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         IRAQ ARTICLE 2


          Scott Ritter | Not Everyone Got it Wrong on Iraqi WMDs   

          Not Everyone Got It Wrong on Iraqi WMDs

          By Scott Ritter

          Hous to n Chronicle

          Thursday 05 February 2004

           "We were all wrong," David Kay, the Bush administration's to p weapons

      sleuth in Iraq , recently to ld members of Congress after acknowledging that

      there were probably no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and

      contradicting President Bush's pre-war claims to the contrary.

           Despite the deaths of more than 525 American service members in Iraq ,

      David Kay insisted that the blame for the failure to find the expected

      weapons lies not with the president and his administration -- which had

      relentlessly pushed for war -- but rather with the U.S. intelligence

      community, which had, according to Kay, provided inaccurate assessments.

           The Kay remarks appear to be an attempt to spin potentially damaging

      data in a way that is to the president's political advantage. President

      Bush's decision to create an "independent commission" to investigate the

      intelligence failure reinforces this suspicion, since such a commission

      would only be given the mandate to examine intelligence data, and not the

      policies and decision-making processes that made use of that data. More

      disturbing, the proposed commission's findings would be delayed until late

      fall, after the November 2004 presidential election.

           The fact is, regardless of the findings of any commission, not

      everyone was wrong. I, for one, wasn't, having done my level best to

      demand facts from the Bush administration to back up its unsustained

      allegations regarding Iraq 's weapons of mass destruction and, failing

      that, speaking out and writing in as many forums as possible to educate

      the public in the United States and around the world about the looming

      danger of war based upon a hyped-up threat.

           In this I was not alone. Rolf Ekeus, the former executive chairman of

      the U.N. weapons inspec to rs in Iraq , acknowledged that under his

      direction, Iraq had been "fundamentally disarmed" as early as 1996. Hans

      Blix, who headed U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq in the months before the

      invasion started in March 2003 stated that his inspec to rs had found no

      evidence of either WMD or WMD-related programs in Iraq . And officials

      familiar with Iraq , like Ambassador Joseph Wilson and State Department

      intelligence analyst Greg Theilmann, exposed the unsubstantiated nature of

      the Bush administration's claims regarding Iraq 's nuclear capability.

           There was an answer to the riddle surrounding Iraq 's WMD, and there

      was no need to resort to war. Despite the riddle's composition

      --consisting as it does of layer upon layer of deceit and obfuscation --

      there were enough basic elements of truth and substantive fact about the

      final disposition of Saddam Hussein's secret weapons programs to reveal

      the answer. Sadly, however, it seems that those assigned the task of

      solving the riddle had no predisposition to do so.

           Moreover, President Bush's decision to limit the scope of any inquiry

      in to intelligence matters is absurd, for it effectively blocks any

      critique of his administration's use (or abuse) of such intelligence.

      Remember, his administration was talking of war with Iraq in 2002, long

      before the direc to r of Central Intelligence Agency prepared a National a

      Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the defining document on a particular area of

      the world or specified threat.

           According to a classified Department of Defense "after-action report"

      on Iraq titled "Operation Iraqi Freedom Strategic Lessons Learned," a copy

      of which was obtained by the Washing to n Times in September 2003,

      "President Bush approved the overall war strategy for Iraq in August last

      year." The specific date cited was Aug. 29, 2002, when Bush approved the

      goals, objectives and strategy for Iraq . "That was eight months before the

      first bomb was dropped and six months before he asked the U.N. Security

      Council for a war mandate that he never received," the Washing to n Times


           The CIA did eventually produce an NIE for Iraq , but only in Oc to ber

      2002, after the president had already decided on war. The very title of

      the NIE, " Iraq 's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction," is

      reflective of a predisposition of analysis that was not backed up by

      either the facts available at the time or the passage of time.

           Stu Cohen, a 28-year veteran of the CIA, wrote in a statement

      published on the CIA Web site on Nov. 28, 2003, that the CIA's Oc to ber

      2002 National Intelligence Estimate "judged with high confidence that Iraq

      had chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles in excess of the

      150-kilometer limit imposed by the U.N. Security Council ... these ...

      judgments were essentially the same conclusions reached by the United

      Nations and a wide array of intelligence services -- friendly and

      unfriendly alike."

           Stu Cohen noted that the Oc to ber 2002 Iraq NIE was policy-neutral --

      meaning that it did not propose a policy that mitigated for or against

      going to war with Iraq . He also stated that no one who worked on the NIE

      had been pressured by the White House to change judgments presented in the


           But Cohen is fundamentally wrong in his assertions. The fact that a

      major policy decision like war with Iraq was made without the benefit of

      an NIE is, in and of itself, policy manipulation. Judgments -- even those

      as poor as the ones reflected in the Iraq NIE -- do not have to be changed

      to be manipulated. The withholding of judgment through a tardy release of

      a critical NIE is likewise manipulation.

           I worked with Cohen on numerous occasions during that time frame and

      consider him a reasonable man. So I had to wonder when this intelligence

      professional, confronted with the to tality of the failure of the CIA to

      accurately assess the threat posed by Iraq 's WMD, writes that he was

      "convinced that no reasonable person could have viewed the to tality of the

      information that the Intelligence Community had at its disposal --

      literally millions of pages -- and reached any conclusions or alternative

      views that were profoundly different from those that we reached."

           I consider myself to be a reasonable person. Like Stu Cohen and the

      intelligence professionals who prepared the Oc to ber 2002 Iraq NIE, I was

      intimately familiar with vast quantities of intelligence data, collected

      from around the world by numerous foreign intelligence services (including

      the CIA), and on the ground in Iraq by U.N. weapons inspec to rs, at least

      up until the time of my resignation from UNSCOM in August 1998. Based on

      this experience, I was asked by Arms Control Today, the respected journal

      of the Arms Control Association, to write a piece on the status of

      disarmament regarding Iraq 's weapons of mass destruction.

           That article, "The Case for Iraq 's Qualitative Disarmament," was

      published in June 2000 and received wide media coverage. The intelligence

      communities of the United States and Great Britain , however, dismissed its

      conclusions. But my finding that "because of the work carried out by

      UNSCOM, it can be fairly stated that Iraq was qualitatively disarmed at

      the time inspec to rs were withdrawn in December 1998" was an accurate

      assessment of the disarmament of Iraq 's WMD capabilities, much more so

      than the CIA's 2002 NIE or any corresponding analysis carried out by

      British intelligence services.

           I am not alone in my analytical differences. Ray McGovern, who heads

      the nonprofit Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS, also

      takes umbrage at Cohen's "no reasonable person" assertion. "Had Cohen

      taken the trouble to read the op-eds and other issuances of VIPS members

      over the past two years," McGovern said recently, he would have seen that

      "our writings consistently contained conclusions and alternative views

      that were indeed profoundly different -- even without having had access to

      what Stu calls the ' to tality of the information.' And Stu never indicated

      he thought us not 'reasonable' -- at least back when many of us worked

      with him at CIA."

The fact is, Ray McGovern and I, and the scores of intelligence

      professionals, retired or still in service, who studied Iraq and its WMD

      capabilities, are reasonable men. We got it right. The Bush

      administration, in its rush to ward war, ignored our advice and the body of

      factual data we used, and instead relied on rumor, speculation,

      exaggeration and falsification to mislead the American people and their

      elected representatives in to supporting a war that is rapidly turning in to

      a quagmire. We knew the truth about Iraq 's WMD.

      Sadly, no one listened.