Oops! We were all wrong. Our bad.
That’s essentially what David Kay, former chief weapons inspector, said today when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here.
Sen. [Edward] Kennedy knows very directly. Senator Kennedy and I talked on several occasions prior to the war that my view was that the best evidence that I had seen was that Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction.
I would also point out that many governments that chose not to support this war — certainly, the French president, [Jacques] Chirac, as I recall in April of last year, referred to Iraq’s possession of WMD.
The Germans certainly — the intelligence service believed that there were WMD.
It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing.
No one was pressured, he said, to come up with evidence that wasn’t there. “Never — not in a single case — was the explanation, ‘I was pressured to do this,'” he said. “The explanation was very often, ‘The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there’s another explanation for it.'”
And Iraq was in violation of some aspects of “UNSCR 1441”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000085.php#000085, which required Iraq to make a full disclosure of its unconventional weapons and programs.
One violation included the discovery of dozens of rockets capable of carrying chemical warheads and of flying farther than allowed by the United Nations. “There was no evidence the warheads themselves had ever been filled” with chemicals, but the rockets should have been reported to U.N. inspectors and destroyed, Kay said.
OK. Most of the West’s intelligence services were wrong. No doubt about that. For the record, “I thought Saddam had chems and bios, too.”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000112.php#000112 But — and this was probably the thinking of the French and the Germans — _what remained of the weapons and programs didn’t warrant going to war._ Saddam was contained, his striking power was laughable. He wasn’t going to hook up with al Qaeda.
Kevin Drumm over at Calpundit has assembled a collection of statements from people who weighed on on the WMD issue before the war. Some of them include:
Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in his March 2003 resignation speech:
Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of that term — namely, a credible device capable of being delivered against strategic city targets. It probably does still have biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions. But it has had them since the 1980s when the US sold Saddam the anthrax agents and the then British government built his chemical and munitions factories.
As Kevin notes, the assumption is that Saddam had the WMD, but that they weren’t very dangerous.
Australian Intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie in March 2003:
Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program is, I believe, genuinely contained. There is no doubt they have chemical and biological weapons, but their program now is disjointed and limited. It’s not a national WMD program like they used to have.
Again, the WMDs are there, just not much of a threat.
And so on, with the most skeptical voice coming from Russian President Vladimir Putin saying in October 2002 that it’s unlikely that any weapons exist, but even so, the Russians worry that they might.
So everyone thought they were there, but only the Bush administration thought they were an imminent existential threat to the United States. (And for those who said the White House never said Iraq was an “imminent threat” because they didn’t utter the _actual words_ “imminent threat,” I roll my eyes at you. Just read this collection of statements from members of the administration.)
The question that we have it answer is why did everyone else think Iraq was manageable while Washington didn’t? Sept. 11? Greed for Oil? Strategic positioning in a new Great Game? Personal grudges? Manifest destiny in the sands of Arabia? I think it’s all of those and more. The Bush administration believed the worst about Iraq not because they had to but because they wanted to. For all of those reasons and goals, Iraq had to become the number one target. Was it a legitimate one? In hindsight, obviously it appears no. At the time, I and others smarter than me argued that it wasn’t worth going to war over it. That the threat wasn’t imminent, that Iraq wasn’t worth the blood and treasure that would be paid.
The Center for American Progress has put up a devastating critique of the White House’s willful ignorance regarding Iraq’s weapons. David Kay is, at best, playing the loyal soldier with this “faulty intelligence” meme. “A review of the facts,” the Center says, “shows the intelligence community repeatedly warned the Bush Administration about the weakness of its case, but was circumvented, overruled, and ignored.”
- In 2001 and before, intelligence agencies noted that Saddam Hussein was effectively contained after the Gulf War. In fact, former weapons inspector David Kay now admits that the previous policy of containment – including the 1998 bombing of Iraq – destroyed any remaining infrastructure of potential WMD programs.
- Throughout 2002, the CIA, DIA, Department of Energy and United Nations all warned the Bush Administration that its selective use of intelligence was painting a weak WMD case. Those warnings were repeatedly ignored.
- Instead of listening to the repeated warnings from the intelligence community, intelligence officials say the White House instead pressured them to conform their reports to fit a pre-determined policy. Meanwhile, more evidence from international institutions poured in that the White House’s claims were not well-grounded.
(Thanks to Hesiod over at Counterspin Central for tipping me off on this timeline.)
Americans will forgive presidents their honest mistakes. But dishonest statements backed up by willful ignorance and an “I’m not listening, la-la-la-la-la!” attitude should never be tolerated or forgiven.
Bush lied. You know the rest.