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Six Of One, Half Dozen Of Another

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Most people have been so busy with the upcoming California Recall Election (or the startling concept that Rush Limbaugh might be human after all) that David Kay’s interim report on weapons searches in Iraq isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Yesterday, David Kay presented the elaborately-named STATEMENT BY DAVID KAY ON THE INTERIM PROGRESS REPORT ON THE ACTIVITIES OF THE IRAQ SURVEY GROUP (ISG) BEFORE THE HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS, SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEFENSE, AND THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE. It includes just enough to please people on both the “for” and “against” side of war in Iraq.

On the “against” side, the biggest single piece of information is that no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) have been found. There are no stockpiles of anthrax, no missiles pointed at Cairo, no smoking gun of any kind.

Of the “for” side, the lack of a smoking gun is balanced out by the smoke in the air, the strong smell of gunpowder, the empty holster and the gun permit. In other words, nearly everything but the gun itself.

Please, read it for yourself. With all of the options open to people who delight in the shortcomings of conservative political figures right now, the only reporting I’ve seen so far on the report has been simplistic at its best and absolutely misrepresented at its worst (and most common). Remember also that this is a declassified version for public consumption. Some members of Congress, including leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi, were treated to a more extensive version which contained classified information. Of course, people on both sides of the issue still differ in interpreting the report. The “against” side as detailed by Nancy Pelosi is pretty easy to identify, and has been taken up in detail many times already. What follows is a suggestion that the report supports the decision to go to war in Iraq, despite no discovery of WMDs since.

The report first emphasizes that these are preliminary findings and that much work remains. No weapons have been found, and David Kay suggests some possible reasons why (I’ll paraphrase):

  1. Iraq kept WMD activities secret
  2. Iraq hid everything
  3. Materials and evidence were carefully destroyed
  4. People left Iraq, possibly taking stuff with them
  5. WMD material can be very small
  6. The inspection teams are working under combat conditions

However, in the three months they’ve been at it, they’ve not come up completely empty-handed:

We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN.

This was one of the common arguments used in the long buildup to war in Iraq: That the UN inspection teams were fighting a losing battle because the Hussein regime was not complying with the requirement of the UNSC resolutions, but was instead deliberately hiding and obscuring the information they were supposed to be offering up. David Kay’s team has demonstrated that to be true, and many people will take as justification enough for the military action. “Give the inspections more time?” It seems that no amount of time would have ever been enough. A much larger team with much less active opposition is still taking a long time to accumulate information.

Some of the concealing efforts discovered included hidden labs and safehouses containing forbidden equipment useful for continuing chemical and biological weapons (CBW) research, prison labs possibly used for human testing of bio-weapons agents (Am I the only one who thinks of Nazi prison camps when reading this?), biological samples hidden in a scientist’s home, both new and ongoing undeclared research into various biological toxins, hidden documents and equipment useful for uranium enrichment, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of traveling more than three times the permitted limit, hushed-up capability to produce SCUD missile-specific fuel, advanced designs for missiles with a range nearly seven times as long as permitted and documentation of secret attempts to purchase a variety of prohibited military equipment from North Korea as late as 2002.

That’s just what they’ve found. They have also seen a pattern of systematic sanitization of evidence including destroyed computer hard drives, shredded and burned documents, missing equipment and even nameplates removed from office doors. Somebody went to a lot of effort to keep information from inspection teams and even keep them from learning who was involved in certain projects. The efforts have apparently not stopped, either. In July of this year, less than three months ago and more than two months after primary combat operations ceased, one team found a still-smoldering pile of ashes.

