February 7 2003 Sydney Morning Herald
As a former deputy director of the Joint Intelligence Bureau and a member of the National Intelligence Committee, I am unconvinced about the veracity of the United States' intelligence reports presented to the United Nations by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
This intelligence comes from three sources - satellite photography, communication intercepts and informers. The photos produced could be interpreted in many ways, the intercepts from the huge US resources could only come up with two middle-ranking Iraqi officers discussing the movement of something they wanted to hide, while informants will usually produce any information you want to hear if you pay enough.
The alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda is ludicrous. So US intelligence believes that there is an al-Qaeda supporter in Northern Iraq! There is probably also one in Australia but to suggest that, as a consequence, the Howard Government supports the al-Qaeda organisation is laughable.
I can't forget that the American excuse for sending troops into Vietnam was that the US destroyer Maddox had been attacked by two North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. This statement by the US president was subsequently admitted to have been false.
For the past several months the UN inspectors have been free to go anywhere in Iraq without any prior notice. One wonders why, if the US intelligence knows where the weapons of mass destruction are located, the US didn't tell the inspectors where to look.
Even if these US intelligence reports are true, there is still no valid reason why the Australian Government should be sending young Australians to be embroiled in a war in the Middle East where the consequences and duration are unknown.
Major-General Alan Stretton (ret), Batemans Bay, February 6.