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During an Oct. 7, 2002, speech in Cincinnati, Bush said that U.N. inspectors had "concluded" that Iraq in the 1990s had actually produced "two to four times" the 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents than it had acknowledged making. Bush continued: "This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions." But U.N. inspectors had concluded no such thing. They had reported destroying key facilities Iraq had used to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. The inspectors had encountered discrepancies in the accounting of Iraq's weapons and WMD material and had noted that Iraq could have produced more weapons than the inspectors had uncovered. Bush was misstating the facts to turn a possible stockpile of WMD into an actual arsenal. [emphasis added]Now let's see what President Bush really said:
In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for and [is] capable of killing millions. [emphasis added]Note what is being done here. Corn takes Bush's description of U.N. inspectors' conclusions that Iraq had "likely produced" biological weapons and warps it into a contention that Iraq in the 1990s had "actually produced" biological weapons. President Bush correctly reported an element of uncertainty in the U.N. inspectors' reports; David Corn dropped it. I wonder why.
For those not familiar with U.N.-speak, the report could hardly be more damning. Saddam denied for years that he possessed a biological weapons program. Confronted with overwhelming evidence that he was lying, he grudgingly made incomplete, inadequate, and inaccurate declarations. Hence, much deadly material remained unaccounted for.4.10.4 Iraq claims that the BW programme was obliterated in 1991 as demonstrated by the unilateral destruction of the weapons deployed, bulk agent and some documents associated with the BW programme. Iraq, however, retained the facilities, growth media, equipment and groupings of core technical personnel at Al Hakam, and continued to deny the BW programme's existence. In spite of Iraq's continued denial of the preservation of its BW programme, the Government of Iraq has yet to offer documentation of its formal renunciation. The head of the Iraqi delegation took the position that he could offer no defence to justify the concealment and deception prior to 1995. These positions and acts raise serious doubts about Iraq's assertion that the BW programme was truly obliterated in 1991.5.2 Iraq's FFCD [UN mandated declaration] is judged to be incomplete and inadequate. The information presented by Iraq does not provide the basis for the formulation of a material balance or a determination of the structure and organisation of the BW programme. This is required for effective monitoring of Iraq's dual capable facilities.5.3 The construction of a material balance, based primarily on recollection, provides no confidence that resources such as weapons, bulk agents, bulk media and seed stocks, have been eliminated.5.4 The organisational aspects of the BW programme are not clear and there is little confidence that the full scope of the BW programme is revealed. Additional aspects, such as the existence of dormant or additional BW programmes, remain unresolved.
At a Sept. 7, 2002, joint news conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, Bush declared that a 1998 International Atomic Energy Agency report had found that Iraq had been "six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need." One problem: There was no such IAEA report. In 1998, the IAEA actually had reported there were "no indications" that Iraq was producing nuclear weapons. Bush wasn't citing bad intelligence. He had concocted a nonexistent report to bolster the case for war.Here is the relevant portion of the press conference transcript to which Corn is referring:
Tony Blair, British Prime Minister: The point that I would emphasize to you, is that the threat from Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, potentially nuclear weapons capability -- that threat is real. We only need to look at the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency this morning, showing what has been going on at the former nuclear weapon sites to realize that.
And the policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to. So the purpose of our discussion today is to work out the right strategy for dealing with this. Because deal with it we must.
Q: Mr. President, can you tell us what conclusive evidence of any nuclear
-- new evidence you have of nuclear weapons capabilities of Saddam Hussein?
President Bush: We just heard the Prime Minister talk about the new report. I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied -- finally denied access, a report came out of the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need.
Blair: Absolutely right. And what we know from what has been going on there for a long period of time is not just the chemical, biological weapons capability. But we know that they were trying to develop nuclear weapons capability. And the importance of this morning's report, is that it yet again shows that there is a real issue that has to be tackled here. There are several things to note here. Contrary to Corn's claim, Bush did not "declare" that a "1998 International Atomic Energy Agency report" had found that Iraq had been six months away from developing a nuclear weapons. In fact, Bush never mentioned 1998; what happened is that some reporters (and Corn) wrongly jumped to the conclusion that he meant a 1998 report because that was the year that Saddam expelled IAEA inspectors. The White House press secretary later clarified that Bush was referring to earlier revelations about Iraq's "crash program" to build nuclear weapons that came to light after the first Gulf War. And that made some sense. The crash program was intended to produce a weapon within six months, but the United States unwittingly hampered the effort with its bombing campaign. Nonetheless, when the program was revealed after the war, IAEA inspectors were shocked by how close Iraq had come to acquiring a weapon.
In summary, the IAEA report says that following the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq launched a "crash program" to develop a nuclear weapon quickly by extracting weapons grade material from safe-guarded research reactor fuel. This project, if it had continued uninterrupted by the war, might have succeeded in producing a deliverable weapon by the end of 1992.
