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January 25, 2004

THE WMD HUNT....A REAL EXPLANATION AT LAST?....Now that he's back home David Kay is turning into a veritable font of useful information. Today, he advances the first new theory I've heard in a while about why Saddam acted the way he did if there were no weapons to hide in the first place:

David A. Kay, who led the government's efforts to find evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs until he resigned on Friday, said the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies did not realize that Iraqi scientists had presented ambitious but fanciful weapons programs to Mr. Hussein and had then used the money for other purposes.

....After [about 1998], Dr. Kay said, Iraqi scientists realized they could go directly to Mr. Hussein and present fanciful plans for weapons programs, and receive approval and large amounts of money. Whatever was left of an effective weapons capability, he said, was largely subsumed into corrupt money-raising schemes by scientists skilled in the arts of lying and surviving in a fevered police state.

You know what? This is a winner. I think is the real explanation for what happened.

Partly I believe this because Kay is obviously basing this on things he's learned via interviews with high-level Iraqi officials, but partly I believe it because it just makes sense. Everything falls into place.

An increasingly out-of-touch Saddam makes sense. High-level scientists faking programs in order to get money for their own pet causes makes sense. Saddam's attitude toward the inspections makes sense because he thought there really were active WMD programs in place that would take time to dismantle. And it may be that even some of the exiles were telling the truth when they reported that Iraq still had active large-scale WMD programs. They might have been scammed the same way Saddam was.

This is the first theory I've heard that holds together on all levels. It explains how the CIA got fooled, it explains why Saddam acted the way he did, and it explains why we haven't found much of anything. And it does it all without making any weird and heroic assumptions about human nature.

I think this is the real deal.

UPDATE: Just to clear up a possible misconception, I don't think this absolves the Bush administration of anything. The CIA was indeed fooled, they issued guarded reports saying that Iraq had WMD, and the Bushies then cherry picked the reports and removed the qualifiers when they made public statements. This is pretty much what we knew happened anyway. There's plenty of blame for everyone in this fiasco.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 25, 2004 08:36 PM | TrackBack


Comments

The question is this, though:

How did the CIA mess this up? This is the sort of screw-up that could be attributed to more human intelligence than electronic intelligence. However, the beef I've always heard with our intelligence is that we don't have enough contacts and rely too much on technology.

Satellite photos of compounds and trailer trucks just wouldn't have existed if the programs didn't exist. But I could see CIA officials being fooled by interviewees talking about WMD programs.

The only way this hangs together is if the scientists also knew how to fool the CIA by driving trucks around with barrels for the CIA to photograph (or some equivalent).

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 25, 2004 08:40 PM | PERMALINK

So do you still maintian that Bush was lying? And that Clinton was lying and that David Kelly was lying - they both believed Saddam had WMD.

Posted by: neil at January 25, 2004 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

As if Saddam's secret police would never follow such things up and report back to him. I think this latest bit from Kay is yet another red herring.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

So what does the scientist do when Saddam says "I'd like to see this Death Ray you've been building."? It still sounds like a pretty risky plan.

Posted by: dmm at January 25, 2004 08:43 PM | PERMALINK

No. They'd at least have to have some fancy fake programs for a bit of theater to show the mustachioed one when he wanted to come take a look.

They couldn't even find fancy fake programs. just program-related activities, whatever the hell that is.

Posted by: Atrios at January 25, 2004 08:44 PM | PERMALINK

Saddam being disconnected from reality in some fashion I'll buy, but I'm not so convinced on the scientists conning him for cash, since it seems like Saddam Hussein isn't the kind of guy you want to get caught crossing. Unless Hussein's other advisors were in on it too, but if the conspiracy was that widespread, why bother with going to him at all? And where were Saddam's sons in all of this?

Posted by: taktile at January 25, 2004 08:48 PM | PERMALINK

But I could see CIA officials being fooled by interviewees talking about WMD programs.

They also talked with interviewees who told them that the WMDs and WMD programs were dropped after the Gulf War and subsequent inspections though.

The Bush adminstration made *very* explicit claims about Iraq's alledged tons of WMDs, which led American's to believe they really knew they were there and had solid proof to that effect. It's clear now that this wasn't the case, obviously. I think the claims about Iraqi WMDs were made because they were useful in justifying the war. Whether the ends justify the means is another question, of course.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 08:49 PM | PERMALINK

This makes me wonder if we have weapons of mass destruction.

Posted by: Matt at January 25, 2004 08:49 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think this is the first time I've read this theory -- that Sadaam was duped by his scientists, who needed to promise Sadaam something, anything, just so they could keep their jobs and salaries. (I wish I kept a link for every thing I've read on the web). Although it's the first time to come from Kay.

Posted by: Nermal at January 25, 2004 08:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well, doesn't this also show why Bush and his belief in tooth fairies is equally bad? How many of the "weapons programs" we are supporting are just as imaginary? It certainly seems that the next generation star wars program is being build on fairy dust and dreams - and according to Rummy, there is no need for it to show it works or not. Do you think that perhaps someday one of the neocon fantacists will ask for brilliant pebbles to save them and then find out it only exists in their dreams?

Meanwhile these stupid weapons programs will eat up the funds we should be using to educate our kids, to provide health care for our citizens and to clean up our environment.

Bush is like Saddam in his belief that his weapons programs will make him invincible and someone who should have an important place in history based on his ability to control the world with his WMD.

Posted by: Mary at January 25, 2004 08:52 PM | PERMALINK

I believe that the weapons were destroyed,during the first Gulf War and subsequent bombings and inspections,and the programs were never fully restarted again. Hussein was playing a game of smoke and mirrors; he was the Wizard of Oz. He wanted everyone to THINK he had weapons to keep his citizens under control and to keep his enemies at bay.

Posted by: pol at January 25, 2004 08:52 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin:

I think you've been bamboozled. I think you are forgetting the fact that Kay - who has been rewarded handsomely for conducting the WMD snipe hunt - has a real stake in an explanation which will serve to relieve his boss of any responsibility.

As another poster pointed out, for these scientists to have pulled this off, they would have to have balls the size of watermelons (I paraphrase). In other words, for pure profit, these guys would be risking death and torture for themselves and their families (just for starters)? I doubt it.

Finally, EVEN IF Hussein had every single so-called WMD others claimed he did, that is not the same thing as presenting a threat to the United States. Hussein may have been ruthlessly ambitious, but he wasn't stupid, or suicidal. Iraq has NEVER attacked the US nor was there any indication from any intelligence service that he intended to do so. Recall that Pakistan (our loyal ally in the "War on Terror," remember?) actually maintains REAL (not imaginary) WMD. The US is not about to invade Pakistan, is it?

Basically, it's ok to have WMD, as long as they are possessed by white governments. As soon as dark-skinned people start entertaining ideas of having WMD of their own, then it becomes problematic. Thus it was even ok for the apartheid government of South Africa to possess WMD (did the US protest at all? If so it's news to me), but we are able to justify our illegal invasion of Iraq at this late date by the fact that Hussein may have had a wet dream of having a design of a plan of a thought of a desire to one day perhaps having WMD potentially "related" activity.

Posted by: Commissar at January 25, 2004 08:54 PM | PERMALINK

godlesscapitalist,

The administration's attempt to lay the blame the CIA is analogous to Ken Lay attempting to lay the blame on their accountants. Basically the boss trying to pin the blame on the employees that he forced into a compromising position. Let's remember what Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was the Chief of Central Command said about this....

He was alarmed that day to hear Cheney make the argument for attacking Iraq on grounds that Zinni found questionable at best:

"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.' "

The intel wasn't wrong, it was disregarded and re-engineered by the Feith-based intelligence operation of the 'we know better' neo-cons.

Posted by: libertas at January 25, 2004 08:54 PM | PERMALINK

Saddam never took a look. He stayed in his palaces all the time.

Sure there's some risk, but I can easily see this happening. The scientists know Saddam is out of touch, they know they can easily fool secret police who don't know a test tube from a Bunsen burner, they know that they can continually claim that the program is still active and results are right around the corner, and the CIA assumes that big buildings in satellite pictures are being used for WMD programs if that's what their exiles tell them.

I'd keep an open mind about this. It fits.

As for the Bushies, as I've said a zillion times, they exaggerated the CIA data. They didn't outright lie about it (with a few possible exceptions). This doesn't in any way exonerate what they did, but it's well to keep in mind that intelligence agencies all over the world believed this stuff.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at January 25, 2004 08:54 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, that sounds a lot like some other country that blows lots of money on useless weapons...

Posted by: noam chimpsky at January 25, 2004 08:56 PM | PERMALINK

So these scientists would risk the plastic shredder (probably feet first) for a few bucks?

Please, Kevin, why are you going to such lengths to excuse Bushco?

And what were they doing with the money instead and don't you think Saddam's gestapo would be paying attention and noticing the new Mercedes and not bothering to ask for a demonstraton of the death dealing potential of the projects?

And why wouldn't defectors have told the CIA that this is what was occurring?

This is an incredibly stupid explanation and I can't believe that you're even giving it consideration.

Then again, sometimes I think you like to just stir the pot a little.

Posted by: avedis at January 25, 2004 08:57 PM | PERMALINK

So do you still maintian that Bush was lying? And that Clinton was lying and that David Kelly was lying - they both believed Saddam had WMD.

You can still believe something and lie about the certainty of the basis of your belief.

It is important how much and what kind of WMD and you can exaggerate that. Just distilling WMD-belief into a binary yes/no is inaccurate; Clinton may have believed the Iraqi regime had some quantity of some kind of WMD, but he didn't imply that he thought they had nuclear weapons, for example. (IMO, the "WMD" buzzword was designed for this kind of rhetorical sleight-of-hand.)

Posted by: taktile at January 25, 2004 08:57 PM | PERMALINK

Note that at first glance there appears to be a contradiction between my claim about dark-skinned people with WMD and our toleration of the Indian/Pakistani possession of such weaopons. Here's the caveat: once such nations are in the club, they're in the club. The US will not pick a fight with a nation it thinks can actually defend itself. That's why the US is so freaked out about the Third World possessing such weapons. Only the colonizer is allowed knowledge of the big fire.

Posted by: Commissar at January 25, 2004 08:58 PM | PERMALINK

To elaborate on what Taktile said:

The party of personal responsibility (the GOP, remember) has now been reduced to claiming it was only continuing the policy of a certain William Clinton, which is total bullshit. Even if Clinton HAD believed that Iraq possessed WMD, he we clear-headed enough to know that this did not justify an INVASION of Iraq. That is why he kept it under strict surveillance (beats a war, don't it?). It took a true fanatic asshole to instigate a war with a sovereign country that had never attacked it. So we invaded Iraq to show that invading countries is wrong (note that the US supported Iraq's invasion of Iran and officially had "no position" on Iraq's attack on Kuwait preceding the invasion)?

