Unchangeable minds

by John Quiggin on February 1, 2004

Among the famous quotes attributed to JM Keynes, one that stands out is

When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir

I am reminded of this whenever I read discussions of what was in the minds of those who pushed us into the Iraq war. It’s regularly stated that the behavior of Saddam Hussein in obstructing weapons inspections led analysts to assume he had something to hide. I shared this view until late 2002, and was reinforced in this by the behavior of Bush and Blair, including the various dossiers they published and the push for UN Resolution 1441 – they acted like police who had their suspect dead to rights, and only needed a search warrant.

In November and December 2002, however, the facts changed. First Saddam announced that he would readmit UN inspectors, without restrictions on the sites to be inspected and that he would declare all his weapons. Then he proceeded to do just that, claiming to have no weapons at all. Meanwhile Bush and Blair suddenly started hedging about the nature of the knowledge they had declared. The same pattern proceeded right up to the outbreak of war. Time after time, some condition would be declared crucial by Bush and Blair (overflights, interviews with Iraqi scientists, out-of-country interviews with Iraqi scientists), the Iraqi government would agree after a brief delay and then new condition would be raised. As quite a few observers noted, the behavior was the same as that of the Austro-Hungarian government with respect to Serbia in 1914.

Given the change in facts, any unbiased observer would have concluded, correctly that the balance of probabilities favored the hypotheses Bush and Blair were bluffing and that there were no weapons of mass destruction in usable form. I drew precisely this conclusion at the time, though with the mistaken corollary that Blair would stick to his word and refuse to go to war once Saddam called their bluff.

If those facts weren’t enough, it was obvious that, if Saddam did have weapons he would use them in the early days of war, preferably before Coalition troops had entered the country. Thus, it was apparent by the first days of the war that (with probability close to 1), there were no usable weapons. The fact that the contrary belief prevailed for so long is testament to the power of faith in the face of experience.

{ 84 comments }

1

bad Jim 02.01.04 at 10:45 am

An excellent compendium of the arguments against this war, which in the end may give its exponents too much credit. Perhaps they were simply stupid.

2

bad Jim 02.01.04 at 10:47 am

An excellent compendium of the arguments against this war, which in the end may give its exponents too much credit. Perhaps they were simply stupid.

3

bad Jim 02.01.04 at 10:48 am

This empty post left intentionally blank.

4

Bernard 02.01.04 at 1:46 pm

This horse you’re beating, I think it’s dead.

But that’s an observation made by one of the “simply stupid.” Feel free to ignore it.

5

Barry 02.01.04 at 2:14 pm

I’d also add that it’s a testament to the power of the mass media, when ~90% of it supports something. In the USA, Fox News and CNN had logos and slogans and theme music ready for the war as soon as it was announced. They clearly wanted it.

6

jdsm 02.01.04 at 2:44 pm

I actually supported the war but your post is an excellent example of why I feel a bit stupid.

Interestingly, even some of the hawks in the US realise the damage this has done to their credibility. When I see Tony Blankley (of the Washington Post) saying what a mess the whole thing was (on MSNBC), I know something’s up. To be fair, he did blame the intelligence services rather than the policy makers but it’s a start.

7

Mark 02.01.04 at 3:26 pm

Mea culpa. Liberal hawk who feels stupid. Many of my friends were convinced that if George Bush was pushing this war, it must be wrong. I argued based on the “facts”, broken clock is right twice a day and all. I should have trusted my instincts about Bush.

8

David Tiley 02.01.04 at 3:29 pm

To a historian, a moment is never completely over. A horse which is being beaten is never truly dead.

With hindsight, the proponents of the war will come out of this very badly. Even if Saddam had his WMD’s, how could he be more dangerous than a raft of other dangerous governments of the last fifty years? At the end of the day he was regulated by the same system that stopped everyone else – deterrence. His army could have been groaning with poison gas, throbbing with anthrax, bristling with atomic tipped missiles, feral with al-Quaeda contacts, and he would still have been no more a threat than the Soviet Union. The Soviets never attacked, the Chinese stayed at home, the Vietnamese were never able to deploy WMD through fifty years of brinkmanship because everybody knew that the US would have separated their enemies atom from atom if they had.

The failure to make that call is one of the wondrous things about the whole war. As it is with Hutton. Of course they sexed it up; the BBC called only a fraction of it. They conjured a war out of nothing.

9

Conrad Barwa 02.01.04 at 3:55 pm

When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir

For some as past events have indicated the answer is quite clearly “Try and change the facts right back!”

10

mlhm5 02.01.04 at 4:34 pm

All things considered, not finding WMD is a great victory for the UN and the world in general, since it proves beyond any doubt the UN sanctions and inspections were working.

11

BF 02.01.04 at 4:49 pm

Sorry folks, your insights into Sunday’s game on Monday morning are not convincing. The “facts” that were most compelling were the track record of Saddam Hussein, and the supposed legitimacy of the UN weapons inspectors’ declarations about unaccounted stockpiles. Well, the inspectors, in whom we placed so much trust, had it wrong again. The last time around, they missed important biological weapons, which were uncovered only with the fortuitious defection of an insider. This time, they said there were unaccounted stockpiles when there were none. They, including Hans Blix, also missed Saddam’s nuclear program in the 1980’s.

