WMD's might start to matter

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by DKSuddeth, Jan 19, 2004.

  1. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3996047/

    Arms issue seen as hurting U.S. credibility
    Bush's failure to find illegal weapons harming foreign policy

    By Glenn Kessler

    The Bush administration's inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- after public statements declaring an imminent threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- has begun to harm the credibility abroad of the United States and of American intelligence, according to foreign policy experts in both parties.

    In last year's State of the Union address, President Bush used stark imagery to make the case that military action was necessary. Among other claims, Bush said that Hussein had enough anthrax to "kill several million people," enough botulinum toxin to "subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure" and enough chemical agents to "kill untold thousands."

    Now, as the president prepares for this State of the Union address Tuesday, those frightening images of death and destruction have been replaced by a different reality: Few of the many claims made by the administration have been confirmed after months of searching by weapons inspectors.

    Within the United States, Bush does not appear to have suffered much political damage from the failure to find weapons, with polls showing high ratings for his handling of the war and little concern that he misrepresented the threat.

    But a range of foreign policy experts, including supporters of the war, said the long-term consequences of the administration's rhetoric could be severe overseas -- especially because the war was waged without the backing of the United Nations and was opposed by large majorities, even in countries run by leaders that supported the invasion.

    "The foreign policy blow-back is pretty serious," said Kenneth Adelman, a member of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Board and a supporter of the war. He said the gaps between the administration's rhetoric and the postwar findings threaten Bush's doctrine of "preemption," which envisions attacking a nation because it is an imminent threat.

    The doctrine "rests not just on solid intelligence," Adelman said, but "also on the credibility that the intelligence is solid."

    Credibility gap
    Already, in the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, China has rejected U.S. intelligence that North Korea has a secret program to enrich uranium for use in weapons. China is a key player in resolving the North Korean standoff, but its refusal to embrace the U.S. intelligence has disappointed U.S. officials and could complicate negotiations to eliminate North Korea's weapons programs.

    Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the same problem could occur if the United States presses for action against alleged weapons programs in Iran and Syria. The solution, he said, is to let international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency take the lead in making the case, as has happened thus far in Iran, and also to be willing to share more of the intelligence with other countries.

    The inability to find suspected weapons "has to make it more difficult on some future occasion if the United States argues the intelligence warrants something controversial, like a preventive attack," said Haass, a Republican who was head of policy planning for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell when the war started. "The result is we've made the bar higher for ourselves and we have to expect greater skepticism in the future."

    James Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration who believed there were legitimate concerns about Iraq's weapons programs, said the failure of the prewar claims to match the postwar reality "add to the general sense of criticism about the U.S., that we will do anything, say anything" to prevail.

    Indeed, whenever Powell grants interviews to foreign news organizations, he is often hit with a question about the search for weapons of mass destruction. Last Friday, a British TV reporter asked whether in retirement he would "admit that you had concerns about invading Iraq," and a Dutch reporter asked whether he ever had doubts about the Iraq policy.

    "There's no doubt in my mind that he had the intention, he had the capability," Powell responded. "How many weapons he had or didn't have, that will be determined."

    Some on Capitol Hill believe the issue is so important that they are pressing the president to address the apparent intelligence failure in the State of the Union address and propose ways to fix it.

    "I believe that unanswered questions regarding the accuracy and reliability of U.S. intelligence have created a credibility gap and left the nation in a precarious position," Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a speech last week. "The intelligence community seems to be in a state of denial, and the administration seems to have moved on."

    Misrepresented threat
    Since last year's State of the Union, the White House has established procedures for handling intelligence in presidential speeches by including a CIA officer in the speechwriting process. The CIA is also conducting an internal review, comparing prewar estimates with postwar findings, and the final report will be finished after inspectors in Iraq complete their work.

    But Bush and his aides have largely sought to divert attention from the issue. White House aides have said they expect this year's State of the Union speech to look ahead -- to the democracy the administration hopes to establish in Iraq -- rather than look back.

