Skip to comments.Suppose we knew Iraq had no WMDs
Posted on 04/07/2005 5:27:24 AM PDT by SJackson
In a rare show of unity the American establishment has put its partisan tradition aside to praise the presidential commission that has just described prewar intelligence on Iraq as "dead wrong." While we should have no illusions about the efficiency of America's costly, bloated and poorly led intelligence services, it is important not to draw wrong conclusions from the commission's report.
To start with the intelligence services are instruments in the hands of the political leadership. Direction as to what to look for must come from the political leadership. What is presented as a failure of intelligence, therefore, may well be a political failure.
It was the political leadership that failed to understand that, with the Cold War over, the US needed to refocus its intelligence services toward new sources of threat. That did not happen. Even today Russian speakers in the so-called intelligence community reportedly outnumber Arabic speakers 20 to one.
In the specific case of Iraq, successive administrations failed to appreciate the dangerous direction that country had taken under its Ba'athist rulers, especially from 1979 onwards. From 1958 until the late 1980s the US did not even have an embassy in Baghdad.
Another glaring example of political failure concerns Iran.
Over the past quarter of a century successive US administrations have identified the Islamic republic as a growing threat to American national interests. And yet there has never been any serious attempt at developing a coherent Iran policy that would, in turn, spell out specific intelligence needs.
The issue of Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions was first raised during the Ford administration in 1977. A year later, the Carter administration gave Iran virtually unlimited access to American nuclear technology. The issue was again highlighted by president Bill Clinton's secretary of state Warren Christopher in 1992. And yet the presidential commission asserts that even today Washington knows very little of substance about the subject.
The greatest danger in misreading the commission's report, however, lies elsewhere. Without saying so openly the commissioners appear to imply that the war to liberate Iraq was somehow caused by faulty intelligence.
But is this true? The decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was a political one that enjoyed almost unanimous support in Washington from the mid-1990s onwards. The Iraq Liberation Act, signed by Clinton, committed America to the liberation of Iraq not because of weapons of mass destruction but with reference to Saddam Hussein's violation of human rights and his decade-long defiance of the United Nations. The conflict between Saddam and the UN was about a wide range of issues of which the WMDs was only one. That no appreciable stocks of WMDs have been found in Iraq so far does not render the other reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein inoperative.
The commission's report might cause confusion as to the relationship between intelligence on the one hand and political decision-making on the other by implying the primacy of the former.
That could encourage the concept of a government of spooks, as was the case in the former Soviet Union, and is still the case in some Arab states run by their mukhaberat or secret services.
In a democracy, however, a firewall must separate intelligence gathering and analysis from political debate and decision-making. There may be times when even good quality intelligence would have to be discarded in favor of a political judgment regarding a specific issue.
In the late 1930s British intelligence consistently, and often accurately, reported on Hitler's massive arms build-up with the erroneous conclusion that it was primarily aimed against the USSR. Even the German-Soviet pact did not shake that firm belief. Thus the availability of good quality intelligence did not prevent the making of poor political decisions. The appeasers knew exactly what Hitler was up to but lacked the vision to put it in proper context.
In the specific case of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was determined to keep people guessing about his WMD program. By making life difficult for UN inspectors, and insisting that some sites remain off-limits, he encouraged suspicions about his intentions. The fact that his entire rule was based on secrecy and double-dealing made the claim that he maintained a clandestine weapons program plausible. That impression was entertained and reinforced by Iraqi exiles who had an interest in vilifying the Ba'athist regime.
Now, let us imagine that the so-called intelligence community had reported in 2003 that Iraq was genuinely free of WMDs. That would not have changed the nature of the Ba'athist regime and Saddam's destabilizing strategy in the Middle East. Nor would the regime have ceased to be an almost daily calamity for the people of Iraq. With a narrow focus on WMDs the UN may have felt obliged to lift the sanctions on Iraq, thus liberating Saddam from the constraints that had forced him to rein in his deadly ambitions. Within a few years Iraq would have re-emerged as an even bigger threat and one far more difficult to contain, let alone eliminate.
A narrow view of intelligence as a snapshot of reality at any given time could prove counterproductive. Such a snapshot could show Saddam Hussein without any WMDs at a particular time, ignoring the fact that he had had them at some other points and may well have obtained them again if given the opportunity. The real WMD in Iraq was the Ba'athist regime and its machinery of oppression and war, which was found and dismantled.
