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January 24, 2004

WMD IN IRAQ....Atrios says today that maybe the administration really did believe there was WMD in Iraq before the war. Fine.

But, at the time, there were also plenty of reasonable people running around saying that this whole WMD stuff was nonsense. Remember how they were treated by our media? They were treated like escapees from an insane asylum who needed to up their Thorazine dose. Remember how radical and controversial it was to even suggest such a thing?

Actually, I think the administration did believe there was WMD in Iraq before the war. What's more, the CIA and MI6 thought the same thing and the yawning silence from both Republicans and Democrats about how our intelligence services could have been so wildly off the mark is a scandal of the first order. Is anyone serious about this stuff?

But I'm not really trying to start an argument about that. Mostly I just want a history lesson. I don't personally recall any first-rank analysts except Scott Ritter who claimed that the WMD evidence was seriously faulty around, say, the time of the UN speech (although obviously more people became skeptical later on as the inspections came up emptyhanded). Were there others? Who?

Like I said, I don't have any real argument here. I'm just curious.

UPDATE: Two things. First, as Atrios says in comments, he was just saying this for the sake of argument. In fact, he says, "I don't actually believe the administration believed that Iraq had any kind of WMDs which posed a real threat to the US or anyone else."

Second, I note that so far no one in comments has named a name, so let me make myself clear here: yes, the CIA hedged its estimates, and yes, the Bush administration clearly exaggerated what the CIA told them. No argument there. However, it is also abundantly clear that the CIA did in fact believe that Saddam had both WMD and active WMD programs.

So here's my question. Forget about threat assessments. Forget about whether their evidence was any good (obviously it wasn't). All I want to know is this: In September 2002, aside from Scott Ritter, were there any serious analysts (not Sean Penn, not bloggers, not Noam Chomsky) who were publicly saying that the intelligence was wrong and Iraq didn't have WMD? Are there any serious analysts today who have publicly said that back in September 2002 they doubted the existence of WMD but just couldn't say so at the time?

I'm not trying to restart the old fight about whether the evidence of WMD was any good. I just want some names of serious analysts who publicly questioned the intelligence back in September 2002. Does anybody have one?

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 24, 2004 09:57 AM | TrackBack


Two things:

First, note the US administration's claims that it had undisputable proof of Iraqi guilt. What the US administration was demanding for from doubting Thomases was proof of Iraqi innocence. Before the Blix inspections that was something no-one could provide, or was inclined to try and provide.

Secondly, few if any people thought Iraq had WMDs - nukes. Chem and bio weapons are not WMDs

The show was rigged against Iraq from the start.

Posted by: BP at January 24, 2004 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Not enough attention has been paid to what happened to those who tried to speak out, pre-war, about WMDs. Was it just a coincidence that Scott Ritter was caught in some kind of "scandal" involving use of computer dating opportunities. I forget the details, but remember the timing. Or Wolfowitz's not-so-subtle, sneaky assertion that Hans Blix, of all people, was GAY?!! Blix says it was shocking news to his wife. Felicia

Posted by: Felicia at January 24, 2004 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Blix et al were cautiously skeptical.

I am curious also. Why is it easier to believe that the entire world was incompetent on a matter of grave importance than that the entire world was lying?

Did we all act real scared of Iraq's WMD in the nineties?

Posted by: bob mcmanus at January 24, 2004 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Ken Pollack's article in the Atlantic, "Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong" is a fair accounting of intelligence failures. I hope everyone reads it.

The failure is spread among agencies in the U.S. and among many international intelligence agencies. I hope there is a non-partisan debate in America on how to improve intelligence agencies, composed as they are of career civil servants who serve multiple administrations.

That said, Whoops! The failure to find WMDs must really bum Saddam out because as regards Iraq, it no longer matters.

Maybe he shouldn't have fooled around with the U.N. or given the French, too, the idea he had WMDs.

Posted by: russ e at January 24, 2004 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

sorry don't buy that seems the CIA didn't know conclusively and actually warned administration before the war that their estimates were wrong.

Cheney and Rumsfeld set up their own intelligence at DOD and any speculative intelligence on WMD in iraq was stovepipe directly to the top.

Remember that intelligence is actually two parts gathering and interprating...

Intelligence communities get huge amounts of information and it is their job to sift thru it dismiss the false the bad stuff and find the kernels of truth.

Lastly the pattern of this administration for EVERYTHING they have done is to have a final goal and then twist,hype and lie information to achieve their goal.

Posted by: smartone at January 24, 2004 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Maybe he shouldn't have fooled around with the U.N. or given the French, too, the idea he had WMDs."

Saddam consistently and continually denied having WMDs.

Posted by: BP at January 24, 2004 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

That group made of ex CIA agents- what was it? CIA for Sanity or something like that.

They came out before the UN speech saying that most CIA insiders were saying it was all exagerated and based on questionable intelligence like, say, believing everything Chalabi told us.

So it wasn't just Scott Ritter. Speaking of which, after seeing what happened to Joseph Wilson, does anyone remember what they did to Ritter?

Posted by: Poika at January 24, 2004 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Well, actually I don't really think they believed that they had anything that I would call "WMDs." Though, they may have believed they had some nasty chemicals.

I just meant "for sake of argument, let's assume..."

Posted by: Atrios at January 24, 2004 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

"I am curious also. Why is it easier to believe that the entire world was incompetent on a matter of grave importance than that the entire world was lying?"

The entire world assumed that the 30 billion dollar a year budget US intelligence agencies had a fucking clue on matters whereof they spoke. Foreign intel agencies operating on budgets a couple of orders of magnitude smaller were not prepared to tell their respective govts that the CIA was full of it.

And yet, look at the resistance to the war and insistence on inspections during the leadup to March. Does that look like the actions of a world worried about Saddam?

Posted by: BP at January 24, 2004 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

From day one of the fall of bagdad and the subsequent looting, it was completely obvious the administration did not believe there were WMD as there was no plan to secure them (or anything else for that matter) and insufficient personnel to do so.

Posted by: Mary Ellen Moore at January 24, 2004 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I think the Iraq government claimed it didn't have any weapons. I'd say there was Hans Blix who was ridiculed widely in the media and by the administration as a sorta Mr. Magoo. Silly guy claimed he needed more time. And the career "civil servants" at the intelligence agencies never stated that they had definite proof that Iraq had WMD's. It was mostly maybe this and maybe that until the political guys got a hold of it and took out all the maybes.

Posted by: Warcraft at January 24, 2004 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

A key point that seems to often get lost in this debate is certainty. A lot of people seemed to think that Saddam had WMD, but they weren't certain enough about it to go to war over it. To me, that's consistent with the "he had them, and hasn't accounted for their destruction" explanation. Based on that, I could see people believing that he could have them. The Bush administration was willing to go a lot farther than the CIA, MI6, and other "fooled" intelligence agencies were. To me, that's the issue, and the stories of how they cherry-picked the intelligence data is just one illustration of how preposterous it is to claim "everybody was fooled" as though it excuses the Bushies' lying and/or incompetence.

Posted by: Mike Jones at January 24, 2004 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

I work with numbers, and have made mistakes that really bother me. If I made enough of them, I'd be fired. Who the hell made these mistakes, and why aren't they sacked for it? These mistakes costs lots of young people their lives. I remember JFK showing pictures of Cuban missles, and thought that although weapons may be smaller now, the spy technology has developed substantially that when they said there were WMD's, that the ground forces would have drove right towards them. But no, it was invade and seek, and come up dry. Very disappointing.

Posted by: lk at January 24, 2004 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

No less an authority than Sean Penn traveled to Baghdad just before the war and declared that Saddam had no WMDs in his full page NYT ad. He took a lot of shit for it at the time, but he was absolutely right.

Posted by: reef the dog at January 24, 2004 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

The point of the UN inspection process was to find out for sure whether there were WMD, but Bush trampled the inspectors on his rush to war. We could have found out the truth, but war-no-matter-what was the policy.

Posted by: grytpype at January 24, 2004 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Saddam consistently and continually denied having WMDs.

Except, of course, when he threatened to use them:;$sessionid$LC3M0JFDWOL1PQFIQMFSFFOAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2003/02/28/wirq228.xml

I agree with Kevin that this business is too serious to let it degrade into partisan bickering -- our intelligence was crippled by the overemphasis on electronic intelligence and the deemphasis on personal contacts, which started during and after Vietnam and Nixon, but accelerated by both Carter and Reagan.

If we didn't have good intelligence, why not?

Posted by: Andrew at January 24, 2004 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Bush and his misAdminstration is 100% to blame for this. It's not the CIA's fault, it's not the UN's fault, it's not Clinton's fault either. It was Bush's job to know the true facts, and either (1) he didn't know, or (2) he didn't care. Either way, he deserves punishment for crimes against peace.

Posted by: grytpype at January 24, 2004 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Please read:

The Stovepipe by Seymour Hersh:

"-How conflicts between the Bush Administration and the intelligence community marred the reporting on Iraq's weapons."


Wonderful account of the way the Bush Administration use raw, unfiltered intelligence to justify whatever the hell they wanted.

Posted by: Shawn Joyce at January 24, 2004 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

The current right-wing defense line is "Well, you know Clinton thought Saddam had WMD!"

But let us never forget Bush standing up and saying Saddam has these weapons.

Or Rumsfeld saying, "Saddam has these weapons, and we know where they are."

Or Cheney saying, "Saddam has definitely reconstituted his nuclear program."

The difference is between suspecting (think) and knowing for a fact. The Bush administration claimed on numerous occasions that it knew for a fact that Saddam had these weapons.

Pre-war, there were plenty of people who came forward to debunk the bulk of the administration's claims. Baradei of the IAEA shot down Powell's nuclear stories the very day Powell made his U.N. speech. The aluminum tubes story was shot down repeatedly by both the U.N. and numerous U.S. civilian nuclear experts.

Posted by: Derelict at January 24, 2004 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Atrios doesn't say that "maybe the Bush administration really did believe there was WMD in Iraq". He says let's pretend that they did. What follows?

Just because you swallowed the CW doesn't mean the rest of us did. You were bamboozled. You were a idiot.

Posted by: JoJo at January 24, 2004 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

If we are searching here for a history lesson I'd like to suggest the following as a hypothesis:

When frightened by a devastating attack from an outside source, a democracy will behave in the manner of a dictatorship.

That's the hypothesis, or the theorem if you will.

And though I tried to exclude "values" from my phrasing, it is clear that one can argue that under times of stress, such a shift towards a dictatorship is "good," (survival), and that this "good" must necessarily result in some "bad" (interment of Japanese in WW2).

One is left hoping that the "good" and "bad" are a function of time.

In other words (a corollary concerning the evolution of democracies):

As a democracy matures, its dictatorial responses to devastating attacks, will maximize the "good" results and minimize the "bad" results.

RE: this Administration's response to 9/11

By invading Iraq rather than staying the course in Afghanistan and rebuilding one country at a time, our leadership has failed both us, and the evolution of democracy.

I will leave it to others to compare the Patriot Act with other anti-sedition acts, and to compare the treatment of Japanese-Americans with Arab-Americans, the internment camps in WW2 with Guantanamo.

Posted by: -pea- at January 24, 2004 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Except, of course, when he threatened to use them:"

Yeah, that reliable news story from the Telegraph, attributing the threats to "Iraqi officials" without specific attribution.

Big fucking deal.

Posted by: BP at January 24, 2004 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

You ask for a 'first-rank analyst' besides Ritter who disputed the WMD evidence before the war. What evidence?

Posted by: Magnum at January 24, 2004 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Just because you swallowed the CW doesn't mean the rest of us did. You were bamboozled.

Being a nice guy, I'd just end it there...

Posted by: dave at January 24, 2004 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Felicia: Scott Ritter's sealed court records were released shortly after a new judge was appointed to his New York circuit. The judge was a Pataki appointee who had distinguished himself by his willingness to immediately pack up and leave Upstate New York for Florida in November of 2001. He was part of the Dade County "bourgeoise riot," I think. This fact gives me great pause.

It's rather sad that some posters still have faith in this Administration on this matter, and believe that it might have been misled by the CIA. My answer to that possibility is take note of that the Administration prefers stonewall denial of error to outrage against the incompetence of its intelligece services. This course tells me that it cannot blame the CIA--that any inquiry is likely to place the blame for failure squarely on the "Office of Special Plans" and other Office of the Secretary of Defense, Vice-Presidential, and neoconservative favorites. That the career intelligence professionals are in the clear. Besides, an admission of error would cast extreme doubt on the utility of the Bush Doctrine of preventive war.

Someone needs to be fired, in my opinion, but it won't happen unless Bush thinks not cleaning house will kill his election. I also think that the people to be jettisoned start at the top with Richard Cheney and end with the Undersecretaries of Defense and the other Pentagon employees who failed prewar to assess the threat of Iraq and refused to acknowledge the costs and difficulty of the occupation. If you read the Pollack article in the Atlantic, also read the Fallows one.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 24, 2004 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

One of the problems in this discussion has been the indiscriminant lumping of chemical/biological/nuclear weapons into a single category: WMD. This enables a semantic shell game that the Bush administration plays masterfully. They were able to conjure up fear of the worst possible WMD scenario (nuclear attack on American soil) and support that fear with evidence of short range artillery shells that might have been filled with mustard gas. What's the difference? They're all WMDs.

That same shell game was evident in the build-up and justification of the way. I think the Administration did believe that we would find chemical weapons in Iraq -- maybe even substantial stockpiles. Saddam had them before Iraq War I and the intelligence regarding their disposition was murky. However, a stockpile of rusting chemical weapons shells simply isn't a threat to the U.S. homeland, and it's barely a threat to an invading U.S. force. It's hard to believe this is what drove them to war.