Posted by: Commissar at January 25, 2004 09:02 PM | PERMALINK

The scientists know Saddam is out of touch, they know they can easily fool secret police who don't know a test tube from a Bunsen burner,

Well, I wouldn't assume that if I was an Iraqi scientist, because the one thing that generally works well in a dictatorship is the secret police.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 09:02 PM | PERMALINK

avedis,

I don't think Kay's explanation or Keven's agreement with it excuses BushCo. Let me repeat what Zinni, who ran the military operation responsible for containing Saddam for three years said.

"In my time at Centcom, I watched the intelligence, and never -- not once -- did it say, 'He has WMD.' "

Zinni is clear, the intel never said that he had WMD. Just because Saddam was a sucker doesn't imply that US intel was.

Saddam was motivated and eager to believe that he was building up a WMD arsenal. That made him an easy mark for a bunch of con artists. In his case, the con artists were a bunch of scientests.

Cheney, Libby, Woflowitz & Rumsfeld were motivated and eager to believe that he was building up a WMD arsenal. That made them an easy mark for a bunch of con artists. In their case the con artists were a bunch of Iraqi exiles.

Posted by: libertas at January 25, 2004 09:03 PM | PERMALINK

Open mind, folks, open mind. Think about this. It makes more sense than you're giving it credit for.

It doesn't excuse Bush and it doesn't excuse the CIA, but it does explain what might have happened. And as for the scientists, I suspect that this kind of risk just goes with the territory in a police state like Saddam's.

I don't like Bush any more than you, but that doesn't mean this might not be what happened. Remember, even though the Bushies exaggerated the evidence, the fact is that basically the CIA believed this stuff too and so did other intelligence agencies. It wasn't just Bush. Don't be blinded by your hatred of Shrub.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at January 25, 2004 09:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Why do you keep repeating that the CIA believed this too? There have been numerous indications that the CIA did not believe that Saddam was building up a WMD arsenal of any significance. This was the very reason that Cheney made his confrontational trips to Langely, and that both Bolton and Feith set up their end-run intelligence gathering operations.

Posted by: libertas at January 25, 2004 09:08 PM | PERMALINK

I find it just a credible that the CIA and Cheney's own itelligence sources were blowing smoke up *their* bosses asses to keep the money flowing.

Kay's only salient point is that there was a massive intelligence flop on the part of the CIA. But then he blew it by saying that 'the President does not owe the public an apology, but the CIA owes Bush an apology.'

sheesh... another enabler.

Posted by: def rimjob at January 25, 2004 09:10 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, even though the Bushies exaggerated the evidence, the fact is that basically the CIA believed this stuff too and so did other intelligence agencies.

Did they believe that Iraq was on the cusp of having a nuclear weapon, as Dick Cheney claimed? Did they believe that Iraq really could deliever a weapon in 45 minutes far outside Iraq? Talk about exaggerating the evidence now!

I think what the CIA and MI5 had on WMDs was based on nothing more than hearsay and assumptions, which was in the process of being demonstrated before the war by the U.N. inspectors under Hans Blix. There was no dire threat to our security that those alledged WMDs posed that demanded a war be initiated. They were merely a ready excuse to justify a decision that had already been made months before to go to war.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

Does the NYT story shed any light on Kay's representation (to NPR)that pre-war Iraq was somehow MORE dangerous than our intelligence assets had suggested?

Posted by: Tonto at January 25, 2004 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

My guess would be: All of the above. Why not? All the key players are playing spy versus spy versus spy. All the key players plant disinformation. All the key players filter and stovepipe intelligence. All the key players overcompensate for perceived strategic vulnerabilities. All the key players grow semi-detached from reality in their palaces and executive mansions. And, finally, all the key players seek to enrich their clans and tribes.

Posted by: Miss Authoritiva at January 25, 2004 09:14 PM | PERMALINK

Why would Iraqi defectors then claim they had WMD programs? What would they have to gain by lying to U.S. intelligence as well?

Posted by: Talking Wall at January 25, 2004 09:15 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the problem with Kevin's theory. I think it's possible that a few -- or even a lot -- of Saddam's scientists did this. But all of them? EVERY SINGLE ONE? I doubt it. I mean - there wasn't a SINGLE honest (or fearful) scientist actually pursuing, say, bioweapons, rather than pocketing the money? I really don't see how that happens.

Posted by: Al at January 25, 2004 09:17 PM | PERMALINK

Well Kevin, I would agree that it explains a few things but the idea that "everything falls into place" is a pretty big stretch. Sriously this scenario seems pretty unlikely to me. Pulling it off would not involve fooling one deluded person but an entire state apparatus -- a state apparatus that was specifically designed to be paranoid and vindictive towards its citizenry. Seriously, this seems more like one of those ideas that cannot really account for either the complexities of building these sorts of weapons or the systems of accountability that have to be in place to manage it. I will try, as you say, to keep an open mind but at the moment it sounds like a pretty shaky explanation that will fall apart under the most basic scrutiny.

Posted by: brent at January 25, 2004 09:18 PM | PERMALINK

Why would Iraqi defectors then claim they had WMD programs? What would they have to gain by lying to U.S. intelligence as well?

In the case of those involved with Chalabi, the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the chance to be in charge of Iraq.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 09:19 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe that anyone is taking Kay seriously. He's shown that he's willing to go to great lengths to carry water for Bush. A
perfectly plausible explanation for this latest theory is the following: 1) Kay has to admit there are no WMD, since any positive claim requires proof which does not exist. 2) The theory advanced by Kay about Saddam being fooled is consistent with 1) and hard to prove.
Don't you remember back in August when Kay was saying that there were lots of WMD programs?
The guy is not legit.

Posted by: marky at January 25, 2004 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kay's idea that the scientists tricked Hussein would account for Saddam's having not as many WMD's as he thought, but it's unlikely he'd turn out not to have any of them. Con jobs by many scientists in different locations should have produced a more mixed result.

Posted by: Paul at January 25, 2004 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

Nope,
Not buying it Kevin.

It doesn't fit at a rational level and it doesn't feel right at a gut level.

If there's one thing these dictators love, it's to physically touch, to personally wield, to be intimately associated with the martial aspects of their power (think of the missiles being showcased in N. Korean military parades, Saddam firing rifles in the air before the masses, Hitler standing above goose stepping battalions, etc, etc.

That Saddam would not want to personally view the progress of a WMD project seems impossible.

Furthermore, on a practical level, Saddam would have to know the status of the programs so he could play the right game of chess with his competitors.

Again, regarding so crucial a matter, I cannot believe that he would rely only on unsubstantiated reports from self interested scientists; he being a streetwise and paranoid power centering dictator, afterall.

You were a CEO, right Kevin, even as such, I'll bet you did not rely on the reports of underlings without checking them first when big decisions were to be made based on the reports?

Posted by: avedis at January 25, 2004 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

Should have said "hard to disprove"

Posted by: marky at January 25, 2004 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

This is exactly what Reagan did with SDI in the 80s.

Taking defense money from Reaganites was as easy as taking social welfare money from LBJ. Put up a few flashy vu-grafs and the billions flowed.

In both cases, nothing useful resulted.

Now, with Bush, any soup kitchen with a smattering of "praise the lord" and Faith Based Initiative money will flow.

Sort of like Carter and renewables. Show a process to make alcohol from piss and soon you will be drinking alcohol from federal money.

Reminds me of three genearations of Social Security reform. Just do a calculation on how much we need to take from the young generation, and bingo, you can take twice that.

Oh yea, just ask the EPA to calculate how cost effective their regulations are, and bingo, we discover that there is no end to the government money that could be usefully applied to EPA regulations.

Hopefully John Kerry will have a Republican Congress to stalemate this custom.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 25, 2004 09:29 PM | PERMALINK

I've been following these blogs and posts with a bit of consternation.

I don't believe WMD had anything at all to do with the war, other than providing a smoke screen.

This administration was going to have it's war no matter what our intelligence revealed or didn't reveal.

Remember this:

"Fuck Saddam! We're taking him out!"
Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America's Middle East allies. Bush wasn't interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase.

And this from Paul O'Neill:

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11. “From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”

Once again you have fallen into the conservative trap of allowing them to frame the argument. They love watching liberals play this endless game of ping-pong about WMD with toy conservatives.

Keep your eye on the little white ball everyone.

You wonder why Kay is making the interview circuit?

He is promoting the administration's game of ping pong. And trying to steer the conversation away from the real cause of war.

And it is working.

Posted by: -pea- at January 25, 2004 09:30 PM | PERMALINK

Taking defense money from Reaganites was as easy as taking social welfare money from LBJ. Put up a few flashy vu-grafs and the billions flowed.

In both cases, nothing useful resulted.

An aside, but the GPS technology was implemented under the Reagan administration, and has had a huge impact on our ability to target munitions. Overgeneralizations generally aren't very useful things, IMO.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 09:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Why would Iraqi defectors then claim they had WMD programs? What would they have to gain by lying to U.S. intelligence as well?"

Everything. If you can convince people that Saddam is arming with horrible weapons, the U.S. is more likely to attack. And guess who they'll look to for running the country after the invasion? Ever heard of Chalabi?

It's worth noting that not every defector did claim that. Saddam's son-in-law, in fact, gave very valuable intelligence that basically said there were no WMD programs when he defected in 1995 or thereabouts.

I suspect that the truth about why Saddam acted the way he did is somewhere in between Kay's explanation and others, and as other posters have pointed out it is misleading to lump all of biological, chemical, and nuclear capabilities into the single term WMD. Look, who was Saddam really frightened of after the Gulf War? His neighbors, yes (Iran comes to mind) but also he was totally paranoid about insurrection. Every tyrant is regardless of the circumstances, and Saddam of course had actually put down insurrections after Gulf War I. If he publicly admitted that he had no weapons at all, then he would be admitting weakness and inviting insurrection or invasion. Note that there would be no need to have a nuclear program; simple uncertainty about where the chemical weapons went would suffice.

There may be a certain amount of truth to what Kay has said, but I can't imagine it's the whole story. Saddam wouldn't need scientists to get any actual results as long as the uncertainty was there (and indeed, if inspections were ongoing, it would have been dangerous for him to have real WMD programs). Kay's explanation seems to assume that a whole bunch of scientists were going out of their way to fool Saddam, which really stretches credibility a bit too much for me. It implies, as others have stated, that many, many different people had no fear of Saddam or his police, which just seems highly unlikely.

If you were an Iraqi scientist who was actually working for Saddam on some non-WMD program (but formerly, pre-Gulf War I had been involved in such programs, and perhaps Saddam wanted there to be uncertainty about what you were doing now), what would you say to the invading army once they had ousted Saddam? You'd probably try to paint a picture of Saddam as out of touch and yourself as brave, daring, and unwilling to defy the UN by carrying out the orders of a madman.

Posted by: Ted at January 25, 2004 09:36 PM | PERMALINK

OMG, I agree with Al!

