Unknown knowns

by John Quiggin on January 26, 2016

In September 2002, according to Politico magazine, Donald Rumsfeld received a report (mostly declassified in 2011) stating that the intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons programs was essentially worthless. For example, the report says:

Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence
The report was seen by Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Defense Secretary and now an adviser to Jeb Bush, but wasn’t shared with President George Bush, or with other members of the Administration, such as Colin Powell. And despite his musings about known and unknown unknowns (unsurprisingly the subject of some sardonic comment in the Politico piece, Rumsfeld showed no doubt in his public pronouncements about the supposed weapons.

This report ought to be (but won’t be) enough to discredit Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz once and for all. Given that they knew that the claimed legal basis for the war relied on spurious intelligence, both are guilty of the crime of a war of aggression. More to the point, in terms of US political debate, a Defense Secretary who sends thousands of US troops to their deaths in pursuit of a goal he knows to be illusory ought to be condemned out of hand.

On the other hand, does the report help to exonerate those who advocated war based on the spurious intelligence being pushed by Rumsfeld? Not to any significant degree. The fact that Rumsfeld was a four-flusher was obvious in December 2002, when Saddam denied having any weapons. As I observed at the time

In the standard warblogger scenario, the declaration was the trigger. Once it came out, the US would produce the evidence to show Iraq was lying and the war would be under way … Instead, Iraq is denying everything but the US is in no hurry to prove that Saddam is lying … The only interpretation that makes sense is that, despite all the dossiers that were waved about a few months ago – including satellite images of ‘suspect’ sites – the Administration doesn’t really have anything
Anyone who wasn’t already committed to war could have followed the same reasoning, and many did.

{ 41 comments }

1

Dean C. Rowan 01.26.16 at 6:37 am

“Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”

I tend to write tentatively, even timorously, using lots of “perhaps”-es and “I think”-s. But this is some fine milquetoast bullshit: “based largely,” “perhaps,” “imprecise…” The fuck?

Perhaps Rumsfeld needs (rather, needed) to brush up on his fundamentals of epistemology. Or so I think.

2

Guano 01.26.16 at 9:32 am

The previous month, Cheney had made a speech in which he said that there was no doubt at all that Iraq had WMD. From then on, everyone who had signed up to the invasion plan would have great difficulty in rowing back and admitting that there were uncertainties: Cheney had bounced them all into having to pretend it was an established fact (and Bush had been on his ranch at the time of Cheney’s speech and may not have been aware what Cheney was going to say). That included the UK government, so Blair put something into his September 2002 dossier saying that he believed that it was an established fact that Iraq had WMD (even though the body of the dossier provides plenty of evidence that there are many uncertainties).

I see that at LGM there is an article claiming that this new revelation doesn’t change anything: the justification for the invasion was the uncertainty, not the certainty. As some of the commenters point out, this is rubbish. In the UK, at least, it wasn’t possible to get the public to accept that there should be an invasion of Iraq while inspections were in progress on the basis of uncertainty: Blair had to argue that it was an established fact that Iraq had WMD and that Iraq was failing to hand over the WMD Blair knew it had.

Blair’s supporters have never been able to show why he said that it was an established fact that Iraq had WMD, except that everyone believed it was an established fact (except for those strange people who didn’t believe it). This is just another piece of evidence that there were other intelligence services (and sections of USA and UK intelligence services) who had grave doubts about this. For example – :

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/30/blair-and-bush-went-to-war-in-iraq-despite-south-africas-wmd-assurances

3

Ze K 01.26.16 at 10:41 am

IMO, their main trick was to pretend, and to instill into the public mind the idea, that existence of WMD would obviously justify an invasion, which, in fact, wasn’t the case at all. And that’s the normal way to perform magic tricks – misdirection. Public discussions of whether WMD did or didn’t exist in Iraq, that was the misdirection, irrelevant hand-waving.

4

JT 01.26.16 at 11:42 am

It is one of the many tragedies of the aftermath of the Iraq that no-one was prosecuted for launching a war of aggression. It’s such a fundamental crime, it seems such a great idea to enforce laws against it, and yet other than as an excuse* to hang the defeated leadership of Germany and Japan I don’t think it’s ever been prosecuted.

*by ‘excuse’ I don’t mean that they weren’t guilty, it’s more that (a) the Russians at least were also guilty of same and (b) they would have hanged them for something else in the absence of those charges

5

Anderson 01.26.16 at 12:56 pm

Probably the only thing that could make an impression at this point would be direct evidence that the intel was intentionally oversold or manufactured. (I always quote Asquith on the war cabinet here: keeping different sets of false data to deceive the public, the Commons, and themselves.) This kind of “boy were we gullible” story has run many times before.