    Officials also have turned the focus to celebrating Hussein's capture last month and repeatedly drawing attention to Hussein's mistreatment of his people. Officials have argued that if Iraq's stocks of weapons are still unclear, Hussein's intentions to again possess such weapons are not. Thirteen years ago, when the United States was a backer of Hussein, Iraq used chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war.

    The administration "rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our future peace and security," Vice President Cheney said in a speech last week. Cheney -- and other U.S. officials -- increasingly point to Libya's decision last month to give up its weapons of mass destruction as a direct consequence of challenging Iraq.

    Bush, when asked by ABC's Diane Sawyer why he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when intelligence pointed more to the possibility Hussein would obtain such weapons, dismissed the question: "So, what's the difference?"

    The U.S. team searching for Iraq's weapons has not issued a report since October, but in recent weeks the gap between administration claims and Iraq's actual weapons holdings has become increasingly clear. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that U.S. investigators have found no evidence that Iraq had a hidden cache of old chemical or biological weapons, and that its nuclear program had been shattered after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. A lengthy study issued by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also concluded the administration shifted the intelligence consensus on Iraq's weapons in 2002 as officials prepared for war, making it appear more imminent and threatening than was warranted by the evidence.

    The report further said that the administration "systematically misrepresented the threat" posed by Iraq, often on purpose, in four ways: one, treating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as a single threat, although each posed different dangers and evidence was particularly thin on Iraq's nuclear and chemical programs; two, insisting without evidence that Hussein would give his weapons to terrorists; three, often dropping caveats and uncertainties contained in the intelligence assessments when making public statements; and four, misrepresenting inspectors' findings so that minor threats were depicted as emergencies.

    From likelihood to fact
    Jessica T. Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment and co-author of the report, pointed to one example in a speech delivered by Bush in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002. U.N. inspectors had noted that Iraqi had failed to account for bacterial growth media that, if used, "could have produced about three times as much" anthrax as Iraq had admitted. But Bush, in his speech, turned a theoretical possibility into a fact.

    "The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount," Bush said. "This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for and is capable of killing millions."

    Mathews said her research showed the administration repeatedly and frequently took such liberties with the intelligence and inspectors' findings to bolster its cases for immediate action. In the Cincinnati example, "in 35 words, you go from probably to a likelihood to a fact," she said. "With a few little changes in wording, you turn an 'if' into a dire biological weapons stockpile. Anyone hearing that must be thinking, 'My God, this is an imminent threat.' "

    Steinberg, who was privy to the intelligence before Clinton left office, said that while at the National Security Council he saw no evidence Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program, but that there were unresolved questions about Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programs. "Given his reluctance to address these questions, you had to conclude he was hiding something," he said, adding that given the intelligence he saw, "I certainly expected something would have turned up."

    "I think there are [diplomatic] consequences as a result of the president asking these questions [about Iraq's weapons holdings] and the answer being no" weapons, said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who believes the ouster of Hussein justified the war. "The intelligence could have been better."

    Richard Perle, another member of the Defense Advisory Board, said the criticism of the Bush administration is unfair. "Intelligence is not an audit," he said. "It's the best information you can get in circumstances of uncertainty, and you use it to make the best prudent judgment you can."

    He added that presidents in particular tend not to place qualifiers on their statements, especially when they are advocating a particular policy. "Public officials tend to avoid hedging," he said.

    Given the stakes involved -- going to war -- Mathews said the standards must be higher for such statements. "The most important call a president can make by a mile is whether to take a country to war," she argued, making the consequences of unwise decisions or misleading statements even greater.

    Indeed, she said, the reverberations are still being felt, even as the administration tries to put the problem behind it. A recent CBS poll found that only 16 percent of those surveyed believed the administration lied about Iraq's weapons. But she said there is intense interest in the report's findings, with 35,000 copies downloaded from the think tank's Web site in just five days. "It is too soon to say there was no cost" to the failure to find weapons, she said. "I think there is a huge appetite for learning about this."
     