Here's the problem with Kevin's theory. I think it's possible that a few -- or even a lot -- of Saddam's scientists did this. But all of them? EVERY SINGLE ONE? I doubt it. I mean - there wasn't a SINGLE honest (or fearful) scientist actually pursuing, say, bioweapons, rather than pocketing the money? I really don't see how that happens.

And with the watermelon comment...

It only takes a single informer, Kevin, and these scientists and their families were toast.

As for this, Kevin:

Don't be blinded by your hatred of Shrub.

Please, put down the Kool-Aid, Kevin, and back slowly away from the table.

Posted by: exgop at January 25, 2004 09:40 PM | PERMALINK

David W

Whatever

The Clinton administration, the UN and the Bush administration and the British... all said he had WMD's...

Just didn't want you leaving anyone out...

Posted by: Poker Player (aka Jim) at January 25, 2004 09:44 PM | PERMALINK

Nermal, you're not crazy -- or we both are. I read this theory somewhere several weeks ago -- though I, too, failed to bookmark it.

Posted by: Opus at January 25, 2004 09:45 PM | PERMALINK

I have yet to see any evidence that the CIA or other intelligence agencies concluded that Iraq had WMDs. They thought it might have them. They wanted to get in and take a look around. But the only people who were sure Iraq had them were the administration.

Posted by: EmmaAnne at January 25, 2004 09:45 PM | PERMALINK

Libertas,
Agreed. US intel was not fooled.

Rather it was hijacked by subversive rightwing (neocon) elements.

That's the scariest part of this whole story.

I don't think many realize that a real coup has taken place in our government. The system of checks and balances is no longer functioning. It was done with smoke and mirrors and money as opposed to fighting in the streets. So many, like Kevin, are still trying to rationalize alternative explanations of our current reality.

The bigger the lie, the easier it is to get away with it.

Posted by: avedis at January 25, 2004 09:46 PM | PERMALINK

I can tell that many of the authors have never contracted for government money on a high priority project.

Scientists are not fools when it comes to raising government money. Their plans for WMNDies were real, technically correct, and would have results if the market for critical technology was available to Iraq.

So, these projects went forward but were mostly stymied because Iraqi intelligence had to manage the acquisition of foreign made materials, and these were hard to find. The result was simple, as we found out when working on SDI in the 80s. Labs could run indefinitely perfecting the non-critical portions of research and pre-production, wasting trillions, impressing government bureaucrats, but never going past partial testing.

Meanwhile, the lack of critical technologies or supplies from abroad are used as excuses to avoid production.

This is standard practice for government labs assigned the task of faking the impossible.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 25, 2004 09:57 PM | PERMALINK

I call bullshit on Kay's explanation. No Iraqi scientists were "duping" Saddam, the only duping going on was and is the Bush administration's duping of the American public (with the help of our corporate media).

The Rove administration pumps out propaganda 24/7 delineating the true evil genius of Saddam Hussein. Iraqis live in constant fear of reprisals by Saddam for even so much as THINKING subversive thoughts. It's evil, evil, evil.

Oh, and by the way, Saddam's scientists lied to him for a decade about their research. Those wily scientists could fool the evil genius for a DECADE and, boy, did they have the last laugh!

Bullshit.

It's obvious where the WMD are. They were destroyed in the first gulf war and during subsequent UN inspections and allied bombing raids. Ten years of weekly bombing has a way destroying a country's armament production capabilities.

It pisses me of that so few Democrats and liberals will come out say this in response to the media framing the debate as, "well would you rather have Saddam in power?". It's not do nothing vs. occupy Iraq. We weren't "doing nothing", we were waging low-level warfare against Iraq for a decade, and as a result, when we sent in our troops they encountered virtually no resistance. It was like taking candy from a baby and then pulling its diaper down to rape it.


Posted by: Subterranean at January 25, 2004 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Commissar:

a contradiction between my claim about dark-skinned people with WMD and our toleration of the Indian/Pakistani possession of such weaopons.

You're forgetting Japan, who has long been known to be a paranuclear power. Basically, it's not a white-nonwhite thing. It's a question of stable democracy vs. unstable dictatorship. Few people are scared of India's nuclear weapons, but most rational people are scared of Pakistan and Iran. Similarly, Taiwan and South Korea are ok with nuclear weapons, although stability is a big issue. China and North Korea - not ok. That's not racism, it's pragmatism.

Hussein may have been ruthlessly ambitious, but he wasn't stupid, or suicidal.

Well, he did invade Iran and Kuwait, and he tried to assassinate Bush 41 in 1993. Had that assassination succeeded...wow.

Only a stupid/suicidal person would order something that would cause their destruction should it succeed.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 25, 2004 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Saddam wanted to be feared. He encouraged the belief that Iraq had WMD.

Posted by: obruni at January 25, 2004 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, for those of you who are still skeptical that scientists can drag out an impossible job for government, and still seem credible; a perfect example is the millions spent by scientists looking for Saddam's WMDies.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 25, 2004 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Uh... no. This explanation is implausible in the extreme.

1. If Saddam Hussein had been fooled by his underlings and truly believed these extensive programs existed, he would have assumed that after the invasion the US had learned all of his nefarious schemes.

So what's the first thing he says upon his capture?

Saddam was also asked whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. “No, of course not,” he replied, according to the official, “the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us.” The interrogator continued along this line, said the official, asking: “if you had no weapons of mass destruction then why not let the U.N. inspectors into your facilities?” Saddam’s reply: “We didn’t want them to go into the presidential areas and intrude on our privacy.”

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,561472,00.html

2. Even if there are Iraqi scientists making these claims about WMD programs, it doesn't mean it's true. Perhaps we're the ones being bamboozled and told what we want to hear. If they'd actually been doing this, there would be some evidence. They wouldn't have just taken the money and played Myst all day -- there would be something they'd done so they'd have it to show if questioned. Yet nothing has been presented.

But it's actually worse than that: who are these scientists who say they took money for WMD programs but never did anything with it? Kay has not named a single one, nor exactly what it was they told Hussein they were working on. By contrast, we do have dozens of the most prominent Iraqi scientists named in news reports saying nothing had happened since 1991.

Note, however, that there were Iraqi scientists involved in conventional weapons research that involved sanctions-busting. It wouldn't be at all surprising if there had been tons of corruption in this.

3. Iraq's pre-war behavior is perfectly consistent with having no weapons. People who think otherwise just don't know the basic facts about the situation.

So: there is no mystery. They acted like they didn't have any weapons, and they didn't.

Posted by: Jon at January 25, 2004 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

godless capitalist writes:

Well, he did invade Iran and Kuwait, and he tried to assassinate Bush 41 in 1993. Had that assassination succeeded...wow.

1. Iraq got explicit permission (along with tons of encouragement) from the Carter administration to invade Iran.

2. We certainly never told Iraq not to invade Kuwait. I assume everyone is familiar with what April Glaspie told Hussein in her last meeting with him: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."

3. Yes, "everyone" says that Iraq tried to assassinate George HW Bush. Yet things that "everyone" is sure about can be wrong. I know that sounds incredible, but it's true! I can't think of any examples right now, but maybe I can if you give me a little time. It would be especially appropos if I could think of something else that the US claimed about Iraq that turned out to be bullshit. There must be something, right? Maybe even something that happened in last year? But I just can't put my finger on it right now.

In the meantime, try reading "Case Not Closed" in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh about the extremely shaky evidence regarding the assassination attempt issue.

Posted by: Jon at January 25, 2004 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Poker Player (aka Jim) writes:

The Clinton administration, the UN and the Bush administration and the British... all said he had WMD's...

No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

The UN never said Iraq had banned weapons. They said that Iraq had produced weapons that were unaccounted for. They also knew (as did the US and UK) that there was every reason to believe they no longer existed, and that even if Iraq hadn't (as it claimed) secretly destroyed them in 1991, they would have decayed and been completely useless at this point. Blix was asking for a few months to verify this once and for all when the US invaded.

I hate to harp on this, but is it REALLY too much for people to learn the most basic facts about this before having a voficerous opinion?

Posted by: Jon at January 25, 2004 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, that should be "vociferous" rather than "voficerous."

Got a little over-excited.

Posted by: Jon at January 25, 2004 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: There is still much to be learned about this story.

Why did it takes nine months for this story to be aired (iniital indications must have arose very early from initial interviews of the scientists)? Was someone keeping it under wraps to avoid the obvious implication that there was no WMD? Kay did not mention it in his interim report only 3 months ago.

How much of this fakery was actually going on? There are no details. Was it a few scientists or a large apparatus. What do the records show as to how much was diverted for such fake programs?

This might be nothing more than another weird wrinkle in the no-WMD story as opposed to the whole story itself.

As to Saddam's inexplicable behavior, seems that these details about near lunacy truly bring it out.

Posted by: dmbeaster at January 25, 2004 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Scott Ritter wasn't fooled.

The Brits weren't so not fooled they had to manufacture intelligence.

And tho I can't remember where I read it, the French who had better intelligence about Iraq than anyone else (bar the Russians?) pushed for more inspections/time because they knew there was nothing to find either.

Hell, the U.S. public at large wasn't worried about Saddam until BushCo decided to make them worried for its own reasons, that had zilch to do about security.

I am reminded of how the Dulles Bros. got Arbens out of Guatemala, and how the same idiots as Al and Tacitus gobbled it up at the time (unless of course they were actively complicit.)

Is it so hard to accept that the government is a bunch of evil greedy bastards?

The 50s: Dulles; The 60s: Kissinger and MacNamara. The 80s: Ollie North and Poindexter. Today: Cheney and Rumsfeld. But no, we still arhue about that shit... it's true what PT Barnum said, one born every minute.

Posted by: Lupin at January 25, 2004 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't the first time the 'Iraqi scientists fooled Saddam' story has been raised. It came out on Christmas Eve in the UK, which may be why you missed it.

Scientists are not fools when it comes to raising government money. Their plans for WMNDies were real, technically correct, and would have results if the market for critical technology was available to Iraq.

Apparently not. The scientists maintaining low-level rocket research came up with technically incorrect plans that would have had the result of coming to pieces in mid-air on a test firing, and of course, no test firings took place because the US and UK had every inch of Iraq under satellite surveillance. And the Guardian's sources pooh-poohed it a month ago:

US officials reacted sceptically to the suggestion that Saddam was fooled by his own scientists. "That sort of thing is verifiable, after all. Saddam's people could have gone to check if they had the tube of anthrax or whatever weapon they claimed to have," said one intelligence source in Washington.

And you end up with odd contradictory remarks like these from the Carnegie Endowment:

Cirincione said one reason for the apparent lack of progress in the Iraqi weapons programs was because Iraqi scientists were "telling Saddam that they were further along than they actually were. Apparently that was picked up by some of the Iraqi defectors who came to the U.S. telling stories of elaborate advanced weapons programs," he said. "So the defectors were fooled, Saddam was fooled, but as it turns out Saddam himself had made the decision -- as far as we can tell -- in the mid-'90s to shut down these programs."

