and knowledge that we have, is, at the most,
but little compared with that of which we
are ignorant." - Plato
the beltway and out, political pundits shake
their heads and speak with gravitas as they
debate the "failure of intelligence"
regarding the war in Iraq and the lack of
evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
But hearings, investigations, and finger pointing
won't change the fact that intelligence professionals
in the CIA, Defense Department, and other
agencies provided adequate documentation for
the lack of WMDs in Iraq.
paramount concern is why so many Americans,
at every level, preferred to ignore the warnings
of those familiar with Iraq and instead choose
to believe the prevarications (a ten-dollar
word for "lies") of the White House.
January I traveled throughout Iraq on an unsanctioned
peace mission, in part to inquire about the
conditions of that land but also to examine
the premises upon which the war was being
championed. It seemed like an honest and objective
assessment was needed - something that is
lacking in the vocabulary of the ideologues
setting national policy.
My degrees in government and technology came
in handy as I spent a month surveying the
infrastructure and political situation in
Basrah, Um Qasr, and Baghdad. From the fortifications
that were being built alongside houses to
my ability to surreptitiously gain access
my personal Internet servers, I was intrigued
at the amount of information I was able to
gather about that country through official
and unofficial means.
I traveled throughout the country I was able
to have private conversations with Iraqis
at many levels of society and different faiths.
I found a wide range of attitudes and opinions
about the United States, the U.N. sanctions,
President Saddam Hussein, and the nearing
learned how easily I could slip away throughout
the Baghdad, even at night, to discover the
diversity of the city while my experiences
as a hospital patient after a tragic auto
accident provided me an inside perspective
into Iraqi emergency medicine, bureaucracy
and air transport.
how surprised I was upon my return home to
not only avoid an arrest or "debriefing"
but to find that few cared to learn what I
had garnered. There was no television follow
up, no radio discussions, not even interviews
by the local newspapers. It seemed that the
military was firmly "embedded" in
every news organization instead of the other
that hostilities were soon to commence, I
launched a campaign to get members of Congress
to travel to Iraq to learn for themselves
about that country before committing young
men and women to fight a war. I even offered
to help pay for the trip.
a former analyst for a congressional investigative
committee, I thought that at least there might
be some interest. But when I traveled to D.C.
I found that the mood was one of resignation
to war and that politicians - of either side
of the aisle - didn't want to be "confused
with the facts" concerning Iraq.
had encountered similar self-inflicted benightedness,
earlier in the decade, when I returned from
trips to Bosnia during that conflict. The
complacency of my fellow Americans wasn't
shaken by the television descriptions of horror
of that combat and wouldn't be stirred by
the possibility of another massive battle
in the Gulf region.
for the antiwar protestors that continued
to fill the streets of the world, few appreciated
that the facts surrounding Iraq and the war
on terrorism were being distorted to present
a fictional premise for invasion.
I traveled back to Texas and began communicating
my experiences with groups of people who were
interested and willing to learn: churches,
schools, Rotary and Lions clubs, political
groups, and the peace community. With them
I shared my "intelligence" concerning
told them about Safa and Amal and their three
beautiful children. I related my days spent
at churches and mosques in worship. I spoke
about the orphanages and schools, described
the orange groves of the countryside, and
the liquor and gun stores in central Baghdad,
and illustrated scenes from the Euphrates
River to city street life.
also gave them my analysis of the political
situation and likely responses of Iraq during
wartime including reports from the American
citizens that I left behind and who remained;
friends like Cliff, Peggy, and Cathy who provided
accounts throughout the bombings and the arrival
of American troops.
still read with interest the reports that
filter back each week from eyewitnesses who
are absolutely honest in their commitment
to building a better world and work hard to
gather information from inside Iraq.
entering a long hot summer both here and in
the Middle East, one that reminds me of the
mid and late 1960's. If we continue to ignore
the evidence that is provided by those who
truly understand the preeminent issues of
the day we will continue to be blindsided
we allow those who lack experience and training
to objectively assess threats and areas of
need we will find ourselves in even greater
predicaments. Or we can use our understanding,
learning and knowledge to reinvigorate the
geopolitical landscape with frankness and
integrity and defeat the WMDs