The absence of evidence (WMD) is not evidence of their (WMD) absence. Because we had no reliable assets on the ground in Iraq prior to the commencement of operations, thanks of course to clinton and the democrats, these people have no way of knowing whether or not WMDs were there. Saddam had months to move and hide WMDs, and there has been talk of large convoys moving into Syria. Moreover, Iraq is a large country in which it would be easy to hide even large stocks of WMDs. Until we capture someone with real knowledge who is willing or is convinced to talk, it's likely we'll never know the truth. It's impossible for a "Presidential Commission" to put together a report that provides the "last word" on this issue from Washington, DC.
How did W and the good guys ever get sucked into this "WMD/no WMD" bogus argument?
It doesn't matter, never did.
Bottom line: Invading Iraq has given terrorists around the world pause. W has effectively gotten the dogs back under the porch. No thanks to the rats and other leftist scum.
This is because terrorists respond to deterrents, just as do miscreant dogs and other organisms with a CNS.
In exact proportion to the vague and secretive nature of terrorism, by which it evades rules-based political systems of the nations, W's response to 9/11 was equally vague, but nonetheless justified and correct.
Proof positive: all the terrorists killed in Fallujah, and more specifically, where they came from. Hint: it was not from Fallujah.
The WMD argument should have been neutralized by the Republicans the first day it was balloon-floated by the rats.
I am sure they (the rats) were surprised that the Republicans bit into the argument. Surprised or not, they followed their political instincts and created an industry out of the whole WMD issue. Even the Euroweenies caught on and now they say, every other word: No WMD. Blair is still dodging immaterial questions about WMD to this day.
Non issue, never was. Republicans: get smarter. The rats fight dirty in arguments. Learn it.
If Saddam had no WMD's, why was he impeding the people looking for them? That's what started this whole mess. He refused to abide by the accords he signed after GW1.
Read the WMD report out 3/31. Our intel community screwed up BIG TIME.
We needed to go over there and kick somebody's butt.
Saddam was jumping up and down shouting "Ooooh Ooooh! ME FIRST!"
Saddam's repeated violations of numerous UNSC resolutions and the terms of the Gulf War cease fire made it all nice and legal-like.
That's more than enough for me.
The only thing most will hear from the MSM about this report will be anything that they can use to beat up President Bush.
Was Iraq in material breech of UNSC 1441? Yes or no?
If your answer is yes, all the rest is immaterial.
If your answer is no, we reside on separate planets.
All the rest is NOT immaterial. Yes they were defying the resolutions. However - did that justify the actions.
Please read the report.
Unless it's my son coming hme in a casket. Sorry - not good enough for me.
2. The Euro trash was corrupting the embargo.
3. Iraq was turning into the harbor zone and meeting place for terrorist groups
4. Hussein was funding terrorist activities
5.Having a democratic islamic nation in the heart of the Arab world IS in the interest of our National Security
6. The dying Iraqi children served as a rallying point for terrorist recruiters
Just a start
The report is irrelevant, since it is after the fact. Please read UNSC 1441, which was operative at the time. What was the prescribed action in the event of a material breach?
Actual WMD were irrelevant to a material breach of UNSC 1441. They were irrelevant then, they are irrelevant now.
Oh, great. Appeals to maudlin sentimentality.
Actually, you have the form wrong. You should invoke the image of your son coming home in a body bag. It's more disrespectful that way.
My first appeal was for you to get informed. Read the report.
Why? How is it relevant to what happened then? If the actual existance of WMD was not material to the legality of the war, or the decision to invade, how is any intelligence SNAFU that happened back then relevant to anything?
I assume that intelligence is SNAFU. That's what the "N" is for. If I read a report saying the CIA was not aware in 2003 that the Soviet Union had fallen ten years before, I would not be at all surprised.
I can't continue this discussion. I thought it was only liberals who criticized things they haven't read.
I read the report. We should not have gone into Iraq. Those of you touting the successes are being short-sighted. We've got major structural problems and this is not a partisan issue.
I thought the report had to do with WMDs. What does that have to do with whether or not we should have gone into Iraq?
The report clearly lays out how screwed up our intel "communities" are and how bureaucratic hacks are standing in the way of real change/improvements.
One does not necessarily lead to another. You of course know that there were many reasons that we went to Iraq, and no one in the administration claimed that WMDs was even the dominate reason.
"The CIA has in its hands the critical parts of a key piece of Iraqi nuclear technology -- parts needed to develop a bomb program -- that were dug up in a back yard in Baghdad, CNN has learned. The parts, with accompanying plans, were unearthed by Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi who had hidden them under a rose bush in his garden 12 years ago under orders from Qusay Hussein and Saddam Hussein's then son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. "
And this is news?
The belief in the existence of WMDs kept Saddam in power. W called his bluff.
