November 5, 2005

You Say You Want An Investigation?

Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid made a dramatic gesture the other day to make clear his point that the Democrats think more investigation is in order, to "get to the bottom of what happened and why", with regard to the possible manipulation of pre-war intelligence by the Bush administration. Isn't this a bit like suggesting that, after a 162-game season and three rounds of playoffs with a World Series, we hold a round-robin tournament to decide who the best team in baseball really was in 2005?

While the Reid maneuver to change the subject back to the "Bush lied" theme after a brief hiatus turned out to be an effective one politically, at least in the short term, I trust he'll forgive those of us who have been paying attention if we're having a little deja vu moment here.

The WSJ editorial Thursday gave a small sample of the findings from the myriad (pick one) bi-partisan, Congressional, independent, or blue-ribbon panel investigations on pre-war intelligence and WMD's that have already been undertaken:

In July 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan 500-page report that found numerous failures of intelligence gathering and analysis. As for the Bush Administration's role, "The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," (our emphasis).

The Butler Report, published by the British in July 2004, similarly found no evidence of "deliberate distortion," although it too found much to criticize in the quality of prewar intelligence.

The March 2005 Robb-Silberman report on WMD intelligence was equally categorical, finding "no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. . . .analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments."

Finally, last Friday, there was Mr. Fitzgerald: "This indictment's not about the propriety of the war, and people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who are--have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel."

However much the Democrats may be disappointed that the independent prosecutor spoiled "Fitzmas" by failing to find any criminality in the outing of Valerie Plame, their relentlessness and dishonesty in shaping the current conventional wisdom on many of the intelligence and Iraq/WMD issues have been wildly successful, if Bush's poll numbers and the never-ending Joe Wilson victory tour are any indication.

I guess it is generally agreed on the right that the White House performance in getting their message out to the American public has been somewhere between miserable and horribly botched. And I'm not about to remedy that situation here on an obscure blog, but I can assemble some of the information, or links to it, that people have forgotten, ignored or perhaps never before seen or taken the time to read, in hopes that someone else finds it informative.

I'll succeed here if I'm able to point up the silliness of the whole notion that Bush "manipulated the intelligence" about Saddam's weapons. Because that idea rests on the premise that those weapons either didn't exist at all, or that they didn't constitute a threat with Saddam in power, and there is a wealth of evidence to show that premise as false. The "Bush lied" theory also drags into the conspiracy so many other U.S. leaders and foreign intelligence services that predate the Bush administration, that it reveals its adherents as either transparently partisan or sadly uninformed .

I won't spend a lot of time on Joe Wilson's mendacity because people like Stephen Hayes, Larry Elder, Stephen Spruiell and Thomas Joscelyn among others, have demonstrated it eloquently. I'll just observe that the central point of the whole Plame/Wilson affair has somehow not found its way into the consciousness of the American public. That the White House, however clumsily, was attempting to show that Joe Wilson had been misrepresenting his mission, his qualifications, the identity of his patrons, and his nature of his findings on the Niger trip, as part of a partisan attempt to undermine the Bush Iraq policy, which he and his wife and many of her CIA associates opposed.

And while the media is in some part to blame for ignoring the now documented proof of Wilson's lies, the administration has been derelict at communicating these points to the public. At the time they should have made these points forcefully, and stuck by their statements about Iraq seeking uranium in Niger, because it was and is true.

On The Record

For several years now we have seen examples of past statements by prominent Democrats, party officials, Clinton administration officials, and others on the subject of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. In light of their ongoing frothing about being misled and lied to by George W. Bush, I'll risk overkill on this subject by providing some samples, both as reminders, and because it's just so damned much fun. (culled from a variety of sources, to include columns by Rich Lowry, Larry Elder, and the WSJ op-ed linked above)

"The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists," the president of the United States warned. "If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow." - Bill Clinton

"The United Nations has determined that Saddam should not possess chemical or biological or nuclear weapons, and what we have is the obligation to carry out the U.N. declaration." - Clinton Secretary of Defense William Cohen