(I tend to think that Cheney and Rumsfeld, at a minimum, did indeed intentionally lie us into war for the Greater Good (is “sic” even necessary here?), but direct evidence is lacking.)

6

Snarki, child of Loki 01.26.16 at 2:00 pm

When they finally released the “Saddam seeking uranium from africa” letter, and an IAEA staffer debunked it IN AN AFTERNOON, it was abundantly clear that the WMD case was bogus.

Please note the use, over and over, of deliberate obfuscation of timelines: “… there was no doubt at all that Iraq had WMD”.

HAD as in, HAD back in the 1980’s, when Cheney GAVE Iraq chemical weapons.

Capitol punishment should be reserved for upper-level government officials that start wars, torture, and kill thousands. Nurenburg II: Short drop, long dangle.

7

Roland 01.26.16 at 2:19 pm

Admiral Byng was shot for less..

8

David 01.26.16 at 2:36 pm

Well, no amount of evidence for Iraqi nuclear weapons (or indeed proof of their existence) could have made an illegal war legal. What the PR campaign did do was make people feel better about going along with an illegal war. (And no, unfortunately, there’s still no mechanism for charging individuals with “aggression” -though there has been some progress in this direction.)
But actually this seems a bit of a storm in a sarin tube. The report of which so much is made, given its origin and its classification, can only have been a sanitised version of the collective wisdom of the US (and probably British) intelligence communities at the time. There would have been little point in sending it to people who already had access to better information from specialist intelligence agencies.
Likewise, there’s nothing particularly shocking in the report itself. Ignorance about these sorts of programmes is pretty much the norm, and attempts to work out what’s going on are usually based on estimates and intelligent guesswork. What’s actually shocking is the way that governments misused the estimates they were given.

9

Ed 01.26.16 at 3:04 pm

The really interesting question about the Iraq War was why evidence showing Hussein had “WMD” wasn’t planted after US forces gained control of the country.

10

James Wimberley 01.26.16 at 3:58 pm

Following on Rowan in #1, “analysis of imprecise intelligence” is extraordinary coming from professional intelligence analysts. They really should know the difference between credibility and precision. The more precise the estimate – “Westland will attack on May 1oth at dawn” – the less likely in general it is to be true. Lowering the precision – “Westland will attack in the first fortnight of May” – narrows the error range. In some cases, when a decision has not yet been taken, no precise estimate is credible. In others, precision adds to credibility: “units of the 22nd Armoured Brigade have been observed entraining for X” is better than “troops have been entraining for X”, since a careful and trustworthy observer would be more likely to notice the unit badges. This is all supposed to be these people’s bread and butter.

Perhaps they just meant “vague”.

11

Roger Gathman 01.26.16 at 4:40 pm

The notion of WMD is inherently pernicious. The bombers sold to the Saudis arent WMD, but Saddam Hussein’s putative nuclear weapons are. The Pakistanis, on the other hand, who actually trade in nuclear bomb making technology and who stole their materials and plans, using Saudi money, were our allies.
The whole exercise in decrepit colonialism stank.
As did the idea that Hussein, who in ten years couldn’t even reconquer Northern Iraq, aka Kurdistan, and never even really tried, had his eyes on the prize and was gonna take on Uncle Sam. Right.
It was an excuse for cretins. Unfortunately, there was an ample supply of them on hand.

12

Daragh 01.26.16 at 4:46 pm

@Guano – I think you missed the point that Farley was trying to make, which was that within the US national security apparatus absence of evidence regarding Saddam’s non-existent WMD program would not be taken as evidence of absence – in fact quite the reverse. That’s not to say that such a stance is right, nor that the predictable catastrophe following the invasion was any less catastrophic and the administration any less morally culpable for invading.

13

Bloix 01.26.16 at 4:53 pm

Rumsfeld is in the midst of a media tour. He’s devised an “app” – a word he says over and over – to play a solitaire game allegedly invented by Winston Churchill, who supposedly played it as a stress-reliever during the war. He was on Colbert’s Late Show last night and there’s a big article about it in the Washington Post this morning.
It has the hallmarks of a PR rehabilitation campaign. (1) Associate yourself with something young (“app”) but venerable (Churchill). (2) Make it address your weakest point, but obliquely (Churchill won a war), so (3) you can’t be questioned your own execrable performance (you’re there to talk about the app!)
Then go on TV and chat about how great Churchill was and how much fun his game is, instead of about torturing people and smashing up a country. And voila! “I saw Rumsfeld on Colbert last night – he’s not so bad.” Just shoot me.

