October 2002 – 30 September 2004
It is not our wont to discuss politics in these pages, firstly because this is an inappropriate place for political discussion, and secondly because the political views of the editors are so widely divergent. It is, however, an appropriate place to learn from the lessons of political action. The lesson we will discuss today is that of how failure to exercise due diligence often has unfortunate consequences.
We see this all the time in our work. Companies don’t bother to exercise due diligence, or they exercise inadequate diligence, and all too frequently bad things happen as a result. And as these companies fail to exercise appropriate diligence on the changing situation, things go from bad to worse.
An example of this was the passage of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq. This authorization was in theory voted upon in Congress based on the classified October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 2002 16-HC), entitled Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction (http://www.fas.org/irp/cia/product/iraq-wmd- nie.pdf). We do not know what the redacted first word in the title might be. It is not our place here to ask whether the evidence presented in the NIE was persuasive or not persuasive. Since, as you will see if you look at the declassified version, most of it is redacted, we are certainly not in a position to even hazard a guess.
A more reasonable question was whether members of Congress found it persuasive or not persuasive. And the answer to this question is a clear no: Senators and representatives found it to be neither persuasive nor unpersuasive, because they almost to a man, didn’t read it! As best we can determine, Senators Biden (voted Yea), Graham (voted Nay), Roberts (voted Yea), Rockefeller (voted Yea), Durbin (voted Nay), and Feinstein (voted Yea) read the document. We are unable to find a listing of Congressmen who read NIE 2002 16-HC, but assume it was an equally small number. We are not questioning here the judgment of the two who voted Nay, nor of the four who voted Yea. We do, however, find ourselves questioning the judgment of the ninety-four senators who voted to send our country to war without reading NIE 2002 16-HC. We understand that NIE 2002 16-HC was over 90 pages long – even longer than the list of artificial ingredients in a can of soup – but feel that the consequences of going to war reasonably demands the sacrifice of spending half an hour reading about why war might or might not be justified.
Accepting that we passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq and subsequently invaded Iraq based largely on the understanding that Iraq had, or would soon have weapons of mass destruction – by which was meant things that make a really large bang – we then have to look two years into the future to the release of the Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD, which can be found at https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports- 1/iraq_wmd_2004/index.html. We have been plowing through this report – it is roughly a thousand pages – for quite some time. It is both well written and illuminating. We suspect that when we finish, we will be among a group of under a hundred people in the entire world who have read it.
The Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD is the second critical document that didn’t shape the direction of Congress’ input nor the President’s prosecution of the war. Although the presence or absence of nuclear weapons was critical to our decisions as to what needed to be done and why, it is a safe guess that if our elected officials did not bother to read ninety pages, they certainly didn’t read a thousand pages, no matter how important it might have been to do so!
While we have little direct control of Congress, the lesson is still clear: When making important decisions, you should look at available information that will help you make an informed decision.