|WMD: Will the real culprit stand
By Jim Lobe
The failure of the US military to find any strong
evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), let
alone links between former president Saddam Hussein and
al-Qaeda, is creating growing unease within both
Congress and the administration of President George W
The administration sold the war it
launched in March with it allies the United Kingdom and
Australia based on its contention that Baghdad had
massive quantities of WMD, some of which could have been
transferred to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda or similar
groups to carry out an attack against the United States
or its allies.
But after seven weeks of
uncontested control of Iraq's territory, it has yet to
find even one gram of biological, chemical or nuclear
material designed for weapons use, despite an intensive
search by specially trained teams that have investigated
all of the sites identified by the intelligence
community before the war as most likely to hold WMD.
"The Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq
as justification for a preemptive invasion has become
more than embarrassing," said Democratic Senator Robert
Byrd, the longest-serving lawmaker in Congress, who has
emerged as its most scathing critic of the war.
"It has raised serious questions about
prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our
troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraq
civilians killed and maimed when war was not really
necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled?
Was the world?" he asked in a blistering address on the
Senate floor last week.
It is not only Democrats
who are raising such questions. "Obviously it concerns
us that we have what I think are credible reports that
weapons exist that cannot be accounted for," said the
chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence
Committee, Representative Porter Goss of Florida. Goss
and his Senate counterpart, Pat Roberts, are already
planning hearings to assess information acquired by the
intelligence community and used by the administration to
rally public opinion behind the war.
Intelligence Agency (CIA) has also launched a review,
reportedly at the behest of Pentagon chief Donald
Rumsfeld, whose own pressure on the intelligence
community to unearth evidence of WMD and links between
Baghdad and al-Qaeda ironically has been blamed by
retired intelligence officers for distorting the process
that led to the US-led attack.
year created an Office of Special Plans (OSP) under the
direction of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and
Under Secretary William Luti precisely because they were
unhappy that the evidence compiled by the CIA and other
intelligence agencies, particularly about alleged ties
between Baghdad and al-Qaeda, was extremely weak.
As explained by W Patrick Lang, former director
of Middle East analysis at the Defense Intelligence
Agency, to the New York Times, the OSP "started picking
out things that supported their thesis and stringing
them into arguments that they could use with the
president ... It's not intel," he said, using an
insider's word for intelligence, "it's political
The Pentagon naturally strongly
denies this, and even the CIA, some of whose analysts
were reportedly furious about what they saw as
manipulation of intelligence by the Pentagon, insists
that, while the al-Qaeda evidence was always considered
shaky, its own evidence that Baghdad did retain
significant quantities of WMD in violation of United
Nations resolutions was strong.
have offered explanations for why no WMD have been
uncovered. Pentagon Under Secretary for Policy Douglas
Feith recently told Congress that only about 20 percent
of roughly 600 suspected sites have been investigated,
although he conceded that most of those considered most
likely to hold WMD have been examined.
confident that we will eventually be able to piece
together a fairly complete account of Iraq's WMD
programs, but the process will take months and perhaps
years," he testified this month. "We're learning about
new sites every day."
Other Pentagon officials
have suggested that perhaps Saddam did destroy all his
WMD just before the war, or that he had a "just in time"
weapons system that kept key chemicals separated in
civilian neighborhoods or other unlikely areas until the
moment they would be combined and used, or that the
weapons remain hidden in remote mountain areas deep in
the ground where they are unlikely ever to be
discovered, or that all the suspect sites were looted
before US troops could secure them, as happened with a
major nuclear site.
Some have even suggested
that Baghdad may have destroyed all the weapons in the
early 1990s, but then acted as if it still had them in
order to deter an attack. Kenneth Adelman, a member of
Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board and a major war booster,
said he thought that Saddam might have launched a
"massive disinformation campaign" to that end.
The strongest evidence collected to date, aside
from special chemical-warfare gear that could have been
left over from the Iran-Iraq war, is the discovery two
weeks ago of two trailers of the kind that Secretary of
State Colin Powell described to the UN Security Council
before the war as mobile units used to create biological
weapons on site.
While Pentagon officials have
insisted that no other purpose for the vans could be
explained, they have still failed to find any specific
biological or chemical evidence, such as residues in the
equipment, that proves they were used for that purpose.
The trailers remain under investigation.
before their discovery, however, the chief task force
created by the Pentagon to find the weapons - consisting
of biologists, chemists, arms-treaty experts, nuclear
operators, translators and computer experts - was told
to wind down its operations and prepare to return home.
Meanwhile, the administration, in addition to
reducing expectations over WMD, has tried to focus
public attention instead on the discovery and exhumation
of mass graves of alleged victims of Saddam's rule, in
part to provide an alternative justification for going
Some analysts have argued that the
administration relied far too heavily on defectors,
particularly those supplied by the Iraqi National
Congress (INC) led by Ahmed Chalabi who has made little
secret of his ambitions since 1992 - when he created the
group - to replace Saddam in Baghdad.
the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from
Iraq and Saddam's own son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, told
US, British and UN interrogators in 1995 that Iraq had
destroyed all its WMD after the first Gulf War in 1991,
and also warned them against Kidhir Hamza, a nuclear
scientist who defected in 1994, as "a professional
Like other defectors used by the INC,
Hamza played a key role in convincing Washington that
Saddam was revving up his nuclear program, for which no
evidence has been found. Hamza is now in Baghdad working
with the US occupation.
"This could conceivably
be the greatest intelligence hoax of all time," noted
Representative Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the
House Intelligence Committee last week. "I doubt it, but
we have to ask."