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Intelligence

SLUG: 3-743 9/11-Terrorism
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=7-24-03

TYPE=INTERVIEW

NUMBER=3-743

TITLE=9/11-TERRORISM

BYLINE=DAVID BORGIDA

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

INTRODUCTION

A long-awaited U.S. congressional report on the September 11th terror attacks details U.S. intelligence failures, but it does not pinpoint specific intelligence that could have prevented the attacks. Michael O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institution discusses the report.

MR. BORGIDA

And now joining us from the Brookings Institution here in Washington, Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst who has been with us on a number of occasions to discuss security issues and foreign policy issues. Mr. O'Hanlon, thanks for joining us today.

MR. O'HANLON

Nice to be with you.

MR. BORGIDA

This congressional report on the September 11th terror attacks, any news to you?

MR. O'HANLON

No. I think that it makes a number of points clearly and usefully, but frankly it's not the big news item. A lot of the problems that had been previously discussed were re-underscored and underlined here. But, again, not major new news.

MR. BORGIDA

That works for me, because I would rather talk to you about the situation in Iraq, if you don't mind, a little bit about the importance of showing the photos of the two sons of Saddam Hussein. There is some public relations value, not to diminish this, but clearly this has been part of the debate within the Bush administration. What is your view about releasing these photos?

MR. O'HANLON

Well, it is a tough balance, and we all know the arguments pro and con. You want to assure the Iraqi people these two terrible criminals really are gone from the scene and cannot return. But you also don't want to appear to be taunting the Baath Party or flaunting your success. I think the right approach is to give these photos over to the governing council and allow the Iraqi governing council, made up of Iraqis, to make the decision about what should be done about these photographs. And thereby we provide the raw information, but leave it to the Iraqis to decide for themselves what's best for their country. That seems to me the natural compromise.

MR. BORGIDA

Now, this has been a very difficult decision, and apparently Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today said it was his decision. But clearly this is not something that the United States has done as a matter of routine. It does it with great, great difficulty. Inside Iraq, though, there does seem at the moment to be some mixed reaction to it. What's your sense of that?

MR. O'HANLON

Well, it's natural, because there were strong competing arguments on both sides of the issue. And so you're bound to get some reaction. And of course you're also in a country where some people are looking to say nice things about the United States and some are looking to say negative things. And almost any news item will be interpreted through the natural preconceptions of those making the judgment and voicing the response. So I'm not surprised to hear divided voices.

MR. BORGIDA

Now, there has also been some speculation that this will make it easier, in fact, to find Saddam Hussein. What are your thoughts on that?

MR. O'HANLON

I think there is some chance. But the idea that you could somehow quantify it or be confident about it is not correct, because of course Saddam could be in a much different part of the country. He may not have established any kind of recent communications ties with his sons. He may not come out from hiding. They may have had very prearranged and specific ways of reestablishing contact with each other that, having taken these two sons of his out of the picture, it may not give us any information on how to communicate with Saddam or find Saddam.

It's not as if we can pick up one of their satellite phones and just start dialing Saddam and hope he will answer. I think that would take some pretty good luck, and it's unlikely to play out.

MR. BORGIDA

Mr. O'Hanlon, let's go to the security situation for the U.S. troops there. Three more killed on Thursday. It is a very tough time for them. Is there any way out of this particular dilemma? You've got to keep them there. You can't pull them out at the moment. But at the moment they are also viewed, at least by some people here in Washington, as sitting ducks to some degree.

MR. O'HANLON

Well, I think you have to view this as a counterinsurgency, as the Army CENTCOM commander has correctly identified it. That means you bring all the tools to the battle that you would in any counterinsurgency, involving trying to develop good intelligence on the ground, the same kind of intelligence that led to the attack against Uday and Qusay. You try to maintain general security and build up the confidence of the population. You try to help restore the economy and give the Iraqis control of their own country as much as possible, with a clear timetable for getting more and more control.

In other words, the politics and the security and the economic pieces need to be integrated. And you need to see progress on all three fronts. And then you have to have some means of getting out. We're not going to get out any time soon. So we have to rely not so much on getting our soldiers out of harm's way. We have to rely more on convincing the Iraqi people that we mean them only the best of possible futures and that we are trying very hard to give them as much control of their country as possible very quickly.

If you put all that together, you have the potential makings for a successful counterinsurgency. But it tends to take time and it tends to involve casualties along the way.

MR. BORGIDA

And that segues into my final question, in about 30 seconds if you can, Mr. O'Hanlon. The reconstruction efforts, should the U.N. play more of a prominent role in that or are you happy with the way things stand?

MR. O'HANLON

I think it makes sense to bring the U.N. in and to make sure Americans play a heavy role and have a great deal of influence in how the U.N. mission is conducted. But I think the U.N. has more legitimacy than we do. We get no benefit out of being seen as the neo-colonial power here, which is how many Iraqis see us. We should give as much of the mission over to the U.N. as possible and have NATO run the actual operation, the military operation, but still with Americans in very influential positions. That's the natural way to go. It is only in our interest. We should do it now.

MR. BORGIDA

Foreign policy analyst Michael O'Hanlon over at the Brookings Institution here in Washington. Mr. O'Hanlon, thanks for joining us.

MR. O'HANLON

My pleasure. Thank you.

(End of interview.)

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