It's tempting to believe that Iraqi scientists were giving Saddam the same treatment that Halliburton and Bechtel are giving Bush, or the people behind missile defence are giving the Pentagon. Really tempting. But again, you have to factor in an extremely dumb secret police, and the fact that it's known real scientists were basically shuttered -- old vials in the fridge, centrifuge parts buried in the back garden for a decade, etc.

And also, one would imagine, there'd have to be a vast amount of paperwork lying around to show the workings and progress of these boondoggle projects that didn't actually exist. The one thing about dictatorships is that they have shitloads of paperwork: consider all the mountains of paper that Saddam sent to the UN: 12,000 pages, plus CDs and other stuff. (I'd still like to see the stuff that the US censored.) And from what we can tell, Kay hasn't come up with more than a few crayon scribbles on napkins of big rockets.

The irony surely is that if all the necessary paperwork existed to prove a massive fake weapons program, the US occupying forces would probably have already seized upon it and published it as if it were a real program. And they haven't.

And as Jon has said, Sy Hersh's 'A Case Not Closed' pours doubt on the Iraq/Daddy Bush assassination plot. And newer sources even go so far to suggest that it may have been -- ta-da! -- Osama himself behind it.

Posted by: ahem at January 25, 2004 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Saddam knew he didn't have WMD. Even if there were fake WMD, there would have had to been an apparatus set up, that Saddam could check out. That apparatus has not materialized. If it was fake, how much effort would there be to hide it?

Instead, I believe Saddam wanted to play this out the way it did, only he didn't anticipate 9/11 and neocons in charge when it happened. He played his own scientists for fools, because no particular scientist knows if there's a program per se, he or she just works on a component of it.

Saddam wanted us to believe that he had WMD, for the very reason North Korea does. They don't think we'll invade if they have WMD. So, Saddam wanted to make us think he had WMD, as a deterrent, but also make sure that there really was no WMD program to speak of, for the purposes of the UN inspectors.

Whether or not he thought he had the ability to do small-scale stuff with the trailers, in terms of direct self-defense in case of attack, is another matter, and it could be his own guys fooled him on that, since they didn't want to go down in a nuclear strike if Saddam started using it.

Even that's doubtful though, because they were building trailers for balloons and not WMD, and any savvy Saddam adviser could have figured that out.

I don't buy that Saddam's people fooled him. Why? First, because there is absolutely no information that supports that to my knowledge, other than the type of speculation in Kevin's post, which doesn't seem to think that Saddam could have just plain outsmarted us until he outsmarted himself (or Osama outsmarted him).

Second, if dealing with speculation, it makes more sense to believe that Saddam was playing mind games as a deterrent with us, rather than that his people were playing mind games with him. It's just fits the facts better, and when it came right down to it, either Saddam really couldn't account for some of the WMD, or he thought we would bend to world opinion at the hour of war or at sometime after before we overthrew Baghdad.

Posted by: Jimm at January 25, 2004 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't read through the thread, so if I've repeated anyone's point (though I'm just sort of repeating what I feel to be common sense and heard in large part of Arab and European analysts), I second it.

Posted by: Jimm at January 25, 2004 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Saddam meant to play this Nixonian "credibility" game with us, and appear to be crazy and unpredictable, as a respect for the very same strategy we implemented against the Soviets.

We did buy it, and it shaped our thinking in regards to Iraq (after 9/11, fatally for Saddam, which goes to show you can't anticipate everything).

Saddam did loft bombs at Israel that last time we went after him, and that was before we even hit Baghad, so his rowdiness, combined with the possible existence of WMD, made a credible threat to Israel and our invading forces as a deterrent.

Posted by: Jimm at January 25, 2004 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I'd like to second the question: could you expand on why you believe that "the fact is that basically the CIA believed this stuff too and so did other intelligence agencies"? I'm not entirely sure to what "this stuff" refers, nor am I sure what your evidence for this belief is...

Posted by: Anarch at January 25, 2004 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Second, if dealing with speculation, it makes more sense to believe that Saddam was playing mind games as a deterrent with us, rather than that his people were playing mind games with him.

Nice thought, but as has been mentioned, the only deterrent that works on the US, or even on the region, is nuclear weapons. (See, Korea, DPR.) And the IAEA declared Iraq nuke-free, no matter what Dick, Dubya or Condi said. That's not simply because chemical and biological weapons are useless on the battlefield by comparison with good old high explosive and the technology to aim it, but because the US can say -- and has said -- 'you use chemicals, we use ICBMs with nuclear warheads'.

And had Saddam lobbed something chemical or biological towards Israel during the post-Kuwait-war period, when it became clear that there would be no Arab-backed coalition, and precious little of any coalition, then he'd have brought down the full force of the Israeli military on Iraq. Do you imagine that the neocon hawks would have called for Israeli tolerance and restraint in the way Daddy Bush did in 91?

(Now, North Korea having shitloads of missiles with high explosive warheads pointed at major cities in South Korea is a different matter, because the peninsula has several huge cities within range of even a rudimentary missile.)

Why did Saddam not use his reasonably fresh stocks of chemical warheads on the retreat from Kuwait in 1991? Because he knew that it would ensure that the coalition would head all the way to Baghdad and might even encourage Daddy Bush to throw the nuclear football.

Posted by: ahem at January 25, 2004 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

My instant reaction upon reading this is that it is insanely nonsensical. In reviewing the comments, I note a couple of people have made the same point.

In order for this to work, every single scientist would have to either be part of one large conspiracy, or else conspire individually, to defraud Saddam. This, it must be remembered, would have to take place over several years with the backdrop of one of the world's worst police states, where fear predominated.

In addition, even if there was a massive conspiracy within the military/scientific community in Iraq to take the money and run, there would still be a paper trail: one showing orders and money flowing to the scientists, the other flowing back from the scientists reporting, at the very least, on their progress (even if mythical).

Posted by: 3pointshooter at January 25, 2004 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

I don't buy this theory on a large scale... Dealing with Saddam had to be a pretty scary thing, but stealing?... I'd probably lay low and forego the money rather than risk his wrath.

Posted by: John McKinzey at January 25, 2004 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure about the financial scam aspects of it, but otherwise I'm not surprised to hear this at all. In fact, I'm sure that I've heard it before, but I can't remember where. It's a common failure mode for dictatorships - it happened in Nazi Germany; it happened in the Soviet Union.

If reporting setbacks or failure gets you killed or sent to jail, you'll damn well report success. And if you can keep your cushy lab job and maybe hire some of your friends to work for you, of course you'll whip together some sort of plausible-sounding plan and present it to the higher-ups.

Saddam obviously miscalculated horribly somewhere - whether he thought that the US wouldn't really invade, he thought that he actually had WMDs and so if he cooperated with inspections he'd get invaded anyway, or if he thought that all the inspectors were spies and if he let them in they'd sabotage his facilities or something, I'm not sure. The second seems the most plausible to me, but...

Posted by: Jake McGuire at January 26, 2004 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

All I hear is a sort of thinking that doesn't give Saddam any credit and gives his people total credit, and in an environment of repression and brutality that prevented the CIA or any other intelligence agency from getting any real information. The ship in Iraq was not a leaky one.

...the only deterrent that works on the US, or even on the region, is nuclear weapons. (See, Korea, DPR.) And the IAEA declared Iraq nuke-free, no matter what Dick, Dubya or Condi said. That's not simply because chemical and biological weapons are useless on the battlefield by comparison with good old high explosive and the technology to aim it, but because the US can say -- and has said -- 'you use chemicals, we use ICBMs with nuclear warheads'.

See the Powell Doctrine. Many will find it heretical, but I actually find it more convincing that we sold the war on WMD, but really believed there wasn't WMD, because otherwise Powell and other political operators never would have signed off. Why? Because if Saddam had used WMD (localized) on our invading forces, and we lost tens of thousands of men, the onus of this action would be much larger than it is today, and a direct contradiction of the Powell Doctrine (without really making a case that the action was necessary or that Saddam's WMD was limited to localized defensive use).

So I'll change my mind mid-thread (not on Saddam's strategy, but our interpretation of his strategy). We wouldn't have risked those men if we believed Saddam a credible WMD threat in his territory.

By the way, I'm tossing around ideas, and the available information, in order to see how it shakes out. Thinking outside of the box.

Those who believed that Saddam's scientists tricked him, I'm afraid, seem to be thinking in a box.

Posted by: Jimm at January 26, 2004 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

And had Saddam lobbed something chemical or biological towards Israel during the post-Kuwait-war period, when it became clear that there would be no Arab-backed coalition, and precious little of any coalition, then he'd have brought down the full force of the Israeli military on Iraq. Do you imagine that the neocon hawks would have called for Israeli tolerance and restraint in the way Daddy Bush did in 91?

You're misunderstanding my point. That was Saddam's thinking then, and he did loft missiles at Israel. It happened. Had those missiles had WMD, Israel would have responded, and all hell would have broke loose. We would have done everything in our power to stop that from happening. I'm not talking about him lofting misiles now, only that he proved to be an unpredictable and nutty character, which was a Nixonian nuclear strategy, and I believe that was Saddam's model and strategy with us.

Powell knew we had crippled Saddam, and his weapons programs, and said so in the months prior to the war. Why did he change his mind? Or did he? Perhaps he didn't, and the very reason we felt confident in the ground war was that we really suspected that Saddam was as powerless as Powell said he was months earlier.

This would be consistent with the Powell Doctrine. Sacrificing tens of thousands of men to confiscate a localized WMD supply, or to liberate the Iraqi people, political suicide after the fact.

Posted by: Jimm at January 26, 2004 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

What evidence was there of WMD's? What report was the evidence contained in? Anyone seen it? One photo maybe?

Mr. Drum says: "it's well to keep in mind that intelligence agencies all over the world believed this stuff"

It's easy enough to find some politician blowhard saying as much, but I wonder where is the proof that other agencies believed it? Where is the proof that our CIA believed it? Anyone seen even one picture? One report? Everyone keeps referring to the "evidence" that was or was/not exagerrated, believed by Clinton, or international others, etc. Has anyone seen even one piece of it?

I don't care to blame Bush, he's a scumbag and I know it. This isn't partisan. Clinton probably starved many more than Bush bombed. They're all scumbags. How did I know that there were no WMD's 2,3 or more years ago? Because the truth was obvious, rational, and right there in front of us.

Posted by: andrew at January 26, 2004 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

Jake McGuire,

I'm not sure how Saddam Hussein "horribly miscalculated." You seem to believe that Iraq didn't cooperate with UNMOVIC. In fact, they did cooperate. Was it 100%? No, more like 98.8%. Still, the idea that there's anything Iraq could have done in the fall of 2002 to prevent an invasion -- short of Saddam Hussein abdicating power -- is simply wrong. In fact, even that might not have prevented it. Bush wanted a war. It's as simple as that.

