<center><h1><a href=http://nytimes.com/2004/02/07/opinion/07KRIS.html?pagewanted=print&position=>Secret Obsessions at the Top</a></h1></center> By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF <i>To unravel our intelligence failures in Iraq, it helps to look back at what was once one of the most secret and scary chapters in U.S.-Soviet relations. An intelligence failure risked nuclear war in the 1980's but this was a mistake by the K.G.B. In 1981, we now know, the K.G.B. chairman said at a secret conference that President Ronald Reagan was planning to launch a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. The Soviets became consumed with the U.S. threat, just as the Bush administration became obsessed with the Iraq threat. The K.G.B. ordered all its offices in NATO countries to seek evidence of Mr. Reagan's plans for a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and they code-named the effort RYAN. Once K.G.B. officers knew what Moscow wanted, they found "evidence" everywhere of Mr. Reagan's secret plans for a nuclear strike confirming Moscow's worst fears. Then NATO held a nuclear launching exercise in November 1983, playing into the Soviet alarm. The K.G.B. mistakenly reported to Moscow that NATO was on an actual alert. The Soviets put their own forces on alert and braced for a nuclear attack. It was "one of the worst nuclear scares since the Cuban missile crisis and Washington didn't even know it until after it was over," James Risen and Milt Bearden write in their terrific book about the spy wars, "The Main Enemy." The parallels between our Iraq intelligence mess and RYAN are telling. When a country's capital is in the grip of hard-line ideologues who demand a certain kind of intelligence, they'll get it. The result is an intelligence failure. And, more fundamentally, it's a political failure by the top leaders themselves.</i> It is clear that, from the start, Howdy's administration was systematically misleading Americans and the world about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. For President Bush to so transparently lie about what has and, more importantly, what has not been found is a diservice to the American people and a disgrace to his office. Even more disgraceful are his statements to the effect that we have removed an evil man from power...thus justifying the whole endeavor. It does not, it only reveals the hypocrisy of his administration.