14

Omega Centauri 01.26.16 at 5:23 pm

Dean. Rumsfeld’s epistemology was quite simple, the Cheney doctrine. This is essentially, that if something that sounds really scary could possibly just maybe be true in some universe, it is true. Once you accept that mode of thinking Saddam was an existential threat.

15

P O'Neill 01.26.16 at 5:48 pm

The Politico article has been amended to note that the document has been hiding in plain sight on Rumsfeld’s website since 2011. Doesn’t affect JQ’s point of course.

16

Guano 01.26.16 at 5:51 pm

Daragh #12

“Farley was making the point that “within the US national security apparatus absence of evidence regarding Saddam’s non-existent WMD program would not be taken as evidence of absence – in fact quite the reverse.””

No-one is arguing that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. But how can absence of evidence come to mean evidence of presence (which is “the reverse” as far as I can see)?

17

LFC 01.26.16 at 6:08 pm

Bloix:
Then go on TV and chat about how great Churchill was and how much fun his game is, instead of about torturing people and smashing up a country. And voila! “I saw Rumsfeld on Colbert last night – he’s not so bad.” Just shoot me.

I haven’t been following this, but if this is intended as a PR rehab campaign, I’m not sure it will work. There is always, for better or worse, a reservoir of interest in Churchill in the U.S., but the notion that, of all things, a game of solitaire could cause people to forget what a disaster Rumsfeld made of things is, or so I’d like to think at least, stretching it. Lot of people are gullible, so it might work — but with an audience that watches Colbert, I’m not sure. (n.b. I’ve never really seen Colbert at any length; I’m aware his audience now is prob somewhat different and bigger than before)

18

Theophylact 01.26.16 at 8:10 pm

Doesn’t sound like rehabilitation to me:

“There was an unknown known for the American people,” Colbert said. “It was known that there was not hard evidence, but we were presented a partial picture. And that’s the unknown known that we were denied. Do you think that was the right thing to do?”

As Rumsfeld filibustered, Colbert pressed him, asking, “Were there things that the administration, or you, knew that we didn’t learn about out of the best possible intentions, which is there were things that would undermine the case for a war you thought was necessary to save the United States?”

“The president had available to him intelligence from all elements of the government. And the National Security Council members had that information. It was all shared, it was all supplied. And it’s never certain—if it were a fact, it wouldn’t be called intelligence.”

“Wow,” Colbert replied. “I think you answered my question.”

19

Cassander 01.27.16 at 6:14 am

So Bob Woodward says Bush et al didn’t lie, all the books written by or about the administration by anyone vaguely credible say they didn’t lie, and you think one memo which says “intelligence is imprecise” an assertion that is almost tautological, proves they were lying when they said they thought that a man who repeatedly used chemical weapons still had chemical weapons?

Truly, the power of motivated reasoning is boundless.

As for wars of aggression, they require the acquisition of territory, do they not? Please, remind me, which part of Iraq did the US annex?

20

Cassander 01.27.16 at 6:32 am

21

Dr. Hilarius 01.27.16 at 7:19 am

Cassander @ 19: If I’m wondering where to have lunch and I’m told by a friend that Pete’s is supposed to be good, on the basis of rumor (my friend hasn’t actually eaten there), that might be sufficient for me to chance having lunch there. On the other hand, if I’m planning a war that will kill hundreds of thousands, potentially destabilize an already volatile region of economic importance and cost billions of dollars I might want information of greater reliability. But that’s assuming that I even cared about the truth in first place.

22

Guano 01.27.16 at 9:13 am

The USA and the UK invaded Iraq while weapons’ inspections were in progress. It wasn’t necessary to guess whether Iraq still had WMD or go to war on the basis of uncertain intelligence; they just needed to allow the inspections to continue. They didn’t allow the inspections to continue, and invaded Iraq, and they justified this by claiming that Iraq was in breach of UN resolutions by not handing over the WMD that the USA and the UK knew it had.

This was a lie. No-one had established it as a fact that Iraq had WMD and it wasn’t necessary to invade Iraq on the basis of unknowns.