The report goes on, and really is a must-read. On the biological weapons front, Iraq could have been considered to be years away from anything serious, or weeks. They lied, hid things, and destroyed things to keep them from being found. They had an ongoing program and told the UN inspection teams otherwise. Without question, the UN inspection process was doomed to fail. And then I read about how “[a]additional information is beginning to corroborate reporting since 1996 about human testing activities using chemical and biological substances, but progress in this area is slow given the concern of knowledgeable Iraqi personnel about their being prosecuted for crimes against humanity.” I get chills. Human testing of chemical and biological agents, and the only reason we don’t know much more is that the people involved know they committed “crimes against humanity” and are afraid to talk. <shudder> It seems quite likely that more evidence of biological weapons research and stockpiles will surface.

In the area of chemical weapons, the regime was apparently trying to determine as recently as 2002 how quickly they could produce mustard gas (two to six months) or sarin gas (two years). Iraq’s chemical weapons abilities, at least, were apparently skeletal, though reports are still circulating of stockpiles of mustard gas.

Nuclear weapons are a big issue, and Hussein wanted them. Both Iraqi scientist and senior government officials have said that “Saddam Husayn remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons.” Plans seem to have been on-hold but ready to resume at any time. It seems unlikely that any nuclear weapons or facilities will turn up. Whew!

Finally, Iraq was pursuing missiles and other delivery systems that were in direct violation of UN restrictions, probably for use either conventionally or with their biological weapons efforts. Much evidence of this has already been found, more may be forthcoming.

I’ll excerpt David Kay to close out this summary of his report:

Although we are resisting drawing conclusions in this first interim report, a number of things have become clearer already as a result of our investigation, among them:

  1. Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even those senior officials we have interviewed who claim no direct knowledge of any on-going prohibited activities readily acknowledge that Saddam intended to resume these programs whenever the external restrictions were removed. Several of these officials acknowledge receiving inquiries since 2000 from Saddam or his sons about how long it would take to either restart CW production or make available chemical weapons.
  2. In the delivery systems area there were already well advanced, but undeclared, on-going activities that, if OIF had not intervened, would have resulted in the production of missiles with ranges at least up to 1000 km, well in excess of the UN permitted range of 150 km. These missile activities were supported by a serious clandestine procurement program about which we have much still to learn.
  3. In the chemical and biological weapons area we have confidence that there were at a minimum clandestine on-going research and development activities that were embedded in the Iraqi Intelligence Service. While we have much yet to learn about the exact work programs and capabilities of these activities, it is already apparent that these undeclared activities would have at a minimum facilitated chemical and biological weapons activities and provided a technically trained cadre.

Let me conclude by returning to something I began with today. We face a unique but challenging opportunity in our efforts to unravel the exact status of Iraq’s WMD program. The good news is that we do not have to rely for the first time in over a decade on

  • the incomplete, and often false, data that Iraq supplied the UN/IAEA;
  • data collected by UN inspectors operating with the severe constraints that Iraqi security and deception actions imposed;
  • information supplied by defectors, some of whom certainly fabricated much that they supplied and perhaps were under the direct control of the IIS;
  • data collected by national technical collections systems with their own limitations.

The bad news is that we have to do this under conditions that ensure that our work will take time and impose serious physical dangers on those who are asked to carry it out.

Plenty of documentary and evidentiary support in the “for” column. Still, not as much physical evidence as we were all led to believe we would see, which adds up in the “against” column.

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  • Thanks for posting this, Phillip. It doesn’t justify violence, IMO, but then, nothing could.

    My mind goes back to the same point it always does. Saddam Hussein had the intention of building WMDs. Dubya Bush has WMDs. That we know for sure. Both are vile, in my book.

  • I hear you, Natalie, and I sympathize though I don’t agree. As with our other recent disagreement over the difference between “fighting,” “war,” and “terrorism,” I still see degrees of distinction between them, though I wish all three could be avoided.

    Similarly here, I truly do wish that we could live in a world where no country had any weapons because no country had any reason to fear aggression. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Given that, I think I’d prefer that the person with his or her finger on the big red candy-like button be someone who has to respond to an electorate, has term limits, and is limited in power. By comparison, Saddam Hussein was someone who reigned essentially as a king for a long time with no end in sight, based his rule on principles learned from the Nazis, and tested biological agents on humans. Yes, there are tragic events of human testing in America’s past, but we’re talking about Iraq in the 21st century. Yikes.

