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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Saturday | July 19, 2003

US data on Iraq sketchy

By Steve Gilliard

In Sketchy Data, Trying to Gauge Iraq Threat

WASHINGTON, July 19 Beginning last summer, Bush administration officials insisted that they had compelling new evidence about Iraq's prohibited weapons programs, and only occasionally acknowledged in public how little they actually knew about the current status of Baghdad's chemical, biological or nuclear arms.

Some officials belittled the on-again, off-again United Nations inspections after the Persian Gulf war of 1991, suggesting that the inspectors had missed important evidence. "Even as they were conducting the most intrusive system of arms control in history, the inspectors missed a great deal," Vice President Dick Cheney said last August, before the inspections resumed.

In the fall, as the debate intensified over whether to have inspectors return to Iraq, senior government officials continued to suggest that the United States had new or better intelligence that Iraq's weapons programs were accelerating information that the United Nations lacked.


Now, with the failure so far to find prohibited weapons in Iraq, American intelligence officials and senior members of the administration have acknowledged that there was little new evidence flowing into American intelligence agencies in the five years since United Nations inspectors left Iraq, creating an intelligence vacuum.


"Now tell me who these guys are," he asked a few nights before his presentation, when the C.I.A. showed him the picture, a participant in the conversation recalled.

"Oh, we're quite sure this is his nuclear crowd," came the response.

"How do you know?" Mr. Powell pressed. "Prove it. Who are they?" No one could answer the question.

"There were a lot of cigars lit," Mr. Powell recalled, referring to the evidence. "I didn't want any going off in my face or the president's face."

Here's a central issue people need to keep in mind: it doesn't matter what Saddam had in 1991, 1995 or 1998. It seems that there was a gap of years in our knowledge what weapons Iraq possessed. Past behavior does not predict future performance and any debate on what Saddam did before 2002, or any excuse that "in the light of 9/11, our assessment changed" is a load of crap.

Pre-emptive war needs clear, certain data to have any validity. In no way, shape or form does the data currently discussed about Iraq meet that test. Changing the debate will not help matters either. We were told Iraq was a current and immediate threat.

Yes, eliminating Saddam can be justified on purely moral grounds, but that would have been the case in 1991 as well. It also was not the case which Iraq was sold to the American public.

If there is no evidence of WMD, the Bush Administration misled the US public, by lies of omission and commission.

Posted July 19, 2003 04:41 PM


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