19 April 2001

Intelligence Marines Deserved Better Treatment

Major, United States Marine Corps, (Retired)

The January Issue of the U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings contains a retrospective piece entitled “Ten Years After” by four General/Flag officers on the Persian Gulf War. In spite of the resounding victory by Coalition forces in that conflict, General Walter Boomer, USMC(Ret) elected to criticize the intelligence he received as Commanding General, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force rather than recognize the Intelligence Marines who contributed to his success. Ironically, his words open a window into his own shortcomings in Military Intelligence:

“What went wrong from my perspective was that I didn't get much intelligence. It was floating around out there somewhere, I think mostly back in Washington, but it wasn't coming to us in Saudi Arabia.”

General Boomer suggests that intelligence is some sort of amorphous substance “floating around . . . mostly in Washington” and not a product of the Marines under his command and therefor not his responsibility. Those Intelligence Marines in their G/S-2 shops, analytical sections, counter Intelligence/interrogation teams, imagery analysis units, reconnaissance units, etc. were the command responsibility of General Boomer. If he didn’t “get much intelligence” then he failed to command much intelligence--be it real or imagined. It is a United States Marine Corps doctrinal precept today as it has been for every day General Boomer wore a Marine uniform that Intelligence is a command responsibility as is logistics, operations, administration, and everything else in one’s command; and, if any of these components fail, it is because the commander failed to command. 

Also, General Boomer indicates a curious perception of Military Intelligence personnel:

“We did not know in advance of the offensive whether we were going to be attacked by chemical weapons. Only after Desert Storm had gotten under way did we discover that the Iraqis would not resort to chemical warfare. I don't know whether anybody knew this, but it was certainly an important question that needed to be answered for us. In any event, we attacked with chemical suits on.”

Evidently, General Boomer sees Intelligence Marines as seers rather than rational men and women:

FACT: The Iraqi’s had a chemical weapons capability and had manifested that capability against opposition forces as well as               civilians before Desert Storm. 

FACT: The decision to use or not to use these weapons against Coalition forces during Desert Storm was that of the Iraqi                 dictator, Saddam Hussein, personally.

Military Intelligence personnel best serve their commander by drawing conclusions and/or recommendations from facts. Absent a report that Saddam had made the decision and issued the order to use or not to use chemical weapons, intelligence personnel had NO basis for saying--in absolute terms--that he would or would not use those weapons. They could only say that he had the capability and he could use it again. 

With a perception that intelligence personnel should be something akin to crystal ball gazers, it is easy to see how General Boomer would not understand the process by which Intelligence Marines produce intelligence. He acknowledges that “. . . it was an accumulation of little bits of information that finally caused me to believe we were certainly going to prevail.” But then continues by saying, “This belief was not the product of superb intelligence, because in my view we never received any.” Yet, “little bits of information” derived from the battle of Al-Khafji on 29 January-1 February 1991 were turned into intelligence used by General Boomer. That process and its import on his operational planning are described in Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication (MCDP) 2, Intelligence,1997 and here quoted, in part:  

“From the new intelligence, a new estimate reflected the likelihood that the Iraqis would be unable to conduct an effective defense of the forward positions. . . . This intelligence was used to substantially revise the Marine operation plan. . . . The intelligence assessment developed and refined during Operation Desert Storm reduced uncertainty, enhanced situational awareness, and aided Marine commanders in planning and decisionmaking. This assessment  did not answer every question, but it did identify the enemy’s critical vulnerabilities which were exploited to achieve decisive results”

How is that General Boomer could receive intelligence during Desert Storm, use it to “substantially revise the Marine operations plan” and not know, or recognize, that it was intelligence? The answer is revealed in a 1993 study initiated by Headquarters, USMC. That study reported, in part:

“...the root cause of [operators’] negative attitude [toward intelligence] appears to be that Marine Corps operators never really learn what intelligence is, what it can do, and how to use it. They receive little training on the intelligence function and rarely get much realistic practice with intelligence during peacetime.”

 Inspector General

                                                                                 Department of Defense

United States Marine Corps Intelligence: A First Look

                                                                                      24 September 1993

The Intelligence Marines who served General Boomer during the Persian Gulf War deserved better treatment in his retrospective comments. Since he failed to recognize their positive contribution to his success, I would like to present the thoughts of someone who did--his commander:

“The great military victory we achieved in Desert Storm and the minimal losses sustained by us and Coalition forces can be          directly attributed to the excellent intelligence picture we had on the Iraqis.”

               General H. Norman Schwartzkopf
Commander-in-ChiefCentral Command



Conduct Of The Persian Gulf War

Department of Defense

April 1992

Semper Intelligence Drivers,

Anthony F. Milavic

Major USMC(Ret.)