"Iraq is not the only nation in the world to possess weapons of mass destruction, but it is the only nation with a leader who has used them against his own people." - Sen. Tom Daschle

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. . . ." - Hillary Rodham Clinton, October 10, 2002

"For the United States and Britain, an Iraq equipped with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons under the leadership of Saddam Hussein is a threat that almost goes without description. France, on the other hand, has long established economic and political relationships within the Arab world, and has had a different approach." - Sen. John Kerry

"There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies. I agree with President Bush -- he has said that Saddam Hussein is evil. And he is. (Hussein) is a vicious dictator and a documented deceiver. He has invaded his neighbors, used chemical arms and failed to account for all the chemical and biological weapons he had before the Gulf War. He has murdered dissidents and refused to comply with his obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolutions. And he has tried to build a nuclear bomb. Anyone who believes in the importance of limiting the spread of weapons of mass killing, the value of democracy, and the centrality of human rights must agree that Saddam Hussein is a menace. The world would be a better place if he were in a different place other than the seat of power in Baghdad or any other country. So I want to be clear. Saddam Hussein must disarm. This is not a debate; it is a given." - Former Gov. Howard Dean September, 2002.

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." - Al Gore September, 2002

There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat. . . . Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. . . . He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we. . . I want to underscore that I think the United States should not categorize this action as pre-emptive. . . . This is a problem that's longstanding. It's been a decade in the making. It needs to be dealt with and the clock is ticking on this. . . . There's no question that. - Gen. Wesley Clark

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Jay Rockefeller

"When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know. So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions." - Bill Clinton

In September, 2003, NR Editor Rich Lowry took a tongue-in-cheek stab at specifying "What Democrats Believe", and some of those items came to mind as I reviewed the above somber statements on the threat from Saddam Hussein:

That the United Nations is the world's last, best hope, and every jot of its writ should always be respected, unless it inconveniences Saddam Hussein.

That nation-building is always a humanitarian and just cause, unless it is undertaken in Iraq.

That anyone who said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction prior to the war was lying, unless his or her name is Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Bill Cohen, John Kerry or Joe Lieberman, or the person ever served in the Clinton cabinet or as a Democratic senator.

And so it remains today.

But if you think those guys sounded like hawks back in the day, it was nothing compared to the editorial positions of the New York Times and the Washington Post circa 1998-2000. In a piece that got far too little notice in the blogs last week, Robert Kagan dug into the archives of the papers of record to find a recurring theme of what can fairly be described as alarmism about the threat from Saddam. Some excerpts (emphasis mine)

The Judith Miller-Valerie Plame-Scooter Libby imbroglio is being reduced to a simple narrative about the origins of the Iraq war. Miller, the story goes, was an anti-Saddam Hussein, weapons-of-mass-destruction-hunting zealot and was either an eager participant or an unwitting dupe in a campaign by Bush administration officials and Iraqi exiles to justify the invasion. The New York Times now characterizes the affair as "just one skirmish in the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq."...

...Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller's eagerness to publish the Bush administration's line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events.

There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq's weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. A quick search through the Times archives before 2001 produces such headlines as "Iraq Has Network of Outside Help on Arms, Experts Say"(November 1998), "U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan"(August 1998), "Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort" (February 2000), "Signs of Iraqi Arms Buildup Bedevil U.S. Administration" (February 2000), "Flight Tests Show Iraq Has Resumed a Missile Program" (July 2000)....

...From 1998 through 2000, the Times editorial page warned that "without further outside intervention, Iraq should be able to rebuild weapons and missile plants within a year" and that "future military attacks may be required to diminish the arsenal again." Otherwise, Iraq could "restore its ability to deliver biological and chemical weapons against potential targets in the Middle East." "The world," it said, "cannot leave Mr. Hussein free to manufacture horrific germs and nerve gases and use them to terrorize neighboring countries."