  2. Palestinian Jew
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    Palestinian Jew Member

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    The way the Bush admin feels about the possibly worst intelligence blunder ever is nicely summed up by what Bush said:
    "So, what's the difference?"
     
  3. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    I responded very early this morning to Jones on the same misquote on another thread. Glad I'm not the only one responding to such tripe, although one assumes that reporters are able to find their own way to the whitehouse.gov site:

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/005682.php

    This morning's Washington Post includes an article by Glenn Kessler, titled "Arms Issue Seen as Hurting U.S. Credibility Abroad." Kessler's theme is announced in his the opening sentence: "The Bush administration's inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- after public statements declaring an imminent threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- has begun to harm the credibility abroad of the United States and of American intelligence, according to foreign policy experts in both parties." Regular readers of this and many other blogs need no reminder that the President said no such thing; on the contrary, a central point of his 2003 State of the Union address was the need to act, on occasion, in the absence of an imminent threat.

    But Kessler's misrepresentations don't stop there. This is how he quotes last year's State of the Union speech:

    "In last year's State of the Union address, President Bush used stark imagery to make the case that military action was necessary. Among other claims, Bush said that Hussein had enough anthrax to 'kill several million people,' enough botulinum toxin to 'subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure' and enough chemical agents to 'kill untold thousands.'

    Last year's speech is available at the White House site, and Kessler presumably consulted it to get the quotes in the above paragraph. How odd, then, that he didn't quote the President correctly. Here are the complete paragraphs from which the above phrases were drawn:

    "The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    "The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them."

    What President Bush said was true. The 1999 UNSCOM report sets out the historical context of the U.N.'s effort to verify Iraq's compliance with various U.N. resolutions:

    "Iraq's offensive BW [biological weapons] programme was among the most secretive of its programmes of weapons of mass destruction. Its existence was not acknowledged until July 1995. During the period from 1991 to 1995 Iraq categorically denied it had a biological weapons programme and it took active steps to conceal the programme from the Special Commission. These included fraudulent statements, false and forged documents, misrepresentation of the roles of people and facilities and other specific acts of deception....In 1995, when Iraq was confronted with evidence collected by the Commission of imports of bacterial growth media in quantities that had no civilian utility within Iraq's limited biotechnology industry, it eventually, on 1 July 1995, acknowledged that it used this growth media to produce two BW agents in bulk, botulinum toxin and Bacillus anthracis spores, between 1988 and 1991. It was not, until August of 1995, however, that Iraq acknowledged that it had weaponized BW agents....Since July 1995, the Commission has conducted 35 biological inspections directly or indirectly related to investigations of Iraq's proscribed BW programme....This considerable effort has been negated by Iraq's intransigence and failure to provide cooperation concerning its biological weapons since January 1996."

    Paragraph 105 of the UNSCOM report sets out the amounts of various materials needed to produce biological weapons which remained unaccounted for. It states that 460 kg of casein, known to have been possessed by Iraq, were unaccounted for, "Sufficient for the production of 1200 litres of concentrated botulinum toxin." It says further that at least 520 kg of yeast extract were unaccounted for: "This minimum estimate is uncertain and is likely to be much higher. It is based on a liberal assessment of the contents of many opened and irregularly marked containers. However this minimum figure is sufficient to produce 26000 litres of Bacillus anthracis spores or over 3 times the amount declared by Iraq."

    UNSCOM concluded that "Throughout the investigation of the programme there has been a systematic and comprehensive attempt by Iraq to conceal the programme and deceive the Commission....In the Commission's view, Iraq has not complied with requirements of the relevant Security Council resolutions on the disclosure of its BW programme."

