Twenty years ago, I and other military and intelligence personnel did everything we could to turn our government’s attention from Iraq to refocus it on extremist groups growing in the Middle East. Unlike Iraq, which was contained and could be easily targeted for punishment should it step out of line, those groups could operate globally and could not be easily deterred by punishments that might be effective on a nation state like Iraq.

My colleagues and I realized that those guerrilla forces would gain influence and spread more rapidly if we were to invade Iraq. We also knew that the intelligence community predominantly believed that no active weapons program existed there, and that the nation lacked any delivery method that would pose a threat to America. We also knew that America was largely overconfident, as were its civilian leaders.

As military and intelligence personnel, we were at the mercy of those civilian leaders and the politics they played in an effort to remain in office. Playing general was an easy way for them to win votes, and with America believing Iraq posed a greater threat to our security than small but growing extremist groups did, they hindered our effort to confront that threat.

I left the Marine Corps in the summer of 2001, knowing terrorist attacks was imminent and that our civilian leaders would respond in such a way as to exacerbate the problem. I knew those guerrilla forces would spread throughout the region, destabilizing governments as they did.

Jamie Beaulieu, Farmington

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