As Paul Wolfowitz said, there were many reasons they wanted war, but WMD was the one reason they could agree on. I would add that WMD was also probably the easiest reason to sell to the American voters and Congress. It probably seemed like a safe bet at the time. The neocons probably expected that all doubts would be forgotten after they achieved their goal of transforming the Middle East, and if any problems came up, they probably expected that there would be at least a few abandoned chemical shells to point to.

Posted by: scottd at January 24, 2004 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I remember that during the run-up to the war, I seriously doubted that Saddam was a threat to the US at all, or that he had and WMD or delivery cpacaity. I also remember thinking that the way the debate was taking place, there was no particular reason to argue that because it would just get me stuck in the Chomsky-Nader camp. (Same was true for civilian casualties anyone who made those an issue was a weenie transpo).

I do remember that it was well known at the time that the UN inspectors had their doubts, as did the professional intelligence services. A special White House intelligence service (under Wolfowitz's buddy Abe Shulsky) was put together to concoct an argument for the war by passing raw intelligence up the line.

The power of the media plus the presidecy to control the national agenda is enormous, and in the next 8 or 9 months I'm afraid we're going to see something just as bad.

The lack of accountability (or apologies for insults) galls me. The group mind is pretty gullible. People still believe that Nixon was militarily credible, even though he accomplished nothing during the bitter 1968-73 war that he (or McGovern) couldn't have accomplished by withdrawing in 1968.

Posted by: Zizka at January 24, 2004 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

What evidence?
Good catch, Magnum. The rules of the game should be that if you make an assertion, the burden of proof is on you.

Posted by: Another Bruce at January 24, 2004 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

The entire world assumed that the 30 billion dollar a year budget US intelligence agencies had a fucking clue on matters whereof they spoke.

A country's intelligence agency is most effective when spying on people within its own borders.

Posted by: glib at January 24, 2004 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Witnesses besides Ritter:

How about Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?

Posted by: Magnum at January 24, 2004 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

As I remember it.

SAddam did have chemical weapons. He used them against the Iranians and the Kurds.

Nobody was really sure what he still had, they only knew what the inspectors saw before they left in 1998(?)

So maybe he still had WMDs. Whether or not he did, it was to his advantage to imply he did as long as it made others fear him and leave him alone.

Bush and co. said he did and that they had evidence. Were we to assume that they would out and out lie?

Posted by: ____league at January 24, 2004 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

The Administration is doing a wonderfully evil job of pinning this on the CIA. It's absolute garbage, and certainly antithetical to Truman's "The Buck Stops Here" sentiment. Now I'm not going to claim there is nothing wrong with the CIA; in the past 20 years or so, they have been guilty of loving their electronic toys too much and neglecting actual human intelligence. But the thing is, they know there are limitations to their intelligence, and so should the Administration.

The CIA actually had huge amounts of information; the problem is that it was often of limited use (satellite photos that any number of conclusions could be drawn from, second or third-party hearsay evidence, etc.) and frequently contradicted itself. And this uncertainty came through in their position papers that attempted to digest all of the information. I would not draw the conclusion that the CIA thought there were WMDs in Iraq, just that they were uncertain and acknowledged the possibility. NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, excuses the absolute certainty of these lying sacks of s**t who happen to be running the country. And the fact that they persisted in their certainty after the renewed inspections came up with nothing indicates that they had abandoned reason in favor of their Faith-Based Foreign Policy Initiative. Stupid, lying, ignorant, oil-loving, saber-rattling, chickenhawk sons of bitches.

Posted by: Ted at January 24, 2004 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone with real data *really believe* Iraq had substantial amounts of WMDs and program related activities post the post Gulf War cleanup process? Hasn't it always been understood that WMDs were the necessary pretext for the maintenance of the Sanctions/Inspections Saddam-containment system, a containment system approved of by everybody with interests in the region, regardless of the truth of their existence?

It was ok to wink and nod at each other during the Clinton era about the WMD pretext, and everybody pretty much played the game (the French bailed out of the No-Fly Zone bit and seem to have worked the angles of the Oil for Food program), but when the Bush Administration decided to up the ante, everybody got cold feet. It's one thing to maintain a fiction in pursuit of containment, but quite another when it's used to justify war and regime-toppling, particularly when everybody's pretending to support an international conflict resolution system.

Finger-pointing and getting to the bottom of 'intelligence failures' seems pointless, given the always-already phantasmic nature of the WMD threat.

Posted by: notyou at January 24, 2004 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Good one, Magnum! Now why the fuck doesn't any of the mainstream media pick this up? The Democratic candidates should be screaming about this too.

Posted by: Ted at January 24, 2004 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I heard a radio broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio about a week or so before the invasion in which a University of Wisconsin professor(poli sci middle eastern specialty I believe) who favored the war on humanitarian grounds, declare unequivocally that WMDs would not be found.

Posted by: MikeK at January 24, 2004 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I think the administration did believe there was WMD in Iraq before the war.

Heh, I think the Bush administration can make a plausibly undeniable case that they did, which is all that matters to some, unfortunately.

What's more, the CIA and MI6 thought the same thing and the yawning silence from both Republicans and Democrats about how our intelligence services could have been so wildly off the mark is a scandal of the first order.

I think you're wrong here, Kevin D. What happened was that bits and kibbles of raw intelligence on alledged WMDs was 'stovepiped' directly up to Cheney and Rumsfeld, and wasn't seriously critiqued before it was used to hastily justify going to war.

Is anyone serious about this stuff?

I'm serious, and have been ever since last fall when it was obvious that the CIA was being prodded hard by the administration to produce something that could be used to make the case for war. The presentation that Powell gave to the U.N. was unconvincing to say the least, and was only supported by Powell's supposed credibility at the time. I didn't buy it then and I'm sadly not surprised to see Dick Cheney still trotting out those alledged mobile chem/bio labs as some sort of evidence of Iraqi WMDs.

Posted by: David W. at January 24, 2004 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

league said - "Bush and co. said he did and that they had evidence. Were we to assume that they would out and out lie?"
Was that a rhetorical question? Assuming it is not, my answer is - "Yes, I assume they would lie." You are allowed to have a different answer.

Posted by: lk at January 24, 2004 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to second ScottD here: Prewar, Fred Kaplan made the case in Slate that chemical and bioweapons are not truly "weapons of mass destruction," although they are banned weapons under the 1991 surrender agreement with Saddam. These agents really aren't all that deadly--after World War I, it was discovered that it took two tons of gas laid down in artillery shells to kill one enemy soldier. You might as well use high explosive. Against unprotected troops--Iranians in 1983--or civilians--Kurds in 1988--they could be effective, but only in extended barrage. Against the well-protect American Army, they would be useless, which is one reason stated that Saddam abandoned them. A nuclear weapon is another story, but the idea that al-Qaida hungered for gas or bioweapons, given that they were doing pretty well using airliners and seeing the results of Tim McVeigh's attack, was ridiculous. And a warning that the Administration was up to no good.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 24, 2004 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Good point, Kevin -- The problem with Scott Ritter is that nobody was listening to him. He undermined his own credibility by taking money to lobby for Saddam's government prior to the war. Then, when he was a voice in the wilderness, he was ignored. (Rightly so, although he turned out to be right).

The fundamental problem dates back to the late 1970s, when the CIA turned away from human intelligence (i.e., agents in the field) and toward technical means. They were forced to do so by political pressure arising out of some prior bad behavior by the CIA. Human intelligence is inherently messy, but technical means lack the ability to give you the best kind of intelligence -- the enemy's intentions. Intercepted phone calls and satellite photos can tell you part of the story, but they need to be coupled with human intelligence to be reliable.

What is needed, is a mix of various types of intelligence gathering. We should increase the CIA's budget and provide for hiring of more field agents -- that is the only way to correct the problem. The difficulty with this, however, is that we also need to find a way to keep the CIA on a leash.

Posted by: Ben at January 24, 2004 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

A guy over at Atrios made the point that if we had thought they had real WMD's then the U.S. wouldn't have invaded. Nobody who is sane is serious about invading North Korea because they have real WMD's instead of the pretend kind. We invaded Iraq because we knew they didn't have them.

Posted by: Warcraft at January 24, 2004 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Warcraft: Nobody who is sane is serious about invading North Korea because they have real WMD's instead of the pretend kind.

Actually, I think it has more to do with hundreds (thousands?) of conventional artillery tubes and rockets aimed at Seoul.

Posted by: scottd at January 24, 2004 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

A lot of this comes down to tolerance for uncertainty. Everyone believed that SH had WMD, but they weren't absolutely sure. Depending on the day, Iraq either implied that it did or did not have WMD's. Post 9/11, GWB wasn't willing to take the risk that SH had WMD's.

Posted by: Ben at January 24, 2004 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Some Fat Nazi Field Marshall while being held before the Nuremburg Trials.

I remember that brave Foreign Service Officer in Italy (?) resigning before the war over this. Good call, bud. You're a lock for the next admin.

Posted by: Troy at January 24, 2004 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Ben: The uncertainty was over the presence and quantity of weapons that were not a threat to the U.S. -- i.e., chemical weapons.

There was no credible evidence of a nuclear threat.

Posted by: scottd at January 24, 2004 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

It has always been easier to accept ignorance and incompetance than the idea of the "lie".

We remember Vietnam as years and years of policies so misguided it would seem they were designed by a room full of retarded monkeys.

There are few who will call Vietnam what it was, a colonial war. There are few who will remember that admidst all the nonsensical policy decision about Vietnam, there were people who benefitted year after year from the "mistakes" made by "well meaning" men.

As these mistakes multiplied, the same parties reaped the ideological and material benefits, while soldiers died. Altho they knew their self-interest sat ahead of their policy decisions, and they knew men died as a consequence, still we do not tend to call their actions "lies". Just mistakes in policy.

The Bush admin relied on this fact about American political nature when they began this campaign. I would say with Kay retreating and the last gasps of the WMD issue spuutering out quietly on the back pages of the papers, this is their "worst case" scenario. But even then they always knew they could assert "faulty intelligence" and "we honestly believed" and they'd be given a pass by all except the most partisan. This is why even with Kay pulling out, Powell acknowlding they may have never been any, and Bush going on a campaign to end steroid use or go Mars (whichever it si this week), Cheney is still out there asserting his "strong personal belief"... because that's part of the soup. And that was the plan all along.

But let's not call it a lie.

Posted by: Thom Yorke at January 24, 2004 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Ben, you write:

The problem with Scott Ritter is that nobody was listening to him. He undermined his own credibility by taking money to lobby for Saddam's government prior to the war. Then, when he was a voice in the wilderness, he was ignored. (Rightly so, although he turned out to be right).

Taking money to lobby for Saddam's government?

What in hell are you talking about?

Posted by: Jon at January 24, 2004 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

One of the most telling aspects of this whole sordid mess is the fact that Hans Blix offered to bring his team back into Iraq post-war to continue the search for WMD's, and the Bush administration refused the offer. Why?

Posted by: peter jung at January 24, 2004 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

The highly respected Rolff Ekeus, who had actually been pretty hawkish towards Iraq, actually said in 2002 that Iraq had "verylittle left" 1n 98. He said tere were "probably some precursors."

Posted by: alma hadayn at January 24, 2004 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Troy: the quote is attributed to Hermann Goering, but I don't know that it's genuine. Supposedly spoken to an American counsel or legal aide.

Also, you're talking about John Brady Kiesling, political and cultural officer to Athens. He lamented what Bush was doing to America in the eyes of its foreign partisans. Right now,many people admire what America stands for at its best, and looks sorrowfully at what we are doing. How much longer we can keep treating the world the way we are and hold on to any international goodwill at all, I can't say. Sooner or later, even our overseas friends will have to admit that they were wrong about us.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 24, 2004 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

As mentioned in a comment above, Kevin Pollack's article in the Atlantic tries soberly to explain how intelligence agencies worldwide got it so wrong about Saddam's WMD. They were all pretty sure he had them; now it looks like he didn't.

My reading of Pollack's article is that, once Saddam kicked the UN inspectors out in 1998, there was nobody on the ground in Iraq to provide a reality check on suspicions, and the intelligence agencies felt obliged to assume the worst based on whatever leads they picked up when there was no longer any way to disprove the suspicions. If I were an intelligence analyst, I expect I'd make the same call - better safe than sorry, basically. But the result is that WMD intelligence, with no reality checks in place, had become (we now know) pretty unsound by the time of war last spring.

Was the war a mistake as a result? In my view, no - I'm still a Democrat hawk. The world and the Iraqi people are well shed of Saddam. Even with everything going on today, many fewer Iraqis are dying today than under Saddam's regime. He was a canker on the geopolitical body and he had to go; I'm glad we took him out.

One more thing - it's fair to point out that Ritter's skepticism about Iraqi WMD looks better now than it did before the war. But Ritter had become more than a WMD skeptic - he was practically a Saddam apologist. On that score I think he still looks pretty bad.

And one more thing. We Dean people think our man is coming back, chastened and wiser. Just you wait. With that much money in the bank we figure he's not going away.

Dick Riley

Posted by: Richard Riley at January 24, 2004 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

First, some background.

We know that during the eighties, Iraq had WMD of the chemical variety. How do we know? They were used. We also know that following Gulf War 1, Saddam Hussein's arsenal -including the weapons in question- was mostly destroyed. Due to the shoddy book keeping at the time, however, we are left wondering if in fact ALL these weapons were destroyed.

