The former top US Special Forces chief claimed on Sunday that blinding emotion after the 9/11 attacks led the United States and its allies to take the wrong strategic decisions to counter al-Qaeda, calling the subsequent Iraq War a “huge error.” The admission by Michael Flynn, made to German newspaper Der Spiegel, comes as British MPs prepare to vote on extending the UK’s bombing campaign against the Islamic State into Syria following the massacre in Paris.
Flynn, the highest-ranking military intelligence officer during the Obama administration, and commander of the US Special Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush regime, said, “all the emotions took over” after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. “Our response was, ‘Where did those bastards come from? Let's go kill them. Let's go get them.’ Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.”
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 29, 2104
“Instead of asking ourselves why the phenomenon of terror occurred, we were looking for locations,” he reflected. “This is a major lesson we must learn in order not to make the same mistakes again.” The 56-year-old told the newspaper he regretted the Iraq War, agreeing that the Islamic State would not be where it is today had the US and its allies not intervened.
“It was huge error,” he said. “As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.”
Flynn was also critical of the handling of current Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who the US had in custody in 2004, but released, calling him a "low-level" prisoner. "We were too dumb," he said. "We didn’t understand who we had there at the moment."