Posted by: Jon at January 26, 2004 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Jim hasn't accounted for why Colin Powell said in April 2001 that Saddam didn't have WMD and was contained at the time.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger at January 26, 2004 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Once again for the stubborn learners,
There were never more than a maximum of 5% of the WMD left over from the first Gulf War. The Bushistas knew it, the CIA knew it, the UN knew it, Europe knew it, Hans Blix knew it, and Saddam knew it.

Any theory which does not fit these facts is absurd.

Posted by: Magnum at January 26, 2004 01:28 AM | PERMALINK

That was Saddam's thinking then, and he did loft missiles at Israel. It happened. Had those missiles had WMD, Israel would have responded, and all hell would have broke loose.

No, you forget the discussions at the time. The 'liberate Kuwait' coalition had lots of Arab countries included. Which meant that Daddy Bush had some clout to lean on Yitzak Shamir, saying something along the lines of 'just hold your fire, and we'll do the retribution for you, and it will be done under the colours of a number of Arab nations rather than singling out Israel'. There was sufficient diplomatic wiggle-room to do that.

There was no basis for such barganing in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, because the only Arab countries on board were Kuwait and Qatar, and then only as bases for US-UK-Australian troops.

(And, frankly, a Scud partly filled with mustard gas wouldn't necessarily have killed as many as the ones filled of high explosive which did land in Israel.)

Posted by: ahem at January 26, 2004 01:35 AM | PERMALINK

ahem, are you just trying to ignore my point, which has nothing to do with the actual impact of the missiles lofted on Israel, but Saddam's intent on appearing unpredictable and crazy to do such a thing?

let me repeat again so you don't miss it. my point relates saddam's unpredictability and "nuttiness", and lack of "rationalism", to the Nixonian strategy.

go reread my post, or just ignore it.

otherwise, address the point I'm really pushing, as this Saddam-Nixon point was really a secondary one I was throwing out there as food for thought...

geez.

Posted by: Jimm at January 26, 2004 01:47 AM | PERMALINK

This is a long thread with long comments and I tried to read them carefully but I may have missed something, so sorry if I repeat what someone else said, but I wanted to jump in as I have lived in Middle Eastern countries over the past 10 years and most of you have not lived under the same sort of regime as Saddam Hussein had so may be missing some perspective.

There are two issues here. One is that Bush and Co. definitely, wildly exaggerated existing intel. The CIA, Hans Blix, M. Al Baradei and anti-Bush expert critics like Scott Ritter were saying time and time again that the vast majority of whatever WMDs SH ever had were destroyed after Gulf War I.

The second is that SH's scientists, OF COURSE, would have been feeding him what they think he wanted to hear. When you work under a dictator who fosters a cult of personality like him, who is really, really scary and has ordered many people (and their families) killed, you are more afraid of the risk of telling him the truth, than you are afraid of the risk of lying. After all, it's easy to lie when you are the expert in a highly technical area and the person you are lying to is not. It's harder to stand in front of the scary guy and tell him what you know will massively piss him off -- especially when he has a long history of shooting the messenger.

So in sum, regarding issue 1: Bush was fed bad intel, believed it because he wanted to, and got us into war, and regarding issue 2: Saddam was told lies about his own program, believed it because he wanted to, and baited Bush in his own, megalomaniacal fashion.

Therefore, I think that what happened is that, though the CIA, Blix and the rest of the UN, Ritter and everyone else, were clear on the fact that SH's WMD programs (or -related activities) were moribund, SH and Bush, alone, thought they were moving ahead full tilt. In both cases, I think they were hearing what they wanted to hear, because that's what their staff was feeding them, and they were, by the negative points in their own personalities, incapable of hearing all the dissent that was roaring for their attention.

Posted by: Anna in Cairo at January 26, 2004 02:42 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Kevin,

This theory does make at least one weird assumption about human nature: the assumption that officials in a ruthless totalitarian state where execution awaited anyone who disobeyed orders would be willing or able to carry out such a vast, systematic fraud over many years, without a single person ever snitching to Saddam, or to his sons, or to anyone else in the labyrinthine security apparatus, at any time, for any reason. That seems a bit hard to swallow. Why not opt for the answer that seems most borne out by the facts: there were no active WMD programs, Saddam knew there were no active WMD programs, because, as we now know, he ordered his son-in-law to destroy them in the mid-1990s. There were, however, lots of WMD rumors, lies and ambiguous facts ("dual-use" facts?) that anti-Saddam people wanted to believe (or found useful), and the Bush Administration seized on these as an excuse for a war they meant to fight irregardless. (See Cheney/Rumsfeld's Project for the New American Century, their Sept. 2000 document, which says plainly that the need for an American military presence in Iraq "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.")

I don't believe it's a question of psychology -- either Bush's or Saddam's, the idea that they "allowed" themselves to be fooled by underlings, etc. I think what we have here is what we always have in geopolitics: hard-ball, by hard men, with their eyes wide open, jockeying for power, money and dominance. It's nothing new under the sun: you can see this dynamic playing out in any tribe of apes.

Posted by: Chris Floyd at January 26, 2004 04:26 AM | PERMALINK

Most of the posters have covered what I think pretty well, but I'd like to add that though an "out of touch saddam" makes a lot of sense it makes absolutely no sense, in a country like Iraq, for large numgbers of scientists to have a) lied about wmd production to saddam and his police, b) failed to prepare a bolt hole. It either couldn't have happened on a massive scale with such precision as to leave absolutely nothing to find, or it couldn't have happened at all. Saddam might not have gotten everything he thought he was paying for, especially given the sanctions, but if he were trying to organize massive weapons production within the sanctions regime scientists would have had to be requesting stuff that was hard to get, and proving that they were making it work for them, all the time. It wouldh ave been just too costly and difficult to even begin to look like you were producing anything otherwise. Saddam could be as out of touch as he wanted but lots of people lower down on the chain of command would have been risking their lives to protect the fraud, its just too unlikely.

aimai

Posted by: aimai at January 26, 2004 04:40 AM | PERMALINK

sorry, chris floyd said it better!

Posted by: aimai at January 26, 2004 04:42 AM | PERMALINK

I keep getting confused by posters who think this theory requires some secretive plot by the science community in Iraq.

What Kevin describes is standard practice in all governments, and it sometimes goes to extreme levels by degrees. I can sit here and cite the same problems in American government, and I have listed many, let me mention cancer research was a standard method to get pet project money in the U.S. for almost forever.

Scientists working in a dictatoship would have no more to fear from "pork barrel" science than they would under legitimate science in a dictatorship. I can't believe my eyes when I see naive posters write as if dictatorships only engage in very legitimate science out of fear. Pork barrel funding, often useless, is common practice in all governments of all types.

The explanation given by Kevin is not only plausable, but probable, and probable well before 1990. If anything, this type of pork barrel science is more common in dictatorships, not less common. In fact, I suspect Saddam was well aware of the lack of progress, and no doubt encouraged the funding anyway as a typical payout to favored science groups.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 26, 2004 04:46 AM | PERMALINK

I dunno, eventually Saddam would want to see something or test something. Then what? A lot of skinned, boiled scientists watching their families tortured.

Seems like an awfully risky game to play.

Posted by: salvage at January 26, 2004 05:13 AM | PERMALINK

I don't buy this latest whitewash either. I think the simplest explanation of the WMD issue is that it provided cover for the Bush administration to invade Iraq. that's it. Even Perle said as much in an interview. Why is it so hard to believe that the Bush ad. needed to find a pretext to do something they had always wanted to do? After 9/11, the window was open, and they seized the moment. They simply scared the country silly and then went in. They knew there wasn't anything much there. Sure, they hoped to find a few canisters of bug spray, but really. Let's not be naive.

Posted by: ockham's razor at January 26, 2004 05:16 AM | PERMALINK

The explanation given by Kevin is not only plausable, but probable, and probable well before 1990. If anything, this type of pork barrel science is more common in dictatorships, not less common. In fact, I suspect Saddam was well aware of the lack of progress, and no doubt encouraged the funding anyway as a typical payout to favored science groups.

On the contrary, Kevin's whole supposition is that Saddam was unaware.... and in this theory he would have to have been. What Kevin was trying to explain is why Saddam behaved in such a way as to make us believe that he did have WMD. Leaving aside the question of whether he did behave that way, his explanation is that Saddam thought he had some extensive program when in fact he had nothing. As many posters have pointed out, while it was possible that there was some corruption by some scientists, this level of deception strains credibility to say the least. You are correct, the sort of pork barrel corruption you cite is likely to have existed in a corrupt state like Iraq, but the notion that there was not anyone actually doing any real science and that this managed to go on for a decade with noone but the scientists knowing... well, its not exactly an occam's razor type theory, is it?

Posted by: brent at January 26, 2004 05:27 AM | PERMALINK

This whole argument is a red herring.
I can believe that people within a totalitarian regime lie to their bosses, but I also think that people in totalitarian regimes snitch on other people who lie. But at the moment we don't know for sure what Saddam himself actually believed--we just have David Kay's latest self-serving justification. We can postpone this argument until we find out whether it is actually true that Saddam also believed he had massive stockpiles of WMD's. He certainly didn't act like he thought he did and the Bush invasion took place almost as if everyone expected it to be a cakewalk.

The argument is part of the drive to claim that "we" (i.e., the serious mature grownup types) had good reason to believe in Saddam's massive stockpiles of WMD's. So there's this mad scramble to say that "everyone" in the intelligence community believed it and so "we" amateurs (everyone from the NYT and responsible centrist blogger types on over to the Bush Administration) had no choice but to take their word for it. And then "we" get to express concern over the "incompetence" of those intelligence types and so on and then claim that there is still "plenty of blame" to go around. In other words, everyone is guilty, but it's the fault of a broken system and so "we" don't have to admit we were idiots. It's "their" fault.

Imagine how the debate would have gone if it had turned out that Saddam really did have some WMD's stored, but as it happened, none of Powell's purported evidence had panned out--the actual discovery of WMD's turned out to be lucky guess (rather like the discovery of Pluto). Would there be much talk of intelligence failures then and how right, ironically enough, the antiwar people had been to question the evidence that had been presented? Would anyone outside the far left even mention the fact that Bush had greatly exaggerated the evidence he had? Probably not. We'd be hearing about how stupid and malevolent and anti-American the antiwar protestors were to question our fearless leaders. There'd be no quarter given and little if any concern over "intelligence failures".

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 26, 2004 05:33 AM | PERMALINK

Look, I could make a long post, but just read Bart Gellman's article on these weapons. It's from about two weeks ago, in The Washington Post. Gellman actually talks to the scientists working on "weapons of mass destruction program-related activities."