Among my peers, once the 2000 election was finalized, we joked that Saddam's days were numbered and that with this administration, there was unfinished business and that it would be done. Wasn't sure why or how, just knew that it was a given. 9/11 gave the reason. But I still believe had 9/11 had not happened, there still would have been some trigger point that would be our cue to proceed. Yes, Saddam was a bad boy and would have tempted fate. And yes, he was a goner was the oath was taken in January 2001.
I don't think so. I think Saddam was thumbing his nose at the sanctions and agreements. Saddam sought a confrontation with the US and the UN. If he had won that battle, the whole world would have known that we were paper tigers. Saddam was already sponsoring terrorism and we declared war on all terrorism after 9/11. If we had ignored Saddam, he would have become the terrorism kingpin, hiding them beneath his military.
Saddam gambled and lost.
Except for God, there are no absolutes. A commission that says we were absolutely totally wrong about Iraq's weapons doesn't pass the smell test.
As in anything, there has to be shades of gray regarding what weapons Iraq possessed.
I'm not convinced this report isn't some political document in itself.
Bush's case for war assumed Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, but was aimed at stopping his efforts to get them.
My son will be risking his life in Iraq soon. He and I never thought this has anything to do with WMD and everything to do with strategic control over the mideast.
We should not have gone into Iraq.
='s Liberal logic.
WMD or no WMD. It doesn't matter. Saddam had his troops active shooting at our aircraft in the NFZs. We needed to finish the job from 1991 that Clinton and Bush Senior refused to do or stay there forever.
I think we are in Iraq a bit longer than most of us care, but it has made a significant difference to the world at large and our security. We will leave there, maybe just not tomorrow.
The real WMD in Iraq were Uday and Qusay Hussein. Saddam's reign would have been a picnic compared to what those two would have wrought.
The fall of Saddam is the keystone to the Bush doctrine. That doctrine is likely the legacy of the President. And a good one. It probably is the right course of action and it needed to be established if there is ever a chance of bringing the middle east to some sort of westerm style political and social situation.
But to say that Saddam thumbing his nose to weapons inspections caused the invastion IMHO is naive.
Saddam did not deserve the benefit of the doubt. End of story.
Hmmmm.......What did we find in Libya? What might be in Syria?
To start with the intelligence services are instruments in the hands of the political leadership. Direction as to what to look for must come from the political leadership. What is presented as a failure of intelligence, therefore, may well be a political failure"
Taheri is usually pretty good--but in this case he's absolutely wrong> It's a dangerous idea. You DONT want intelligence direction from politicians because then you are guaranteed to get skewed information. Rather than telling the intelligence agencies what to look for (which often implies a set of attitudes and politically desirable outcomes) you want them to look for the truth--and then mold your political strategies around reality.
and WMDs are small when not in the munitions. All of what Powell spoke of before the U.N. would fit in two large tanker trucks worth of volume. The Anthrax would fit in a typical bedroom unless dried - in which case it would fit in the closet.
Clearly. there is little to no excuse in not resuming the invasion in 1994 - and the case (for not invading) became even weaker from there. Unfortunately, by then, Clinton had already effectively dismantled the coalition.
Read the WMD report out 3/31. Our intel community screwed up BIG TIME.Suppose we knew that the WMD Report says what it does in order to protect other "friendly" nations as well as a previous US administration who were complicit in Sadaam having the weapons in the first place.
Sometimes you have to simply admit that we don't know what we don't know. Speculation is pointless.
That wasn't entirely erroneous, you know. And this is germane with respect to the current question.
The intelligence game is rife with hindsight - this statement proves it. You always have an incomplete picture of what the opponent is doing, and you always have to err to the safe side. It isn't as if the people in charge of it didn't know that there was a possibility Saddam could be faking the whole thing, but how do you bet if you don't know and the safety of your country is at stake? Especially when at several points he most certainly did possess both WMD and programs, because he used them.
I've read most of this report. The principal bone of contention appears to be undue weight given a particular defector and doubts about his reliability that were communicated but not acted upon. This is, IMHO, an absolutely valid criticism.
But the "what if we knew Saddam had no WMD" question is, I am afraid, not the right one. We absolutely knew he had enriched uranium - the IAEA had inventoried it and two tons of it now resides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We knew he had industrial quantities of anthrax spores because UN inspectors had seen it. The latter we cannot find now. That in itself should lead the skeptics to conclude that just because we haven't found it does not mean it never existed.
I think that recriminations concerning this report are misplaced. Certainly such things should lead to improvements in information processing and communications. But to hope that will lead to perfect intelligence offered as a basis of political decisions is a pipe dream.
Whether or not Iraq had significant stocks of WMDs in 2003 is almost irrelevant, and that was only one of SIX reasons Pres.Bush gave in his 2003 SOTU speech for ending Hussein's regime.