In 1995 or therabouts, the head of Iraq's advanced weapons program (who also happened to be Hussein's son in law) defected, absconding with thousands of documents indicating, among other thing, that Iraq had no WMD but did have designs and that Hussein was, in fact, interested in aquiring the necessary materials. This guy was heavily interrogated both by UN weapons inspectors and the Atomic Energy folks, and testified that Iraq barely had any conventional weapons to speak of, and zero advanced biological/chemical weapons, claiming they were all destroyed at the end of the Gulf War.

Another consequence of losing the Gulf War: Iraq was subject to heavy scrutiny in the 90s, including satellite surveillance, air control, and...weapons inspectors.

A serious question to be asked is Why, when faced with an invading force whose chief purpose was to remove him from power (dead or alive), did Hussein not launch a WMD attack? He had plenty of time to prepare.

I fail to see how any reasonable person could argue this provides a justification for invading Iraq. So we are left (once again) to choose between believing the Bush Administration is honest but goofily incompetent, or that their call for war was based on calculated deception. I personally don't think they are that incompetent; they only appear to be because now they're tripping over their tangled web of lies and psychopathic greed.

Posted by: Ranty at January 24, 2004 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

scottd -- Iraq unmistakably was a threat to US interests, whether or not he was a direct threat to the continental US. Moreover, SH refused to renounce his stated intention to acquire WMD -- thus, even if he was not an imminent threat prior to the war, there was no doubt he was trying to be a future threat. Again, it all comes down to tolerance for uncertainty.

Posted by: Ben at January 24, 2004 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with Scott Ritter is that nobody was listening to him. He undermined his own credibility by taking money to lobby for Saddam's government prior to the war.

Source? Taking money from whom to advocate precisely what? You make it sound like he was acting as a foreign lobbyist on behalf of the Baathists. Is that really the case?

I want to echo the comments about the deliberately misleading conflation of chem, bio, and nuclear weapons as WMD. The Carnegie report made the same point (but also undermined it by using "WMD" in its title).

Regarding "first-rate analysts" besides Ritter, let's not forget whoever inserted all the caveats and dissents in the 2002 NIE rush-job, whose executive summary Cheney still loves to cite. (Didn't one of those folks resign from the State Dept and join the Kerry campaign?)

Finally (I know I'm jumping around), let's remember that the ultimate point with regard to justifying a first-strike war was not what Saddam owned but the threat he posed. George Tenet testified in October 2002 that even if Saddam had unconventional weapons, the likelihood of his actually using them was minuscule, short of our attacking Iraq.

(And now really finally, is it just me or have the words "conflate" and "conflation" gotten a bigger workout in the last year than ever before? We have Bush and Co. to thank for that, although Bush probably thinks conflation is what you do to a balloon.)

Posted by: ralphbon at January 24, 2004 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

My position at the time all of this began was that it was clear to me that whatever people or other countries thought Saddam had, noone (outside of our own administration and Tony Blair) thought he posed any kind of a serious threat. Even if the administration's strongest case was true, the notion that Saddam could actually cause any harm to anyone, outside of the small part of Iraq that he controlled, was simply laughable. In the best case that the administration could put together, Saddam was still a guy with a knife surrounded by enemies with very powerful guns. I believed that he probably did have some dangerous weapons but I could not see how this could plausibly be stretched into a case for war.

Bush's people were successful in framing this debate in terms of WMD and a lot of people on the left who should have known better allowed them to do it. Unfortunately, many of us are still attempting to keep the debate on this issue because we now feel that it is a winner for us. But seriously, the real issue was always that Iraq posed no real threat whatever sort of weapons they had. By 2002, Saddam Hussein could barely defend himself against rebel nomads in his own country let alone any significant conventional army from another.

Posted by: Brent at January 24, 2004 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Interested parties may want to read the well-documented "Why Invade Iraq?", by the Jesuit priest G. Simon Harak, in the October/November 2002 Blueprint for Social Justice:

Here is an excerpt, bereft of footnotes:

" ... it was Richard Butler who ordered the weapons inspectors out, as reported in the Times by Josh Friedman on Dec. 17, 1998: 'Butler abruptly pulled all of his inspectors out of Iraq shortly after handing Annan a report yesterday afternoon on Baghdad's continued failure to cooperate with UNSCOM.' Butler presented his report to the UN after days of 'consultation' with American leaders. He ordered the inspectors pulled out without authorization from the UN Security Council, a move that was condemned by Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov. Further, according to chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter, the Iraqis were 'set up' to fail the inspections requirements.

"Besides, Ritter asserts, Iraq had been effectively disarmed from its WMD by 1996. Other weapons inspectors, like Raymond Zalinskas and Rolf Ekeus, agree with him. All WMD production facilities were destroyed. All means for long-range delivery were destroyed. In the four years since the weapons inspectors have been in Iraq, Iraq did not have the economic resources to a) rebuild its factories, b) research, c) develop, d) weaponize, and e) test such weapons. Even if it did, such manufacture would require a distinctive infrastructure railing, a network of access roads, immense power sources and massive construction activity (the more if it were underground, as some fantasies would have us fear). Iraq would have to store and then deploy quantities of WMD sufficiently massive to be used in warfare, and also acquire the means to deliver them. Presently, six billion-dollar US spy satellites make twelve passes over Iraq every 24 hours. These satellites, which have a day-time imaging resolution of four to six inches, would have spotted such an enormous undertaking. Yet they have discovered nothing in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"In fact, US intelligence did discover a facility testing the poison gas ricin, in northern Iraq late this summer. But "U.S. officials decided it was not enough of a threat to justify taking military action." Why not? We should note that this activity was in the Kurdish north, a place not under Hussein's control and, more significantly, among a people the US hopes to enlist for their attacks against the rest of Iraq.

"Thus, when the US discovers actual WMD development and testing among its potential allies in Iraq, it does nothing. However, when it has no evidence of WMD destruction in the rest of Iraq and even expert testimony to the contrary it is prepared to undertake a massive attack, killing thousands, or tens of thousands of Iraqis.

"Furthermore, the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN has continuously inspected Iraq for nuclear weapons. These inspections have proceeded even after Butler withdrew the UNSCOM inspectors. The last was in January, 2002, when the chief inspector Anrzey Pietruzewski reported that Iraq had cooperated fully with the inspectors. 'During our inspection, representatives from the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission were present for the whole time and all help that is necessary to perform the inspections was provided by Iraqi authorities.'"

Posted by: Neil Dhingra at January 24, 2004 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Iraq unmistakably was a threat to US interests"

Which ones?

"Again, it all comes down to tolerance for uncertainty."

A $200 billion and climbing price tag, tattered reputations, and an Iraq which might well become a bloody failed state in the event of a quick US pullout.

How much tolerance do you have for post-war certainty?

Posted by: BP at January 24, 2004 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq unmistakably was a threat to US interests, whether or not he was a direct threat to the continental US.

I for one Ben would like to see some elaboration on this unmistakable threat to our interests. I would actually argue that the mistake was to think he was a threat at all. A mistake that very few people in a position to know, outside of Bush's administration, made.

Posted by: Brent at January 24, 2004 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

As time passes I do not see anyone moving from the "Saddam did not have WMD" to the "Saddam had WMD" position.

It would appear that Cheney's continual lies are not impressing anyone who was not already a true believer.

Posted by: ____league at January 24, 2004 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Ben:Iraq unmistakably was a threat to US interests

What were those unmistakable threats, and what interests? How were they threatened by uncertainty over the disposition of Saddam's chemical weapons.

Posted by: scottd at January 24, 2004 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Dick Riley,

You write:

Ritter had become more than a WMD skeptic - he was practically a Saddam apologist

As with Ben writing that Ritter took money to lobby for the Iraqi government, I have to ask: what in hell are you talking about?

Also, is it really too much to ask that people stop having opinions about Iraq if they don't know the inspectors were withdrawn at the request of the U.S.? This is really something that anyone with the most cursory knowledge of the subject is aware of. And I'd think that people would want to have at least some cursory knowledge of anything before they learnedly opine on it.

Posted by: Jon at January 24, 2004 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think the prevailing assumption was - Why wouldn't Saddam have them? That's certainly a reasonable and cautious approach, but it does raise the problem of proving a negative.
Assumptions are fine. You have to work from them sometimes. It's a whole different thing to confuse them with facts and act on them.

Posted by: JoeW at January 24, 2004 12:51 PM | PERMALINK


Don't confuse me with facts. It takes all the fun out of my pontificating.

Posted by: ____league at January 24, 2004 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Why Iraq?

The current foreign policy of the United States is the "Forward Defense of Freedom," which is about using U.S. soft and hard power to bring about a democratic revolution in the Middle East.

The U.S. offered five conditions for peace with Iraq, part of which was WMDs. Saddam Hussein completely flunked out on four conditions and was caught with an impermissable missile program.

The WMD hunt was the U.N.'s game. It really didn't concern itself with Saddam's other violations of U.N. resolutions or human rights record. But it looks like there were no stocks of WMDs, so Saddam was "wronged" here.

Iraq was liberated because it was nasty place and it was low hanging fruit. The struggle to bring democracy to the Middle East is only beginning. Those who don't like this policy are just going to have to win the next election.

WMDs aren't really an issue, are they?

Posted by: russ e at January 24, 2004 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I can't name any names, but I do remember that a lot of newspapers were running unnamed sources from within agencies that said the claims were exagerated. A lot of the lifelong agency experts were saying these were exagerated claims, but people were not coming forward.

I can't provide a source without serious research, but I remember going to anti war protests in October. I remember taking the anti-war position possibly because I kept reading in the British Press, in the New York Times, in the Washington Post that people within the agencies were saying off the record that these statements were not proven/realistic.

Also, Scott Ritter was pretty trashed, and he turned out to be right. Also, the whole anti war movement was trashed and they turned out to be generally more right than the politicians and pundits. And, I say that as someone who was generally really annoyed at the anti-war movement for it's lack of pragmatism and realism.

Posted by: MDtoMN at January 24, 2004 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Russ: I actually find much to agree with in your post. If it's Bush's policy to invade Middle East countries so we can reform them, fine. Let him say that, lay out a reasonable estimate of what it will cost to do so, and then see if that idea floats with the U.S. voters.

WMDs are only an issue if you offer that as a primary justification for war -- and it turns out not to be true.

Posted by: scottd at January 24, 2004 01:02 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Jon, now there's a great idea. Kevin, could you set up the comment board so that if anyone mentions in their post that Saddam kicked out the weapons inspectors during the Clinton administration, that their post gets automatically erased?

Posted by: Another Bruce at January 24, 2004 01:02 PM | PERMALINK

russ e,

You're free to argue that this isn't an important issue. My question is, would you have the courage to say that to the face of Ann Nichols? She's an Englishwoman whose son with killed in Iraq. She stated in June that if no weapons are found, "Tony Blair should resign and he should be prosecuted under international law as a war criminal. If they don't find any weapons of mass destruction then this war has been based on lies and they have put the lives of all our sons and daughters on the line for nothing."

Posted by: Jon at January 24, 2004 01:12 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall from the "60 Minutes" episode that aired a few months ago, Greg Thielman (formerly of the State Dept's intelligence agency) clearly stated that he and other weapons experts knew "they had nothing" after watching Powell's UN presentation. I don't know if any of them came out publicly at the time, but it's clear that anyone in the administration with an open mind about WMDs could have found skeptics if they asked around. Of course, such an animal did (does) not exist.

Posted by: vr101 at January 24, 2004 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

Atrio: "I don't actually believe the administration believed that Iraq had any kind of WMDs which posed a real threat to the US or anyone else."

Calpundit: "yes, the CIA hedged its estimates, and yes, the Bush administration clearly exaggerated what the CIA told them. No argument there. However, it is also abundantly clear that the CIA did in fact believe that Saddam had both WMD and active WMD programs"

These two points are not mutually exclusive. It is one thing to believe in WMD, and quite another to believe that these posed any kind of threat to the US. Moreover, as a couple of comments above have noted, chemical and biological weapons are really not in the same class as nuclear weapons when it comes to "mass destruction". The most overhype from Bushco came on the nuclear front.

I think it's quite clear that the Iraq invasion was high on the Bushco agenda, for any number of reasons, none of which included a fear of threat from Saddam. As Wolfowitz pointed out, WMD was the best selling point. The adminstration likely overhyped the intelligence on WMD thinking it was inconceivable that they wouldn't be able to find at least some remnants of Saddam's bio/chem weapons (which would later justify the invasion).

By lumping in bio/chem with nuclear, the administration was building in a bait and switch: create a real panic on the nuclear front to justify the invasion, and later justify it by pointing to bio/chem finds. The failure to find any of those explains the bait and switch which sees the war justified on humanitarian grounds.

Posted by: 3pointshooter at January 24, 2004 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

"There have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. ... The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it?s not a reason to put American kids? lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it."

Paul Wolfowitz, Vanity Fair interview last year.

Posted by: Troy at January 24, 2004 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq was liberated because it was nasty place and it was low hanging fruit. The struggle to bring democracy to the Middle East is only beginning.

If the administration lied systematically about the reasons for the invasion, how do we know they're lying about "bringing democracy"? A year or two ago, Tom Friedman wanted to replace Saddam Hussein with "an iron-fisted junta" favorable to our interests. The PNAC literature says a lot about military conquest in the ME, but little about democracy. The democracy schtick sounds like a bone to throw to the public, like WMD were.

This looks like a replay of Heart of Darkness, in which we start off with wonderful intentions, become disillusioned with the natives and wind up with a big gulag from Beirut to Tehran.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at January 24, 2004 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin asks:

All I want to know is this: In September 2002, aside from Scott Ritter, were there any serious analysts (not Sean Penn, not bloggers, not Noam Chomsky) who were publicly saying that the intelligence was wrong and Iraq didn't have WMD?

