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Intelligence, Iraq, and WMD

In the debate about whether the Bush administration distorted the truth in order to make its case for war with Iraq, I haven't seen a better, more concise summary than this e-mail from MoveOn.org:

On March 17th, in the eve of the Iraq war, President Bush told the American people that "intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." (2) White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said simply, "We know for a fact that there are weapons there." (3) And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld elaborated: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." (4)

Now, after two months of searching by the most skilled teams in the military, not a single piece of solid evidence of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs in Iraq has been found. The top 87 sites identified by U.S. Central Command have turned up only vacuum cleaners, a swimming pool for Iraq's Olympic team, and a license plate factory. (5)

Officials in the CIA and other intelligence agencies have complained for months that they have been under pressure to "cook the books" on Iraq intelligence. (6) Worse, a number of the key pieces of evidence that the Bush administration has released have come unraveled:

  • The President's State of the Union claim that Iraq possessed an active nuclear program was based on fraudulent documents that included the forged signature of an official that weren't even in office at the time. (7)
  • The dossier that Prime Minister Blair and Secretary Powell relied upon in critical presentations turned out to have been partially plagiarized from a graduate student's paper from 12 years ago. (8)
  • The claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes, first made by Prime Minister Tony Blair, now appears to have been fabricated. (9)
  • The administration's claim that two tractor trailer trucks found in Iraq housed "mobile weapons labs" has now been disputed by numerous experts inside and outside of the military. An official British investigation has concluded that the trailer trucks were "exactly what the Iraqis said they were -- facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons." (10)
It seems to me that three possibilities exist:
  1. The administration accurately reported the findings of the intelligence community, but these findings were severely flawed.
  2. The intelligence community's assessment of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was accurate, but this assessment was distorted by the administration in order to make stronger its case for war.
  3. Flawed intelligence data was then distorted to make it further suit the administration's purposes.
In other words, either our intelligence community screwed up, our administration lied, or both.

What I find sad about American politics in general is how reflexive it is. Republicans who investigated Clinton for allegedly lying about an affair with an intern don't see the point in investigating Bush for allegedly lying about the reasons for going to war. Democrats who didn't have a problem with Clinton's possible perjury want to go after Bush for possible distortion and exaggeration.

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Comments

the flaws in intelligence supplied on Iraq pre-war, underlies the role of accurate verified information called human intelligence (humint). in the last 50 yrs the US has over relied on technical intelligence and / or human intelligence collected based on informants bought out.(the material base of source recruitment). it is high time the US reverted to the tested humint especially that provided by the ideologically recruited informants

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