The first person to lie appears to have been Dick Cheney, in August 2002, who said that there was no doubt that Iraq had WMD. It looks as if the document in question was someone in the intelligence services pointing out that Cheney had gone too far.

23

Times 01.27.16 at 10:29 am

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html

Yes, Iraq had undisclosed chemical weapons beyond what was discovered by or disclosed to the UN inspectors. They’ve also used them before – ask the Iranians and Kurds.

24

David 01.27.16 at 11:29 am

@Guano and others.
Nobody doubts that WMD was a pretext for the invasion, and a poor one at that. But the question of whether Iraq actually had a WMD capability at the time is separate from the question of what the British and US governments said.
The actual technical judgement would have been very difficult, no matter how long the inspectors stayed, because of the problems of proving a negative. And in the case of CW and BW, whilst it’s fairly easy to monitor the destruction of actual weapons, rebuilding that capability is easy if you have a chemical and health industry, both of which the Iraqis did. “We don’t know” or “we are not sure” are therefore quite honest answers to the question “do the Iraqis have any WMD left”. The dishonesty lies in the claim that the evidence proved they did.

25

Guano 01.27.16 at 12:57 pm

“The dishonesty lies in the claim that the evidence proved they did.”

Yes, that is what I am saying, more or less. In 2003 they claimed that the evidence proved certainty, which was untrue and they knew it was untrue.

There is some dishonesty today, in the claims that it was uncertainty that led to the invasion and that there was a debate about uncertainty back in 2003. It would be interesting to have now that debate about uncertainty that we didn’t have in 2003. Do we have to take all the risks involved in regime change to ensure that a country does not re-establish WMD production? What form of inspections are the alternative? What are the relative risks?

26

Cassander 01.27.16 at 4:15 pm

>The first person to lie appears to have been Dick Cheney, in August 2002, who said that there was no doubt that Iraq had WMD.

And I have no doubt that Cheney had no doubts that Saddam had WMD. being wrong is not lying. This is a simple obvious concept, that you, and millions of others ignore it is testament to the boundless need of people, particularly progressives, to ascribe bad motives to people they don’t like, regardless of actual evidence. After all, I see no one here complaining about the Clinton administration’s identical claims in support of their bombing of Iraq.

27

JT 01.27.16 at 4:36 pm

Cassander @19 As for wars of aggression, they require the acquisition of territory, do they not? Please, remind me, which part of Iraq did the US annex?

I am sorry but this is just nonsense, on two levels.
One, wars of aggression involve being the first one to attack, without being in imminent danger of attack. I never heard that territorial acquisition is the defining attribute. For example, the Japanese Empire launched a war of aggression on the United States on December 7, 1941, and it would have been so even if they had stopped and withdrawn their fleets by the end of the year.

Secondly the United States invaded and formally occupied the whole of Iraq in 2003. The fact that it no longer does so is irrelevant. Germany no longer occupies Poland (and in fact occupied Poland for only about as long as the US occupied Iraq) but Germany unquestionably launched a war of aggression on Poland in 1939.

The only open question on the legality of the war is whether a there were existing UN resolutions that could be held to authorise the war. I personally think that’s silly given that the UN wasn’t very supportive of the venture in 2003, but I believe it’s the only plausible legal defence

28

Guano 01.27.16 at 4:40 pm

#25

Perhaps one day we will see the intelligence briefing that led Cheney to say that there was no doubt that Iraq had WMD. But so far we haven’t seen one, though we did start off this discussion with an intelligence document that said there were many doubts.

So Cheney was lying, or possibly Cheney is delusional and thought the weak evidence meant that there was no doubt.

29

cassander 01.27.16 at 5:53 pm

@fuano

>But so far we haven’t seen one, though we did start off this discussion with an intelligence document that said there were many doubts.

Virtually all intelligence briefing say that there are many doubts. Intelligence is never certain, and analysts are encouraged to quantify doubt and uncertainty. Take, for example, the famous presidential briefing that Bin Laden was determined to attack the US: https://fas.org/irp/cia/product/pdb080601.pdf

It’s one of the more definite that I’ve read, and it’s hardly a full throated cry to war.

>So Cheney was lying, or possibly Cheney is delusional and thought the weak evidence meant that there was no doubt.

Again, I must ask, do you think the Clinton administration officials who made the same claims were lying and delusional? Or Clinton himself, who said “People can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons.”

