“Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.”
President Abraham Lincoln
It is, of course, unimaginable that the penalties proposed by one of our most admired presidents for the crime of dividing America in the face of the enemy would be contemplated – let alone applied – today. Still, as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate engage in interminable debate about resolutions whose effects can only be to “damage morale and undermine the military” while emboldening our enemies, it is time to reflect on what constitutes inappropriate behavior in time of war.
Scarcely anyone seems to consider the conduct of the Congress at the moment inappropriate, to say nothing of a hanging offense. As various sitting Members, whose day jobs increasingly are those of presidential candidates, jockey to outbid one another in their defeatism, the talk is not about whether such behavior is appropriate in time of war – or consistent with the national interest.
Instead, official Washington is obsessing about a peculiar finding last week by the Defense Department’s Inspector General (IG). It concludes that an effort by the Pentagon’s policy organization to critique intelligence assessments prior to the liberation of Iraq involved “inappropriate” behavior.
Specifically, the IG found fault with an effort undertaken after 9/11 by several employees then-working for the Defense Department’s policy bureau. This effort infuriated the Central Intelligence Agency as it questioned whether the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community were being blinded in their assessment of ties between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda due to a working assumption that secular Baathists and Islamofascist terrorists would not cooperate against their common foe: Us.
In fact, a wealth of evidence was available to the CIA that indicated a relationship existed between Iraqi agents and al Qaeda operatives, spanning more than a decade. It was this evidence that was compiled by the Defense Department staff members and presented, first to their own leadership and then, as directed, to other senior policy-makers, intelligence officials and legislators. Much of this material was documented in a Pentagon memo supplied to the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Fall of 2003. The data was leaked to Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, who published lengthy excerpts the next year in his book, The Connection: How al Qaeda’s Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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