Now those who would place so much of your faith in such a process should hazard a guess as to what degree of certainty would be sufficient to go to war, had the decison hinged on your own judgement. Fifty, thirty, ten percent? Threat assessment needs to be a conservative business, especially when dealing with a police state. Who knew Hitler’s nuclear program was barely off the ground? But I shudder to imagine the consequences had it been developed.

After 9/11, comparisons to the Soviet Union or China are nonsensical. By that reasoning Al Queda should not be a threat either.

Some facts never changed and those facts were sufficient.

12

rsn 02.01.04 at 4:50 pm

Actually, Cheney was right: the US should never have gone to the UN for clearance, or used the WMD’s as an excuse, as Blair and Powell did. There was enough momentum to get the country to back a war without the UN.

If there is a lesson the American right will remember from the WMD debacle, it is this: next time, no UN.

13

Bernard 02.01.04 at 4:53 pm

“To a historian, a moment is never completely over. A horse which is being beaten is never truly dead.”

A historian should try to understand history, not mold it to fit his understanding. And sorry, but a dead horse is a dead horse. Period.

You know, a useful exercise at this point might be to try to figure out how and why the intelligence assessments were wrong, and what might be done to correct things, rather than gloating over what appears to be for some self-evident proof of their own omniscience. Okay, yeah, I guess everybody should have just *known* Saddam couldn’t–and further, just wouldn’–have done anything to hurt us. It’s nice to believe so, I guess. But I’m not so sure.

Funny thing, that. About uncertainty, I mean. It can cut both ways.

14

BF 02.01.04 at 5:06 pm

“Funny thing, that. About uncertainty, I mean. It can cut both ways.”

Indeed. I’ll tell you tomorrow, with great certainty, who will win the superbowl.

15

Andrew Boucher 02.01.04 at 5:20 pm

Well I didn’t support the war, because I thought the only justification was WMDs, and I didn’t trust the Bush Administration on that score. On the other hand I tend to the isolationalist side of things – e.g. believing even more that the U.S. shouldn’t have bombed ex-Yugoslavia to Hell and back – but I don’t find too many of the anti-Iraq war people who agree with me on that.

For the non-isolationalist there were plenty of good reasons to go to war against Iraq, including getting rid of Saddam Hussein, one of the most murderous thugs of the last half of the twentieth Century. WMDs was never the only reason given by Bush and Co. It is certainly significant that they were wrong on that; but I think Sullivan (?) is right that it undercuts the argument of preemptive war, not the war against Iraq (again, if you’re not an isolationalist).

And I agree with the commenter who said that WMDs took on the significance that they did, only because of the U.N. It provided the causus belli and the “legal” justification (whatever that means), but was not the reason for the war.

16

Conrad Barwa 02.01.04 at 5:42 pm

Threat assessment needs to be a conservative business, especially when dealing with a police state. Who knew Hitler’s nuclear program was barely off the ground? But I shudder to imagine the consequences had it been developed.

Threat assessment relies not just on the mere presence of weapons but the intent and willingness to use them. The “track record” of SH in this regard, suggests strongly that while he was more than happy to do so against Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians, that he would have avoided doing so against any Western troops or major Western ally as this would in no uncertain terms have brought a massive and quite possibly nuclear retaliation. I am thinking brutish as SH is, he is basically a sybarite for whom self-survival and staying in power is the overriding goal.

Also what matters is not whether one is dealing with a “police state” or not; but what the evaluations of that state’s external policy and strategic interests are. Pakistan is a military dictatoship with nuclear weapons and with a powerful political-Islamist consitituency; but being a militarised state that has for one reason or another amenable to being influenced by the US as regards the WoT this has raised far fewer concerns.

After 9/11, comparisons to the Soviet Union or China are nonsensical. By that reasoning Al Queda should not be a threat either.

WTF?! So the PRC can now be compared to Al-Quada after the WTC attacks?! One would have thought that states should be treated as different actors than nebulous trans-national terrorist networks; even when the two are linked; cf Pakistan frex. The political calculus of cell-based organisations is completely different from that of states, by this reasoning, pre-emptive strikes can be used by any state that sees such a manifest existential threat from another quarter. The results can be disastrous.

Some facts never changed and those facts were sufficient.

Actually, er, no. As a recent report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented “Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile programmes”. Could be my shaky grasp of English here, but this does strongly imply that there was an effort to change at least some of the facts.

17

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.01.04 at 6:00 pm

“First Saddam announced that he would readmit UN inspectors, without restrictions on the sites to be inspected and that he would declare all his weapons. Then he proceeded to do just that, claiming to have no weapons at all.”

Some sites still required a delay of a day or more. Scientists were still intimidated and threatened with execution if they spoke with inspectors. Saddam still restricted the overflights of spy planes. His declaration was the same as he had used right before he banned inspectors from all sites in 1998. He completely failed to account for vast stockpiles which he admitted having before. He failed to allow UN inspectors until there had been a 6 month build up of troops at his doorstep.

