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No Iraq Intelligence Needed - Sources Have Already Spoken
February 4, 2004
By Erik P. Sorenson,

The Bush administration recently announced its reluctant endorsement of an "independent" commission to investigate the intelligence flaws that led the US to believe that Iraq possessed large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and an advanced nuclear capacity. However, in the period before the war many intelligence experts had warned that Iraq did not possess an active weapons' program and that the Bush administration was operating on spurious evidence.

According to press accounts, George W. Bush will name the members of the commission which, at first blush, must raise questions about the purported independence of the organization. Additionally, the press also reported that the investigative body was to be patterned after the Warren Commission that led the investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Many observers have questioned the independence of the Warren Commission. The Commission ruled that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, shot and killed Kennedy and that Jack Ruby had acted alone in the killing of Oswald. Many have considered these findings dubious or at best incomplete.

However, the Bush administration's specific claims of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction do not even require this process to be vetted. Many reputable intelligence officers and analysts have already stated that the Bush administration was intentionally selective in the intelligence claims it accepted and quickly discarded contradictory information.

On February 24, 2003 MSNBC reported that the CIA had warned the Bush administration that there was "no direct evidence" that Iraq had successfully reconstituted its banned weapons programs. The CIA said in its semi-annual report on weapons proliferation that Iraq may have possessed a "low-level theoretical" nuclear program. While the assessment states that Iraq may have an active program, there were no specific claims that supported the Bush administration's detailed assessment of the threat.

As former State Department official, Joseph Wilson recently told Geov Parrish of Working for Change, "[I]t was important for the international community to persuade itself that Saddam had been effectively disarmed and to impose a monitoring program to ensure that he didn't rearm, that was a legitimate international objective. Now, the real question is whether you had to invade, conquer, and occupy Baghdad in order to achieve that objective, and I think it's clear that we didn't."

Additionally, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace revealed earlier this year that the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency released a report in 2002 that equally questioned the credibility of intelligence on the state of Iraq's weapons. The report concluded that there was "no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has - or will - establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."

The assessment also suggests that the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent inspections significantly affected Iraq's ability to rebuild its chemical arsenal. "[Iraq's] ability for sustained production of G-series nerve agents and VX is constrained by its stockpile of key chemical precursors and by the destruction of all known CW production facilities during Operation Desert Storm and during subsequent UNSCOM inspections. In the absence of external aid, Iraq will likely experience difficulties in producing nerve agents at the rate executed before Operation Desert Storm."

Moreover, the unclassified portion of the report includes numerous caveats about its allegations and largely draws any conclusions of the threat posed by Iraq not on intelligence but based upon the previous behaviors of Saddam Hussein. In fact, the report states frankly that "we lack any [direct] information".

The Carnegie Center also reported that the State Department had reservations about Intelligence in Iraq. The State Department's Intelligence and Research Department wrote to the White House in October 2002 that "[w]e lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD programs." The report also ranked among its "low-confidence" findings whether Saddam Hussein would share any banned weapons with al-Qaeda.

The report, none the less, largely tries to substantiate a risk posed by Iraq based upon previous efforts by Hussein to develop and use non-conventional weapons. However, a remarkable dissenting opinion is voiced within the assessment. Under the title of "Alternative View of Iraq's Nuclear Program" that report states that, "The activities that we have detected do not add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons."

Furthermore, Scott Ritter, the much maligned former UN weapons' inspector, declared flatly that Iraq's weapons' capacity was being overstated. In August 2002 he told the New York Daily News, "They're [members of the Bush administration] lying to the American people about Iraq's capacity."

"[Chemical and biological programs] can no longer be viable unless Iraq reconstituted a manufacturing facility, and there's no evidence of that," he added citing the fact that chemical and biological weapons degrade over time.

Hans von Sponeck, the former UN Assistant Secretary General, said in May 2001, "Iraq today is no longer a military threat to anyone. Intelligence agencies know this. All the conjectures about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq lack evidence."

Finally, the UN weapons' inspectors who were readmitted into Iraq in 2002 found little to support the Bush administration's claims. In fact, Mohamed ElBaradei, the UN's chief nuclear inspector concluded the converse on March 7 2003. "At this stage, the following can be stated: One, there is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites. Second, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990. Three, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq," he told the UN Security Council.

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