Former NSA Director Odom Questions Iraq Strategy

Does Odom have a grudge against the Bush administration, or, does he have keen insight into Middle East situation? Below are excerpts from Odom’s speech, from Michael Hammerschlag’s summary at


Former National Security Agency Director Lt. General William Odom, director of the sprawling NSA from 1985-88 under Reagan, spoke at Brown University for the Watson Institute:

The Iraq War may turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history.

The invasion wasn’t in our interests, it was in Iran’s interest, Al Qaida’s interest. Seeing America invade must have made Iranian leaders ecstatic. Iran’s hostility to Saddam was hard to exaggerate.. Iraq is now open to Al Qaida, which it never was before- it’s easier for terrorists to kill Americans there than in the US..  Neither our leaders or the mainstream media recognize the perversity of key US policies now begetting outcomes they were designed to prevent… 3 years later the US is bogged down in Iraq, pretending a Constitution has been put in place, while the civil war rages, Iran meddles, and Al Qaida swells its ranks with new recruits..  We have lost our capacity to lead and are in a state of crisis- diplomatic and military.

Terrorism cannot be defeated because it’s not an enemy, it’s a tactic. A war against Al Qaida is sensible and supportable, but a war against a tactic is ludicrous and hurtful.

Holding elections is easy, creating stable constitutional orders is difficult….Spreading illiberal democracy without Constitutionalism is a very bad idea, if we care about civil liberties. We are getting that lesson again in Hamas.

Iran has told the Shiites, ‘don’t fight, do what the Americans tell you – the electoral process will put you in power, meanwhile we’re arming you and building up your militias. The Sunni insurgency is trying to provoke the civil war while we’re still there so they’re not left to face these militias after we’ve leave. The Kurds will get as much autonomy as they can and back out of the system. An independent Kurdistan is likely, but the two factions of Peshmerga might fight. Al Qaida can’t operate up there, so that will be a stable little island.” But Kurdish independence “won’t please Iran, Syria, or Turkey- a NATO ally.

How did we get in the (Vietnam) war? Phony intelligence over the Tonkin Gulf affair. Once we got in, it was not legitimate to go back and talk about strategic purpose, we were only allowed to talk about how we were doing – the tactics. We would not go back and ask whether this was in our interests.

via Dave Pollard