The idea that he was cooperating fully is not supportable. But the idea that his actions could be construed as full cooperation is very UN. As is you idea that the standard is ‘useable weapons’.

None of which is to say that I’m happy about the intelligence failures which led us to believe that he actually had useable weapons and bigger programs. But to spin Saddam’s actions into full cooperation is more than a bit much.

18

malcolm 02.01.04 at 6:41 pm

It was very, very OBVIOUS Iraq was not a military or terror threat. It was obvious to me and everyone I know, it was obvious to George Bush and Tony Blair, and it was obvious to most of the world, which was overwhelmingly opposed to the war. It sickens me that I’m supposed to pretend otherwise and enter into polite debate about “intelligence failures” with people who were either played for fools or are being dishonest. I’m not trying to gloat and have no interest in doing so. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to enter into debate with people who so utterly refuse to confront cognitive dissonance.

In addition, these useless diversionary arguments serve to occlude discussion about the far more important (and interesting) issues of what the real motivations (scroll down to ‘The American Dilemma’) for the war may have been.

19

robin green 02.01.04 at 7:16 pm

Sebastian – I’m not surprised scientists were threatened and spy-planes were prohibited:

a) He was an evil, ruthless dictator
b) He was facing the possibility of a US invasion

Any other evil, ruthless dictator facing the same conditions would have probably acted the same way, irrespective of whether he had WMDs.

To put things into perspective, US citizens are not allowed to reveal scientific secrets to Al Queada; and nor would the US be very happy about North Korea or Cuba flying spy planes over the US.

Ulimately, the US needs to be more careful about supporting nasty regimes which reject human rights – like Saddam’s Baath Party. It’s kind of predictable that a strongman dictator like Saddam would ignore the suffering of his people under sanctions and would obstruct weapons inspections. Democratic states are easier to negotiate with without resorting to murderous sanctions or murderous wars, because they have to ultimately answer to their populations. For long-term strategic reasons, the US should support rapid democratisation in Iraq, as it claims to. I hope it does.

20

chris hall 02.01.04 at 7:23 pm

Conrad: As long as you’re quoting CEIP’s Joseph Cirincione, consider this:

    Iraq almost certainly does not have nuclear weapons; but it almost certainly does have large numbers of chemical weapons and some biological weapons or agents.

–Joseph Cirincione (emphasis added)

Incidentally, Joseph Cirincione was on NPR this morning, telling the more recent version of his story.

21

John Quiggin 02.01.04 at 8:45 pm

“Some sites still required a delay of a day or more.”

Could you give a source for this, Sebastian – it doesn’t match my recollection.

22

Bob 02.01.04 at 8:48 pm

In his statement resigning from the BBC, Gilligan is again repeating the profound heresy that the government did sex up the September 2002 dossier on Iraq’s WMD:

“The Government did sex up the dossier, transforming possibilities and probabilities into certainties, removing vital caveats; the 45-minute claim was the ‘classic example’ of this; and many in the intelligence services, including the leading expert in WMD, were unhappy about it.” – from: http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=2473510
or http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3446443.stm

I have to say that on the basis of the written evience submitted to the Hutton Inquiry, he seems to be correct.

There was this letter from a senior official on the Defence Intelligence staff:

“Your records will show that as [blanked out] and probably the most senior and experienced intelligence community official working on ‘WMD,’ I was so concerned about the manner in which the intelligence assessments for which I had some responsibilty were being presented in the dossier of 24 September 2002, that I was moved to write formally to your predecessor, Tony Cragg, recording and explaining my reservations.” – from: http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/evidence/mod_4_0011.pdf

We know too that Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, had emailed John Scarlett just a week before the dossier on Iraq’s WMD was launched on 24 Septmeber 2002:

” . . First the document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam. In other words it shows he has the means but it does not demonstrate he has the motive to attack his neighbours let alone the west. We will need to make clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have the evidence that he is an imminent threat. . . ” – from: http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/evidence/cab_11_0069.pdf

What changed during a week in respect of the imminent threat from Iraq?

We can see from other Inquiry documents that Alastair Campbell, Blair’s head of communications, was driving the drafting of the dossier. Six days before publication, John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, clearly believed the dossier was owned by “No 10”.

What we also now know is that:

“British forces went into battle in the Iraq war without protective equipment against weapons of mass destruction – the very ‘threat’ used by Tony Blair to justify joining the American-led invasion. Not one single tank or armoured vehicle was fitted with the required filter to guard against chemical and biological attacks. And the entire stock of vapour detection kits, needed after a suspected chemical attack, was found to be unusable. An official audit found that many soldiers were issued with NBC (nuclear, chemical and biological) suits of the wrong size, making them useless, as well as ill-fitting respirators.” – from (subscription): http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=472468

If Blair really believed the WMD were a real threat, how come British troops were sent into battle, six months after the dossier was produced, without the essential equipment for protection against chemical and biological weapons? That is why another inquiry is necessary. We need to know the truth about the dossier: those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear.