Times editorials insisted the danger from Iraq was imminent. When the Clinton administration attempted to negotiate, they warned against letting "diplomacy drift into dangerous delay. Even a few more weeks free of inspections might allow Mr. Hussein to revive construction of a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon." They also argued that it was "hard to negotiate with a tyrant who has no intention of honoring his commitments and who sees nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as his country's salvation." "As Washington contemplates an extended war against terrorism," a Times editorial insisted, "it cannot give in to a man who specializes in the unthinkable."

Another Times editorial warned that containment of Hussein was eroding. "The Security Council is wobbly, with Russia and France eager to ease inspections and sanctions." Any approach "that depends on Security Council unity is destined to be weak." "Mr. [Kofi] Annan's resolve seems in doubt." When Hans Blix was appointed to head the U.N. inspectors, the editors criticized him for "a decade-long failure to detect Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program before the gulf war" and for a "tendency to credit official assurances from rulers like Mr. Hussein." His selection was "a disturbing sign that the international community lacks the determination to rebuild an effective arms inspection system." The "further the world gets from the gulf war, the more it seems willing to let Mr. Hussein revive his deadly weapons projects." Even "[m]any Americans question the need to maintain pressure on Baghdad and would oppose the use of force. But the threat is too great to give ground to Mr. Hussein. The cost to the world and to the United States of dealing with a belligerent Iraq armed with biological weapons would be far greater than the cost of preventing Baghdad from rearming."

The New York Times. Unbelievable. I read this stuff and had to pick my chin up off my chest. Everything changed for the editors when the Republican got into the White House. Kagan closes:

As we wage what the Times now calls "the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq," we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.

What WMD?

Talk about your conventional wisdom. It now suffices in many quarters to make the sweeping statement that "there were no WMD in Iraq." We were wrong. Or, if you prefer, Bush lied. But people who now claim that there were no WMD, or even that the claims of WMD were "exaggerated" either weren't paying attention in the 90's, or have been swamped by media and Democrat repetition of the "no WMD" mantra, or both. Because it's difficult to read the available information on the scope and nature of the weapons programs of Saddam Hussein, and not be utterly convinced of the deadly threat he posed to his neighbors, and to the U.S.

Two years ago, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan compiled a useful summary of the circumstances of Iraq's weapons programs, the state of international inspections regimes, and the defiance by Saddam of all attempts to get him to comply with U.N. resolutions in the months leading up to the decision to remove him from power by force. It was called "Why We Went to War" and it's worth reading in full as a corrective to the current CW. For starters, the authors go back to the list of chemical and biological weapons that Saddam admitted to possessing as late as 1998:

Here's a little history that seems to have been completely forgotten in the frenzy of the past few months. Shortly after the first Gulf War in 1991, U.N. inspectors discovered the existence of a surprisingly advanced Iraqi nuclear weapons program. In addition, by Iraq's own admission and U.N. inspection efforts, Saddam's regime possessed thousands of chemical weapons and tons of chemical weapon agents. Were it not for the 1995 defection of senior Iraqi officials, the U.N. would never have made the further discovery that Iraq had manufactured and equipped weapons with the deadly chemical nerve agent VX and had an extensive biological warfare program.

Here is what was known by 1998 based on Iraq's own admissions:

* That in the years immediately prior to the first Gulf War, Iraq produced at least 3.9 tons of VX, a deadly nerve gas, and acquired 805 tons of precursor ingredients for the production of more VX.

* That Iraq had produced or imported some 4,000 tons of ingredients to produce other types of poison gas.

* That Iraq had produced 8,500 liters of anthrax.

* That Iraq had produced 500 bombs fitted with parachutes for the purpose of delivering poison gas or germ payloads.

* That Iraq had produced 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas.

* That Iraq had produced or imported 107,500 casings for chemical weapons.

* That Iraq had produced at least 157 aerial bombs filled with germ agents.

* That Iraq had produced 25 missile warheads containing germ agents (anthrax, aflatoxin, and botulinum).