There weren't many such "activities." The programs could advance only so far without a genuine budget and an end to their isolation and ban on testing (both of which stymied development). At least one of the cited programs was attempting something so technically advanced that the United States hasn't successfully done it, and is only indirectly associated with weapons, if at all. But, hey, that was ideal for funneling money to the program: as long as the results are expected to be many years away, and can't be tested in the interim, imagine the money that one can consume! (Ask an American missile-defense contractor.) The entire Iraqi economic model was Stalinist. These guys could be hacking away at this log forever, and never make the world more dangerous for the United States. And, I'm guessing that the CIA knew this fact, and I'm guessing that every intelligence report used it as a qualifier.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 26, 2004 06:10 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You are altogether too sober and responsible to be a leftist -- you are going to lose all your credibility with your co-religionists unless you toe the "Bush Lied" line.

Posted by: DBL at January 26, 2004 06:26 AM | PERMALINK

"Scientists working in a dictatoship would have no more to fear from "pork barrel" science than they would under legitimate science in a dictatorship. I can't believe my eyes when I see naive posters write as if dictatorships only engage in very legitimate science out of fear. Pork barrel funding, often useless, is common practice in all governments of all types."

I agree. Stalin's Russia was the state model that Saddam cribbed from when building his dictatorship and there is an analagous situation, well documented in historical literature, that compares to the Saddam and scientists theory.

When the USSR started it's crash program to build a nuclear weapon during WWII Stalin interviewed and selected the top physicists personally. He forbade the secret police from not only arresting or harrassing the atomic scientists but any member of their families as well.( To enforce this provision he put the fearsome Lavrenty Beria in charge of atomic energy who also had general supervision of the security ministries but not day to day control over any of them)The scientists who were free were given the best of everything and relative freedom. Even the political prisoner-scientists Solzhenitsyn describes in the _First Circle_ were given comfortable working conditions.

Saddam was not unintelligent but he was uneducated and probably no better judge of valid scientific methodology than he was of chamber music.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 26, 2004 06:27 AM | PERMALINK

Well, if corruption causes fewer weapons to be produced, let's have more of it.

But, seriously, U.S. intelligence could have just picked up the phone and asked the U.N. inspectors about the status of WMD in Iraq.

Right.


So, let's see. Iraqi corruption causes few or no weapons to be produced, while Republican Bush corruption causes more weapons to be produced, at least in the minds of the righteous press in the U.S. and in the fever swamp of American opinion.

I think I like the Iraqi corruption better.

Posted by: John Thullen at January 26, 2004 06:34 AM | PERMALINK

They'd want to be pretty ballsy, those scientists.

Possible, but really really ballsy.

But what other explanation can there be?

Posted by: james at January 26, 2004 06:37 AM | PERMALINK

The agency that cried wolf.

Is it not conceivable that our intelligence agency hyped the Iraqi threat in order to justify their value and to secure continued funding? It is not conceivable that they then backpedaled, albeit off-the-record, when it became clear that we had both a President that would take action based on such analysis and a nation angered by a horrific act of terrorism who backed such action.

Posted by: pre fooled at January 26, 2004 06:53 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't know if I agree with your assessment. Yes, I admit it makes some sense, and I feel that on a LIMITED BASIS scientists could get away with this. The problem I have, is given Saddam's penchant for power, and his will to increase it, don't you think he'da asked for progress reports? Updates?

I would, had I been him. And plans on paper wouldn't have done it. I'd want a burger I could bite into to.

Any scientists doing what you suggest in a brutal dictatorship such as Saddam's would, IMHO, be putting their lives at risk. Saddam could kill them at any time. I doubt scooping up a couple of millions of dollars would be worth the risk.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at January 26, 2004 07:03 AM | PERMALINK

The ideas that Saddam was duped is not consistent with the testmony of the defector Hussain Kamal (Saddam's Son in Law) who was in charge of Iraq's weapons programs prior to his defection in '96. He testified that the were no ongoing weapons programs, and the the stockpiles has largely been destroyed by the ongoing weapons inspection regime. He's not around any more - Saddam lured him back and killed him a a large section of his extended family. At this point Kamal's claims were public knowledge - you can be damn sure Saddam would have checked them out, if they contradicted what he thought to be true.

Kamal's testimony is yet another thing that has disappeared into the memory hole of those reporting of the war.

Here's a piece by Scott Ritter that references Kamal's claims:
http://www.oceanbooks.com.au/iraq/articles2/278.html

And here's a PDF of Kamal's debriefing by UNSCOM:
http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kamel.pdf

Posted by: nathaniel at January 26, 2004 07:13 AM | PERMALINK

David W. writes: "One thing that generally works well in a dictatorship is the secret police."

As I said in response to him over on Electrolite, this is oversimplified. Generally speaking, secret police are pretty good at scaring everyone half to death, but much less reliable at actually knowing what the heck is going on.

I'm also amazed by all the people who think this theory somehow amounts to a "whitewash" of the Bush Administration, or who think it somehow contradicts the ideas ably summarized in this post by Juan Cole, who attributes the matter to a lot of bad-faith agenda-concealing by factions in our own government, heavy lobbying by the Chalabi crowd and the Israeli right, and a huge dose of self-dramatizing will-to-believe. I'm pretty sure all that's true too. The whole business was a gigantic, world-class screwup. Those usually have multiple causes. Matt Young's comment is also germaine: we're not talking about some kind of unified secretive plot by the Iraqi scientists, but about what always happens to dictatorships, sooner or later: eventually, the people at the top know the least, because everyone below them is so terrified that they're throwing chaff in all directions.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at January 26, 2004 07:51 AM | PERMALINK

"There's plenty of blame for everyone in this fiasco."

Doesn't help the dead or their families. Or all the women of Iraq about to lose all their freedoms.

Posted by: MattB at January 26, 2004 07:58 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm, not to play the Godwin card here, but as I recall there were plenty of secret weapons programs going in in Nazi Germany that were funded and did produce results. (V-1, V-2, ME-262, etc.) Hitler undoubtedly knew squat about rocket science, but he did know what was going on and had people who were qualified keeping track of the development of such weapons and reporting back to him. So I'm not going to simply assent to the argument that dictatorships are particularly susceptable to being fooled by geeks out to defraud the state.

If there really was any fraud going on regarding Iraqi WMD program related activities, my bet is that it was minor at best.

Posted by: David W. at January 26, 2004 08:10 AM | PERMALINK

One thing that doesn't ring true to me about this theory: I can buy that some Iraqis were scamming Saddam; I can even buy that most were playing him; but all? Not even a phony mock-up of a weapons program, in case he decided to check? To buy this, we have to assume complete dishonesty and an absence anywhere of a sense of duty or pride in accomplishment, zero respect for the Regime, and a one-sided triumph of greed over fear--and for every scientist involved. We have to believe every one of them made the calculation that the risk was worth it, or that Saddam would for whatever reason be unable to retaliate.

Posted by: Raenelle at January 26, 2004 08:14 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunate for Hitler that he did know what was going on. If he had been totally ignorant he would not have tried to turn the ME 262 into a bomber rather than leaving it as a fighter, a role in which it would have been dominant and caused the allies huge bomber losses.

Posted by: ____league at January 26, 2004 08:18 AM | PERMALINK

Er, make that alledged Iraqi WMD program related activities.

I hate how this administration abuses language to the point where I have to be careful not to accidentally say something that implicitly supports their assertions.

Posted by: David W. at January 26, 2004 08:18 AM | PERMALINK

Hitler was admittedly an ignoramus about many subjects but he had a surprisingly detailed grasp of the technical aspects of military technology that often shocked the professionals on his General Staff. Hitler also understood the psychological effect of new weapons better than most other WWII leaders with the exception of Winston Churchill and Hitler's choices often tilted toward the short-term political effect surprising new weapons could produce.

Hitler often insisted on modifications to weapons design - increasing the barrel diameter on a medium panzer for one example - over expert objections which proved correct on the battlefield. Hitler's demand for jet bombers over fighters was simply an ideological preference for striking back over pursuing a defensive strategy. Unwise strategically but not something Hitler did out of ignorance.

Ultimately, going with fighters wouldn't have made much difference except to prolong the war by a few months when German industry would have run out of critical materials.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 26, 2004 08:40 AM | PERMALINK

I quote:

_____

Kevin,

You are altogether too sober and responsible to be a leftist -- you are going to lose all your credibility with your co-religionists unless you toe the "Bush Lied" line.

Posted by DBL at January 26, 2004 06:26 AM | PERMALINK

______

Me:

Yeah, you're right DBL. It takes a wild-eyed (or "religionist") leftist to believe that the honorable George W. Bush would ever lie about anything. We all know what a man of integrity he is. How he promised that the surplus would cover the cost of tax cuts, for example, or that his tax cuts, "by far," primarily benefit the middle and lower classes; or how there was no indication that 9/11 would occur prior to that date; or how "He's done more for human rights" than any other president; that he would be the "education president"; that he was totally in favor of the 9/11 commission when he in fact blocked its formation every step of the way, then underfunded it, then gave them the laughably absurd May deadline; I could point to so many things.

If anyone is the religionist here, asshole, it's you. By now that's abundantly clear. And your first commandment is evidently "Thou shalt not call a spade by its name."

Posted by: Commissar at January 26, 2004 08:55 AM | PERMALINK

Bullcrap! They knew and the CIA told them the evidence was shakey at best and there was no real evidence. Do some backtracking instead of just going along with the latest excuse!

Posted by: Tricia at January 26, 2004 08:55 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin-

Can I claim an early call on this theory??

'Why Are Missing WMD Like Bad Software?':

So you get 'Potemkin weapons'; reports, promises, trailers filled with impressive-looking technical equipment, UAV's that are really just oversized model airplanes. Occasionally, some competent or especially frightened technician might actually produce something - but almost certainly not on the scale that the dictator believes.

So Saddam believes he has them, and from that, we infer that he does, and what is really going on is a bunch of nervous paper-shuffling.

I like this idea, because it fits in with what I know of human nature, and it explains two things (both of which get trumped if they actually find the Secret Underground WMD Factories) - why Saddam would risk war to hide weapons he knew he didn't have, and why Bush would risk lying about something so crucial, when it would be impossible for the lie not to get caught.A.L.


Posted by: Armed Liberal at January 26, 2004 08:58 AM | PERMALINK

mark

I agree with you that nothing Hitler could have done or not done could have prevented the ultimate outcome.

Hitler started off making mostly good decisions. I think that he reached the point where he did not think he could ever be wrong. When he was, disaster inevitably followed.

I don't think Saddam ever had Hitler's grasp of either technology or strategy. Once he was in power he almost always screwed up when he went after anyone but his own people.

If Saddam did not understand technology he could be fooled by scientists and others. Suppose Saddam says he wants a demo of a chemical weapon. He sees the rocket launched and then on TV (so he doesn't get gassed by being close) he sees an explosion and a bunch of sheep fall over. How does he know what really killed them?

Many posters have discussed using endless amounts of governemnt money and getting no useful results. I also suspect that in Iraq there was a huge amount of skimming before the money ever reached any scientists.