There was the government of Russia. The Russian foreign minister dismissed the British dossier in September, 2002 as a "propaganda furor." In October, before the return of inspectors, Putin said, "Fears are one thing, hard facts are another... Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that supports the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we have not received any such information from our partners yet. This fact has also been supported by the information sent by the CIA to the US Congress.",3604,810627,00.html

And of course Paul O'Neil, sitting on the National Security Council, now says "In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction."

Also, the French intelligence services certainly said Iraq had no nuclear program. And so did the State Department here.

Finally, for what it's worth, Noam Chomsky consistently said it was likely Iraq retained banned weapons. But he never examined the issue closely, as far as I know.

Posted by: Jon at January 24, 2004 01:44 PM | PERMALINK

3pointshooter hits the nail on the head.

Even I thought that it was likely that a left over/forgotten vial of this or a test tube of that would be found. Everyone did.

Many of us realized that this sort of WMD did not constitute a cause for war (those same oh so scary little test tubes full of germs and chemicals and such could be more easily produced right here in the US than smuggled in from Iraq by terrorists. It's just that easy for a competent chemist to make, but so much less effective than a fuel fertilizer bomb).

Yet, if such agents are technically WMD then most analysts would have agreed that Saddam had WMD.

As for the real threat, nukes, I know there were any number of intelligence sources stating that the last nuclear anything in Iraq was destroyed many years ago and that Iraq's ability to create anything new was minimal at best, given the intence scrutiny of the country anf the intense control over the import of anything vaguely resembling a guidance or delivery system (remember it's not enough to have the boom. You also have to have the capability to make the boom where and when you want to; not at all easy to do with nukes).

This is why we have so much discussion of a fraudulent (yellowcake) and/or a psychic nature. Well Saddam intended to...............

Nope, before the war plenty of intel stated that there were no nukes. And that's all we needed to know to avoid this stupid and costly fiasco.

Posted by: avedis at January 24, 2004 01:47 PM | PERMALINK

Having seen _Three Kings_, I was predisposed to assume Saddam had kept some stocks of ready munitions in an underground bunker complex somewhere.

Probably still does.

Not a reason to go kill 20,000-30,000 Iraqis though.

Here, let me repeat that for the slow:

Not a reason to go kill 20,000-30,000 Iraqis though.

Posted by: Troy at January 24, 2004 01:48 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody seems to have mentioned Dr. Gordon Prather. Jude Wanniski at polyconomics was all over this well before the invasion.

Posted by: splat at January 24, 2004 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

July 09, 2003

"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."

-- Ari Fleischer

and therefore I think the burden is on those people who think there were no serious analysts claiming there were no weapons of mass destruction to tell the world who they are


Posted by: bz at January 24, 2004 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

I really don't understand this post. As Bush beat the war drums from September to March their was a flood of information and analysis that Iraq's WMD potential was being grossly exaggerated. A serious analyst would start from the assumption that their WMD capacity had been virtually wiped out after the Gulf War and the inspections regime and then try to show how they might still produce. Read the reports of Unscom and Rolf Ekeus. These are analytical points that anyone using information in the public domain could have drawn. You don't need some person/analyst to stand up and say it. Or is that how you think? Secondly, why in gods name do people continue to totally discount the information that inspections has provided? Whatever Bush believed the inspections leading up to the war were revealing important the pathetic condition of his old production facilities and his willingness to cooperate...letting U2's fly over(which yielded better intelligence) and destroying missiles. This information alone was enough to make a reasonable person reconsider.

Posted by: takethree at January 24, 2004 01:52 PM | PERMALINK

Considering the excesses of the past and the present committed by the CIA and other US intelligence services - sanctioning of torture, outrageous human rights violations, coups, on and on, I would hesitate to increase their funding, as suggested above. Any such funds would be better spent on education here and abroad, strengthening political institutions and public health.

Unfortunately, the key players in many of the worst incidents are the ones running the show today. They've learned a lot since the days of Vietnam, Chile & Iran, mostly about how to make a profit while spinning the most outrageous lies into acts of blatant imperialism. The Bushes are right in the heart of the "Military-Industrial Complex", and have been since the Versailles Treaty was signed.

Congress is filled with the compromised and the corrupt, the White House is filled with crooks and war criminals.

Why is anybody surprised by anything that he, and they, have done?

Posted by: Atlas at January 24, 2004 01:57 PM | PERMALINK


You're correct. There was more than enough easily accessible information before the war to conclude that Iraq had nothing. That's why I bet someone $1000 that no weapons would be found.

Moreover, it should have been anyone's default belief that Iraq had nothing. Why would they have retained banned weapons and risk giving the US a pretext for an invasion? It would have made no sense whatsoever. And like so many things that make no sense whatsoever, it wasn't so.

Posted by: Jon at January 24, 2004 01:58 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a name, in addition to Greg Thielman:

Andrew Wilkie, an intelligence analyst at Australia's Office of National Assessments, resigned in protest over his government's participation in the war. He's publicly taken his government to task for its collusion in the Bush administration's dubious WMD claims.

Posted by: ralphbon at January 24, 2004 01:58 PM | PERMALINK

Was Saddam's Iraq a threat to the United States?

The real question is, are the conditions in the entire Middle East [see the U.N. report on development in the area] and the anti-West, anti-liberal terrorism it spawns a threat to the U.S. The answer, clearly, is yes.

Some say, well, why didn't we invade Saudi Arabia [or someone else]. The short answer is that Iraq was already our enemy, where we had spent the last 12 years trying to contain the Saddam regime diplomatically and militarily, whereas Saudi Arabia is our "ally", where we in fact based the planes that enforced the U.N.-approved no-fly zone.

While Saudi Arabia remains a long-term problem, it is now also under heavy attack from AQ and OBL and therefore, currently cooperating with the Coalition war on terrorism. Say what you might about Mushariff [sp?], narrowly escaping two recent assassination attempts puts Pakistan even more on our side, as well. That's just the way things are in a complicated geo-political situation.

Saddam was the apogee of everything wrong with Middle Eastern politics, with the possible exception of the status of Iraqi women. I think Syria is next. Those who want to keep Assad II in power better think about signing those Not in My Name petitions. Or win the next electino.

Posted by: russ e at January 24, 2004 02:10 PM | PERMALINK

Here's some stuff from the Federation of American Scientist site

Just for kicks, compare and contrast these two documents:

Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction
and Advanced Conventional Munitions,
1 July Through 31 December 2001

Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of echnology
Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction
and Advanced Conventional Munitions,
1 January Through 30 June 2002

There seemed, at least to me, to be a definite shift in tone between the time that these two reports were given. The 2002 dated document was much more strident and detailed in its assertions about Iraq's weapons programs. If I weren't such a lazy fuck, I might start cross referencing public statements by administration officials with the conclusions reached in these type of reports.

Posted by: digger at January 24, 2004 02:11 PM | PERMALINK

Electino. "Heh."

Posted by: russ e at January 24, 2004 02:12 PM | PERMALINK

well hell, the last link should have been this:

Posted by: digger at January 24, 2004 02:12 PM | PERMALINK

I know that that Saddam Husain built his WMDs with the help of Western corporations (this is not conspiricy theory crap but just the facts, Saddam was an ally of various countries at various times of his reign and it is not like corporations never help dictators). With sanctions and close monitiring of his activities I did not think it was possible for Saddam to rebuild his WMD program. I do not need an "analyst" to tell me these things.

I think the real reason why everyone believed Bush was most Americans idiotic beliefe that to creat a super germ all you need is petri dish and some sugar. I know most people I talked to initially always argued against me by stataing something similiar to "you dont know how easy it is to make these things."

Finally, lets stop hoo-haaing about inteligence failures. We all know the CIA has lied to the American Public as recently as Regan's administartion. Why believe they were sincerely believed the hog wash they were selling the American public. This is not to say that the CIA willingly decieved the people. I am sure a lot of political pressure was brought to bear on the CIA to "convince" them to believe in Saddam's WMD program.

Finally, why is it so hard to beieve that the BUsh administration lies. They lied about the Tax Cut, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the lied about this war.

The real prolem is in the question you as. Why is Sean Penn's skepticism of the WMDs any less credible than Scott Ritters. I dont thin you needed PhD to be suspicious of this War. As an anti-war protester and organizer in Rochester, NY the only argument i got for the War was dont you trust the President and the CIA. Honestly, I dont but most "analysts" do and that is why many just kept quiet.

Posted by: Mansoor Khan at January 24, 2004 02:13 PM | PERMALINK

russ e,

I am genuinely curious what you answer is to the question I asked about the Englishwoman whose son was killed in Iraq.

Also, could you please refrain from referring to "Those who want to keep Assad II in power"? These actually are serious subjects, and that type of rhetorical strategy is extraordinarily silly and childish.

Posted by: Jon at January 24, 2004 02:16 PM | PERMALINK

BP -- $200 Billion is a small price to pay if it prevents another 9/11.

As to those who seem to argue Iraq was not a threat to our interests, remember that SH was actively promoting terrorism, opposed us at every turn, invated Kuwait and Iran (and therefore destabilized the Middle East), etc. Don't let your hatred of GWB intrude on your ability to see threats.

Posted by: Ben at January 24, 2004 02:17 PM | PERMALINK

it is also abundantly clear that the CIA did in fact believe that Saddam had both WMD and active WMD programs.

No, it is not abundantly clear. Kevin, you cannot separate threat assessment from the weapons question the way you want to do. What the intel said was that it was possible that there was still bio and chem stocks, which would be useless, and that there were no nukes and no nuke program. Gen. Anthony Zinni, if you want a name, said publicly in October that the administration was misleading the public about what the intel said.

You want to pretend that because no one you consider "serious" stood up and said "The intel is crap; there are no weapons", that we all had to give the administration the benefit of the doubt as you did.

Analysts publicly discredited the stovepiped aluminum tubes info during the fall 2002. The White House was going to use the Niger yellowcake info in the fall 2002 Cincinnati speech and Tenet got it taken out; this was reported at the time. There were other open contradictions of the only "evidence" the administration would provide; I don't have time to go search my clip files, and won't until this evening, by which time the thread will probably no longer be live.

A pattern of lies and deceptions from early on, that followed a summer of shifting, flimsy rationales for war... Frankly, the phrase "you don't need a weatherman...." comes to mind.

Your question is disingenuous. But because we can't supply your "serious analyst" I imagine you'll continue to disparage all of us who doubted from early on with your faint sneers of "Sean Penn/Chomsky/blogger". Give it a rest. Move on. You are not adding anything to the discussion, but covering your trail like a squid blowing a cloud of ink.

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at January 24, 2004 02:18 PM | PERMALINK

For gods' sake, Cheney is STILL asserting that Iraq has WDMs. He obviuosly either believed it before the war despite evidence to the contrary, and he still believes it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary because he is delusional or he just thinks he can fool enough of the people all of the time to stay in power. The fact that the US military did not run to the supposed sites and secure them immediately suggests that the top Bushies knew Iraq didn't have WMDs.

The CIA and military was taken aback in 1991 to see how far Saddam had gone with WMDs, and so they erred on the side of caution so as not to be accused of having learned nothing. Saddam, on the other hand, realized after Gulf I that the US would attack, so he dismantled the WMD program. But he seems to have liked people thinking he still had it so that he would look big in Arab eyes and maybe to deter a US attack.

Then he figured that if the US did attack it would be embarrased when there were no WMDs, as has in fact happened. WEe also need to remember that Iraq did tyry to account for its prior WMDs and did tell the UN he didn't have any. But the Bushies said this was proof of his continued deception, because he didn't account for the enriched uranium he had been getting from Niger and other lies the Admin had told. So basically everyone was trapped by their lies.

Posted by: Mimikatz at January 24, 2004 02:21 PM | PERMALINK


When you referred to Scott Ritter "taking money to lobby for Saddam," what were you talking about?

Posted by: Jon at January 24, 2004 02:22 PM | PERMALINK

Your question assumes something that is simply not true. It assumes that analyst out of government had any information independent from that the Bush administration was willing to release. One of the reasons I have not held the war vote against the Democratic Senators running for President is because they had no other choice but to make their decision based on information provided by the Bush administration. So the answer is that the only real information available was that provided by Bush and his merry band of fanatics. Many people had doubts about this information but no basis upon which to factually rebut it. What were they to do?

As a gov. employee tangentially involved with sensitive info I can tell you that many in the intelligence community had serious doubts about the claims being made but no way to communicate those doubts because they are good civil servants who take their secuity clearances seriously, unlike some high level Administration officals.

Posted by: dmh at January 24, 2004 02:29 PM | PERMALINK

How come Noam Chomsky isn't a serious analyst?

Because he focus on facts rather than ideology?

Is Howard Zinn also not a serious analyst?

Posted by: Jimm at January 24, 2004 02:30 PM | PERMALINK

That's an argument, Russ. It's not one I'd make without mentioning that, if the United States wants to be seen as the patron of representative government in the Arab world, it should remember that Israel currently disenfranchises over two million Palestinian Arabs. Taking steps to establish a viable Palestinian state while insuring Israel's security would have been a much cheaper and more direct cure for Arab humiliation and tyranny than invading Iraq. As it is, no Arab and few Muslims trust our goodwill in Iraq. And, of course, the fact that the United States didn't stop the chaos that erupted in Iraq after 9 April, and the law-abiding Arabs saw their patrimony and commonwealth vandalized and stolen, with the exception of the Iraqi Oil Ministry and whatever Shi'a militias and clerics could guard, did nothing to assure Arabs that we have their best interests at heart. In any case, your argument is one that the Administration didn't make, at least as a cause for war, probably because it would not have moved a hair on the American body politic, at least not without some real, time-consuming work.

