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WMD: PRE- AND POST-WAR INTELLIGENCE

Critics of the Iraq War have consistently claimed that George W. Bush misled the U.S. into an immoral and/or unnecessary conflict by lying repeatedly about an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that Saddam Hussein allegedly possessed and might supply these weapons to terrorists like those who had already attacked America on 9/11.

Democrat Senator Harry Reid spoke for a host of other opponents of the war in insisting that "the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq." Senator Ted Kennedy depicted the war as a sinister plot "made up in Texas" and sold to Congress because it "was going to be good politically" for President Bush. "The whole thing was a fraud," said Kennedy. Former Vice President Al Gore charged that Bush was "engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate the facts in service to a totalistic ideology," and that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with WMD, but rather had been "pre-ordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place."

In fact, however, George Tenet, George W. Bush's CIA director, assured the President that the case for Saddam possessing WMD was “a slam dunk.” In this assessment, Tenet had the backing of all fifteen agencies involved in gathering intelligence for the United States. The National Intelligence Estimate of 2002, where their collective views were summarized, asserted with “high confidence” that "Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.

The intelligence agencies of Britain, Germany, Russia, China, Israel, and France all agreed with this judgment. Even Hans Blix—who headed the UN team of inspectors trying to determine whether Saddam had complied with the demands of the Security Council that he dispose of the WMD he was known to have had in the past—lent further credibility to the case in a report he issued only a few months before the invasion:

"The discovery of a number of ... chemical rocket warheads in a bunker at a storage depot 170 km southwest of Baghdad was much publicized. This was a relatively new bunker, and therefore the rockets must have been moved there in the past few years, at a time when Iraq should not have had such munitions.... They could also be the tip of a submerged iceberg. The discovery … points to the issue of several thousands of chemical rockets that are unaccounted for."

The consensus on which President Bush relied was first fully formed in the Clinton administration, as these statements indicate:

  • "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s [WMD] program." – Bill Clinton, 1998
  • "Iraq is a long way from [America], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face." – Secretary of State Madeline Albright, 1998
  • "[Saddam] will use those [WMD] again, as he has ten times since 1983." – Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, 1998

Also in 1998, a group of Democratic Senators -- including such luminaries as Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, and John Kerry -- urged President Clinton "to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its [WMD] programs."

Nancy Pelosi, then a member of the House Intelligence Committee, stated: "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of [WMD] technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."

This Democratic drumbeat continued and even intensified when George W. Bush succeeded Clinton in 2001. In a letter to the new President, a number of Senators led by Florida Democrat Bob Graham declared:

"There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical, and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."

Senator Carl Levin reaffirmed for Bush’s benefit what he had told Clinton some years earlier:

"Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations, and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them."

Senator Hillary Clinton agreed, speaking in October 2002:

"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."

Senator Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, concurred:

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."

Also in 2002, Al Gore said the following:

  • "We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
  • "Iraq’s search for [WMD] has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."

Senator John Kerry announced in 2002: "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force—if necessary—to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."

That same year, Senator Ted Kennedy said, "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."

Senator Robert Byrd put it this way: "We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has [since 1998] embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons."

William Cohen, who had served as President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, remained “absolutely convinced” that Saddam possessed stockpiles of WMD even after the U.S. military had failed to find them in the wake of the invasion in March 2003.

Kenneth Pollack, who served in the National Security Council under President Clinton, recalls:

"In the late spring of 2002, I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did."

Many who believed that Saddam did possess WMD accused Bush of having mischaracterized the threat of those weapons as “imminent.” But in fact, Bush consistently rejected imminence as a justification for war. In the State of the Union address he delivered three months after 9/11, Bush declared that he would “not wait on events while dangers gather,” and that he would “not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer.” In a speech at West Point six months later, he said: “If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long.” In his State of the Union address in 2003, Bush stated:

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late."


The above is adapted from "Who Is Lying About Iraq?" by Norman Podhoretz (November 11, 2005).

Additional Information

* The Testimony of Iraqi General Georges Sada: January 2006


On January 26, 2006, the New York Sun reported:

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration's decision to go to war in 2003....

Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.

"I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots," Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.

The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including "yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel." The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.

The flights -- 56 in total, Mr. Sada said -- attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

"Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming," Mr. Sada said. "They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians."

Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali." The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe....

An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel's Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, stated, "Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria." The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as "completely untrue," and it attracted scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.

The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.

Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. Syria's chemical warfare program, apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq, has long been the source of concern to America, Israel, and Lebanon. In March 2004, the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying, "Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW."

The CIA's Iraq Survey Group acknowledged in its September 30, 2004, "Comprehensive Report," "we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war. Reports of such actions exist, but we have not yet been able to investigate this possibility thoroughly." ...

* WikiLeaks Documents Give Evidence of Iraqi WMD (2010)  P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }A:link { }

In 2010, documents procured by Wikileaks revealed more information on the WMD threat posed by Iraq that was known to the government. The self-described whistleblowers, who could hardly be called pro-war, released 392,000 military reports from Iraq that revealed several instances of American encounters with potential WMDs or their manufacture. These included 1200 gallons of a liquid mustard agent in Samarra that tested positive for a blister agent; tampering by large earth movers thought to be attempting to penetrate the bunkers at Muthanna; the discovery of a chemical lab and a chemical cache in Fallujah; and the discovery of a cache of weapons hidden at an Iraqi Community Watch checkpoint with 155MM rounds that subsequently tested positive for mustard.