Again, this list of weapons of mass destruction is not what the Iraqi government was suspected of producing. (That would be a longer list, including an Iraqi nuclear program that the German intelligence service had concluded in 2001 might produce a bomb within three years.) It was what the Iraqis admitted producing. And it is this list of weapons--not any CIA analysis under either the Clinton or Bush administrations--that has been at the heart of the Iraq crisis.

The essay includes extensive excerpts from a major speech by President Clinton in January of 1998, which essentially made the case for regime change. Clip and Save.

So what happened to all of Saddam's WMD? Ion Mihai Pacepa has a theory. And he's in a position to be quite credible on such matters. Pacepa, former deputy chief of Romanian foreign intelligence, is the highest- ranking intelligence officer ever to defect from the Soviet Bloc, coming to the U.S. in 1978. In a Washington Times article in August of 2003, Pacepa noted that former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov ran Saddam Hussein's WMD programs, and was in Iraq with two other Russian generals for the three months just before the start of the coalition invasion, overseeing the liquidation of those chemical and biological weapons programs. Pacepa was familiar with the Russian program for getting rid of WMD's:

The Soviet Union and all its bloc states always had a standard operating procedure for deep sixing weapons of mass destruction â€" in Romanian it was codenamed "Sarindar, meaning "emergency exit."I implemented it in Libya. It was for ridding Third World despots of all trace of their chemical weapons if the Western imperialists ever got near them. We wanted to make sure they would never be traced back to us, and we also wanted to frustrate the West by not giving them anything they could make propaganda with. ..

...Iraq, in my view, had its own "Sarindar" plan in effect direct from Moscow. It certainly had one in the past. Nicolae Ceausescu told me so, and he heard it from Leonid Brezhnev. KGB chairman Yury Andropov, and later, Gen. Yevgeny Primakov, told me so too. In the late 1970s, Gen. Primakov ran Saddam's weapons programs. After that, as you may recall, he was promoted to head of the Soviet foreign intelligence service in 1990, to Russia's minister of foreign affairs in 1996, and in 1998, to prime minister. What you may not know is that Primakov hates Israel and has always championed Arab radicalism. He was a personal friend of Saddam's and has repeatedly visited Baghdad after 1991, quietly helping Saddam play his game of hide-and-seek.

The Soviet bloc not only sold Saddam its WMDs, but it showed them how to make them "disappear." Russia is still at it. Primakov was in Baghdad from December until a couple of days before the war, along with a team of Russian military experts led by two of Russia's topnotch "retired" generals,Vladislav Achalov, a former deputy defense minister, and Igor Maltsev, a former air defense chief of staff. They were all there receiving honorary medals from the Iraqi defense minister. They clearly were not there to give Saddam military advice for the upcomingwar - Saddam's Katyusha launchers were of World War II vintage, and his T-72 tanks, BMP-1 fighting vehicles and MiG fighter planes were all obviously useless against America. "I did not fly to Baghdad to drink coffee," was what Gen. Achalov told the media afterward. They were there orchestrating Iraq's "Sarindar" plan.

The Democrats so wanted the "Downing Street Memo" to be the smoking gun that would prove that Bush and Blair "cooked up" the intelligence to justify an invasion of Iraq, and were planning military action prior to Congressional and U.N. authorizations. But that was to prove difficult to do, since Bill Clinton had made regime change official U.S. policy toward Iraq some years before, as James Robbins writes in his dismantling of this idea:

