What is the relationship between what's in the Senate report, the justifications for war, and what's been found in Iraq -- according to the Times?
President Bush on Monday vigorously defended his decision to go to war against Iraq, saying the invasion was the right thing to do even though no banned weapons had been found there, and claiming progress against terrorism and the spread of unconventional arms. (My emph.)
Notice the need to artificially beef up the problems with the intelligence case. It's pretty clear that we thought we'd find WMD stockpiles in Iraq and it's pretty clear that we haven't. This we would define as "a problem."
But although it's an intelligence problem, it doesn't necessarily mean that the war was unjustified. Look what the slight change there between "weapons stockpiles" and "banned weapons" ellides.
1. Well, the actual, you know, banned weapons. There certainly haven't been "stocks" found, but there have been roughly a dozen warheads found. Now, is this a threshold or a linear question? Is the discovery of any banned weaponry proof that Saddam was a bad actor and a danger? (do you see this as a threshold issue) or Are there possible explanations for a warhead here and a warhead there, so that, really, anything less then what really can be identified legitimately as stockpiles just don't do it as far as proof that Saddam was a threat? (is it a linear issue for you.)
2. Weapons, weapons, weapons. They may not have the sexy, exotic flavor of unconventional weapons stocks, but there were weapons right, left, and center found that broke the parameters laid out for Iraq's military by who knows how many agreements. They were sanctions-busting left and right. Did that make Iraq a threat to us? Well, in the sense that a threat in the region was an issue for us. This matters primarily because our argument was that the international community just couldn't continue to say, "stop -- or we'll say stop again!" And because it speaks to an intent to do harm in the region that sooner or later we'd be called on to resolve: militarily.
3. What about the actual weapons program? Why doesn't that ever count? Why is the name "David Kay" forgotten? He did, after all, report not one, not two, not three, but dozens of violations, in a clear and systematic way, in a pattern of deception, of the agreements that Saddam was told in 1441 that he was being given a last, last chance to live up to.
Here's what Kay said last October:
We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the U.N.
That's not, let us remember, a statement based on intelligence, which is always probabilistic and therefore speculative. That's what they actually found.
Was it easy? Well, here's a flavor of the concealment efforts they found:
– A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to U.N. monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW (chemical biological weapons) research.
– A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW (bioweapons) agents, that Iraqi officials working to prepare for U.N. inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the U.N.
– Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons.
– New research on BW-applicable agents, brucella and Congo Crimean hemorrhagic fever, and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the U.N.
– Documents and equipment, hidden in scientists' homes, that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation.
– A line of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) not fully declared at an undeclared production facility and an admission that they had tested one of their declared UAVs out to a range of 500 km, 350 km beyond the permissible limit.
– Continuing covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant useful only for prohibited SCUD-variant missiles, a capability that was maintained at least until the end of 2001 and that cooperating Iraqi scientists have said they were told to conceal from the U.N.
– Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1,000 km – well beyond the 150-km range limit imposed by the U.N. Missiles of a 1000 km range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets throughout the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi.
– Clandestine attempts between late-1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300-km range ballistic missiles – probably the No Dong – 300-km range anti-ship cruise missiles and other prohibited military equipment.
In addition to the discovery of extensive concealment efforts, we have been faced with a systematic sanitization of documentary and computer evidence in a wide range of offices, laboratories and companies suspected of WMD work. The pattern of these efforts to erase evidence – hard drives destroyed, specific files burned, equipment cleaned of all traces of use – are ones of deliberate, rather than random, acts.
For example, on 10 July 2003, an ISG team exploited the Revolutionary Command Council Headquarters in Baghdad. The basement of the main building contained an archive of documents situated on well-organized rows of metal shelving. The basement suffered no fire damage despite the total destruction of the upper floors from coalition air strikes.
Upon arrival, the exploitation team encountered small piles of ash where individual documents or binders of documents were intentionally destroyed. Computer hard drives had been deliberately destroyed. Computers would have had financial value to a random looter; their destruction, rather than removal for resale or reuse, indicates a targeted effort to prevent Coalition forces from gaining access to their contents.
All IIS laboratories visited by IIS exploitation teams have been clearly sanitized, including removal of much equipment, shredding and burning of documents, and even the removal of nameplates from office doors. Although much of the deliberate destruction and sanitization of documents and records probably occurred during the height of OIF combat operations, indications of significant continuing destruction efforts have been found after the end of major combat operations, including entry in May 2003 of the locked gated vaults of the Ba'ath Party intelligence building in Baghdad and highly selective destruction of computer hard drives and data storage equipment, along with the burning of a small number of specific binders that appear to have contained financial and intelligence records, and in July 2003 a site exploitation team at the Abu Ghurayb Prison found one pile of the smoldering ashes from documents that was still warm to the touch.
So, please, lets stop acting and talking and writing as if the intelligence failure here was complete, or as if Iraq was as innocent as the driven snow. Because we've got some pretty hard evidence suggesting otherwise.
That doesn't mean that there aren't debates to be had, important ones, on what to do now with the way intelligence is collected and evaluated, and about whether the war, given what we know now is justified. But lets proceed with those debates honestly.
Now, back to the Times for a moment. Here's their second graf:
In his first substantive remarks on foreign policy since the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Friday saying that the main assessments used to justify the war had been overstated or unsupported by the underlying intelligence, Mr. Bush briefly acknowledged the committee's concerns and called its conclusions helpful. (My emph.)
Well, I haven't read the report. But my understanding is that the CIA gets slammed pretty hard on WMD. Okay, you could argue pretty plausibly that was a main justification for war, without a doubt. My understanding is that the report takes the same position on the link to terrorism as the 9/11 commission, that in fact the CIA is embracing it. I haven't heard that the report says anything at all about the humanitarian justification (I'd be surprised if it did, and even more surprised if there was a suggestion that our pre-war assessments of Iraq were wrong on that score unless it was because we were underestimating the horror.) And I've likewise not gotten any hints that the report speaks to the democratization arguments.
So, there may be a debate over the various arguments for the way being overstated, but those arguments are not, as this graf suggests, coming out of this report.
This report should be the platform for a complex and important debate over the war and the pre-war intelligence. But, please -- lets frame that debate honestly, so that we're weighing the right things and balancing them appropriately.