Foreign involvement with WMDs in Iraq was documented as well. A war log from January 2006 speaks of 50 neuroparalytic projectiles smuggled into Iraq from Iran via Al Basrah; Syrian chemical weapons specialists who came in to support the “chemical weapons operations of Hizballah Islami” (Hezbollah); and an Al Qaeda chemical weapons expert from Saudi Arabia sent to assist 200 individuals awaiting an opportunity to attack coalition forces with Sarin. As Wired magazine characterized it, the Wikileaks documents revealed that for several years after the initial invasion, “U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.”

* Sunni Terrorists "Occupy" What Was Once Saddam's Leading WMD "Production Facility": June 2014

On June 19, 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported:
Sunni extremists in Iraq have occupied what was once Saddam Hussein's premier chemical-weapons production facility, a complex that still contains a stockpile of old weapons, State Department and other U.S. government officials said.

U.S. officials don't believe the Sunni militants will be able to create a functional chemical weapon from the material. The weapons stockpiled at the Al Muthanna complex are old, contaminated and hard to move, officials said.

Nonetheless, the capture of the chemical-weapon stockpile by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS or ISIL, the militant group that is seizing territory in the country, has grabbed the attention of the U.S.

"We remain concerned about the seizure of any military site by the ISIL," Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said in a written statement. "We do not believe that the complex contains CW materials of military value and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely move the materials." ...

The Muthanna complex is near Lake Tharthar, roughly 45 miles northwest of Baghdad, an area now firmly in control of the Sunni rebels. ISIS has taken control of most of Anbar province as well as Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

Military officials said the U.S. was well aware of the Muthanna stockpile and wouldn't have left it there if it posed a military threat. Still, when the U.S. pulled out of Iraq, it didn't anticipate a large swath of the country, including numerous military bases, would be overrun by radical Sunni militants. One defense official said that if the U.S. had known the Iraqi government would lose control so soon, it might not have left the old chemical weapons in place.


WIDESPREAD PRE-WAR BELIEF THAT IRAQ HAD WMD:

Who Is Lying About Iraq?
By Norman Podhoretz
November 11, 2005

WMDs: The Democrat Betrayal (Quotes by Democrats Regarding Saddam's Possession of WMDs)
By David Horowitz
November 3, 2005

Treachery
By Andrew C. McCarthy
June 12, 2008

The Who-Said-It Game -- Iraq Style (Democrats' Quotes Regarding Iraqi Threat)
By Jason Barnes
November 17, 2005

Who Thought Iraq Had WMD? Most Everybody
By Larry Elder
May 25, 2006


POST-WAR DEVELOPMENTS:

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
By Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, et al.
March 31, 2005

Where the WMDs Went
By Jamie Glazov
November 16, 2005

Shattering Conventional Wisdom About Saddam's WMD's
By John Loftus
November 16, 2007

Sunni Extremists in Iraq Occupy Hussein's Chemical Weapons Facility
By Julian Barnes
June 19, 2014

Iraqi WMD Mystery Solved
By Jamie Glazov
March 2, 2006

Saddam's WMDs and Russia
By David Dastych
February 28, 2006

U.S. Official: Iraqis Told Me WMDs Sent to Syria
By Ryan Mauro
July 30, 2008

US Removes Uranium from Iraq
By Associated Press
July 10, 2008

Saddam Did Crazy "Pretend" Game with WMDs to Scare Iran
By Ha Sani Gittens
January 25, 2008

Saddam Hussein's Iraq Had Weapons of Mass Death
By Deroy Murdock
July 13, 2006

Found: Saddam's WMDs
By Kenneth Timmerman
April 28, 2004

Top Secret: Bush Told the Truth About WMD
By Deborah Weiss
September 7, 2007

Dr. Germ Analyzes Aircraft BW Attack Requirements In 2002
By Captain's Quarters
July 7, 2006

Iraqi Documents: UNMOVIC Knew Of Renewed WMD Efforts
By Captain's Quarters
July 7, 2006

Senate Intelligence Committee Members: Weapons of Mass Destruction Exist in Iraq
By Jim Kouri
June 21, 2006

Iraq, WMDs and Troubling Revelations
By Jamie Glazov
May 29, 2006

Saddam's WMDs: The Russian-Syrian Connection
By Ben Johnson
March 20, 2006

Tapes Reveal WMD Plans by Saddam
By Rowan Scarborough
March 13, 2006

About Those Missing WMDs...
By Jack Kelly
February 1, 2006

Iraq's WMD Secreted in Syria, Sada Says
By Ira Stoll
January 26, 2006

WMDs Found in Iraq: Why Doesn't Bush Just Say It? 
By G2 Bulletin 
November 3, 2005

WMD Report Confirms Saddam's Threat
By Investors.com
October 8, 2004

Saddam, the Bomb and Me
By Mahdi Obeidi
October 6, 2004


SEE ALSO:

* Justifications for the War

* Plamegate



                 

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