30

Bloix 01.27.16 at 8:17 pm

“Plenty of the best-informed intelligence sources were certain the WMDs were a fantasy. French intelligence knew it; so did Russia and Germany. The strongest human intelligence collected by the CIA—which secretly came from the Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, and Iraq’s head of intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti—was detailed, correct and ignored. Instead, the administration built its case on Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi (the infamous “Curveball,” a man German intelligence had warned the CIA was unreliable) and Muhammad Harith, a former Iraqi intelligence officer whose information was dismissed by British intelligence as a fabrication 10 months before the war began…

… “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,’’ [Cheney] said. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

But Cheney’s unspoken threat came too late to influence analysts at the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), who were circulating a devastating report with a simple conclusion: The idea that Saddam possessed WMDs was built on air. There was no evidence any Iraqi facilities produced, tested or stored biological weapons. No mobile production plants could be found. They found nothing showing Iraq had the processes to produce chemical devices. The analysts even doubted Saddam had long-range missiles…

When [UN chief inspector] Blix’s inspectors came up empty, the Bush administration demanded that they portray the equivalent of popguns as major threats. For example, officials told Blix that two items found by inspectors—a balsa wood drone with a motorcycle engine and a rusted, decades-old bomb that amounted to little more than a massive paperweight—should be declared violations of the WMD restrictions. When Blix scoffed at this, administration officials anonymously leaked lies that misrepresented what the two items were, falsely declared that the inspection team thought they constituted violations of the U.N. weapons restrictions on Iraq, and attacked Blix for hiding the truth to prevent war…

http://www.newsweek.com/2015/05/29/dick-cheneys-biggest-lie-333097.html

31

casander 01.28.16 at 12:41 am

@Bloix

Again, Clinton spent the 90s saying exactly the same thing.

“The man needs to get rid of his chemical and biological weapons stocks,” feb 6, 2003.

“Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.” December 16, 1998

“We must redouble our efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, such as those that Iraq and other rogue nations have developed.” September 7, 1996

Was he lying too?

32

John Quiggin 01.28.16 at 1:36 am

There’s no doubt that Saddam’s regime had chemical and biological weapons in the 1990s. So, statements from Clinton in the 1990s to this effect aren’t relevant to the issue.

In 2003, Clinton had (AFAIK) no more direct information than the rest of us. Like other supporters of the war (including, I assume, cas(s)ander), he accepted assurances from the US and UK administrations that were obviously false, given their failure to come up with the promised goods in December 2002. In any particular case, it’s impossible for an outsider to judge whether this reflected credulous faith in public officials, or acceptance of spurious claims that matched your political preference.

Perhaps, cassander, you could enlighten us based on your own experience. Why did you fall for the dodgy dossiers, when did you realise there weren’t any weapons and how did you respond to this realisation? Or, contrary to appearances, were you an opponent of the war all along?

33

Cassander 01.28.16 at 3:32 am

@jq

>So, statements from Clinton in the 1990s to this effect aren’t relevant to the issue.

Ah, and on what day then did Saddam destroy all his weapons and anyone saying the opposite became a liar? Jan 20 2001, perhaps? How convenient for you.

>In 2003, Clinton had (AFAIK) no more direct information than the rest of us

Expect for years of classified briefings on the subject, his security clearance, which ex presidents retain, and the immense web of connections an ex president has.

>In any particular case, it’s impossible for an outsider to judge whether this reflected credulous faith in public officials, or acceptance of spurious claims that matched your political preference.

I agree. So why do you keep insisting Cheney was a liar?

>Perhaps, cassander, you could enlighten us based on your own experience. Why did you fall for the dodgy dossiers,

I never much cared about wmd in Iraq. I just wanted to hang Saddam for his multiple genocides. Unlike some, apparently, I don’t stop believing genocide is wrong when there’s a republican in the White House.

34

John Quiggin 01.28.16 at 5:06 am

” So why do you keep insisting Cheney was a liar?”

I never mentioned Cheney. The point of the OP was that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were liars. In Cheney’s case, I’ve seen enough to make the judgement that, like you, he didn’t care whether the WMD story was true or not. Like you, he wanted a war, and didn’t care about either the morality and criminal of starting a war of aggression on a spurious basis, or about the hundreds of thousands of people who would die to give him the satisfaction of seeing Saddam at the end of a rope.

As regards Clinton, I have no idea why you would think I am carrying water for him. I don’t think he lied in the statements you quote, but he certainly lied when he claimed in 2007 that he had never supported the war, and on many other occasions,

35

cassander 01.28.16 at 6:09 pm

>I never mentioned Cheney. The point of the OP was that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were liars.

