Knowledge is Expensive – Veterans Day 2013 | Charles Duelfer

Knowledge is Expensive – Veterans Day 2013

Knowledge is Expensive

Veterans day celebrates those who have served the country in the military services.  There are many members of the military who served with me in the Iraq Survey Group (ISG).  Overall there were more than 1500 people who participated in the ISG mission.

Four were killed. Six were very badly wounded.  Three of these individuals, by their actions, saved my life.

During Operation Hull, a successful effort to identify and curtail an insurgent effort to create chemical weapons, an explosion took place on April 26, 2004 that killed Sgt. Lawrence Roukey and Sgt. Sherwood Baker.  Badly wounded were:  SGT Michelle Hufnagel; SPC Brian Messersmith; SGT Darren Miles; SPC Ryan Owlett; and SGT Joseph Washam.

On November 8, 2004 I was travelling along airport road in a convoy and was attacked by a VBIED (a suicide bomber in a red Kia car loaded with several 155mm shells).  The following armored suburban drove to block the VBIED once they realized it was a threat.  The detonation killed SFC Clinton Wisdom and SPC Don Clary.  SPC Nathan Gray was seriously wounded.  Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa’ida in Iraq claimed credit.

Knowledge can be very expensive.   The lives lost during the Iraq Survey Group Mission were invaluable.

Lack of knowledge can also be very expensive.  That’s why we are in the intelligence business.  Sadly, knowledge, like wisdom, can come too late.

The ISG detailed the Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction problem and much more in a remarkable way.  The ISG report has been studied and is being studied to this day. It is a remarkable product with concrete consequences.

The United States, and indeed many countries involved in the Iraq developments have learned from this work.

Certainly at a personal level, I have spent a lot of time teaching lessons based on the ISG efforts to intelligence officers, policy makers, and other students of national security and foreign affairs during the last nine years.  Hopefully, some better decisions are being made today because of what we learned in Iraq.

As a case in point, I would point to the direction the United States and other countries have taken regarding Syrian Chemical Weapons.  Knowledge from the ISG is directly shaping those efforts.  We have steered a wiser, less destructive path drawing upon the lessons of Iraq and the ISG.  We know more about how regimes behave, more about the effectiveness of UN inspections, and more about the unintended consequences of military actions.  Decision-makers in Washington often learn on the job.  I am grateful that some reach back to those who had experience in the past to guide their efforts.

The Iraq Survey Group members who gave their lives and their families and friends have suffered enormous loss.  Others suffered grievous wounds and long rehabilitation.  Others risked their lives far from the safety of home to participate in the ISG.

I can only say thank you.

The Defense Intelligence Agency recognized those killed during service with the ISG last Thursday in a ceremony at DIA headquarters.  In the main entrance there is the Patriots Memorial, where plaques are displayed commemorating those who died in DIA service.  They added the four ISG members.  It was a somber reunion of ISG members.  Those I spoke with were proud of their service.

Most importantly, I hope the families of those killed derived something form the ceremony.  The mothers, sisters, wives, and children of these men who died nine years ago deserve our thanks.  I hope they got something out of the ceremony.  It was for them.

 

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