23

BF 02.01.04 at 9:22 pm

“One would have thought that states should be treated as different actors than nebulous trans-national terrorist networks”

Well, there’s the problem in a nutshell. One properly tries to guage a threat based upon known or assessed capabilities, and history of the actors, not upon whether or not they are a “state”. Perhaps Sept. 11 did not alter your assessment of Al Qaeda as a threat? Perhaps you regarded Iraq as just another thugocracy that did not warrant special attention? Well, the historical facts argue otherwise.

So we had a “state” – really a collection of thugs not terribly unlike Al Qaeda in its contempt for humanity – that had actively supported various terrorist groups, and continued to do so, which proclaimed loudly the rightousness of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, memorialized it in panoramic displays, and whose flagrant breach of the 1991 armistice had not been reconciled – whose French, German and Russian friends were (for years) undermining any notion of containment … and we are told there was no obvious threat – that if PRC and the USSR could be contained, certainly Saddam could. Just maintain the sanctions and inspections.

To those who state that it was “OBVIOUS” Iraq was not a threat, I would ask how they divined their wisdom. How is it they can be sure that enough anthrax to fill a small suitcase – enough to kill hundreds of thousands – was not destroyed in the months before the invasion, or was not hidden and is perhaps still hidden? Three US administrations, bipartisan intelligence panels and UN inspectors thought differently. But you, armed without the necessary facts, had an inside track on the truth.

It is laughable.

24

John Quiggin 02.01.04 at 9:38 pm

” which proclaimed loudly the rightousness of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, memorialized it in panoramic displays”

Sources on this? I’ve only been able to find a statement from Wolfowitz on the first, and nothing on the second.

25

malcolm 02.01.04 at 9:44 pm

BF: You are right that that would be laughable, but it was also not the case. Present and past US administrations obviously did not see Saddam as a real military or terror threat. You are very naive to conflate their pr with their actual geopoliticking.

You are also making a large error in conflating two seperate issues – whether Iraq had banned weapons, and whether it was a threat. I was agnostic on the former – though it was obvious that they did not have Nuclear Weapons, and that the Bush Administration was grossly inflating their intelligence about what they might have had. However, the latter issue was, as I said in my previous post, “very, very OBVIOUS”.

In all honesty though, I don’t know why I am bothering with this. Discussing politics with somebody who can’t understand this stuff is about as interesting as discussing mathematics with someone with no knowledge of simple arithmetic. I am genuinely sorry to be so rude about it, but you were obviously wrong, and you refuse to entertain any cognitive dissonance.

26

Antoni Jaume 02.01.04 at 10:04 pm

Saddam Hussein could not do anything against spy planes beyond protesting, since as soon he got one radar working, US/UK forces destroyed it. A spy plane can go from Turkey to Kuwait in an hour, without radars, they are essentially undetectables.

DSW

27

Douglas 02.01.04 at 10:29 pm

Chris writes:

“If those facts weren’t enough, it was obvious that, if Saddam did have weapons he would use them in the early days of war, preferably before Coalition troops had entered the country.”

That is simply wrong. Inspectors found massive amounts of chemical weapons following the first Gulf war in 1991 and yet Saddam used none of them then either.

Furthermore, chemical and biological weapons are extremely difficult to prepare and handle on the battlefield. Indeed, many of the chemical weapons Saddam used in the war with Iran were prepared from precursor materials on the battlefield itself. If an advacning enemy moves too quickly it becomes impossible to deploy them with any effect. If weather conditions are not right, the gasses and aerosols may dissipate before reaching their targets (you’ll remember that the American advance to Baghdad was temprorarily halted by a large sandstorm).

They must also be used in gigantic quantities to have the desired effect (after the Iran-Iraq war it emerged that Saddam had used chemical weapons so liberally that he had in many cases succeeded in killing his own troops) and this requires the production of large stockpiles. At the same time, such weapons do not have a long shelf-life. This means that battle must last long enough for such stockpiles to be produced and therefore that those who would use them must maintain a “just in time” capacity with the ability to mix precursor materials on demand. If the opposing army moves too fast, this of no use.

Therefore, such weapons are of no use in resisting an American invasion but may well be useful in launching one’s own or in fighting less capable armies such as Iran’s Saudi Arabia’s or Kuwaits. Of, of course, in exterminating defenseless Kurdish civilians. (I have posted at length on this subject on my blog.)

Therefore, Chris is in error when he draws this picture of the way our understanding of Iraq’s non-existent WMD capacities emmerged during the war and immediately afterwards.

We now know that columns of Iraqi fighters believed even in battle that other divisions had WMD capacity and could use it. It may be true that not only was the West wrong in thinking Saddam had WMDs, many in his government were, too.

This is not a political question but a technical one. Yet I see that many seem to feel as though a political argument could decide it. Such confusion is is the last thing any of us needs.

28

FransGroenendijk 02.01.04 at 10:33 pm

Not like Andrew B my main reason for opposing war on Iraq was that I believed the possibility of WMD in the hands of Saddam: if he had them and Iraq was invaded then that was the moment he would most probably use them (or threat to use them on Israel). He did not.
I never heard any of the people supporting the war commenting on this.
So I was happy to be wrong on this. Sad that the untrustworthiness of the US-administration was even bigger than I feared.
ps: very nice quote, I add to the quote-category on my site

29

BF 02.01.04 at 11:29 pm

“Discussing politics with somebody who can’t understand this stuff is about as interesting as discussing mathematics with someone with no knowledge of simple arithmetic. I am genuinely sorry to be so rude about it, but you were obviously wrong, and you refuse to entertain any cognitive dissonance.”