I remember a Washington Post story in early March 2003--I was appalled and copied it--reported that Bush's advisors believed that the Iraq buildup and uncertainty was a drain on the American economy, and that it was essential to begin an Iraq war it sooner rather than later, so that the economic recovery could begin in time for Bush's re-election campaign. So, time for your arguments to take hold wasn't really part of the Bush plan. Better to undermine democracy and lie. After all, if these guys believed in democracy, they would never have taken office, at all, since they weren't democratically elected.

Now, come to think of it, I understand why those inspections were cut short, by the way. When you gotta bomb for Karl to meet his schedule, you gotta bomb.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 24, 2004 02:31 PM | PERMALINK

There were millions of people the world over vociferously arguing that there was no evidence of WMDs or programs or related activities. Kevin are you implying that their analysis doesn't count; that only the talking heads that big media chooses to present big media's audience-grabbing case count? It is precisely the bought, paid, and manipulative opinions of the talking heads that you should be skeptical of.

Posted by: kirk at January 24, 2004 02:32 PM | PERMALINK

Jon's right--Chomsky said on Brian Lamb's program shortly after the attack on Iraq that he'd be "very surprised" if Iraq didn't have banned weapons.

What folks unfamiliar with Chomsky fail to understand about him is that he bases much of his opposition to war on principles of sovereignty, not on questions of fact. So whether or not Iraq had banned weapons was beside the point, just as whether or not the Sandinistas accepted help from the Soviet Union was beside the point.

Posted by: TK at January 24, 2004 02:37 PM | PERMALINK

remember that SH was actively promoting terrorism

...against Israel. is the US obligated to defend Israel ? Israel's a big country (militarily) it can fight its own battles . we've got better things to do right now, IMO.

opposed us at every turn

yes, those 10,000 dead Iraqis had it coming, for living under a stubborn asshole.

invated Kuwait and Iran (and therefore destabilized the Middle East), etc.

we supported his war with Iran.

if you hadn't noticed, we've invaded two countries in the region in the past 2 years, also. and, Iraq is looking pretty unstable right now.

Posted by: ChrisL at January 24, 2004 02:38 PM | PERMALINK

If you look into it Kevin, you'll find that reliance on ideology and fiction is what allows these things to happen (mixed in with some genuine fear).

To be honest, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn are two of the more serious analysts around, and just because they seem so radical in their visions doesn't mean otherwise, just that the measure of useful illusions and fiction we live on may be the more radical in nature.

9/11 should have caused people to look up and start asking questions about the conventional wisdom, and its insistence on how to correctly interpret the available information, and, along with this, what information ought to be ignored or downplayed.

The answer is that important information should not be ignored when it contrasts with the belief system and conventional wisdom (i.e. cognitive dissonance). Instead, the rational thinker will examine the available information and look for patterns of consistency in order to gain some understanding and hopefully predictive insight.

This is called the rationalism - the scientific process.

There has never been a compelling argument that Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn aren't rational or scientific in their thinking - only that either they are too much so, or not suitably emotional enough to understand the importance of information being consistent to belief and conventional wisdom.

In other words, have you already formed your beliefs and understanding of the world, your knowledge, and only supporting information is needed, as you are rigid and certain in this belief?

Or, are you more fluid, adaptable, and able to change, by realizing that your beliefs and conventional wisdom are only working hypotheses, and that in the face of conflicting information more sensible wisdom and beliefs may be appropriate?

Which one do you think will be more successful in a changing and fluid world?

Posted by: Jimm at January 24, 2004 02:39 PM | PERMALINK

lest us all not forget that BushCo insisted throughout the run-up that they had oodles of evidence that they could not reveal because of security reasons. Just as at the time of Powell's UN presentation charade they were claiming that it was but the tip of the evidence iceberg - just enough to make everyone feel that BushCo really had the goods.

Turns out that the lies and deceptions they presented were all they had.

Posted by: category 3 at January 24, 2004 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

remember that SH was actively promoting terrorism,

How? Exactly? Because it seems that the only actual evidence for this might be gifts to the families of suicide bombers resisting the Israeli occupation. Abu Nidal? Dead. Abu Abbas? Amnestied by Israel, left Gaza for Baghdad with Israel's blessing, giving interviews to the New York Times. In any case, providing life insurance for suicide bombers in Israel doesn't skin my ass very much. (Israelis, of course, might feel differently.)

opposed us at every turn, invated Kuwait and Iran (and therefore destabilized the Middle East), etc.

I keep going back to this question: What the hell did Saddam ever do to us? He invaded Iran pretty much because the Saudis and Kuwaitis (and tacitly, the United States) wanted him to be the bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, particularly Shi'a. We helped with that fight against Iran, materially, with intelligence, particularly if he'd buy American food. We even specifically approved of his use of chemical weapons against the Iranians. When Kuwait wouldn't forgive his war debts to the Emir, Saddam threatened to invade Kuwait, and the United States' ambassador obsequiously assured him that the USA regarded this dispute as "an intra-Arab problem." Afterwards, of course, George H.W. Bush (who had, in his run for Congress many years before, been accused of being a "tool of the Emir") and the rest of us bought into the Emir's public relations campaign. Or, maybe, H.W. just decided that Saddam had gotten too big for his britches. Whatever.

A despot Saddam was. A wildman, well, we maybe not.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 24, 2004 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone acknowledges we live in a dangerous world. But most everyone does not know why. They don't know, or have even really examined, why their enemies hate them.

Our leaders just lie about it. Plain and simple. So they are no help.

And it's not just our enemies that make the world dangerous. We make it so for ourselves. Conventional wisdom doesn't pay attention to nonlinear disruptions caused by our environmental impact.

Noam Chomsky's latest book is a good place to start shattering illusions and start examining the world and challenges we face rationally.

Howard Zinn's book, Artists In A Time Of War, is also a great place to get a dose of cognitive dissonance, and commit yourself to engaging and absorbing it, rather than ignoring and rejecting it.

There are two ways to deal with cognitive dissonance. It is not a new concept. Mainly, it's the difference between deductive and inductive thinking (well, not exactly).

If information does not support your conclusions, i.e. belief and conventional wisdom, do you reject or ignore it for this reason? If so, welcome back to the Middle Ages.

Or, in the face of conflicting information, do your examine and adjust your conclusions? This is the scientific process, and thankfully because of it we have become a more rational creature and have won our freedom.

Don't give it away. And don't ever believe that Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn are not serious analysts or commentators.

Posted by: Jimm at January 24, 2004 02:46 PM | PERMALINK

Ben:As to those who seem to argue Iraq was not a threat to our interests, remember that SH was actively promoting terrorism, opposed us at every turn, invated Kuwait and Iran (and therefore destabilized the Middle East), etc. Don't let your hatred of GWB intrude on your ability to see threats.

Let's see, Saddam invaded Iran 20(?) years ago, spent 8 years fighting, and came up with nothing. He invaded Kuwait 13 years ago and was pretty directly sent packing, tail between his legs and most of his army destroyed. Plus he was subjected to crippling sanctions including embargos, intrusive inspections, and no-fly zones that allowed us to pretty much bomb whenever we felt like it. Frankly, I just wasn't feeling very threatened by him in 2003.

How was he actively promoting terrorism in a way that threatened us? Is that why we went to war?

Posted by: scottd at January 24, 2004 02:48 PM | PERMALINK

After reading all of the comments, the most interesting was notyou, who talked about how everyone supported the WMD fiction when it was used to justify the no-fly zones and sanctions, and was chicken to speak up when Bush took the fiction to its logical extreme as a pretext for war (although the French and Russians, in retrospect, obviously also knew Saddam didn't have WMDs, and that was the basis of their opposition to the war).

As for the $200 bil and 500 US lives/5,000 wounded we have spent on Iraq being "worth it" by deterring another 9/11, this is, to put it politely, nonsense. Saddam did not have anything to do with 9/11. If any govt did, it was elements in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. By taking CIA/special forces out of Afghanistan prematurely and not committing sufficient troops there (because it is now clear they were saving them for Iraq) we let bin Laden escape with several of his men, also many Taliban, and did not make Afghanistan secure. It remains a breeding ground for extremism. Plus, we humiliated an Arab country, the most secular one, and in many ways most modern. So we created the conditions for more terrorists. And we pissed off our allies, whose help we need in the real war against terrorists, the one that involves tracing financial transactions, tracking and infiltrating groups etc. And we have continued to supprt the Israeli humiliation of the Palestinians. And did I mention that by closing off our borders to men from Muslim countries we are destroying the possibility of positive contacts and ensuring they will study elsewhere or nowhere? So tell me again how Bush has done so much to deter another attack on American soil?

Posted by: Mimikatz at January 24, 2004 02:51 PM | PERMALINK

lest us all not forget that BushCo insisted throughout the run-up that they had oodles of evidence that they could not reveal because of security reasons.

Bush and Co didn't need evidence. All they needed was the conventional wisdom and existing belief that Saddam had weapons.

With their dogmatic emphasis, they cherry picked evidence and convinced themselves the case for war was undeniable. 80% of the free world disagreed.

As mentioned earlier, the rationalist Chomsky also believed there were WMD in Iraq, based upon the evidence that he had seen (admittedly not much).

The difference is that Bush and Co turned the evidence they could find into, for them, an undeniable claim that was widely denied. The claim was not that there was WMD, which almost everyone suspected there to be to some degree.

It was that this was a reason for a war. A just war. That there were no WMD only makes the claims that this was a just war, based upon WMD, that much more a crock.

Because, even with some WMD, the vast majority of the free world was against the war (an immediate war), because they did not consider Saddam Hussein, a weakened despot, an imminent threat.

Without WMD, this becomes so obvious as to not need to mention, though this apparently escapes our mainstream media, also caught up in the fiction of conventional wisdom and ratifying "official" belief systems.

Posted by: Jimm at January 24, 2004 02:52 PM | PERMALINK

Another must-reaad is "The Sorrows of Empire" by Chalmers Johnson. Remember, he is the one whose earlier book "Blowback" accurately forcasted that the world was not at all happy with the proliferation of US bases around the world, and that one day it would come back to bite us.

Posted by: Mimikatz at January 24, 2004 02:57 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly, scottd. To take your point further, after the Gulf War Saddam was left with virtually no air force and about 30% of the military strength he had for that war.

Ben mentioned earlier that we should focus on human intelligence more as opposed to high-tech. But, where are we going to find Americans willing to live in the difficult conditions such as those of Al Qaeda or Hamas? How reliable could any bought operatives be?

Posted by: Amigo at January 24, 2004 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Don't let your hatred of GWB intrude on your ability to see threats."

Threats. That's all we see these days. We must be the most paranoid nation in the history of the world. Look, 9/11 was a horrific piece of terrorism, and I don't want to diminish that in any way. But the utter paranoia and swaggering that has gone on in its wake is despicable, and this Administration's use of it to ram its right-wing agenda down our throats and pull us along like frightened sheep into a costly, unnecessary war is so disgusting that there are no words in the English language sufficient to describe it.

By all means, let's continue to use our wonderful, proven ability to see threats. Let's see, based on our colorful new alert system and the informative nightly news, we should have been dirty bombed at least twice and had at least three airplanes shot down. Oh yes, and we should all be dead of Mad Cow, or the Worst Flu Season Ever, or SARS. And lest we forget, our children are ticking time bombs of homicidal rage who could do us in at any moment, so we should be dead from that too.

Or we could have taken an intelligent, rational approach that would have used all of that post-9/11 goodwill and sympathy to establish an international approach to terrorism, actually respected other countries, and shared the responsibility of countering legitimate threats.
We could have turned off the hysterical newscasts that care nothing for actually informing us but only want to increase ratings, and instead relied on actual information and informed debate. Nah, that's too much like work.

Posted by: Ted at January 24, 2004 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

It's amazing that such a simple failure of logic could prompt such a long discussion.

Remember, the CIA and Powell said: "Because he had these weapons before and hasn't proven that he destroyed all of them, he might still have them. Plus, here are some weird photos and an intercepted phone call."

And the White House and Cabinet said: "We are double-dog sure he has them."

Quite simple, really.

Posted by: praktike at January 24, 2004 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

Sweet reference Mimikatz. What every American should understand is the well-known international concept of "Islamicist blowback".

No serious analyst would ever dare to mention in the mainstream media that we practically reinvented Jihad ourselves in our attempts to enmesh the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Or that the CIA sponsored the terror camps (to a signifigant degree) that we later spoke out so vehemently against, one of which Clinton bombed.

No, that's absurd analysis (not because it's not based on faulty facts or information, the information is sound, but because it goes against the conventional wisdom and belief in our righteousness).

Serious analysis is that these terrorists are enemies of freedom and not patriotic defenders of their territory and culture, and that whether we encouraged this cocktail of territorialism and religious fanatacism is not relevant, if even acknowledged, since that was eons ago in the Cold War, and now they should know better that we are no threat when we build military bases on their "lands", and especially because everything has changed now since 9/11, and you can go back to Kansas, and the stars do revolve around the earth (oops...mixing my eras and dogmas).

Posted by: Jimm at January 24, 2004 03:19 PM | PERMALINK

No serious analyst would ever dare to mention in the mainstream media that we practically reinvented Jihad ourselves in our attempts to enmesh the Soviets in Afghanistan.

enmesh the Soviets in their own Vietnam that is.

also, I think the question is really whether analysts and commentators are too serious, and too rational, as opposed to those who are kind of serious, but only within the framework of acceptable analysis, and know when to be rational and when to be irrational (by authority).

