iraq war

By ANWAR IQBAL   |   Feb. 9, 2003 at 3:10 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- CIA veterans have warned the Bush administration not to go to war against Iraq, saying that doing so would further widen the divide between the Western and Islamic worlds and increase the incidence of terrorism.

In a statement sent to media organizations earlier this week, the retired CIA officials also referred to an agency assessment report last fall, which, they said, opposed a military offensive against Iraq.

They urged the Bush administration to "re-read" the CIA report that pointed out: "The forces fueling hatred of the United States and fueling al Qaida recruiting are not being addressed" and that "the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist."

That CIA report cited a Gallup poll last year of almost 10,000 Muslims in nine countries, in which respondents described the United States as "ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased."

Terrorism, the CIA veterans said, is like malaria. "You don't eliminate malaria by killing the flies. Rather you must drain the swamp. With an invasion of Iraq, the world can expect to be swamped with swamps breeding terrorists. In human terms, your daughters are unlikely to be able to travel abroad in future years without a phalanx of security personnel."

Referring to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation at the U.N. last week, the veterans said: "We give him an 'A' for assembling and listing the charges against Iraq, but only a 'C-' in providing context and perspective."

Powell, they said, effectively showed that Iraq is not cooperating fully with U.N. Security Council Res. 1441 but "the narrow focus on (the resolution) has diverted attention from the wider picture."

The key question, they said, is whether Iraq's flouting of a U.N. resolution justifies war. "Secretary Powell's presentation does not come close to answering it," they observed.

The veterans argued that there were other U.N. resolutions that had never been implemented and asked if the United States would be willing to go to war to implement those resolutions as well.

They observed that the Arab-Israel conflict was among "the root causes not only of terrorism" but also provided Saddam Hussein with an excuse to arm himself.

Challenging the perception that Iraq is a grave threat to the United States, the veterans urged the administration to reconsider its Iraq policy, as presenting Iraq as a threat to the world's only superpower did not sound very convincing.

The veterans refer to an Oct. 7, 2002 letter the CIA sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee in which the agency said that the probability is low that Iraq would initiate an attack with weapons of mass destruction or give them to terrorists. That was so unless: "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would be come much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions."

For now, continued the CIA letter: "Baghdad appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical/biological warfare against the United States."

With his back against the wall, "Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a weapons-of-mass-destruction attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

They added: "It is our view that an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centers for terrorists into the indefinite future. Far from eliminating the threat, it would enhance it exponentially."

Discussing the possibility of the Iraqi use of chemical weapons, the veterans said it has been the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community for over 12 years that the likelihood of such use would greatly increase during an offensive aimed at getting rid of Saddam.

Referring to Powell's claim that Saddam had recently authorized his field commanders to use chemical weapons, the CIA veterans said: "We find this truly alarming. We do not share the Defense Department's optimism that radio broadcasts and leaflets would induce Iraqi commanders not to obey orders to use such weapons, or that Iraqi generals would remove Saddam Hussein as soon as the first U.S. soldier sets foot in Iraq."

They said the last time the United States sent more than 600,000 troops to the Gulf, one of three came back ill -- many with unexplained disorders of the nervous system.

"Today's battlefield is likely to be even more sodden with chemicals and is altogether likely to yield tens of thousands more casualties," they added.

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