Yes, you are rude – and arrogant, and pouting because you cannot deign to entertain an opposing argument. Your position is based on pure faith of your own righteousness. You think you would do much better than George Bush with the facts he had in hand. I doubt it. But then, you’re so much smarter than the President of the United States, aintchya? There’s a job opening for you at the BBC, prig.

30

BF 02.01.04 at 11:42 pm

“Sad that the untrustworthiness of the US-administration was even bigger than I feared”

As opposed to the trustworthiness of Saddam Hussein or the inspectors? Neither had much of a track record of trustworthiness. Perhaps we should place our faith in the trustworthiness of Putin or Chirac? Now there’s an investment in trust.

There are too many unanswered questions for this degree of finger pointing.

If Europeans want better intelligence, which after all, is in their security interests, why don’t they freakin’ pay for it? If you don’t want to depend on US arms and US judgement for your security, cough up the cash and pay for it yourselves. Then your second guessing will have some resonance. I’ll put Bush to coals with my vote, because I paid for that poor intelligence, and I’m paying for this war.

31

Conrad Barwa 02.02.04 at 12:17 am

One properly tries to guage a threat based upon known or assessed capabilities, and history of the actors, not upon whether or not they are a “state”. Perhaps Sept. 11 did not alter your assessment of Al Qaeda as a threat?

Eh? Did I miss something here, I am not sure what this means or what the logic is. I simply asserted that the cost-benefit calculations of terrorist networks differs from states; as do some other aspects of their behaviour. How you think this somehow turns into saying that Al Qaeda is not threat before or after the WTC attacks is a little bit beyond me.

Perhaps you regarded Iraq as just another thugocracy that did not warrant special attention? Well, the historical facts argue otherwise.

Huh? What historical facts? I am a bit confused here.

So we had a “state” – really a collection of thugs not terribly unlike Al Qaeda in its contempt for humanity – that had actively supported various terrorist groups, and continued to do so, which proclaimed loudly the rightousness of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, memorialized it in panoramic displays, and whose flagrant breach of the 1991 armistice had not been reconciled – whose French, German and Russian friends were (for years) undermining any notion of containment … and we are told there was no obvious threat – that if PRC and the USSR could be contained, certainly Saddam could. Just maintain the sanctions and inspections.

Er, you are aware that the US currently continues to support states which sponsor CBT groups against other states, aren’t you? Your argument would only make sense if there was some clear evidence that the erstwhile Iraqi regime has links with Al Qaeda and from what I understand this was ruled out by the Western intelligence agencies; some of whom, including the British and I believe the CIA, warned that any potential invasion would actually increase the prevalence of terrorism and create the conditions for such co-operation.

How is it they can be sure that enough anthrax to fill a small suitcase – enough to kill hundreds of thousands – was not destroyed in the months before the invasion, or was not hidden and is perhaps still hidden?

Ummm, maybe something called deterrence and a calculation of risks. I mean by this logic there is nothing to say that Pakistan could smuggle in a dirty bomb or the PRC launch a pre-emptive missile strike. These things are possible, but highly unlikely and to base military action on them, is in my view, somewhat unwise.

Three US administrations, bipartisan intelligence panels and UN inspectors thought differently. But you, armed without the necessary facts, had an inside track on the truth.

Well, the US admins were concerned with overseeing US strategic interests – which is what they were elected to do as it every democratic national govt. I would be extremely nervous if any state govt elected or otherwise suddenly took it upon itself to run around the globe disarming and invading states thought to have WMD and who were deemed ‘unfit’ to possess them. As I said, a threat assessment is that, an assessment – it is not meant to be a judgement from God written in stone, those things are called Commandments and are meant to be unquestioningly obeyed. As it is, I see no reason why suddenly those who argued that Iraq did not pose the kind of threat it was presented as, and who have so far largely been proved to be not far off the mark, immediately need to start justifying ourselves to those who were in favour of an ill-planned rush to war.

It is laughable.

On one level, it is quite laughable indeed, given the degree of denial involved. The reason why I am not laughing is because people have died as a result of decisions made, continue to do so and an almighty mess remains to be cleared up. This somehow makes me takes the joy out of any laughter.

32

Conrad Barwa 02.02.04 at 12:24 am

Chris Hall,

To be honest with you, my position is that nuclear weapons were the main concern given their potency. Nuclear proliferation has always been the main concern, due to their ability to change the strategic balance so quickly in favour of those who possess them – another nuclear-capable state in the ME would seriously reconfigure the equations involved between contending powers. Bio-Chem weapons are nasty but I don’t think they are in the same league, the main reason I surmise that they have been included in the WMD label is due to their visceral repulsive effect and a degree to fudge the issue. Chemical weapons after all have been used by several other states in the region, including at least one current US ally; of course since these were for the most part directed against Arab and civilian populations there isn’t/wasn’t the same level of concern present. I think from as things stand, Iran now poses the most serious concern and will pretty much push to achieve nuclearisation as soon as possible; given external scrutiny and international constraints. Barring of course either a major re-ordering of its strategic calculations or some sort of regime change.