Posted by: Jimm at January 24, 2004 03:22 PM | PERMALINK

From WP:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said. "There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

Cheney's certitude bewildered Zinni. As chief of the Central Command, Zinni had been immersed in U.S. intelligence about Iraq. He was all too familiar with the intelligence analysts' doubts about Iraq's programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction, or WMD. "In my time at Centcom, I watched the intelligence, and never -- not once -- did it say, 'He has WMD.' "
It's true, not a lot of people were yelling too loudly from the intelligence field (Ray McGovern and his group do come to mind), but that's because everybody was either intimidated or was in an improper position- like Zinni. It was perfectly clear to everybody though, that every piece of supposedly hard evidence they put forth was debunked within a month, and most within a week.

Posted by: Jesse at January 24, 2004 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

Well, ted, I read this bit from Bill, Tom Tomorrow's roving travelogue writer: It seems that a newspaper survey revealed 28 percent of New Zealanders would like to visit the USA, but half of that number think it's too dangerous. About the same population that thinks its too dangerous to visit Iraq. Apparently, Australians and New Zealanders think we're nice enough, just too damned paranoid to be worth it.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 24, 2004 03:29 PM | PERMALINK

Were there any serious analysts who were publicly saying that the intelligence was wrong and Iraq didn't have WMD?

Warren Strobel, reporting in October 2002 could only get one source to go on record:

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said some information he had seen did not support Bush's portrayal of the Iraqi threat. "It's troubling to have classified information that contradicts statements made by the administration," Durbin said. "There's more they should share with the public."

The article also states:

A CIA report released Friday said it could take Iraq until the last half of the decade to produce a nuclear weapon, unless it could acquire bomb-grade uranium or plutonium on the black market.

Given today?s news, 5-8 years was not such an unlikelihood

The Washington Post reported in Saturday's editions that Libya's quest for atomic weapons was aided by a sophisticated nuclear black market that offered weapons designs, real-time technical advice and thousands of sensitive parts -- some apparently manufactured in secret factories.

Posted by: verdadera at January 24, 2004 03:40 PM | PERMALINK

Good one, Brian! Can't say I'm surprised; they've seen Bowling for Columbine down there, and they've read the stories about foreigners knocking on the door of the wrong house and getting shot.

Keep in mind also that most of the rest of the world really hates Shrub, and they also know that half of us think he's a good president. That probably makes them fear our sanity, as it should.

Posted by: Ted at January 24, 2004 03:44 PM | PERMALINK

What's more, the CIA and MI6 thought the same thing and the yawning silence from both Republicans and Democrats about how our intelligence services could have been so wildly off the mark is a scandal of the first order.


Did you ever get to read Seymour Hersch's piece The Stovepipe in The New Yorker? From the look of it, Capitalism's Invisible Army was more or less bypassed, as were the folks at State. Let's lay the blame where it belongs: squarely at the feet of the administration and it's growing dis-intelligence network.


Posted by: jam at January 24, 2004 04:00 PM | PERMALINK

Their whole course of action for a year before the war was dishonest, in the sense that it was a charade. They'd decided to invade, and they wanted to generate some findings that there were WMD. If the occupation had gone well, they would have gotten away with it. Any questions about the presence of WMD would have been drowned out by the cheering for our success.

The way it's turned out is the a disaster for the War on Terror. If you think about historical instances where people behaved suicidally, it's characteristically when turf is encroached on. In our history there are Indian attacks that amounted to suicide in the chances for success and the certainty of reprisal. But the settlers didn't misuse their college educations by inventing psychobabble theories about a "sick culture" or a "culture of terror" that derived from the way the Indians governed themselves. The settlers just took precautions and tried to avoid provoking the Indians unnecessarily.

The US and Europe have been intervening in the ME for over 100 years now. The natives are going to look at what we've done and conclude that if we wanted to install democracies, we would have done it decades ago. In Iraq, we helped Saddam come to power, gave the green light to two disastrous wars, 2 or 3 instances of genocide, and the human rights violation of the sanctions. Then we invade (by choice, not necessity), kill some more people, trash the infrastructure and try to install a puppet government. It's a recipe for suicide bonbers and plane hijackers.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at January 24, 2004 04:46 PM | PERMALINK

what R.B. just said...

Posted by: Troy at January 24, 2004 05:21 PM | PERMALINK

WMDs or not, Tacitus will find some justification for the nearly 1/2 trillion it will take us to escape this mess.

This is typical Republican dis-information. Create a fabrication, cut taxes, then spend like hooligans on their favorite programs.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 05:32 PM | PERMALINK

the most fun part of watching this "debate" (I use the term loosely) is the intellectual contortions various people go thru.

One political side (you know who you are) has done nothing but sneer at the CIA and go thru a long list of faults, mistakes and believed ill-intentions for decades. Now they have no problems with anything the spooks say and would seem to have no problem bearing the spooks kids as long as it provides a political weapon.

as for the "cherry picking", let's go thru a brief roundup of CIA accuracy:
1990-91: Saddam is only bluffing, he won't invade Kuwait.
1993: whoops, looks like somebody tried to blow up the WTC.
USS Cole: didn't see that one coming.
Kenya and Tanzania US embassies: oopsies, didn't know a thing about it.
Khobar Towers: did you hear something?
Sudan Asprin Factory: honest, they were making bad stuff there!
and last but not least:
9/11/2001: the FBI should have told us!

I'd be happy to quote the marvelous successes but that dog doesn't bark.

Seriously, Intelligence is the Fog Of War on a day-to-day basis. They're dealing with incredible amounts of data from all sorts of sources a) most of it is complete bullshit and b) the small amounts that aren't are only visible in the muck via hindsight.
In the 70's and early 80's, the spooks had to give up most of their "home grown" humint because the "spies are bad" crowd didn't like the games the spooks had been playing. Then the spooks had to give up recruiting because...well...they were recruiting the scum of the earth; as if choir boys would have anything useful to say.

You can complain about the Bush Admin "cherry picking" all you want, but I seriously doubt Gore or any other President would have been any different (altho I do have my doubts about Carter).

The POTUS, regardless of party, is in the unenviable position of knowing that whatever decision they make on terrorism means that somebody is going to die as a result. There is no decision matrix or path where everybody lives; the only effect the POTUS's decisions have are a general "who and how many".

Clinton did the best he can (see the article at Showstoppers on some of how his "choices" were presented to him). He managed to get thru fairly unscathed, too bad about the Kenyans, Tanzanians, Cole crew, etc. but that just helps prove my point. Clinton chose to continue the "law enforcement" protocol because the alternative was war...and that would have killed a bunch of people.

The current POTUS had a lot of civilians die on American soil, in a major city in a simultaneous attack on the Pentagon (we can only conjecture on the 4th plane's target).

The Hounds of Diplomacy, the Dogs of War or hunkering down and closing the borders...there are bodies behind any of those doors.

That's the "cherry picking" going on.

Posted by: InconsistentHeretic at January 24, 2004 06:11 PM | PERMALINK

Do the people at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace count as serious analysts?

In February 2003, Joseph Cirincione and Dipali Mukhopadhyay of the Carnegie Endowment released a rebuttal of Ken Pollack's NY Times argument that Saddam posed a nuclear threat.

Does Robin Cook count as a serious analyst? In his resignation speech in March 2003, he said:

"Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target."

How about Colin Powell? In Cairo, on February 24 2001, Powell said: "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."

On May 15 2001, Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to "build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction" for "the last 10 years". America, he said, had been successful in keeping him "in a box".

How about this article from the Boston Globe:

Many current and former intelligence officers are now saying that the White House either ignored intelligence reports that failed to confirm weapons of mass destruction or trumped up skimpy or lame reports. A claim by Bush that Saddam was buying uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons turned out to be a forged document on the letterhead of a minister of foreign affairs in Niger who had been out of office for a decade.

Greg Thielmann, a recently retired State Department analyst who could not believe that Bush would use ''that stupid piece of garbage'' to make his case, told Newsweek, ''There is a lot of sorrow and anger at the way intelligence was misused.''

A Central Command planner told Newsweek that the CIA's information on the sites where weapons of mass destruction were stored was ''crap.'' An intelligence official told US News and World Report that ''the policy decisions weren't matching the reports we were reading every day.'' In a 2002 document, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded, ''There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons.''

Time quoted a senior military official who helped plan the war in Iraq but quit after seeing the White House exaggerate bad intelligence. Time also quoted an Army intelligence officer who said Rumsfeld ''was deeply, almost pathologically distorting the intelligence.''

US News and World Report detailed how Cheney's staff fed Secretary of State Colin Powell reams of ''evidence'' that could not be confirmed on the eve of Powell's testimony to the United Nations. David Albright, a former Atomic Energy Agency arms inspector, said the White House ''deliberately selected information that would increase the perception that Iraq was a serious threat'' and ''made a decision to turn a blind eye'' to the evidence that ''the large number of deployed chemical weapons the administration said that Iraq had are not there.''

Patrick Lang, a former CIA analyst on Iraq, has said intelligence was ''exploited and abused and bypassed'' by the White House. Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of CIA counter-terrorism operations, said many intelligence officials ''believe it is a scandal.'' Cannistraro said Bush had a ''moral obligation to use the best information available, not just information that fits your preconceived ideas.''

Posted by: DanM at January 24, 2004 06:12 PM | PERMALINK

The hard truth is that no one on this board chastizing others for supposedly buying the Bush Administration's arguments or the CW about WMDs knew ANY MORE than anyone else outside the administration knew. You didn't. Period. You based your BELIEFS that the WMD argument was false on a strong, justly held suspicion that this administration is given to LYING and was doing it again. But you didn't KNOW anything. Admit it. You didn't KNOW.
It's entirely plausible that given what we now really DO know -- that Cheney has been stovepiping intelligence (Sy Hersh, New Yorker) and cherrypicking it (numerous anonymous sources in many stories); that Chalabi and others were trumping up other evidence (PBS Frontline); that Hans Blix came to believe (post start of the war)that Saddam was BSing about what he possessed for years just to frighten his enemies, including Clinton, btw -- it's plausible that the administration had sold itself a bill of goods and relied on FAITH in its cherrypicked intelligence to form the BELIEF that Saddam had WMDs. This, imho, is WORSE by a huge factor than sinply lying; it speaks of gross incompetence, frighteningly inept, ideologically driven policies followed NOW by blatant lying and denials of obvious truths. Really, the stronger political argument against Bush-Cheney is not that they lied in the first place, which is obviously debatable, but that they talked themselves into their own paranoia and spread it to the rest of the country (and Britain), fought a war with no clue about what to do afterward, and ravaged international support and sympathy along the way -- all notions easily supported by facts.

Posted by: secularhuman at January 24, 2004 07:18 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, a name of someone whose credentials suggest credibility who received almost no attention:

Dr Glen Rangwala - Lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, UK

He wrote and has written a lot of stuff on Iraq, including the 17 September 2002 The dishonest case for war on Iraq.""

Posted by: Rodger at January 24, 2004 08:29 PM | PERMALINK

"This, imho, is WORSE by a huge factor than sinply lying; it speaks of gross incompetence, frighteningly inept, ideologically driven policies followed NOW by blatant lying and denials of obvious truths."

Blah blah blah. Blood for oil... Fighting his Daddy's war... blah blah blah...

Not an original thought to be found.

Posted by: Gordon the Magnificent at January 24, 2004 08:33 PM | PERMALINK

No, Kevin, there weren't many analysts willing to stick their neck out because there are very few people who could say that it was all BS. Everyone that looked closely knew that parts of the case were BS. The aluminum tubes, for example, were known to be BS by those in the engineering community that were paying attention. The problem is that nobody was in a position to know that it was ALL BS. After all, they can make up lies faster than they can be researched and disproven and very, very few people have the expertise or resources to examine every claim. I, for one, didn't buy the case because in every instance that I could check, they were lying and that made it impossible for me to extend them the benefit of the doubt about the rest.

Posted by: exgop at January 24, 2004 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ken Pollack continues to be an apologist for the Administration simply by the fact that he continues to refer to an 'intelligence failure' and 'hyping of intelligence.' Any decently-aware parent knows when their child is lying to them, just as I knew my government was lying to me. I mean, can anybody with a brain look back at the mushrooms clouds, urgent propagandizing, and immediate and gross shaming and intimidation of opposition and say that it wasn't obvious that Cheney and his people were pushing for this war, truth be damned? I mean, MILLIONS of demonstrators worldwide BEFORE any bombs actually dropped - we all knew. Most of us weren't and aren't experts. Why wouldn't Pollack? It's just deception part II...

Posted by: Peter at January 24, 2004 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz, and Blair (and Straw) all said Saddam HAS weapons of mass destruction. The US also edited those documents sent from Iraq to the UN which listed all the US companies (and European) who sold chemical agents and bio precursors to Iraq in the 80s. I recall a few on the left suggesting that iraq may well have gotton rid of its weapons....and certainly Ritter did....and I recall thinking Iraq probably didnt have much....but then its not MY BUSINESS to know this stuff....its the government's business to know it and they clearly LIED. And if they didnt lie, they are astoundingly incompetent. My point being thats it hard to argue what you really have no information can suspect you are being lied do, as lots of us did, but none of us has a billion dollar budget to look into this stuff....only the CIA has that....and the Pentagon....etc. So I think a lot of people had serious doubts....but couldnt come out and say exactly what they thought iraq had....(Ritter DID have knowledge)...but we all found out our suspicions were right....we were lied to....and now Halliburton is much richer....16,000 Iraqis are dead and over five hundred US soldiers....and the country has been sold out from under the people.

