Maybe more than you think.
Have you ever wondered how the whole Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) thing could have been so far off base? Yes, I'm sure there are plenty of people who think that President Bush and his cronies lied. "They lied! They knew there was nothing there all along and they lied! They wanted to go to war! They're liars, I tell ya!"
This suggests some sort of grand conspiracy where the heads of a bunch of different Federal agencies (and all of their underlings) would have had to have been in on it and kept their mouths shut. Yes, it's possible, I suppose. But I'm not a big believer in grand conspiracies. With more media outlets than ever, and with some of them willing to pay large sums of money for interviews or tell-all books, it seems quite likely that someone would have sung like a jay-bird. Of those who have spoken out, it sounds more like differences of opinion and conflicting egos than evidentiary proof of some grand conspiracy.
Plus, such a conspiracy theory suggests that nearly everybody who works at these agencies is dirty. My guess is the majority of people who work at these agencies are decent, try their best, go to work each day, and then head home to their families, just like the rest of us.
But that still leaves us with the question, what happened with that whole WMD thing? Put your political beliefs aside for the moment, and think about it logically. The intelligence units of nearly every developed country in the world thought Saddam had WMDs. Past administrations (of both political parties) thought Saddam had WMDs. Were all of these people dirty, too? Were they all in on it, too? Very unlikely.
To me, it seems there are at least three scenarios as to what happened:
1) The intelligence agencies of the world were right. Iraq really did have WMDs and they were scurried away to surrounding friendly countries (perhaps Syria and others). Saddam did have the weapons; they really did exist; they still exist; they're just elsewhere.
This is certainly a possibility, but if it were the case, it seems like the weapons would have been used by now. Some of Saddam's minions would have been instructed to allow the enemy to come into Iraq, let the infidels think they've won the war, and then, just when the time is right, gas them all. Plausible, but getting a little long-in-the-tooth at this point.
2) ALL of the intelligence agencies throughout the world are completely incompetent and full of people who are either huge dunderheads or totally corrupt. They all need to be fired and totally new people brought in.
If you read Spy v. Spy, this scenario might ring true. But again, seems very unlikely.
3) The "Opinion-Maker" scenario. The American intelligence agencies did most of the research. They did it as diligently and thoroughly as they could, yet mistakes (which are very different from lies) were made. Then, other intelligence agencies around the world based most of their conclusions on the American research. After all, did every major country in the world have their own intelligence units on the ground in Iraq for all those years? I don't know the answer to that, but my guess is "no."
So the American intelligence agencies could have made some honest mistakes, and then everyone else "came to their own opinions" based on the American research.
It Happens In Finance, Too
It's really just a part of human nature. We all do it.
Think about the conclusions that you've come to regarding the stock market and the economy. Are they really yours? Did you really think them up on your own? Or, did you more likely read what other people had to say on the subject and then conclude that, "you've done your own research."
This is not trying to say anything bad about anybody. I'm only trying to point out that this is part of human behavior. We all do it.
Recently, we had a few financial authors suggest that the US dollar could stage a sharp rally for various reasons. Soon, there were a slew of articles from other authors that all had that same idea. (Whether it happens or not is not my point.)
I know I've done it in my writings, too.
Sometimes it's not always so easy to know when you are "doing your own research," versus "going along with what somebody else says." Often (and especially on Wall Street), very few people really do original research and come up with their own thoughts. Most of us have our opinions formed by others far more than we'd like to admit. That's just the way we humans work.
Maybe what we saw was a WMD mania. And manias, of course, are something you and I would know nothing about.
On a separate note, next week at this same website I'm going to begin an instructional series to show you how you can massively increase your internet productivity. For a few months, I've been doing some in-depth research on technology. As a result of that, I now get my internet surfing done in about 1/10th the time it used to take. I have the internet come to me, rather than me going out and surfing around looking for everything. It's free, a huge time savings, and simple. You can do the same thing. I'm going to take you by the hand and have you up and running in ten minutes. Nothing to download (which, as I'll explain, is extremely important). It's all done online. No fuss, no muss. Really, it will blow your mind. It's a boon for us users, and for website owners as well.
After extensively researching this technology, I'm convinced it has broad implications for you, your life and your investments. The technology has been around for a few years and is mostly understood by techies. But since tech geeks mainly hang around with other tech geeks, somehow they never got around to telling us regular folk what this technology could do for us. If you want to be sure you don't miss the series, you're welcome to join my mailing list at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org And by the way, I'm a user of technology, not a tech guy, so I'll speak english. I promise.