33

BF 02.02.04 at 12:36 am

“‘ which proclaimed loudly the rightousness of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, memorialized it in panoramic displays’
Sources on this? I’ve only been able to find a statement from Wolfowitz on the first, and nothing on the second.”

There were several video newscasts of this, both before the war and during. These were panoramic displays of the world trade center towers being impaled by jet planes. Hardly the spontaneous free expression of the citizenry in Saddam’s Iraq I would think.

34

John Quiggin 02.02.04 at 12:49 am

Sorry to be picky, bf, but your comment above is just a restatement of your earlier claim – can you provide a source?

35

BF 02.02.04 at 1:20 am

“As it is, I see no reason why suddenly those who argued that Iraq did not pose the kind of threat it was presented as, and who have so far largely been proved to be not far off the mark, immediately need to start justifying ourselves to those who were in favour of an ill-planned rush to war.”

You have no need to justify or explain, as your guess work may have been correct. I would expect, however, that you be honest in admitting it was guesswork, rather than, after the fact, parading your guess as reasoned insightfulness.

“I mean by this logic there is nothing to say that Pakistan could smuggle in a dirty bomb or the PRC launch a pre-emptive missile strike. These things are possible, but highly unlikely and to base military action on them, is in my view, somewhat unwise.”

Likeliness has to take into account the track record of the regime and the possibility of retribution. Your PRC example, is for this reason, ridiculous. France could also smuggle in a dirty bomb, but this would not be considered realistic. When you pose a straw man argument, at least make it reasoned.

“On one level, it is quite laughable indeed, given the degree of denial involved. The reason why I am not laughing is because people have died as a result of decisions made, continue to do so and an almighty mess remains to be cleared up.”

What denial? I am prepared to say that the intelligence was wrong, if after all the facts are known, this appears to be the case. I am not prepared to accept your smug righteousness proclaiming how obvious this all was from the start. Nor can I accept that Iraq and Iraqis would have been better off left alone. Ask the Kurds and the Shia.

Perhaps you can share your insights with us and illuminate the collusive purposes of George Bush and Tony Blair?

36

BF 02.02.04 at 1:23 am

“can you provide a source”

Sorry John, I cannot give you a source. It was television coverage in both instances. They did show the murals.

37

Steve Carr 02.02.04 at 1:43 am

Here are photos of two Iraqi pro-9/11 murals, for whatever it’s worth: http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=9312_Saddams_9-11_Connections

38

andrew 02.02.04 at 2:06 am

John Q.: as for Sebastian et al’s claims of Iraqi non-compliance, “no access to palaces, delays of a day” etc., I offer this:

Hans Blix’s United Nations security council report on January 27 and another on on Febuary 14.

The choice bits:
“Iraq has on the whole cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field. The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt”

“we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming.”

“More than 200 chemical and more than 100 biological samples have been collected at different sites. The results to date have been consistent with Iraq’s declarations.”

But I doubt this will change anyone’s minds.

I completely agree with John Q’s assessment, BTW, even if he is more charitable than I would be. I followed the Iraq WMD story from the mid-90’s due to my opposition to the murderous sanctions, and remember quite well the inspectors in 1998 stating that “Iraq had been effectively disarmed”. And the IAEA’s numerous reports, like this one in February 2003, leaving no doubts. Here’s Mohammed:

“As I have reported on numerous occasions, the IAEA concluded, by December 1998, that it had neutralized Iraq’s past nuclear program and that, therefore, there were no unresolved disarmament issues left at that time.”

In Feb. 14, 2003, “We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq.

For those who insist that “Saddam sure was acting guilty for an innocent person”. If you look at the reality, instead of what our president mouthed and media repeated as fact, the story is obviously different. He did not claim to still have weapons, he was not flouting the inspectors, he was, on the whole, complying. Tariq Aziz said that the US was lying, that Iraq did not possess banned weapons, and said that the inspectors would show the American lies to the world. Well, they did, just not to the US populace.

Mohammed says, ” The Government of Iraq reiterated last week its commitment to comply with its Security Council obligations and to provide full and active cooperation with the inspecting organizations

..Seriously, there was quite enough evidence to come to the proper conclusions. Those who didn’t then, didn’t want to. Who knows what they are doing now.

Sorry this was dreadfully long.

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BF 02.02.04 at 2:27 am

“If you look at the reality, instead of what our president mouthed and media repeated as fact, the story is obviously different. ”

That should be “after the fact” Andrew. You chose to look at reality by dismissing some reports and accepting others. You held confidence in one set of data, others held confidence in a different set. Well, he either had ’em or he didn’t Coin flips tails, and now it becomes a matter of your insight into what was obvious, vs the dull sensibilities of the rest. I don’t think this picture is honest or realistic. I took the UN Inspectors at their word when they noted all the unaccounted for chemicals. I thought that if US intelligence as well as German intelligence had data about a nuclear program, it should be not be dismissed. Indeed it should not have been dismissed if it was credible. In hindsight, we see that it is people at the intelligence agencies that should be dismissed. But neither you nor I could have known this. Those who say it was obvious are just passing gas.