Posted by: john steppling at January 24, 2004 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, if the administration, military and intelligence analysts and "conventional wisdom" back in October 2002 were ironclad, it doesn't compare to the irreparable damage the Iraq invasion and its initial casus belli has done to this nation's credibility in matters of peace and war.

Posted by: ItAintEazy at January 24, 2004 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

Great thread; two comments:

(1) There's a timeline on this. Before 911, the administration position and the professionals were broadly in line (not that the professional consensus was beyond criticism, but that's another story).

Through 2002, the administration changed position and the professionals partly followed, partly protested. On the one hand the declassified intelligence estimates shifted in tone between 2001 and 2002 (ref. digger's comment above, also the Carnegie Endowment report WMD in Iraq). On the other hand, you start hearing dissent from retired (e.g. Canistraro) or anonymous or resigning (e.g. Wilkie) professionals (ref. various comments above).

Pre-2002, what the administration claimed and what "everyone thought" were pretty much in line (for sufficiently small values of "everyone"). From 2002 on, they weren't.

(2) Kevin writes: "it is also abundantly clear that the CIA did in fact believe that Saddam had both WMD and active WMD programs."

Strategically the only WMD that matter are nukes; pre-2002, the CIA didn't claim that Iraq had a even a program, beyond "low-level theoretical R&D" (CIA report to Congress for Jan-June 2001. For the lesser threats, chemical and biological weapons, the CIA noted stockpiles as a possibility not a known fact, e.g., "probably maintains a small, covert force of . . . chemical and biological warheads" (report for July-Dec 2001).

So yes, the CIA really did believe pre-2002 that Iraq had WMD stockpiles and programs; but they didn't really believe it had all that much. The concern was more about what Iraq might get than about what it had; and if you read closely, there was no expectation that Iraq would get much more any time soon. What the CIA "did in fact believe" was a far cry from the confident statements about gyroscopes and aluminium tubes that the world would soon be treated to.

Posted by: Abu Frank at January 25, 2004 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

When listening to all the hype about these things, understanding some basic facts can help determine how much is being spun. For example, knowing that B and C weapons deteriorate rather quickly should have told us that the administration's claims were dubious. Knowing the range, CEP and payload of Iraq's Scuds also called into question BushCo's claims. But I think the media is afraid that this stuff is too technical to let loose on the public, so it gets short shrift, especially in the face of a powerful political campaign.

Nor is this new, the popular estimates of the late USSR's nuclear capability were widely overstated. In this case, knowing that over 90% of their missiles were liquid fueled, and would require hours to prep for launch, should have given us a different understanding of the Russian threat.

Posted by: McDruid at January 25, 2004 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

The IAEA stated categorically around October 2002 that Iraq had no nucular weapons, wasn't close, and wouldn't get anywhere without the US knowing.

Concerning the lack of other types of WMD:

September 2002 Government Accounting Office Report on the Anthrax Vaccine Immunisation Program
This report is about the international threat of bioweapons in general, not just Iraq in particular. A lot of the information contained was collected before 9/11. However, this paragraph on page 3 (page 7 of the pdf) is a clanger:

In the context of the conventional battlefield, the nature and magnitude of the military BW threat has not changed materially since 1990 in terms of the number of countries suspected of developing BW capability, the types of BW agents they possess, or their ability to weaponize and deliver BW agents.1 This is particularly true regarding the ability to accumulate and deliver sufficient quantities of processed agent to cause mass casualties.

Hans von Sponeck, UN humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq from 1998-2000, just after returning to Iraq for two weeks, on 22 July 2002

a systematic dis- and mis-information campaign, one of the biggest ever undertaken by the US authorities, is intensifying. The US and the international public are being sedated daily with increasing doses of propaganda about the threat Iraq poses to the world in 2002.

The US Department of Defence and the CIA know perfectly well that today's Iraq poses no threat to anyone in the region, let alone in the United States.

Hans Blix

Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, the new UN weapons inspection agency which has replaced UNSCOM, has said he 'does not accept as fact the US and UK's repeated assertions that Baghdad has used the time to rebuild its weapons of mass destruction.' (Financial Times, 7 March 2002, p. 20)

Dennis Kucinich - 29 October 2002

Nor is there any credible evidence that Iraq possesses deliverable weapons of mass destruction, or that it intends to deliver them against the United States.

15 August 2002
Phyllis Bennis - Fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, editor of MERIP's Middle East Report

It is certainly possible that scraps of Iraq's earlier biological and chemical weapons programs remain in existence, but there is no evidence Iraq has the ability or missile capacity to use them against the U.S. or U.S. allies. The notion that the U.S. would go to war against Iraq because of the existence of tiny amounts of biological material, insufficient for use in missiles or other strategic weapons and which the U.S. itself provided during the years of the U.S.-Iraq alliance in the 1980s, is simply unacceptable.

Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General, under LBJ
(Is Ramsey Clark a nut? He seems to support ANSWER, and is accused of supporting Milosevic and other deemed war criminals)
20 September 2002

Ninety percent of materials and equipment required to manufacture weapons of mass destruction was destroyed by UN inspectors during more than eight years of inspections. Iraq was powerful, compared to most of its neighbors, in 1990. Today it is weak.

July 2002

The U.S. has falsely claimed that Iraq is working to develop weapons of mass destruction to attack the U.S., Israel, its neighbors and others.

Posted by: Magnum at January 25, 2004 04:25 AM | PERMALINK

whatever the CIA believed about Iraq's WMDs/programs/program related activities before the invasion they were abundantly clear that IF Iraq had WMDs, the absolute best way to get Iraq to use them was to invade the country.

Posted by: kirk at January 25, 2004 06:39 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, to the extent that your question is answerable, more than one poster has answered it:
Gen. Anthony Zinni; Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice (in 2001, and who provided any evidence that the situation had changed by September 2002); and the intelligence services of France and Russia.

The CIA's assessment of Iraqi weapons in fall 2002 was that they had useless chem and bio stocks, no nukes, and were years and years from having nukes. As several posters have pointed out, there were very few people who had access to the intelligence who could speak out. Zinni was one, and he repeatedly said, in testimony to Congress and in speeches, that the administration was going beyond the intel.

The burden of proof is on you: say what makes it abundantly clear (to you) that the CIA thought in September 2002 that Iraq had nukes or deliverable chem/bio weapons. Or add an update to your post that acknowledges answers to your question.

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at January 25, 2004 07:42 AM | PERMALINK


One political side (you know who you are) has done nothing but sneer at the CIA and go thru a long list of faults, mistakes and believed ill-intentions for decades. Now they have no problems with anything the spooks say and would seem to have no problem bearing the spooks kids as long as it provides a political weapon.

While I think your underlying point is fair, you're blurring a rather important distinction. Most of those on "one political side" (yes, I know who we are) have, oftentimes grudgingly, acknowledged that spies/humint are necessary and that, necessarily, those who spy will be of somewhat dubious moral character. The problem is that that's not all the CIA has done, and it's primarily those other things which have caused so much objections to their actions.

To wit, there's a world of difference between:

* Tapping/turning people in foreign governments or criminal organizations into providing intelligence for the US.
* Training people to be psychopaths on behalf of the US, e.g. the School of the Americas.
* Overthrowing governments and assassinating democratically elected leaders, e.g. Chile.

You're quite right to castigate those who genuinely proposed eliminating all humint because they were too squeamish, but to tar everyone else with the same brush is unfair.

You can complain about the Bush Admin "cherry picking" all you want, but I seriously doubt Gore or any other President would have been any different (altho I do have my doubts about Carter).

I categorically disagree with this statement. The point about "cherry-picking here" is that, for the Bush Administration, Iraq was a war in search of a justification, rather than the result of policy informed by (necessarily uncertain) intelligence. That isn't to say that the hypothetical Gore policy would have been more effective than the Bush policy -- I think it would have been, but that's a different debate -- only that the decision processes would not have been even remotely the same.

The POTUS, regardless of party, is in the unenviable position of knowing that whatever decision they make on terrorism means that somebody is going to die as a result. There is no decision matrix or path where everybody lives; the only effect the POTUS's decisions have are a general "who and how many".

True -- so please explain why the Bush Adminstration had made its decision before evaluating the question "how many?".

To reiterate, that's the crux of the "cherry-picking" argument: to their eyes, intelligence existed to justify a predetermined course of action before it was known whether this action was optimal, under whatever metric. That's not making a hard choice (what you've incorrectly referred to as "cherry-picking" above); that's childishly refusing to allow reality to intrude on your fantasy because then you'll be forced to acknowledge that you might be wrong.

Posted by: Anarch at January 25, 2004 08:09 AM | PERMALINK

None of this does anything to mitigate the fact that the burden of proof rested on Saddam, under approximately 20 UN resolutions, and the 1991 cease fire treaty.

The presumption, in absence of proof to the contrary, was that the programs known (and admitted by Saddam in 1991) to be in existence were still in existence.

My understanding of the argument, as of Feb 2003, was 1) we knew he had them then; 2) he bears the burden to show he doesn't have them; 3) he still has institutional footprints making us think he has them; 4) he won't let inspectors in on any routine basis; 5) what inspectors do get in are frog marched around by Iraqi intel agents, and denied rapid access; 6) facilities listed for inspection based on intel suddenly turn up empty two days later, following heavy truck activity; 7) and if there's anything to be learned from 9/11 it's that we can't wait for serious threats from proven enemies to become imminent.

But then, I'm sure Bush just did it for personal political advantage. Which doesn't explain why John Kerry is now kicking his ass pretty badly in Newsweek's most recent poll... but hey, if you tell me anything about Bush, and it's bad, I'm sure it must be true.

Posted by: Al Maviva at January 25, 2004 09:32 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting... going through's archive of old articles from September 2002, I realized I'd forgotten that, at the time, the Bush/Blair administrations were implying a lot about the Iraqi intelligence they had but refusing to make specific claims. They were very craftily keeping everything close to their vests. So at that time, there wasn't a lot that outside analysts could specifically refute.

Also, a lot of the criticism of the intelligence was done by people who did not want to be identified, so since Kevin has asked for specific names, these people can't be counted.


Alex Standish, the editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest, wrote in September 2002: 'The idea that al-Qaeda is getting political or military support from Iraq is ludicrous. I can see no way.'


(Former US Representative) Lee Hamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said the Bush team "understands it has not yet carried the burden of persuasion [about an imminent Iraqi threat], so they will look for any kind of evidence to support their premise," Mr. Hamilton says. "I think we have to be skeptical about it." ... Mr. Bush says he will make his decision to go to war based on the "best" intelligence. "You have to wonder about the quality of that intelligence," says Mr. Hamilton at Woodrow Wilson.


The joint (Blair/Bush) mention of a "new" report apparently referred to articles in Friday's New York Times and yesterday's British press. They noted that satellite photos obtained by the IAEA indicated new construction at several sites identified as nuclear-related and dismantled during pre-1998 inspections.

But a spokeswoman at IAEA headquarters said yesterday that the agency has issued no new report. She said the newspaper accounts referred to commercially available images the agency made available in July in a presentation that elicited little media interest.

"We didn't want to make a big deal of it, because we have no idea whether it means anything," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said of the photos. "Construction of a building is one thing. Restarting a nuclear program is another."

"We have a lot of commercial satellite imagery" indicating "that there has been construction at sites that were formerly nuclear," Fleming said. "But what that means, we don't know." She said the agency issued a news release late Friday to "make it clear there is nothing new."


So much for a smoking gun. Rumsfeld's presentation left even stalwarts of the President's party unhappy. "We want to be with you," Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, finally told him. "But you're not giving us enough.",8599,348957,00.html


"I know of no information that the threat is so imminent from Iraq" that Congress cannot wait until January to vote on a resolution, said Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. "I did not hear anything today that was different about [Hussein's] capabilities," save a few "embellishments."

After attending a classified briefing by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet yesterday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said: "It would be a severe mistake for us to vote on Iraq with as little information as we have. This would be a rash and hasty decision" because the administration has provided "no groundbreaking news" on Iraq's ability to strike the United States or other enemies with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Senate Majority Whip Harry M. Reid (Nev.), the chamber's second-ranking Democrat, also advocates delaying the vote, according to Democratic aides.

"What was described as new is not new," said Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) about information that Rice and Tenet provided to lawmakers. "It was not compelling enough" to justify war. "Did I see a clear and present danger to the United States? No."


UNITED NATIONS -- Evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction is inconclusive, the United Nations' chief weapons inspector told the Security Council yesterday, thrusting the UN to the centre of the war on terrorism as the U.S. President prepares to make a case for toppling the Iraqi leader.

Hans Blix, head of the weapons-inspection team, played down the significance of recent satellite photos showing reconstruction at Iraqi sites that had been previously identified as nuclear-weapons facilities.

U.S. officials seized on the images as fresh evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is still trying to build bombs. Mr. Blix was less certain: "Satellites don't see through roofs. So we don't draw any conclusions from them."

An aerial photo may be a valuable clue as to where to inspect, "but we do not draw any conclusions there are weapons of mass destruction from it," Mr. Blix told reporters after a private meeting with Security Council members.

He said it is important for Iraq to allow UN inspectors to return for the country's own sake, so that Baghdad can show it is complying with Security Council resolutions to end its efforts to make nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

If Iraq complies, inspectors can be on the ground fast after being ejected almost three years ago. But it will take about a year of work before teams can verify that Iraq is not building weapons, Mr. Blix said.


The White House document released yesterday as evidence that it is time to overthrow Saddam Hussein is a concise summary of his regime's abuses of Iraqis and its past use or possession of chemical and biological agents.