Contingency planning for military operations against Iraq had begun as early as November 2001. This is no secret; the full timeline along with a wealth of details can be found in General Tommy Franks’s memoir American Solider. The plan that became known as OPLAN 1003V began to be put together in earnest in January 2002. The existence of war planning does not in itself prove that the use of force was inevitable. The purpose was to provide the president with the full range of credible alternatives for pursuing U.S. policy vis-à-vis Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Regime change had been U.S. policy since October 31, 1998, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. It was not a state secret. On February 12, 2002, Colin Powell stated that "With respect to Iraq, it has long been, for several years now, a policy of the United States government that regime change would be in the best interests of the region, the best interests of the Iraqi people. And we are looking at a variety of options that would bring that about." The policy had bipartisan support; in June 2002 Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said, "There is broad support for a regime change in Iraq. The question is how do we do it and when do we do it." It was also an international objective. On April 6, 2002, during a summit in Crawford, Texas, Prime Minister Blair said that regime change in Iraq was the policy of Great Britain, and that failure to act against Saddam was “not an option.” Blair pledged to support military action against Iraq, should that become necessary.

What We Found

I remember the triumphant headlines the day after the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) released the Interim Report of their findings from the post-invasion WMD investigation in Iraq. In fact several newspapers that had led with a definitive "No WMD's In Iraq" headline were forced by public criticism to run corrections or clarifications in subsequent days, when it became obvious that the report wasn't nearly that categorical. The ISG, initially led by David Kay, found a whole lot more than "nothing", as these details reveal:

* A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.

* A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi officials working to prepare for UN inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the UN.

* Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons.

* New research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.

* Documents and equipment, hidden in scientists' homes, that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS).

* A line of UAVs not fully declared at an undeclared production facility and an admission that they had tested one of their declared UAVs out to a range of 500 km, 350 km beyond the permissible limit.

* Continuing covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant useful only for prohibited SCUD variant missiles, a capability that was maintained at least until the end of 2001 and that cooperating Iraqi scientists have said they were told to conceal from the UN.

* Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 km - well beyond the 150 km range limit imposed by the UN. Missiles of a 1000 km range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets through out the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi.

* Clandestine attempts between late-1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300 km range ballistic missiles --probably the No Dong -- 300 km range anti-ship cruise missiles, and other prohibited military equipment.

In addition to the discovery of extensive concealment efforts, we have been faced with a systematic sanitization of documentary and computer evidence in a wide range of offices, laboratories, and companies suspected of WMD work. The pattern of these efforts to erase evidence - hard drives destroyed, specific files burned, equipment cleaned of all traces of use - are ones of deliberate, rather than random, acts. For example,

* On 10 July 2003 an ISG team exploited the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) Headquarters in Baghdad. The basement of the main building contained an archive of documents situated on well-organized rows of metal shelving. The basement suffered no fire damage despite the total destruction of the upper floors from coalition air strikes. Upon arrival the exploitation team encountered small piles of ash where individual documents or binders of documents were intentionally destroyed. Computer hard drives had been deliberately destroyed. Computers would have had financial value to a random looter; their destruction, rather than removal for resale or reuse, indicates a targeted effort to prevent Coalition forces from gaining access to their contents.

* All IIS laboratories visited by IIS exploitation teams have been clearly sanitized, including removal of much equipment, shredding and burning of documents, and even the removal of nameplates from office doors.

* Although much of the deliberate destruction and sanitization of documents and records probably occurred during the height of OIF combat operations, indications of significant continuing destruction efforts have been found after the end of major combat operations, including entry in May 2003 of the locked gated vaults of the Ba'ath party intelligence building in Baghdad and highly selective destruction of computer hard drives and data storage equipment along with the burning of a small number of specific binders that appear to have contained financial and intelligence records, and in July 2003 a site exploitation team at the Abu Ghurayb Prison found one pile of the smoldering ashes from documents that was still warm to the touch. much more detail on biological and chemical weapons capabilities, dual use facilities, evidence of deception, sanitization of facilities and equipment, destruction of documentation, etc. If you haven't read this interim report from October, 2003, here's your chance.

When David Kay went up to the Hill to present his Interim Report to Congress, several of his exchanges with prominent Democratic Senators were recorded for posterity. Sen. Kennedy didn't actually have a question for David Kay. It was more of a political statement. Shocking.

Kennedy (to Kay): "Many of us feel that the evidence so far leads only to one conclusion: that what has happened was more than a failure of intelligence, it was the result of manipulation of the intelligence to justify a decision to go to war."