Posted by: ____league at January 26, 2004 09:00 AM | PERMALINK

Why are you chasing after this red herring bullshit about corrupt scientist? Saddam had no WMD. GWB & Co knew he had no WMD. That's why they invaded. GWB & Co knows that North Korea does have WMD. That's why they are NOT invading NK. DBL has it right above--Bush lied.

Posted by: Seeker at January 26, 2004 09:07 AM | PERMALINK

seeker

I agree; Saddam had no WMD. However, he wanted everybody to think he had so they would leave him alone. However, he probably tried to spend some money to at least keep some "related activities" going.

I also agree with the posters who argue Bush Co. knew he had no WMDs of any consequence. If they thought he had they would not have been so gungho to attack.


Posted by: ____league at January 26, 2004 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: DBL: "Kevin, You are altogether too sober and responsible to be a leftist -- you are going to lose all your credibility with your co-religionists unless you toe the "Bush Lied" line."

On the contrary, Kevin's sobriety and responsibility are what account for his leftist sympathies. On the other hand, given his station in life and his investment in the system, he is, like the majority of Americans, altogether too disposed toward giving Bush the benefit of the doubt, despite the unambiguous evidence that no doubt should be extended. In short, he wants to believe. But then, the most religious leftists would like nothing more than to believe that their leaders, though possessing differing views on how to achieve the ends, are devoted to serving the best interests of the American people. This is no different than the way abused children, who want to believe their parents love them, will make denials and excuses for them. And, if they happen to be a favored child who suffers less abuse than his siblings, they are even more likely to make rationalizations and justifications as they see the "good" side of their abusing parents.

Understanding this dynamic, Kevin's credibility is safe with leftists, so long as he continues to advocate vigorously for Bush's ouster.

Posted by: jayarbee at January 26, 2004 09:33 AM | PERMALINK

"This whole argument is a red herring," said Donald Johnson in a post earlier today. Then he added, "I can believe that people within a totalitarian regime lie to their bosses, but I also think that people in totalitarian regimes snitch on other people who lie. But at the moment we don't know for sure what Saddam himself actually believed--we just have David Kay's latest self-serving justification."

What Donald said...

IMO, this is the most idiotic scenario that I have seen yet. I thoroughly doubt that the Iraqi scientists would ever attempt to "con the con man." With as many scientists as Saddam had in his employ, keeping this con game a secret over time without a snitch blowing the whistle seems highly unlikely.

My curiosity begs an answer: Why is it so difficult to believe that Saddam's WMD weren't relocated to Syria or simply buried in the vast Iraqi sands like the newly discovered cache of late model Russian Migs?

But "polishing a turd" is more fun: conspiracies and intrigue do seem to flourish in international politics.

Posted by: CadillaqJaq at January 26, 2004 09:55 AM | PERMALINK

Golly...it is nice to see Juan Cole totally validating today, what I wrote to this thread yestrday @ 09:30 PM

Juan Cole:
The groups that wanted the war, wanted it so badly that the shakiness of the "intelligence" did not matter. The intelligence was just spun.

You'all gonna keep hitting that ping pong ball back and forth, until all that matters is the game itself and not the truth at all.

Posted by: -pea- at January 26, 2004 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmmm...and now I agree with __league

"I don't think Saddam ever had Hitler's grasp of either technology or strategy. Once he was in power he almost always screwed up when he went after anyone but his own people.
"

True, the primary overlapping characteristic other than sociopathy that Saddam shared with Hitler was a willingness to make incredibly reckless gambles in foreign policy even at the point of endagering his own regime's existence ( Iran-Iraq War, Gulf War, attacking Israel with ballistic missiles, the 1994 troop build-up near Kuwait).

This aspect, more than anything else, is was what put him in a different risk category from Hafez Assad,Gaddafi or Khomeini's successors. You could not trust Saddam to make same rational self-interest calculations that most other tyrants do on a regular basis.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 26, 2004 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Armed" "Liberal" wrote:
"So you get 'Potemkin weapons'; reports, promises, trailers filled with impressive-looking technical equipment, UAV's that are really just oversized model airplanes. Occasionally, some competent or especially frightened technician might actually produce something - but almost certainly not on the scale that the dictator believes."

And the evidence for this latest theory is? Where's the technical equipment? The dummies? The mockups? The frightened technicians confessing all to Kay's team?

There is zero evidence to support this theory - you might have a point if hangars full of mockups had been found, or extensive but non-functional laboratories had been found, or if Kay had extensively interviewed scientists who corroborated the Potemkin village scenario.

Then again, this is the Administration that tried to make a bioweapon out of a bottle of spoiled botox. If there had really been a Potemkin village, the Administration would have spun it to seem as if it was a mighty weapons program in and of itself.

But nothing was found. Zip. Nada. No mockups, no undeground hangars full of useless UAVs, no evidence whatsoever of a grand coverup.

You'll have to look for something else to ease the pain cognitive dissonance is causing you. I suggest Irish whisky.

Posted by: BP at January 26, 2004 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Why does Kevin continue with this obsessive quest to show that 'it was reasonable to believe he had them' or 'it was unreasonable to believe he didn't have them'. If were talking about quantities of weapons that were a serious threat it was certainly reasonable to believe they did not meet this threshold. Only a fool would have asserted there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING there. I feel kind of sorry for Kevin on this score. Its like somebody who tries to answer a question or learn something and keeps getting their hands on the wrong books or research. Or for some reason writes off the most important material. Like the material from the UN including that from 02-03 which should have stopped everyone in their tracks. Your beliefs should have been revised one year ago!

Posted by: digby at January 26, 2004 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

"Why is it so difficult to believe that Saddam's WMD weren't relocated to Syria"

Well, David Kay said that WMD programs were moved to Syria, so it's easily conceivable that WMD themselves were moved there too.

But, of course, this is Calpundit, so we don't like to talk about things a lot of things that David Kay said, such as the existence of nuclear WMD research in 2000 and 2001, about ongoing ricin research, or about transferring WMD programs to Syria. Those topics would obviously bring too much cognitive dissonance to the lefties who read the thread. So we only talk about absence of WMD stockpiles...

Posted by: Al at January 26, 2004 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Why is it so difficult to believe that Saddam's WMD weren't relocated to Syria"........This is an absolutely clueless statement. This is unlikely in the absence of large quantities recently produced given the poor condition of his facilities reported by the UN. Also, given that some of the alleged stockpiles were from 13 years ago....in which all but Mustard Gas would have DEGRADED long ago. And further that Syria has no real use for only mustard shells because they have their own and because the strategic value of these weapons simply isn't worth the risk. And further because mustard/chemical weapons are not a WMD anyway.

Posted by: digby at January 26, 2004 10:30 AM | PERMALINK
Well, David Kay said that WMD programs were moved to Syria

Didn't he say that there was evidence that "unspecified material" was moved to Syria shortly before the war, rather than actual WMD, or WMD programs, or even WMD program-related activities.

Posted by: cmdicely at January 26, 2004 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Armed Liberal:

"...why Saddam would risk war to hide weapons he knew he didn't have, and why Bush would risk lying about something so crucial, when it would be impossible for the lie not to get caught.A.L."

IIRC, Saddam *didn't* risk war to hide weapons he knew he couldn't have. He admitted UN inspectors. Hans Blix stated (again, IIRC) that there was no obstruction of any practical significance (I don't know if this was before or after he stated that all intelligence furnished to his team was useless). Saddam turned over 12,000 pages of documentation, 8,000 of which were grabbed by the US government - apparently the US security clearances of the rest of the world rank somewhere below Saddam's US security clearance.

In terms of Bush, why should he assume that he'd suddenly be held accountable for something that he said or did? The story of his life is not being held accountable.

As president, he got away with painting tax cuts skewed to the rich as not being so, he has born absolutely no responsibility for 9/11, a failure which would probably have sunk Clinton, and has even gotten away with stonewalling the investigating committee.

He probably figured that Saddam would have *something*, even if not a threat to the US, and that that something would serve the purpose.

And, if you will please note, finding *nothing* has indeed been good enough to fool a large chunk of the American people.

Posted by: Barry at January 26, 2004 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Ordinarily, I don't believe anything written in a British newspaper. But the Telegraph couldn't have messed up a direct quote from an interview, could it?

"We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons," [Kay] said. "But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved."

So, yeah, the unspecified material included components of Iraq's WMD program.

Kay also said that a "large" stockpile wasn't moved. Howabout a refrigerator of Anthrax. Does that count as a "large" stockpile?

Posted by: Al at January 26, 2004 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Bashir al-Assad would not be so stupid as to accept those alledged WMDs, WMD programmes, or WMD programme related activities in the period leading up to the war. This latest assertion by David Kay doesn't pass the smell test when you consider that the alledged WMDs are of no military value to Syria (they can already target Tel Aviv as it is with their missles) and accepting them would only invite U.S. action against them if found out.

Posted by: David W. at January 26, 2004 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

What were these scientists doing when they showed up for work?
They had to look busy. It would seem reasonable that the best way to pass the time and keep things coordinated would be to actually work on the actual programs.
It's like telling the truth; you don't have to worry so much about remembering what you said last time.
If you are not working on WMD programs, you are either working on something else or not working.
The latter doesn't seem safe.
Working on something else can only be safe as long as nobody, 1, wants to see the ostensible program's progress, and 2, spots the difference between working on the program you're supposed to be working on and what you are actually doing.
It appears that none of this stuff was pushing the envelope of pure science. It was engineering and how to make it work with resources available.
Lack of material only available from overseas can be blamed on the folks responsible for getting the stuff,not the scientists who ask for it.
It seems unreasonable to presume we had all these scientists and techs, including security service plants, taking this horrid risk. For what? Did they put the money under their mattresses? Did the security services monitor their banking activities?
Making illicit money off this must have been the most dangerous part of it. If you wanted to loaf, you could, possibly, but making money in the meantime would spill the beans.
IMO, we had a bunch of guys used to making bricks without straw putting together the facilities which could be ramped up when the last pieces are available.
Like when the sanctions and inspections end.
Both of which lefties wanted to end.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at January 26, 2004 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Al "Kay said, "We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons. But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved." So, yeah, the unspecified material included components of Iraq's WMD program. Kay also said that a "large" stockpile wasn't moved. Howabout a refrigerator of Anthrax. Does that count as a "large" stockpile?"

Sure! Let's see it! Kay's assertion that we "know" some WMD components went to Syria because some former Iraqi officials told us so is as much evidence as Cheney's numerous unsubstantiated claims about what we "know." Iraqi officials have said a lot of things, including that no WMD existed. We cannot possibly know whether any of them are true unless they are verified. Show us photographs of these WMD components in Syria. Let's see the refrigerator filled with anthrax. Your faith-based evidence is immediately spoiled when taken out of the fridge and exposed to the light of day.

Posted by: jayarbee at January 26, 2004 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Is the testimony about weapons to Syria from the same group that pulled a fast one on Hussein?

