Intelligence Failure and the next Armageddon

I like figures of contrast. Like oxymoron. I like it very much. But what is an oxymoron? you may ask. One dictionary defines it as “a phrase that combines two words that seem to be the opposite of each other.” It gives one example: a deafening silence. But I am going to give you a long list: Extinct life. Temporary tax increase. Plastic glasses. Terribly pleased. Political science. Tight slacks. Definite maybe. Pretty ugly. Working vacation. Exact estimate. Microsoft works.

If you want to fully understand the contrasting elements, turn the phrases into sentences: Microsoft is working. This is the exact estimate of the budget. I am on a working vacation. She is pretty ugly. And so on. Put differently, Microsoft means work and work means Microsoft. Exact means estimate and estimate means exact. Definite means maybe and maybe means definite. Pretty means ugly and ugly means pretty. And so on.

It is for this reason that I like the English language. Because you can use one word to represent so many things. Such as “Make no mistake about it.” (Used to make sure that your listeners do not mistake what you are saying.) And “undisclosed, secret location.” (Used to let listeners know that what is secret is undisclosed and what is undisclosed is secret.) But those words are in a separate group called circumlocution, simply meaning going round and round—the way sailors and astronauts do. Like Francis Drake. Like Yuri Gagarin. In my innocent school days, we use to call it “beating about the bush.” But these days, Bush is beating about the desert.

Now, one more phrase has crept into the oxymoron family: Intelligence failure. Consider this sentence: The terrorists destroyed the twin towers because of intelligence failure. Therefore, intelligence means failure and failure means intelligence. It may also mean that no human being is to blame for the collapse of the twin towers. Because intelligence failure, which is neither man nor animal is to be held accountable.

There have been two classic examples of intel failure in history. Consider the Pearl Harbor disaster of December 7, 1941. When the Japanese Imperial Navy came and attacked on that day, the Americans got it all wrong. First, the “sneaky Japs” knowing that the U.S. patrols were weakest north of Pearl Harbor took that route, risking the turbulent winter sea and maintaining strict radio silence.

Next, the two army privates on duty at Opana Mobile Radio Station on the Island of Oahu, smelt trouble. They saw unusually large lips on the oscilloscope, an indication that more than 50 ships were coming to attack. But when they informed the Information Center about this, the Information Officer told them to go to sleep. He had mistaken the ships for a flight of American B-17 bombers coming in from the mainland.

That was not all. The 14-part message that was sent by the Japanese government to its envoy in Washington D.C., to be delivered by 1:00 p.m. December 7, 1941, had earlier been intercepted by the U.S. before its arrival. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was president at the time, had interpreted the message to mean war. But where and when would it take place? No one knew. Some fingered Thailand.

Again, the message was delivered late because the Japanese embassy secretaries delayed in typing the document in English. So by the time that Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, received the message, war had already begun. At the end, over 2,330 Americans died, while 1,140 were wounded. It was actually a “day which will live in infamy,” according to F.D. Roosevelt. No thanks to missed intelligence. The resulting anger led to war with Japan, which culminated in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atom bomb in August 1945.

Then came 9/11. And intelligence failed again! Not that the Americans did not know that al-Qaeda was a threat. Bill Clinton knew. George Bush jr. knew. But the risk was underestimated, just as it never crossed anyone’s mind that Japan could wreak havoc on America.

Again, the U.S. Administration didn’t know when and where the terrorist organization would strike. There were vague warnings and missed leads as in Pearl Harbor.

Moreover, the terrorists used America’s weakest front—planes flying around the country. Who would have dreamt about that? So while the coast guards were busy watchdogging the borders, and the intercontinental ballistic missiles were waiting for an early warning signal to launch a counter attack, the “sneaky terrorists” were seizing planes and attacking the soul of America.

It was after about 3,000 lives went with the Trade Center, that Americans came to their senses. The rest is now living history. The big question now is: If intelligence failed twice within a lifetime—precipitating destruction of gigantic proportions—can it fail again? The right answer is yes.

In my book CHASING SHADOWS!, I wrote that the enemy we are searching for in far away lands, is within us, and that ‘Armageddon’ is yet to come. Intelligence will continue to fail because we live in an imperfect world.

So although the 9/11 Commission is making effort to unravel what went wrong (the chairman is promising Americans surprising findings), and Democrats and Republicans are trying to demonize each other, the bottomline is that intelligence failed. Do not blame Bush. Blame not Clinton. There must be intelligence failure. For man is imperfect. It could have happened if Mr. Intelligence had been the president of America. Because intelligence means failure and failure means intelligence.

As you read this, intelligence officers are working at full trot briefing heads of states about he next move of terrorists and last minute plans to checkmate their move. But no one is asking the right questions: Why is the world in turmoil? Why do we need intelligence? Why would a virgin decide to bomb herself to death? What would make some people decide to end civilization by a chemical bomb? What can be done to bring lasting peace to the world?

It is my belief that if we do not get the right answers to these questions, the world will not have peace. Terrorist attacks have continued unabated—defying intelligence—and will ever continue. (See what’s happening in Spain. Next stop, Great Britain.)

All lovers of peace would wish that the world leaders gave attention to the real causes of terrorism. Otherwise, we might wake up tomorrow and find the world on fire on the day of ‘Armageddon.’ Do not blame the innocent oxymoron, intelligence failure. For we are all to blame.

ARTHUR ‘ZULU is an editor, book reviewer, and published author. BOOKS PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR
CHASING SHADOWS!: A Dream (A book that reveals the terrorists’ master plan to finally set the world on fire!)
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Arthur Zulu is an editor, book reviewer and published author

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