Kay: "[You suggest] analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation. ... I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, 'inappropriate command influence' that led them to take that position."


(Sen. Hillary) Clinton:"I think that rightly does raise questions that we should be examining about whether or not the U.N. inspection process pursuant to 1441 might not also have worked without the loss of life that we have confronted both among our own young men and women, as well as Iraqis."

Kay: "Well, Senator Clinton...we have had a number of Iraqis who have come forward and said, 'We did not tell the UN about what we were hiding, nor would we have told the UN because we would run the risk of our [losing our own lives]' -- I think we have learned things that no UN inspector would have ever learned given the terror regime of Saddam.... Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of Resolution 1441. ... Iraq was in clear and material violation of 1441. ... So there was a lot they wanted to hide because it showed what they were doing that was illegal. I hope we find even more evidence of that."

Jeff Jacoby noted this exchange Kay had with Tom Brokaw:

Brokaw: A lot of the president's political critics are going to say, "This is clear evidence that he lied to the American people."

Kay: Well, Tom, if we do that, I think we're really hurting ourselves. Clearly the intelligence that we went to war on was inaccurate, wrong. . . . I think if anyone was abused by the intelligence, it was the president of the United States rather than the other way around.

Brokaw: The president described Iraq as "a gathering danger." Was that an accurate description?

Kay: I think that's a very accurate description.

David Kay interview with Tony Snow

Telegraph interview with David Kay, in which he says Saddam moved material to Syria

A year later, in October, 2004, the Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD, commonly known as the Duelfer Report, was released to the public. Similar celebration by the opponents of Iraq's liberation took place at the time, because the report confirmed that no functioning weapons manufacturing programs had been found, nor were any large stockpiles of WMD located in Iraq by the Duelfer group.

But what the Duelfer Report also confirmed was that Saddam had a program and a plan in place to get right back into the WMD business, as soon as he could get the sanctions lifted and the inspectors out.

A few of the key findings of the The Duelfer Report are highlighted below:

Strategic Intent

- Saddam wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted.

- Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq's WMD capability, which was essentially destroyed in 1991, after sanctions were removed and Iraq's economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability, in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks, but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.

Chemical Weapons:

- Saddam never abandoned his intentions to resume a CW effort when sanctions were lifted and conditions were judged favorable.

- While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991.

- Iraq constructed a number of new plants starting in the mid-1990s that enhanced its chemical infrastructure, although its overall industry had not fully recovered from the effects of sanctions, and had not regained pre-1991 technical sophistication or production capabilities prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

- ISG uncovered information that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories to research and test various chemicals and poisons, primarily for intelligence operations. The existence, function, and purpose of the laboratories were never declared to the UN.

Biological Weapons

- In 1991, Saddam Husayn regarded BW as an integral element of his arsenal of WMD weapons, and would have used it if the need arose.

- ISG judges that Iraq's actions between 1991 and 1996 demonstrate that the state intended to preserve its BW capability and return to a steady, methodical progress toward a mature BW program when and if the opportunity arose.

- In practical terms, with the destruction of the Al Hakam facility, Iraq abandoned its ambition to obtain advanced BW weapons quickly. ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes.

- Iraq would have faced great difficulty in re-establishing an effective BW agent production capability. Nevertheless, after 1996 Iraq still had a significant dual-use capability, some declared,readily useful for BW if the Regime chose to use it to pursue a BW program. Moreover, Iraq still possessed its most important BW asset, the scientific know-how of its BW cadre.

Other outside analysis of the Duelfer Report is available below:

Helle Dale - Heritage Foundation
RNC Summary
Michael Barone - U.S.