Posted by: kbl at January 26, 2004 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Was Clinton lying about Saddam's WMD? Would Clinton do such a thing? Clinton had 1000 reasons to exagerrate and lie about Saddam's weapons and not one reason to take an honest look at UNSCOM's or the CIA's findings.
The only thing the UN weapons inspectors ever definitively said was that Iraq had imported precursors which could be used to make weapons. If Germany, France or the UN made noises about Saddam having WMD it was to put pressure on him to allow inspectors in and increase the stature and role of the UN in eliminating WMD in the world.
For every weapons inspector or Repuglican lackey who was very confident Saddams had WMD there were 5 who were very confident he didn't.

Posted by: jjm at January 26, 2004 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

al, you're just making a fool of yourself. it's really kind of painful to watch.

Posted by: Olaf glad and big at January 26, 2004 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Please, Kevin, why are you going to such lengths to excuse Bushco?

I think I can answer that. Kevin is a nice, decent guy. He is such a nice, decent guy, in fact, that he still can't quite believe high officials in his government would outright lie to him for political and financial gain -- even now, when he's faced with incontrovertible evidence that they did. He wants there to be some excuse. He wants to believe that once you get to be, say, vice-president of the United States, by virtue of your office you just have to be honorable and well-intentioned.

Cheney miscalculated, certainly. He knew that even though he had no credible evidence that Saddam had WMD, he could force the intelligence services to fake it up from flimsy fragments, and claim that he had private acccess to much more such evidence which he couldn't reveal for "security reasons". Who could contradict him? He had every reason to suppose he could get away with it politically, because surely, surely, once the US got in-country they'd be able to find something he could flourish in justification. And he's the kind of manager who, once he has set his mind to do something, doesn't take kindly to any indication that he shouldn't.

As for why he wanted to do this... well, I can't read his mind. I will merely note that his former company happens to be making out very well indeed on the reconstruction contracts, and that he told O'Neill with respect to the tax cuts that "deficits don't matter" and "it is our due", which doesn't sound much like a man motivated by idealism, or patriotism.

In any case, he lost the gamble; there really wasn't anything to find. Now he doesn't dare to budge an inch -- his only hope, politically speaking, is to brazen it out.

Posted by: Canadian Reader at January 26, 2004 01:48 PM | PERMALINK

I can't think of the name of the author, but I know this theory was posited at NRO sometime last summer. Never got picked up by "mainstream" media tho and apparently all sides didn't quite like the implications. Regardless, its a little hard to blame CIA for not figuring out what Saddam and his loyalists apparently could not. Nailing this would have involved having exceptional human intelligence, which was obiously not the case.

Posted by: Lloyd at January 26, 2004 01:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Sure there's some risk, but I can easily see this happening. The scientists know Saddam is out of touch, they know they can easily fool secret police who don't know a test tube from a Bunsen burner, they know that they can continually claim that the program is still active and results are right around the corner, and the CIA assumes that big buildings in satellite pictures are being used for WMD programs if that's what their exiles tell them."

"Some risk" indeed.

Secret police don't just go around 'asking', they also rely on internal informants and other similar mechanisms. IOW, an anthrax scientist or nuke physicist who wanted to pull this off would be putting his life in the hands of _every_ knowledgeable colleague in his lab. Any of which might see a potential path to advancement by ratting him out, and each of which would potentially see his own head on a platter if the scheme was discovered.

And that's not even taking into account the fact that the secret police might have pre-existing informants in any given lab / project; obviously they aren't scientists, but one suspects they know that, and are damn good at the job they in fact held. IOW, informants would have been the rule, not the exception. Maintaining a Potemkin lab in, say, anthrax studies, secret from even on--site staff would be exceedlingly difficult.

Assume one lab / project had folks who trusted each other, had no potential office politics (even with career and large cash as incentives) and no pre-existing informants. As one of the commentors noted, is it credible that _all_ of them would be so described?

Sorry, it just doesn't wash.

Posted by: Bill Skeels at January 26, 2004 03:37 PM | PERMALINK

why Saddam would risk war to hide weapons he knew he didn't have

When war beckoned, Saddam didn't hide weapons, whether he had them or not, and whether he whether he knew or not. He allowed the weapons inspectors in with full access, and they checked hundreds of sites.

On the eve of the war, he offered even greater concessions.

The bottom-line is that, according to the Powell Doctrine, we would have not done this, and Powell would not have defended it, if we truly and actually believed that our invading troops would be subject to signifigant WMD capability by Iraqi defenses.

That is a hypothesis I haven't heard pushed around yet, and it ought to be considered.

Posted by: Jimm at January 26, 2004 03:52 PM | PERMALINK

Is the testimony about weapons to Syria from the same group that pulled a fast one on Hussein?

Best statement of the thread. If the interviewed scientists are clever liars, are they also lying to us, or now telling the truth?

If they are telling the truth, that WMD programs were moved to Syria in trucks, have they also admitted that they were conning Saddam that there were no WMD?

If so, we have the biggest mystery of all. How Iraqi scientists conned Saddam into thinking he had WMD, when he really didn't, and how these nonexisting WMD programs were then spirited to Syria in trucks before the war.

That's a doozer!

Posted by: Jimm at January 26, 2004 04:00 PM | PERMALINK

Richard Aubrey:

"IMO, we had a bunch of guys used to making bricks without straw putting together the facilities which could be ramped up when the last pieces are available.
Like when the sanctions and inspections end.
Both of which lefties wanted to end."

Except that the administration hasn't even displayed evidence of such facilities.

Posted by: Barry at January 26, 2004 04:01 PM | PERMALINK

This is new? Sorry, but the dreaded "neo-con" sources like Daniel Pipes explores this possiblity a half a year ago.

Posted by: veebee at January 26, 2004 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's too sad that we even have to look for a possible explanation. I just wonder how many detentions without representation, wars started for dubious reasons, soaring deficits, rampant wall street crime, billions allocated for a war with soldiers that do without the proper body armor, choreographed speeches, unbalanced foreign policy, and no-bid, dig where-you-want, cut-down-what you want, regulate-yourselves attitude towards corporations. Politicizing the situation we are in is pointless and un-productive. Read up on Kerry and skull and bones. Until we start realizing pampered elites aren't any more fit to run a country than Al Sharpton then we may as well shut up and take the trash they give us. Take some time and read about G.W.'s past. Tell me what he's done that should even qualify him to be president.

Posted by: bryan at January 26, 2004 07:08 PM | PERMALINK

That is TOTALLY barn yard fowl fecal matter.

Just another lie. This from a "disgruntled" former employee? Bah, Humbug! Bullshit!

More Repugnician back-tracking (cock-sucking).

Posted by: Thomas Ware at January 26, 2004 08:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bullcookies, Kevin.

1) You had supposed "nuclear scientist" defectors like Khidhir Abdul Abas Hamza claiming that Iraq had a viable NUCLEAR weapons program as early as 1998 and as late as last year! Im sorry, but either this guy was a flat out liar, or he's an incompetent.

2) If you'll recall, the Bush adminsitration used the failure of Saddam to ACCOUNT for large stores of WMD's discovered after the Gulf War, as evidence that he still had them. Either Saddam knew this stuff was destroyed, or he didn't. And it's HIGHLY unlikely that he didn't. Why would his people lie about that?

3) You have reports coming out now that Saddam himself denies there were any serious ongoing weapons programs. Granted, his word isn't exactly golden, but he knows he's dead anyway, and what happened to those weapons is the only leverage he's got at the moment. In fact, you'd half expect him to claim he knows where the weapons are...even if he doesn't!

4) A number of OTHER Iraqi expatriates were saying (I'm thinking of Khidir Hamza) that the nuclear program, in particular, was pretty much discontinued in the early 1990's.

5) You have the interview transcript of Hussein Kemal, who told UNSCOM that Iraq's WMD programs were discontinued after the Gulf War, and that the country's weapons stocks were mostly destroyed. Turns out he was right! Now, if Hussein Kemal knew this, it's a sure bet Saddam knew it too.

6) You have the very credible argument advanced by some people that Saddam was bluffing in order to maintain a deterrent posture against the United States and probably Israel.

7) There is now more evidence that Saddam was convinced the war was not going to happen because he was, essentially, cooperating with the UN, and France and Russia were blocking a new Security Council use of force resolution. His lack of desire to fully cooperate with the inspectors (such as it was) can easily be explained by a massive failure to trust the Bush administration's word. In essence, Saddam so distrusted the Bush adminsitration (with very good reason) that he thought any technical violation of 1441 would be used by the United States as a pretext for war. We do know that Saddam was flouting the restrictions on missile production, for example. (And why these programs should be highly advanced, relatively speaking, and the WMD programs dormant is another anomaly that Kay's neat little rhetorical trick doesn't explain. Why weren't they lying about the missile development program too?!?)

8) Our intelligence capabilities would have to be utterly and completely useless NOT to detect some fakery by these scientists. In fact, it is a sure bet that we DID know a lot more about this faking (if it was truly as widespread as Kay believes) than we've been told. If so, we could have easily used that information to blackmail these scientists into providing us with intelligence.

I think this whole argument is a pile of horse manure designed to get the Bush administration off the hook for HYPING the threat Saddam posed out of all proportion to reality.

I believed Saddam, had weapons of mass destruction. At least Chemical weapons and probably some form of biological weapons. But I wasn't privy to classified intelligence on Iraq.

And, I never based my opposition to the war on the WMD issue.

Posted by: hesiod at January 27, 2004 06:05 AM | PERMALINK

Hello! I was interested in your article. It is rather instructive.

Posted by: Tina at January 30, 2004 01:55 AM | PERMALINK

"The bottom-line is that, according to the Powell Doctrine, we would have not done this, and Powell would not have defended it, if we truly and actually believed that our invading troops would be subject to signifigant WMD capability by Iraqi defenses.

That is a hypothesis I haven't heard pushed around yet, and it ought to be considered."


Speaking as one of those troops (I was in Kuwait from 12 Mar 2003 to 01 Apr 2003, and sent to Walter Reed on 01 Jul 2003) who happened to be dealing with POWs (I'm an interrogator) I can say 1: the expectation on the part of the Army that chem/bio weapons could be used was just a tad above nil, and that after 01 Apr it was effectively nil and 2: (speaking as a professional interrogator, as well as an interrogation instructor) If there were WMDs to be discovered from personal knowledge of Iraqi's, we'd have found out by now.

The only conclusions I can draw from the lack of evidence, to date is that either we didn't know who the real workers on the programs were (and that no one is/was interested enough in the rewards being offered to point to them) or there really haven't been any programs.

Certainly the behavior of the Administration calls things into questions (Rice saying we knew Hussein hadn't been forthcoming because he never accounted for the {known to be} non-existent African uranium comes to mind) I am more likely to believe the latter explanation.

That it fits Occam's Razor doesn't hurt.

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