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Senior Retired General Discusses Intelligence Reforms and War in Iraq

Retired three-star general William Odom, who is currently a visiting professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, recently joined host Carol Castiel, VOA senior correspondent Gary Thomas, and Eurasian Division editor Jaroslaw Anders to discuss intelligence reform, Iraq, and the war on terror on Press Conference USA.

General Odom says that 9/11 and Iraq represent failures in U.S. intelligence, but he places more blame on the U.S. President than on the intelligence community for those failures. In General Odom’s opinion, the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a protracted war in Iraq, reflect a collapse of executive leadership because nothing constrains the President from reorganizing the intelligence network.

However, General Odom says that, based on his familiarity with some of the members of the administration who supported the invasion of Iraq, he does not think intelligence of any kind could have dissuaded them from their goal. Furthermore, he points out, the record in intelligence use everywhere – and particularly in World War Two – is that the military commanders’ own biases tend to prevail over the intelligence officers. In General Odom’s words, “This is just the way things work.”

Moreover, he says, there is an illusion on the part of the American public that, if the United States had perfect intelligence, the President would always make wise decisions.

General Odom reminds that, even with perfect information, highly intelligent people can make bad decisions. A good example, he says, is Soviet premier Joseph Stalin’s decision to believe that German leader Adolf Hitler would not invade his country in 1941, even though six-to-nine months before he had irrefutable evidence to the contrary

For full audio of the program Press Conference USA click here.