And Richard Spertzel asks a question that has occurred to me as well; "Have War Critics Even Read The Duelfer Report?" Spertzel was the head of the biological-weapons section of UNSCOM, and a member of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) Excerpts:

While no facilities were found producing chemical or biological agents on a large scale, many clandestine laboratories operating under the Iraqi Intelligence Services were found to be engaged in small-scale production of chemical nerve agents, sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, ricin, aflatoxin, and other unspecified biological agents. These laboratories were also evaluating whether various poisons would change the texture, smell or appearance of foodstuffs. These aspects of the ISG report have been ignored by the pundits and press. Did these constitute an imminent threat? Perhaps it depends how you define "threat."

The chemical section reports that the M16 Directorate "had a plan to produce and weaponize nitrogen mustard in rifle grenades and a plan to bottle sarin and sulfur mustard in perfume sprayers and medicine bottles which they would ship to the United States and Europe." Are we to believe this plan existed because they liked us? Or did they wish to do us harm? The major threat posed by Iraq, in my opinion, was the support it gave to terrorists in general, and its own terrorist activity.

The ISG was also told that "ricin was being developed into stable liquid to deliver as an aerosol" in various munitions. Such development was not just for assassination. If Iraq was successful in developing an aerosolizable ricin, it made a significant step forward. The development had to be for terrorist delivery. Even on a small scale this must be considered as a WMD.

One popular theory, which Duelfer also buys into to some degree, is that Saddam was himself misled by his own people, who exaggerated the extent of his weapons programs and capabilities. Another is that he knew, but lied about his weapons in order to keep Iran, his real enemy, in the dark. Christopher Carson says that both of these theories leave a lot of things unexplained. Here are some excerpts from his article" What Duelfer Missed":

...a great deal of information in Duelfer's own Report contradicts his tidy model of a disarmed-but-coyly-pretending dictator. Take the little matter of the secret biological laboratories hidden throughout Baghdad and under the control of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). UNSCOM had spent years roaming Iraq and never so much as heard a whiff about them. Hans Blix and his successor agency, UNMOVIC, found Iraq in non-compliance in 2002 without stumbling over a single white lab coat. These labs were unknown to any intelligence agency in the world until after the Iraq War, when ISG uncovered their existence. They were all in egregious violation of the UN resolutions on disclosure and disarmament...

These labs deserve more than a mention because the real danger from Saddam's Iraq was never really a large-scale use of chemical or biological weapons on a battlefield. American troops could defend against this kind of attack. It was the danger that Saddam would arm terrorists with these weapons, and use them against select American civilian targets.

And why wouldn't Saddam? His men trained foreign al-Qaeda and other terrorists at Salman Pak in aircraft hijacking, helped to bankroll al-Qaeda and its affiliates, kept Zarqawi, Abu Nidal, and Abu Abbas as house pets, tried to kill former President Bush, tried to blow up Radio Free Europe, and apparently sent an active colonel in the Fedayeen Saddam to baby-sit the 9-11 hijackers in the 2000 Malaysia planning summit, for starters...

......The trail of WMD isn't cold. It leads to Syria and the Bekka Valley of formerly Syrian-occupied Lebanon, according to a Syrian defector to US intelligence. Gen. Tommy Franks himself leans this way, telling the media that "Two days before the war, on March 17 [2003], we saw through multiple intelligence channels - both human intelligence and technical intelligence, large caravans of people and things, including some of the top 55 [most wanted] Iraqis, going to Syria." What was so important to move to Syria immediately before the War with the top regime officials? Duelfer's next stop should have been Damascus. With Syrian President Bashar Assad now admitting that he has stockpiles of WMD, perhaps it should be ours.

The Intelligence Investigations

The U.S. and the U.K. have completed exhaustive and expensive investigations into the intelligence product in the pre-invasion period, and the conduct of the governments receiving it. There was much to criticize of course, and I have read only the "overview" or "key findings" summaries of these massive reports, so I cannot claim any deep familiarity with the detail in them. And I find the recommendation that we add another layer of bureaucracy on top of the entire intelligence community as a way to improve its communications and effectiveness to be borderline insane.