  • Funny. I think of the US in the 21st century and say Yikes.

  • Thomas N. Holland

    I am not fond of violence,but I recognize that it is still sometimes a necessary part of human interreactions. The war in Iraq was pure folly,but I wanted us to go into Liberia and Kosovo much earlier than we did and I certainly thought that the Afghanstan invasion was necessary,although as has been in the case of nearly everything that George W. Bush has touched,it was throughly screwed up.The Taliban and Osama bin Forgotten escaped,and we gave way too little resources for the rebuilding of Afghanstan,it has regained its status as the greatest producer of opium,and the Taliban has regained much of its strength.

    Iraq as a threat because of possible WMDs was always a crock.Saddam was a constant threat and irritant to Israel,but no immediate threat to us.Iran and North Korea were much more of a danger,but they were not the ones that attacked us,al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11,even Dubya has acknowledge(although belatedly and grudgingly) that there was no connection of Saddam to 9/11.So why attack Saddam if he had less WMDs than the other 2 nations of the Axis of Evil,and if Iraq had no connection with 9/11?
    Yes we freed Iraq from a terrible dictatorship, but we also pissed off the Muslim world ,and much of the rest of the planet as well.This pre emptive war was the first of its kind since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, and Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,and apparently,the White House had decided on the Iraq invasion right after 9/11.I think that history will one day correctly decide that the Bush administration saw 9/11 not only as a tragedy but as an opportunity to pass its agenda on a stricken nation.

    WMD’s did not fell the Towers or blow up the Pentagon.To paraphase the gun nuts,”WMD’s do not kill people, terrorist kill people”!WMD’s is a bogus issue.If it wasn’t, why did we not invade Iran or N.Korea first(much worst dictatorship than Iraq)?Most of al Qaeda has not been brought to justice even after 2 years after the event. Certainly, al Qaeda has the moral support of many more millions of Musliums than it did before we threatned and invaded Iraq.It is becoming less of a terrorist movement and more like a mass movement,the main view of it being that the West really is the enemy of Islam. 5 months after the conquest of Iraq is there fewer WMDs in this world? (N.Korea has the answer to that!) Is America more beloved now than it was 5 months ago,has less people that desire our destruction?True we have killed a few, but many more have joined the ranks in the fight against us, perhaps even a few who were inspired by Dubya to follow his advice which he gave when asked if terrorist might come into Iraq to attack our troops…”bring them on!”Over 60 American troops have since died from terrorist attacks in Iraq.

    I do not mean to underplay the threat of a terrorist strike using nuclear materials against us or our few remaining allies. It is a distinct possibility,especially since we are more concerned with Iraq then we are with drying up the loose nuclear materials in former East European and Soviet states.
    But our main problem today is not rather or not there are WMDs in Iraq, but rather or not there are too many IDIOTs in the White House.
    Look,why attack Iraq when the base of support of alQuada was in Afghanstan,Pakistan,and the Wahabbist sect in Saudi Arabia?Iran had also given a little support, but was apparently giving up al Quada members to the CIA until Bush lumped Iran in to his Axis of Evil speach.We sent way too few troops into Afghanstan,thus allowing the escape of al Qaeda and the Taliban and thus handed a moral victory to them.George W. Bush refused to lift tarriffs off Pakistan exports hence keeping the country much poorer than it otherwise would be,and thus more vulnurable to anti-American influences.If we had not invaded Iraq we could have eventually persuaded the Middle East to crack down on the informal banking system of the Arab world that allows large amounts of money to flow without goverment control or review,hence drying up the movement of al Quada funds.We could also put much more pressure on offshore banks about their hidden accounts,but Bush has been pressured not to do that by the wealthy in America.And we have ,at least publicly ignored the role that the Saudis had in 9/11.
    For me, I think that the reason we invaded Iraq rather than concentrate on destroying al Qaeda and Wahabbism was because the Bush adminstration saw 9/11 as the once in a generation chance of getting rid of the Bathist regime there,and perhaps even change most of the goverments of the Middle East.The Iraq invasion had less to do with WMDs,and more to do”with setting right” the 1st Gulf War,and perhaps as has been reported several times when Bush has had audiences with fundamentalist Christians,that he( Bush) was destined by God to deal with Saddam.