The goal was to execute this plan and build a nuclear weapon within six months, although by the time of the Allied bombing campaign in mid-January 1991, which stopped the effort, Iraq had fallen several months behind and was unlikely to finish a nuclear explosive device until at least the following summer or the end of the year. A nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile would have taken significantly longer, according to Action Team assessments supported by member states.Richard Butler, the former head of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), said this:
Saddam has sought nuclear weapons for some two decades. Ten years ago he intensified his efforts, instituting a "crash program." The Gulf War put an end to this. Subsequent inspection and analysis by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UNSCOM, showed that in spite of relatively deficient indigenous sources of the fissionable material needed to make a nuclear weapon, Saddam's program was as close as six months from yielding a bomb.I could go on, but the point is clear: Bush did not "lie" and he did not fabricate the fact that in the early 1990s Saddam had been quite close to developing a nuclear weapon and that UN inspectors had reported this to the world. The case against Bush boils down to the fact that there was not an IAEA report that said Iraq was six months from a bomb the year the inspectors were expelled; Bush's statement was based instead on a series of statements by UNSCOM and IAEA officials who said Saddam might have been only six months away from developing a nuclear weapon, though it might have taken Iraq months longer. To David Corn, this qualifies as a "willful campaign of misrepresentation and hyperbole." I will leave it to discerning readers to determine whether this description better fits Bush or Corn himself.
Bush and his aides repeatedly asserted Iraq was loaded with chemical weapons. In a Rose Garden speech on Sept. 26, 2002, Bush insisted that "the Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons." Yet a September 2002 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which was widely distributed to government policymakers, said, "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."Here, Corn is quoting Bush correctly. But Bush's assessment is not surprising, since it is very similar to what the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) said on the matter:
We assess that Baghdad has begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, GF (cyclosarin), and VX [chemical weapons agents]; its capability is more limited now than it was at the time of the Gulf war, although VX production and agent storage life probably have been improved.Nor is it surprising that Bush would have used language completely consistent with the conclusions of the NIE; after all, the Intelligence Community findings on Iraq had been remarkably consistent over the years (that ultimately was part of the problem), in administrations both Democratic and Republican.
We judge that all key aspects -- R&D, production, and weaponization -- of Iraq's offensive BW program are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war.
Corn seems to believe that any intelligence report that reinforces his views and is different than, or later superseded by, the NIE -- and if it is not mentioned by the president -- is proof positive of a massive fabrication campaign. So, for instance, Corn points to a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report that he considers inconsistent with the NIE (and which pre-dated the NIE report) because it asserts, "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."The [October 2002 Iraq WMD] NIE demonstrates consistency in our judgments over many years and are based on a decade's worth of work. Intelligence is an iterative process and as new evidence becomes available we constantly reevaluate.
Most agencies believe that Saddam's personal interest in and Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors -- as well as Iraq's attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools -- provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment program. (DOE agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.)
The Intelligence Community's judgment about Iraq's nuclear program hinged chiefly on an assessment about Iraq's intended use for high-strength aluminum tubes it was seeking to procure. Most of the agencies in the Intelligence Community erroneously concluded these tubes were intended for use in centrifuges in a nuclear program rather than in conventional rockets. This error was, at the bottom, the result of poor analytical tradecraft – namely, the failure to do proper technical analysis informed by thorough knowledge of the relevant weapons technology and practices.What we once again see is a persistent habit by Corn. It goes like this: President Bush and Vice President Cheney must side with dissenting views over the mainstream conclusions in an NIE report or risk being called a liar.
But dive into Rockefeller's report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.The Rockefeller indictment, like the Corn indictment, simply dissolves upon inspection.
On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."
On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."
On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."
On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."
As you read through the report, you begin to think maybe you've mistakenly picked up the minority dissent. But, no, this is the Rockefeller indictment.
We judge that we are seeing only a portion of Iraq's WMD efforts, owing to Baghdad's vigorous denial and deception efforts. Revelations after the Gulf war starkly demonstrate the extensive efforts undertaken by Iraq to deny information. We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD programs.Corn -- if his critique were intellectually honest -- would, in addition to accusing Bush of lying, have to expand his list to include a boatload of Democrats whose pre-war comments were if anything less qualified than what Bush said. (Notice the number of times the locution "There is no doubt" and "We know" and "We have known" appear.)
In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members .... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.The list of emphatic statements by Democratic lawmakers about Saddam's WMD program goes on, and on, and on. But wait -- there's more.
Right now, our attention has to be focused as a priority on the biological and chemical domains. It is there that our presumptions about Iraq are the most significant: regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of its capacity to produce VX and yperite; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin, and a possibility of a production capability.For Corn's conspiracy theory to be true, then, it must not only be interRepublican, intergovernmental, and international in its reach and scope; it must very nearly be intergalactic.
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