But what these investigations have done is to look very closely at claims of just the kind of manipulation of intelligence that Reid and his fellow Democrats are alleging, and they have determined them to be unfounded. After the Silberman-Robb investigation was completed, former Senator Charles Robb commented on the subject of politically manipulated intelligence:

We looked very closely at that question. We--every member of the commission was sensitive to the number of questions that had been raised with respect to what we'll call politicization or however you want to describe it, and we examined every single instance that had been referred to in print or otherwise to see if there was any occasion where a member of the administration or anyone else had asked an analyst or anybody else associated with the intelligence community to change a position that they were taking, or whether they felt there was any undue influence. And we found absolutely no instance, and we ran to ground everything that we had on the table. . . . We got a fair amount of information that didn't provide us anything more in this area.

Here are the final reports of the investigations on intelligence matters relating to Iraq:

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSIC) Report (First Half)

Silberman-Robb Report (summary and analysis)

Butler Report (UK)

Stephen Hayes said of the SSIC Report:

The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.

This is not a minor detail. The Senate report, which served as the source for much of the chronology in this article, is the definitive study of the events leading up to the compromising of Valerie Plame. The committee staff, both Democrats and Republicans, read all of the intelligence. They saw all of the documents. They interviewed all of the characters. And every member of the committee from both parties signed the report.

It is certainly the case that the media narrative is much more sensational than the Senate report. A story about malfeasance is perhaps more interesting than a story about incompetence. A story about deliberate White House deception is perhaps more interesting than a story about bureaucratic miscommunication. A story about retaliation is perhaps more interesting than a story about clarification.

But sometimes the boring stories have an additional virtue. They're true.

Allan Ryskind has an article at HumanEventsOnline, parts of which will serve as a conclusion to this post. He summarizes the current spin from the Democrats as follows:

The White House, as the Democrats would now have it, had virtually no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, but the President, Dick Cheney and their gang were so intent on removing Saddam from power they invented facts. And when critics such as Joe Wilson spoke truth to power, the "Scooters" in the administration slimed their reputations.

The episode involving Libby and Wilson, summed up Reid, is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the President.

This is unpatriotic mud-slinging, with a touch of Black Helicopter looniness tossed in. To believe that the White House concocted a fable about WMD in Iraq, you would have to believe in a massive conspiracy involving not only the Bush people, but both Bill Clinton's and George Bush's CIA director, George Tenet; Bush's first term secretary of state, Colin Powell; Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright; Clinton's key NSC Persian Gulf adviser, Kenneth Pollack; and numerous WMD experts at the United Nations.

Of Clinton's Middle East and Iraq expert Pollack's analysis, Ryskind says...

After analyzing all the WMD evidence at his command, and Saddam Hussein's career as an aggressor, a mass murderer and a political thug who could not be trusted to keep his word, Pollack concluded: "Unfortunately, the only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces."

When the WMD weren't found, Pollack wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly for its first issue in 2004.

He was critical of the Bush Administration's handling of the war, but he made several informative observations in his critique. Among them:

- The U.S. intelligence community's belief that Saddam was aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction pre-dated Bush's inauguration and therefore cannot be attributed to political pressure.

- In October of 2002, the National Intelligence Council, the highest analytical body in the U.S. intelligence community, issued a classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD representing the consensus of the intelligence community. Although after the war some complained that the NIE had been a rush job and that the NIE should have been more careful in its choice of language, in fact, the report accurately reflected what intelligence analysts had been telling Clinton Administration officials like me for years in verbal briefings.”

Enough already, Senator Reid. Let's get on with helping the Iraqis build a stable democracy and addressing serious domestic problems. The last thing we need to do is spend more time and money on rehashing pre-war intelligence failures. Get your party behind a positive, forward-looking agenda for the country. This old rap is lame and tired.

UPDATE 11/6: Fresh stuff from Stephen Hayes on important omissions by the NYT, and Sen. Carl Levin on a mission.

Victoria Toensing's WSJ editorial is spot on.

Posted by dan at November 5, 2005 9:50 AM