Intelligence Gathering in Iraq

INTELLIGENCE GATHERING IN IRAQ….OK, I just put two and two together. As usual, it was only after about the third time that I saw this article blogged that something finally clicked. Thanks, Mark.

Here’s what clicked. A few days ago I linked to a Dan Drezner post in which he suggested that the attack on Uday and Qusay Hussein was good news because it was evidence of a “shift in intelligence-gathering” that would serve us well in the future. His optimism was prompted by this Washington Post story:

After weeks of difficult searching for the top targets on the U.S. government’s list of most-wanted Iraqi fugitives, U.S. military commanders two weeks ago switched the emphasis of their operations, focusing on capturing and gathering intelligence from low-level members of former president Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party who had been attacking American forces, according to military officials.

….”You get a tip, you pull a couple of guys in, they start to talk,” a Central Command official said. Then, based on that information, he continued, “you do a raid, you confiscate some documents, you start building the tree” of contacts and “you start doing signals intercepts. And then you’re into the network.”

And here’s today’s story:

In addition, there is general agreement among Army leaders here that in recent weeks both the quality and quantity of intelligence being offered by Iraqis has greatly improved, leading to such operations as the one last Tuesday in Mosul that killed Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay.

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: “If you want your family released, turn yourself in.” Such tactics are justified, he said, because, “It’s an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.” They would have been released in due course, he added later.

These stories were both written by Thomas Ricks.

This is, to say the least, disappointing. At first we’re led to believe that we’re gaining ground in Iraq due to a simple shift in tactics, but a few days later we learn that what this really means is that we’re kidnapping families and holding them hostage in order to increase the “quality and quantity of intelligence.” This may seem like a good idea in the world of 24, but in the real world it’s a war crime. It should end right now, and I hope everyone who linked to the first article links to the second as well and denounces these tactics as unworthy of us. The world should know that we’re better than this.