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):
- Iraq kept WMD activities secret
- Iraq hid everything
- Materials and evidence were carefully destroyed
- People left Iraq, possibly taking stuff with them
- WMD material can be very small
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.