When will George W. Bush say, “We were wrong on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction”?
The evidence–or lack of evidence–continues to mount suggesting that Bush and his aides made false statements about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction before the war. Remember all that alarmist rhetoric? In an October 2002 speech, Bush said Iraq had a “massive stockpile” of weapons of mass destruction. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction…that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” In his famous presentation to the United Nations Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared, “Our conservative estimate is that Iraq, today, has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent.”
Conservative estimate? None of these claims have come close to panning out. And it’s not because–as some Bush-backers have suggested–Saddam Hussein was so good at hiding the stuff or because he managed to ship his arsenal to Syria before US troops came knocking. An extensive Washington Post front-page article published on January 7 and written by reporter Barton Gellman (and based on interviews with US weapons hunters and Iraqi weapons scientists and heretofore publicly unavailable Iraqi documentation) details the tremendous gap between the Bush rhetoric and the reality. It’s not that Hussein was not interested in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. But Gellman found that Iraq’s programs in these areas were either in suspension or far from advanced and that–most important of all–they were not even close to producing actual weapons. The two key paragraphs of his piece read:
“[U.S. weapons] investigators have found no support for the two main fears expressed in London and Washington before the war–that Iraq had a hidden arsenal of old weapons and built advanced programs for new ones. In public statements and unauthorized interviews, investigators said they have discovered no work on former germ-warfare agents….The investigators assess that Iraq did not, as charged in London and Washington, resume production of its most lethal nerve agent, VX, or learned to make it last longer in storage. And they have found the former nuclear weapons program, described as a ‘grave and gathering danger’ by President Bush and a ‘mortal threat’ by Vice President Cheney, in much the same shattered state left by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s.”
“A review of available evidence, including some not known to coalition investigators and some they have not made public, portrays a nonconventional arms establishment that was far less capable than U.S. analysts judged before the war. Leading figures in Iraqi science and industry, supported by observations on the ground, describe factories and institutes that were thoroughly beaten down by twelve years of conflict, arms embargo and strangling economic sanctions. The remnants of Iraq’s biological, chemical and missile infrastructures were riven by internal strife, bled by schemes for personal gain, and handicapped by deceit up and down lines of command. The broad picture emerging from the investigation to date suggests that, whatever its desire, Iraq did not possess the wherewithal to build a forbidden armory on anything like the scale it had before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.”