If there is anything that could destroy and shake a government, any government, at its core, it's a lack of credibility and mistrust. This is exactly what's taking place in our government. In light of the disturbing revelations reported in the Daily Beast, intelligence reports about ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the civil war in Syria coming out Central Commend (CENTCOM) in Tampa have allegedly been altered to justify, deceive, and politicize what is supposed to be strictly unvarnished intelligence.
Think this is a first? Recall the pretext under which we invaded Iraq? Recall famously misled Secretary of State Colin Powell's famous 2003 speech before the United Nations Security Council? Recall how the Bush administration -- mainly driven by Vice President Dick Cheney -- sold a lie to the American people that we would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators and the Middle East set on a path to democracy?
Who 12 years ago could have imagined what we witness today in the Middle East? And much of it thanks to faulty or even deliberately altered intelligence reporting.
Now history repeats itself. Revelations from the U.S. military's CENTCOM suggests intelligence reports on ISIS and al-Qaida's branch in Syria (al-Nusra) were inappropriately altered by senior military officials for whatever reason. Yes, you read this correctly. Our senior officials are altering intelligence reporting that is supposed to be independent, free from outside influence.
It's a serious matter that requires an independent investigation. After all, analysts spend countless hours sifting through classified information to not only make sense of what they're assessing but also to provide policymakers with accurate, up-to-date information. Yet some armchair policymakers and high-ranking officers have no clue as to what the realities on the ground are, be it in Syria and Iraq, or Libya and Yemen. And the interest by some in altering intelligence reporting is to serve some ill-conceived political agenda, nurture personal aspirations, inflate certain egos at all costs, and further damage the already corrupt system of ours.
Against this backdrop, citizens such as you and I should be interested in knowing the truth as to how our government performs. After all, government is for the people, by the people. Interestingly, these revelations confirm complaints that political appointees and senior officials tend to cherry-pick intelligence to justify a pre-determined course of action, again either for political reasons or personal gain. Iraq's supposed weapons program in 2002-03 is a hugely tragic case in point.
I strongly believe that senior military and intelligence officials who pushed analysts to portray the Islamic State as "weaker than the analysts believe it actually is" and to "paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led military efforts to defeat the group are going" are obviously motivated by reasons other than honorably serving our country. I couldn't agree more with the former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell, when he stated that "there needs to be full transparency into this because it is so important that analysts be able to say what they really think." I'll go further: Meddling officials need to be brought to justice and tried to the full extent of the law. We should make an example of them so other officials think twice before embarking on reckless adventures by falsifying U.S. intelligence reporting.
Coincidentally, some of the report's actual content reflects my argument I made in previous writings that defeating ISIS will not be achieved through the barrels of M16s or the dropping of countless bombs using F-18s but rather through understanding what ISIS ideology consists of, what its strategic objectives are and whether we have a clear strategy and sound policy to address this relentless menace. Thus far, ISIS is still conquering more land despite U.S. and coalition strikes.
Of note: The conflict ISIS represents is multi-causal, including ideological views; thus, it has no military solution. I can understand why analysts in CENTCOM feel frustrated that their negative assessment of the war against ISIS was sent back through the chain of command to be rephrased, reconstructed, and wrapped in a bureaucratic narrative. We live in times when few high ranking officials' character is not based on honesty and credibility, rather the ability to cut corners, cheat, and step on others to get ahead.
As someone who served in the U.S. military, I can tell you that it is a very challenging proposition to go against what the chain of command wants you to include in an intelligence report. And while you might not question a commander's authority, you'll certainly forever question his or her judgment. I applaud those courageous analysts for doing the right thing and crying foul. Sadly, one of them was forced into retirement. Given all this, it's no wonder our foreign policy is so conflicted.
These developments could not come at a worse time as Russia brags openly about its military support for Syria. Recently three large aircrafts touched down in Syria bringing military equipments and passengers; an indication for the establishment of a forward operating base (known also as FOB). Further, Russian special operations forces have been reported at the Syrian Naval Academy near Latakia. Does it mean Russia is intervening militarily in Syria to ensure Al-Assad stays in power? Does it mean Russia will team-up with Iran to challenge any military intervention by the West? Does Russia have different strategic calculations for the region? The answers point to that direction, in my opinion.
Alexis de Tocqueville, that earnest, discriminating, fact-finding French observer of all things American early in our nation's history, was right: "Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few but by the laxity of morals amongst all." But are we outraged yet?