40

Walt Pohl 02.02.04 at 4:16 am

bf: Wake up! The Bush administration either a) lied about the WMDs, or b) screwed up royally. In either case, he’s played you and me for a fool. (I supported the war too.) Now you’re just giving him permission to get away with it.

41

Marco 02.02.04 at 4:31 am

Uranium from Niger. Aluminium tubes for centrifuges. Killer drones. Atta and the Iraqi. 45 minutes.

*snoozes*

42

BF 02.02.04 at 5:05 am

Perhaps, Walt, life can be more complex than your white-black analysis. Somebody may have indeed screwed up royally – that would most likely be US intelligence, German intelligence, French intelligence and the UN inspectors. Or perhaps, as Dr. Kay suggests, even the Iraqis were under the impression there were WMD, and therefore, even spies on the ground could not have gotten it right.

I have no cause for protecting Bush. I didn’t vote for him, nor will I in November. I don’t think he or his administration has handled this well. But the “Bush lied” crowd are the same sorts who claimed that WMD would be planted by the CIA if they were not uncovered. They are the same crowd that called for an international police force in response to Afghanistan, and predicted millions of refugees and mass starvation as the inevitable result of both wars. I don’t pretend to know the motivations of George Bush or have special insight into the truth without being armed with facts. Yes when the facts change, I change my mind. Show me the facts which prove Bush lied. Right now I see intelligence failures.

43

Marco 02.02.04 at 5:53 am

Uranium from Niger. Aluminium tubes for centrifuges. Killer drones. Atta and the Iraqi. 45 minutes.

Okay, don’t read my comment.

44

dsquared 02.02.04 at 5:55 am

I vaguely note that the standards for accuracy of prospectuses is much tighter, and the standard of liability for misstatements much stronger, if you want to float a company on the New York Stock Exchange than if you want to commit $87bn and over a hundred lives to a war, apparently.

45

Walt Pohl 02.02.04 at 7:42 am

If it was the fault of the CIA, then why did the Defense Department feel the need to invent their own intelligence apparatus to cherry-pick information to make a case for war? And if that’s not Bush’s fault, whose is it? And since that person is a political appointment, why haven’t they been fired?

46

bad Jim 02.02.04 at 8:01 am

Typically acute, DD, but you understate the costs. Five figures are needed for lives and twelve for dollars, pounds or euros.

47

roy 02.02.04 at 8:20 am

Walt, the reason they set up a new intelligence shop was because the CIA was systematically exaggerating the threat from Iraq. Rumsfeld and Cheney couldn’t convince Bush that the wild claims from the CIA might be bogus. Bush took the CIA at their word. So Cheney set up a new shop that took a more skeptical look at the CIA’s intelligence in a last minute attempt to avert war. His attempt failed and the CIA succeeded in fooling Bush into war.

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andrew 02.02.04 at 8:31 am

bf: I think that my use of the word “obvious” was a considerable overstatement. I agree with you that a person in good faith could have reached a different conclusion. In fact, if a person weighed the balance of claims and counterclaims before the war, they would be hard-pressed to reach a conclusion contrary to that pushed by the US govt.

I blame the US govt, not those who believed them. But I don’t think I was just lucky to have found this “truth” beforehand. Yeah, I had preconceived opinions, and one might say I cherry-picked the claims that confirmed my opinions, but that’s not exactly true. There was a difference between the sources: the evidence debunking the Admin’s claims was all coming from more objective, and fact-based sources. The source of the “Saddam-scare” evidence was mostly assertions by the US govt. For instance: We would claim that we had specific evidence of blah, blah, facilities, production, etc. But we couldn’t turn it over – compromising our sources, blah, blah. But we finally do turn it over to the UN, they inspect our sites, and come back with “it’s all rubbish.” One one side is an assertion by a very interested party, one the other is a more objective source, looking at facts on the ground.

The US asserts “Saddam is not complying”…but never spells out just what would constitute compliance. If “compliance” is a list of 20 things, and Iraq does 18, but drags it’s feet on two, what does that mean? When one looks at the hard facts, from the UN, as to what issues remained outstanding, a reasonable person would not come to the conclusion that “not complying” was an accurate description of Saddam’s actions.

Again, assertion vs. evidence.

It also seemed to me that the US, wanting to make it’s best case to a skeptical world, would show the world a piece of something. But what has anyone ever seen? There were the drones, the tubes, and the unaccounted for chemicals from the 1980’s. That’s all they offered, so it must have been the best they had.

But this stuff was not reported very well at all. It will come out soon enough, though, and “intelligence failure” will be seen to be an wholly inaccurate description of what occurred. There’s too much of a paper trail on this. The truth couldn’t reach the headlines before because it wasn’t a popular product. But that’s changing. It might have to wait until after the election though, since the Dems gotta be all hard and martial to please the plebes.

Once again, sorry for the long ass post.