    So what President Bush said in his State of the Union address was a precisely accurate summary of UNSCOM's 1999 report as it related to those pathogens. What he said about the American intelligence community's assessment of Iraq's ability to produce sarin, mustard gas and VX, as reflected in the National Intelligence Estimate, was accurate as well.

    So, regardless of whether chemical or biological weapons are found in Iraq or not, what President Bush said in last year's State of the Union was correct: Iraq possessed materials from which considerable quantities of those weapons could be produced, and it never accounted for the whereabouts of those materials. President Bush's conclusion is hard to argue with: "Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."

    Does the Post think that anything we have learned since the fall of Saddam's regime should cause us to question that judgment?

    UPDATE: In the context of the "Bush lied" hysteria that has swept the Democratic Party, it is interesting to compare President Bush's statements in his 2003 State of the Union speech with those of Wesley Clark in his September 2002 testimony before a House committee:

    "He does retain his chemical and biological capabilities to some extent and he is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet....It's possible that Saddam Hussein may use biological weapons....Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. He's had those for a long time....We need to be ready because if suddenly Saddam Hussein's government collapses and we don't have everything ready to go, we're going to have chaos in that region. We may not get control of all the weapons of mass destruction."

    Far from having hyped the intelligence, it was President Bush, not Wesley Clark, whose description of Saddam's weapons capability was sober, nuanced, and strictly accurate.

    Posted by Hindrocket at 09:52 AM | TrackBack (0)
     
  4. Moi
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    Touche' Kathianne. I've been saying this from the start. No one will listen this time either. If the intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to contemporary WMD doesn't bear fruit, it will be the fault of the entire government, not the Republicans, not George Bush but everyone involved. Including the UN, UK and every other one of the myriad countries who contributed to the intelligence and supported the 2002 UN resolution.

    Saddam Hussein is completely responsible for his fate. He was given chance after chance and warning after warning. Those who don't like it, are just like those who wimper when beaten at their own game.
     
  5. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    And this is something I've been saying for awhile now.

    Do we turn the world into place where anyone can accuse someone else of having something and if they don't produce it (whether they have it or not) then that leaves them completely open to have the snot beat out of them so we can find it?
     
  6. Moi
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    No, I'm not advocating that. If you can't see the difference between someone who, unquestionably, killed hundreds of thousands of people, lost a war in which he used said weapons and then flaunted the UN's resolutions for over a decade and a world "where anyone can accuse someone else of having something and if they don't produce it (whether they have it or not) then that leaves them completely open to have the snot beat out of them so we can find it?" than there is no point to discussing this as your mind is closed.
     
  7. bamthin
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    Kathianne,

    You are really going to have to make a choice here I think. Bush misrepresented the facts, or the intelligence was awful that he recieved. The article DK posted seems to suggest that the US will have an intelligence credibility issue with it's future justifications for use of force to the international community.

    I really don't see how Kessler misquoted Bush at all. He said Bush used stark imagery and then included actual quoted lines from that speech. It seems to me, even as I read that speech again, that Bush was trying to convince people that Saddam was armed to the teeth. In retrospect, it sounds even more manipulative as I read it again. It's not like inspectors weren't back in Iraq checking on this stuff and that's the pertinent issue.

    As for Clark's testimony, if you actually read that address you will see that Clark was not supporting an armed incursion of Iraq until all other options had been exhausted. The pertinent issue here is that Hans Blix said he needed more time and was making good progress in inspecting Iraq. He and his team were ordered by Bush to leave so the US could attack. Clark's testimony shows what a person who understands the complexity of that situation needed to consider.

    Don't forget that this State of the Union Address by Bush last year is only the tip of the iceberg of purported "intelligence" that Bush had to press his case for war. The bottom line, is that Bush and/our intelligence aparatus looks like shit internationally and will be highly questioned from here on out. I think that is the purpose of the article.


    -Bam
     
  8. Annie
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    Bam read more carefully, though you've shown enough intelligence prior to make comprehension a questionable cause, he did misquote Bush, demonstrably.
     