    So now we are in a mess mainly of our own making,and it is imperative for us to assure that Iraq is made stable and turned over to its own people as soon as possible,the emphasis being on stable,although some in the White House seem intent on assuring that allies and donors of the Republican Party get huge contracts from the American aide sent there.Let us continue to keep looking for what little of a system of WMDs that Saddam had,and let us clean up all of the radioactive waste that is still in Iraq so that the terrorists that Bush invited in with his remark”bring them on” do not end up with material for ‘dirty’ bombs that can be used against us.

    Let us do right by Iraq to help them build a representive goverment that they are happy with,but let us also stop pretending that our goverment really invaded Iraq because of a fear of imminent use of WMDs

  • “I am not fond of violence,but I recognize that it is still sometimes a necessary part of human interreactions.”

    I respect that most people accept and believe that. I wish they would respect that as a Gandhian, I do not and can not.

  • Thomas N. Holland

    Excuse me Ms. Davis, I did not mean to insult you,rather, my essay was directed toward those that have no respect for the Gandhian Method. It is an effective method, and even way of life,in a democracy,but not in all of the world.If Gandhi had pulled his stint against Hitler or Stalin, or even Saddam, rather than against the British,there would be no such thing as a Gandhian! Even the Dali Lama has acknowledge the limits of non-violence methods( New York Times,09/18/2003,ppA16)

    Even in Burma,non-violent protest has worked to a degree,but not without a huge cost to those involved,but truly it is more effective than the armed rebellions there. Still, if the United Nations were to announce that they were sending a fleet along with 30,000 soliders to overthrow the military juanta,the goverment would probably collapse long before the troops hit shore!

    The world’s dealing with Saddam during and after the Gulf War 1 convinced me that sanctions have only a partial effect over a determined adversary.Sanctions alone would never had gotten Kuwait free,but it did make Saddam’s system of WMD ineffective,and it did make Libya(along with an effective bombing strike) stop its strikes against the West.

    What I tried to argue in my previous essay was tha we rested our fight against terrorism against the wrong pillar,that Iraq should have been a side story in our war against terrorism,that Saddam was an old man,and that we should have waited out the situation there until his sucessor arrived.We would have spent a lot less money and American lives if we had concentrated on Afghanistan,Pakistan,al Qaeda and especially on the extermination of the Wahabbist Sect. Al Qaeda is the flower of Muslium terrorism,but Wahabbism is the deep root of the plant.

    No, Ms.Davis,my essay had nothing to do with any direspect for the Gandhian philosophy or for those who practice it.In my opinion,and apparently in the opinion of the Dali Lama,non-violence just doesn’t apply in the current situation,just as violence against Iraq should not have been applied in our war against terrorism. My arguement is that WMD’s in Iraq has very little to do with the true fight against terrorism, and that although we now have the real problem of reconstructing Iraq, we should not loose sight of our real enemies.

  • Eric Olsen

    Super super job Phillip, very even-handed, well-written. I have a much better understanding of the situation now. Thanks!

  • I wouldn’t know about enemies, Mr. Holland. I have none. Opponents, yes (about 90-odd percent of the planet’s population, I estimate), but no enemies. However, in terms of nonviolence having a limit, I must disagree respectfully with both you and the Dalai Lama (of whom I am not a fan, anyway).