The same question applies. If them, why not Clinton?

>either the morality and criminal of starting a war of aggression on a spurious basis,

Saddam’s genocides are spurious now?

> about the hundreds of thousands of people who would die to give him the satisfaction of seeing Saddam at the end of a rope.

Given the number of people who were dying under Saddam, around 10-20k a year, and that the violent death total in the the invasion almost certainly saved lives.

>I don’t think he lied in the statements you quote,

So, let me get this straight. Your claim is that in 2003 when clinton said that Iraq had WMDs he wasn’t lying, but Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, who had access to exactly the same information, did? How does that work?

36

John Quiggin 01.28.16 at 10:49 pm

The same question applies. If them, why not Clinton?

Read the OP, FFS.

37

Ecrasez l'Infame 01.28.16 at 11:46 pm

It stuns me that I’ve never seem anyone do a proper analysis of this.

Roughly, United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 gave Saddam an obligation to destroy remove or make safe WMD (repeated ad nauseam afterwards).

Bush then took a very conservative position in his ultimatum speech, much more conservative than the shit the press was feeding the public: “For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged to reveal and destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War in 1991.” etc.

And US troops found plenty of stockpiles of WMD, which still exist. However, not the state of the art facilities bullshit about in the run up to war. See:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html

http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/india-completes-chemical-weapons-disposal-iraq-declares-stockpile/

So – though the intelligence leaked to the press was bullshit – Iraq wasn’t disarmed, and official declarations by the US gov have very wide room for interpretation. I think it’s extremely debatable who’s right. It really depends on the exact parsing of “make safe” and what a country with such a vast WMD program can/should reasonably be expected to do to destroy it. But Iraq certainly had WMDs and WMDs the inspectors didn’t know about.

38

John Quiggin 01.29.16 at 1:37 am

“US troops found plenty of stockpiles of WMD”

This is incorrect. They found “remnants of long abandoned programs”, to quote the NY Times piece.

39

Asteele 01.29.16 at 2:10 am

Hey I’ll just cut and paste what I wrote a year ago, when we were having this exact same conversation.

“Literally no one at the time was talking about a handful of non-functional 25 year=old warheads.”

40

Ecrasez l'Infame 01.29.16 at 2:27 am

Remnant just means a part that remains. Something can be a remnant and a stock, to quote the NYT they use 3 stockpiles and 4 stocks.

Much of the chemical stockpile was expended in the Iran-Iraq war or destroyed when the weapons programs were dismantled after the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But thousands of chemical shells and warheads remained, spicing the stockpile of conventional ordnance left unsecured in 2003

That was in 2004, he said, when his team found a mustard shell in a conventional ordnance cache… The team decided to put the mustard shell with the high-explosive shells and, he said, “get rid of it.”…The tech who exploded a mustard shell in 2004 said the disposal teams had little time to register and report each item they found in Iraq’s stockpiles. Everything, he said, went into demolition piles.

But one bunker, a massive, cruciform structure, still contained a menacing dud — a 2,000-pound airdropped bomb among a stockpile of sarin-filled rockets, according to people familiar with the complex.

American chemical warfare specialists also knew, disposal technicians and analysts said, that in the 1980s Iraq had mastered mustard agent production in its Western-built plant. Its output had been as pure as 95 percent and stable, meaning that the remaining stock was dangerous.

Like most incidents in which American troops encountered chemical weapons in Iraq, Operation Guardian was not publicly disclosed. By then adherence to the international convention, and the security of the stock, was not much longer a Pentagon concern.

But it had not shared this data publicly. And as it prepared to withdraw, old stocks set loose after the invasion were still circulating. Al Muthanna had still not been cleaned up.

Iraq took initial steps to fulfill its obligations. It drafted a plan to entomb the contaminated bunkers on Al Muthanna, which still held remnant chemical stocks, in concrete.

41

John Quiggin 01.29.16 at 2:51 am

Checking on your “Stockpiles”.

1. A reference to the chemical stockpiles as being mostly expended or destroyed

2. A reference to “the stockpile of conventional ordnance”,

3. A reference to the teams demolishing “Iraq’s stockpiles” of conventional ordinance

4. Looks like a hit, until you read the para immediately preceding

During the occupation, little remained of Al Muthanna. The United States had destroyed much of it from the air in the 1991 gulf war. United Nations demilitarization in the 1990s had made the grounds a boneyard.

Nice try, but no stockpile of chemical weapons.

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