  9. Annie
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    Well, Bam didn't answer, so here's more (check out link, there are embedded links):

    http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2004/01/Animminentbiglie.shtml

    They say, "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity", but we seem to have gone beyond any possible stupidity now. Have we reached the point where we can assume there's a conspiracy to spread a big lie? And where we can safely dismiss the opinions of anyone who repeats it?

    The Bush administration's inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- after public statements declaring an imminent threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- has begun to harm the credibility abroad of the United States and of American intelligence, according to foreign policy experts in both parties.

    In last year's State of the Union address, President Bush used stark imagery to make the case that military action was necessary. Among other claims, Bush said that Hussein had enough anthrax to "kill several million people," enough botulinum toxin to "subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure" and enough chemical agents to "kill untold thousands."

    That was the SOTU address where Bush said that we could not afford to wait until such threats became "imminent". AAaargh!

    The myth that Bush claimed that Iraq represented an "imminent threat" has been debunked again and again; there's no excuse for any reporter at this point not knowing that it's a blatant lie. Why is it being repeated now?

    As if I didn't know. Lessee, diagnostic signs from the rest of the article:

    Criticism about not having UN approval: check.
    Concern about disapproval from abroad: check.

    But a range of foreign policy experts, including supporters of the war, said the long-term consequences of the administration's rhetoric could be severe overseas -- especially because the war was waged without the backing of the United Nations and was opposed by large majorities, even in countries run by leaders that supported the invasion.

    Misstatement of the Bush doctrine: check.

    "The foreign policy blow-back is pretty serious," said Kenneth Adelman, a member of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Board and a supporter of the war. He said the gaps between the administration's rhetoric and the postwar findings threaten Bush's doctrine of "preemption," which envisions attacking a nation because it is an imminent threat.

    (The "Bush doctrine" is attack them before they become an "imminent threat", because by the time they are an imminent threat it will be too late.)

    Insistence on reliance on international agencies: check.

    Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the same problem could occur if the United States presses for action against alleged weapons programs in Iran and Syria. The solution, he said, is to let international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency take the lead in making the case, as has happened thus far in Iran, and also to be willing to share more of the intelligence with other countries.

    "That's not a feature, that's a bug." check.

    James Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration who believed there were legitimate concerns about Iraq's weapons programs, said the failure of the prewar claims to match the postwar reality "add to the general sense of criticism about the U.S., that we will do anything, say anything" to prevail.

    Reliance on leftist groups as pure oracles of truth: check.

    A lengthy study issued by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also concluded the administration shifted the intelligence consensus on Iraq's weapons in 2002 as officials prepared for war, making it appear more imminent and threatening than was warranted by the evidence.

    Yup, all the signs are there: this is a straight leftist propaganda piece disguised as straight news reporting.

    Update: And right next door we have this highly unbiased article: U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is prepared to try to help the United States salvage its Iraq strategy, despite more than a year of rancorous relations over the country, largely due to his deep concern about the potential for a political implosion in Iraq, according to senior U.S. and U.N. officials.

    That Annan is such a wonderful guy, to help out the US now that it's stuck in a quagmire, ain't he?
     
  10. bamthin
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    K.

    ""The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it."

    I guess it's just me but this seems like stark imagery suggesting Saddam Hussein has botulinum toxin. He states that Saddam hasn't accounted for it and that he has given no evidence that he has destroyed it. This is suggesting, rather strongly I might add, that he still has it and this passage was framed in a context that a listener would infer that. On top of that, remember that this is the President of the United States speaking, not Rush Limbaugh, so a regular American automatically will give a large amount of trust to what Bush is saying.

    I think I would have rather heard Bush stressing that the inspectors in Iraq be given more time to investigate the possibility of these things that were in the UNSCOM report. I still don't understand why they were asked to leave and Iraq was invaded. I have never gotten a good answer from a republican on this either.

    -Bam
     

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