But it contains little new information -- and no bombshells -- showing that Hussein is producing new weapons of mass destruction or has joined with terrorists to threaten the United States or its interests abroad.

"Given the high priority for knowing what is going on in Iraq, I'm stunned by the lack of evidence of fresh intelligence," said Gary Milhollin, executive editor of Iraq Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit institution that tracks developments in Iraq's weapons program. "You'd expect that, for the many billions we are spending on intelligence, they would be able to make factual assertions that would not have to be footnoted to an open source."

"This is a glorified press release that doesn't come close to the information the U.S. government made available on Soviet military power when we were trying to explain the Cold War," said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert who has participated in many major studies of Iraq's capabilities. "It's clumsy and shallow when what we need is sophisticated and in-depth . . . as an overall grade, I'd give it a D-minus."

Sen. John McCain strode into the most secure room in the Capitol for a "top secret" briefing by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

With the windowless room swept for bugs and lawmakers sworn to deepest secrecy, Rumsfeld proceeded to disclose, well, absolutely nothing this group of lawmakers couldn't have read in the morning papers or watched on TV news channels, according to participants. Actually, they weren't told even that much. "It was a joke," said McCain (R-Ariz.), who soon rose and strode out the door.

"It has us wondering," Menendez said, "if the administration does really have real, substantive, compelling information that, if shared, would change attitudes with Congress, the public and our allies."


Simon Tisdall wrote in the Guardian predicting that the US would act in bad faith regarding the Iraqi inspection process, because it was set on having a war:,12271,794130,00.html


A key piece of evidence in the Bush administration's case against Iraq is being challenged in a report by independent experts who question whether thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes recently sought by Iraq were intended for a secret nuclear weapons program.

The White House last week said attempts by Iraq to acquire the tubes point to a clandestine program to make enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. But the experts say in a new report that the evidence is ambiguous, and in some ways contradicts what is known about Iraq's past nuclear efforts.

The report, from the Institute for Science and International Security, also contends that the Bush administration is trying to quiet dissent among its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence. The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, was authored by David Albright, a physicist who investigated Iraq's nuclear weapons program following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team. The institute, headquartered in Washington, is an independent group that studies nuclear and other security issues.

"By themselves, these attempted procurements are not evidence that Iraq is in possession of, or close to possessing, nuclear weapons," the report said. "They do not provide evidence that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant or when such a plant could be operational."


In a series of statements over the past 48 hours, the Bush administration has reignited debate over an issue it laid aside weeks ago: whether there is evidence of substantive, ongoing ties between al Qaeda and the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Much of this new information, Powell said, had been explained to them by CIA Director George J. Tenet in recent closed-door briefings. "I encourage you to look at what George said. We are doing the best we can not to strain our credibility. That is not in our interest and that is not our intention."

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the committee chairman, interjected: "I was at the briefing with the classified testimony, and let the record show I dissent" from Rumsfeld's characterization of the extent of the evidence.


McDermott said President Bush's goal of ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has overshadowed efforts to get Iraq to give up weapons of mass destruction, which Baghdad denies having. He also questioned Bush administration officials' recent contentions that Iraq and al Qaeda are linked.

"Why do they keep coming back to this issue and keep trying to hook the Iraqis into that?" McDermott asked on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "My question really is, why do they want the regime change? I would much rather have disarmament here. And what they're doing is really setting up to throw out Saddam Hussein."

McDermott went further in an interview with ABC's "This Week." "I think the president would mislead the American people," he said.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism specialist, said that Cheney's "willingness to use speculation and conjecture as facts in public presentations is appalling. It's astounding."

Former senator Max Cleland, who is a member of the national commission investigating the attacks, said yesterday that classified documents he has reviewed on the subject weaken, rather than strengthen, administration assertions that Hussein's regime may have been allied with Al Qaeda.

"The vice president trying to justify some connection is ludicrous," he said.

Posted by: DanM at January 25, 2004 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

DanM, thanks for an excellent collection of clips, documenting the basis for skepticism of Bush admin claims in fall 2002. Maybe the host will even read and acknowledge them...

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at January 25, 2004 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

You know what else?

Kevin asked for specific names of people who were disputing, around a specific time period, (specifically when the invasion was hotting up, but just before Saddam sucker-punched the US by allowing last-minute inspections), that Iraq had WMD. Plenty of people were saying Iraq had no weapons, as we've all collectively documented above, but only one man actively barnstormed about the country. Scott Ritter. Thank the Deity for that man.

The whole demeanour between the US and the UN/Europe demonstrated that everyone knew that Saddam had jack fu(king shit. The whole "okay, let's send in the inspectors" vs "we don't need no stinkin' inspectors" charade shows that. It was a complete joke. Personally, I have to admit I've got a bit of cognitive dissonance ju-ju happening here, because a ton of people were talking about Saddam's WMD, as if the weapons were there, when those people should have known better. I can only suppose they were 1) playing the game as an allegory, or 2) still had a mite of faith in the good-ol'-US-of-fn-A and the garbage that their Dim Leader was crapolling, combined with the 'patriotism' CRAP and vestiges of 9/11 remembrance that was still sweeping the country, before being finally woken up by the harsh, foul stench of corrupt lies, filth, and corruption that had taken control of the US.

Look, sorry everyone, I'm not that good a writer, and I'm tired and my mummy is telling me to go to bed.

The WMD thing was a matter of faith. Just about everyone in the US drank the green cordial and were suckered, most people everywhere else knew it was crap, but we all pretended the US had a serious argument. To humour them. Most people in the US believe the Earth was created 6000 years ago, but how many Scott Ritters tour the country filling lecture halls teaching Darwinism?

I think it's unfair of Kevin to ask for 'serious analysts', besides Scott Ritter, who disputed that Saddam had WMD. As far as I'm concerned, everyone knew Bush wanted to get the war on for reasons besides WMD, it was politically dumb in the US to stick your neck out to say so, diplomatically unhelpful to do so outside the US, and actually not necessary. Scott Ritter was a champion, a CHAMPION, and we didn't need anyone else to S-P-E-L-L it out for us.

Posted by: Magnum at January 25, 2004 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Already mentioned above: Dr Glen Rangwala

He has maintained a fairly complete reference of
all the claims and refutations of WMD in Iraq.

Read it at

One of the more silly claims was the aluminium tubes story. The claims and refutations are noted here:

At the time the war started there was no way you could take the claim that these tubes were for use in an uranium enrichment project seriously.

A complete 'after the fact' story about the aluminium tubes by David Albright:

And from an interview with Powell on 19/01/2004:

MAXINE McKEW: So you still stand by everything you said at the United Nations last year?

You're quite comfortable with that scenario that you laid out in February last year?

COLIN POWELL: I am very comfortable.

What I presented last February 5 was not something I made up in my office.

It was a product of the intelligence community -- and not just the United States intelligence community, but other intelligence communities around the world that helped us with information -- and the director of central intelligence, his deputy and all of the other leaders of our intelligence community stood behind that presentation.
We didn't hype it.
If it wasn't multisourced, we didn't use it.
And I stand behind it.

Would Powell still think the tubes were for centrifuges? Or is he refusing to take responsibility for his mistakes?

Posted by: aName at January 25, 2004 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Magnum, Nell Lancaster and others hit the nail on the head. Kevin is likeable on a personal level, but he can't bring himself to admit his centrist biases turned him into a complete sucker on this WMD issue.

It was, btw, reasonable to think Saddam probably had a few vials or barrels of something stored here and there--as we kept hearing, Iraq is the size of California. (I haven't actually looked that up, but I suppose it's true.) But only a moron (i.e. a well-educated American who adheres to the mainstream party line) thought there was compelling evidence for massive Iraqi WMD stockpiles ready for use. And of course the US didn't believe it either--the war wasn't fought as though people believed Saddam was ready to unleash his hellish massively destructive arsenal. There weren't desperate attempts to get military forces of one sort or another to stop Saddam from unleashing his terrible weapons before millions would die. The war was fought almost as if we planned to take out a fifth-rate military power that didn't pose much of a challenge.

I did read some prewar estimates of what might happen if WMD's were used on a large scale--they talked of millions of deaths. Did the Bush people really start this war thinking that millions of people stood a good chance of dying and yet didn't act as if they thought there was any great danger? There's a huge logical disconnect between the prowar advocates who said it'd be a cakewalk and the claim that Saddam was this gigantic threat.

Try imagining the difference if nuclear-armed Pakistan were taken over by Islamic fundamentalists allied with Osama bin Laden. People wouldn't be faking fear then--the panic would be real and I don't think the news media would cover it like it was some big video game.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 25, 2004 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the head of the UN atomic weapons inspections program pretty much called the case for a serious Iraqi nuclear program a pile of horseshit. I suppose that counts for something.

Posted by: p mac at January 25, 2004 09:56 PM | PERMALINK

LOL - so much for "I'm not really trying to start an argument about that. Mostly I just want a history lesson . . ."

I can't answer Kevin's question either, but I have some observations about the "serious" names brought up so far: Scott Ritter and Anthony Zinni - they did not have access to all the up-to-date information (also see post re: Ritter taking money to defend Iraq above); Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice - their "opinions" changed once they got access to all the up-to-date information; and the intelligence services of France and Russia - their "opinions" have not been accurately reported by those governments (at least that's my theory, because THEY out of everyone mentioned should have at least known what WMD their own countries provided to Saddam in violation of UN sanctions ; )

Posted by: Charlie at January 26, 2004 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

Count me as one of those who thought Saddam probably still had some chemical weapons around. I did my homework and went to basic scientific facts about how to create weapons of mass destruction. Thus I knew he had no nuclear or biological weapons. The only way he could have had any nuclear program without it being immediately obvious was via enriching uranium. It took a sizable percentage of the GNP of the U.S. of A in 1944 to enrich a baseball-sized lump of uranium, and the USA had actual ball bearing factories and 10 times the educated population of Iraq, so there wasn't any way in hell he could do it with the resources of a sand pile of a nation under embargo. As far as biological weapons, the problem with those is how to weaponize them. They might be useful for terror purposes, but Saddam never was into terrorism (he sent a few bucks to Palestinian families whose members died as suicide bombers, but that was the extent of his "support for terrorism"... he never sent any money to terrorists themselves).

However, I truly believed he probably had organophosphate nerve agents. There were pesticide factories all over Iraq, after all, and it is relatively trivial to convert those a factory making malathion or diazanon into one that makes a nerve agent.. I also believed that it was possible that he had some mustard shells still hanging around. Mustard is the easiest of all chemical weapons to create -- it is created by reacting chlorine with ethylene.

I did not believe that these posed a significant threat. They were not used in Gulf War I because the Iraqi soldiers were overrun before they got a chance to use the weapons, and we have gotten faster since then. These gasses are primarily useful in trench warfare, such as that against the Iranians in the early 1980's, where the enemy is in a fixed position where the gases can be concentrated, or when used for a retreat from superior forces where they can be used to slow down the superior forces by deploying them in a prepared area where they won't blow away too fast. But looking at the tactics of Gulf War I, and looking at the tactics we would probably be using this time (i.e. immobilize them with air power and artillery, pick a spot, concentrate, penetrate, use our awesome mobility advantage to hit them where they weren't expecting and roll up their flanks like a carpet, if they start regrouping use our mobility advantage to retreat and hit them somewhere else), it was clear that the Iraqi soldiers wouldn't have the foggiest idea where the hell our soldiers were, or where they were about to get hit, or where they ought to aim their shells, and they weren't going to be retreating and using the chemical weapons to slow the pursuit, they were going to be digging in the sand for dear life while shells and bombs exploded all around them.

The only possible threat of the chemical weapons is if they were given to terrorists. But deploying them in a terrorist attack is far more difficult than grabbing a few bags of fertilizer and a few gallons of diesel fuel and slamming them all together in the back of a U-Haul truck. Unless you have tons of the stuff (hard to smuggle anywhere!), they have to be released in an enclosed space, and hauling any significant quantity into an enclosed space in luggage or a briefcase is virtually impossible. The most that would be killed in any such attack would be a dozen people, including most likely the terrorist. Why in the world would a terrorist haul around something that was pretty much useless for killing mass numbers of people, when Timothy McVeigh proved that terrorists could kill hundreds with a truck bomb in the right place?

In short: I'm surprised Saddam had destroyed his chemical weapons, but frankly even if he hadn't, those weapons alone were no reason to invade Iraq, they are useless against an army such as ours with its immense air superiority and mobility, and truck bombs give far more bang for the buck as far as terrorism goes. As far as the "liberating Iraq" goes, the moment we leave Iraq, the Shiite mullahs with the support of the Shiite majority take over. Look, that's not an unknown. That's why Bush 1 left Saddam in power in the first place -- he preferred Saddam to the mullahs. Any free election in Iraq will elect the mullahs into power, putting them into control of half of the Persian Gulf (Iraq+Iran). The mullahs will then put the women under Shariah law, depriving them of all the rights they had under Saddam's non-Islamic government. All that was a good reason to NOT invade.

As for a good reason TO invade... I'm still waiting for one. Millions of Iraqis dead at his hands? Not recently -- for the past four years, Saddam's regime was pretty mild-mannered by Middle Eastern standards, our friends in Saudi Arabia have executed far more political prisoners lately than Saddam executed in his last four years in office. Future weapons of mass destruction? Yeah right, we're talking about a country without a single ball bearing factory, there was a snowball's chance in hell that they were going to have a nuclear bomb soon.Democracy? Only if you call a theocratic dictatorship by the mullahs (what happens the moment our troops leave) "democracy". Somebody, fill me in, please? Was this all about how Saddam tried to kill Dubya's daddy?!

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