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rdb 02.02.04 at 8:39 am

Juan Cole’s 2004-01-28 Bush: Saddam posed grave threat to US

Bush maintains that despite the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Saddam Hussein posed “a grave and gathering threat to America and the world.”

This allegation simply is not true, however much a monster Saddam may be.

Let’s look at the issue Harpers style:

US population: 295 million
Iraq population: 24 million
US per capita annual income: $37,600
Iraq per capita annual income: 700
US nuclear warheads: 10,455
Iraq nuclear warheads: 0
US tons of lethal chemical weapons (1997): 31,496
Iraq tons of lethal chemical weapons (1997): 0
Number of foreign troops and civilians US military has killed since 1968: approx. 2 million
Number of foreign troops and civilians Iraqi military has killed since 1968: approx. 250,000

50

rdb 02.02.04 at 8:58 am

On biological warfare this New Scientist item gives pause:
US develops lethal new viruses

19:00 29 October 03

A scientist funded by the US government has deliberately created an extremely deadly form of mousepox, a relative of the smallpox virus, through genetic engineering.

The new virus kills all mice even if they have been given antiviral drugs as well as a vaccine that would normally protect them.

The work has not stopped there. The cowpox virus, which infects a range of animals including humans, has been genetically altered in a similar way.

Despite the concerns, work on lethal new pox viruses seems likely to continue in the US. When members of the audience in Geneva questioned the need for such experiments, an American voice in the back boomed out: “Nine-eleven”. There were murmurs of agreement.

Wednesday, 25 July, 2001 US rejects germ warfare plan

The United States has refused to sign up to an international agreement designed to enforce a ban on the use of biological weapons.

Washington’s representative to the United Nations-sponsored talks in Geneva said the US was unable to support the draft accord – the result of years of debate – because it would not achieve its goals and would hurt American interests.

Donald Mahley said: “In our assessment, the draft protocol would put national security and confidential business information at risk.”
….

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Marco 02.02.04 at 9:06 am

Walt, the reason they set up a new intelligence shop was because the CIA was systematically exaggerating the threat from Iraq. Rumsfeld and Cheney couldn’t convince Bush that the wild claims from the CIA might be bogus.

Aha!

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john s 02.02.04 at 9:14 am

Andrew,

Have you sexed up your evidence? You cite Hans Blix’s report to the security council of January 27 as unambiguous evidence of the Iraqis’ full cooperation with UNSCOM. But you are very selective with your quotations.

He writes: “The nerve agent VX is one of the most toxic ever developed. Iraq has declared that it only produced VX on a pilot scale, just a few tonnes and that the quality was poor and the product unstable…UNMOVIC, however, has information that conflicts with this account.”

He also writes: “The discovery of a number of 122 mm 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…. The discovery of a few rockets does not resolve but rather points to the issue of several thousands of chemical rockets that are unaccounted for.”

And later “I have mentioned the issue of anthrax to the Council on previous occasions and I come back to it as it is an important one. Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 litres of this biological warfare agent, which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction. There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date. It might still exist.”

Perhaps Hans Blix needed John Q on his team, because he certainly doesn’t seem to have been as sanguine as John is in his post. Blix’s quotes above are from January 2003; John Q knew there weren’t any WMD several months earlier.

In any case we developed world inhabitants are terrified of the consequences of eating beef or GMOs even though the chances of getting KJD from the beef is miniscule and nothing has been proven about GMOs. Yet, somehow, we’re supposed to be insouciant about Saddam and WMD.

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john s 02.02.04 at 9:44 am

Poor Hans Blix kept travelling to Iraq, but still didn’t know whether or not it had WMD in February 2003. John Q knew they didn’t months earlier without leaving Australia! Clearly Hans Blix was one of those obtuse, biased observers he criticises in this post.

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Matthew 02.02.04 at 10:13 am

Great post John! Shame some don’t seem to understand what you’re saying.

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bad Jim 02.02.04 at 10:48 am

somehow, we?re supposed to be insouciant about Saddam and WMD

A generally wreckless driver, I travel by car every day. It’s probably more dangerous than smoking, and I ought to be ashamed that I smoke while I drive, but there you go.

Iraq was just another bloody sideshow. Perhaps America wasn’t still crying for blood, but Bush sensed a hunger and pandered to it.

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Conrad Barwa 02.02.04 at 12:05 pm

You have no need to justify or explain, as your guess work may have been correct. I would expect, however, that you be honest in admitting it was guesswork, rather than, after the fact, parading your guess as reasoned insightfulness.

Actually, no again. There are two separate points here; one was whether Iraq possessed WMD or not and the second was what the threat assessment in either case would have been. While I think all WMD are a bad idea, I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that any state which possesses them should be invaded. “Guesswork” no, since my reasoning is not based on visiting potential Iraqi WMD sites but the likelihood of any threat being posed by SH regime by the late 90s. You seem to think that after 2001 this threat escalated rapidly enough to warrant military action, I beg to differ.

Likeliness has to take into account the track record of the regime and the possibility of retribution. Your PRC example, is for this reason, ridiculous. France could also smuggle in a dirty bomb, but this would not be considered realistic. When you pose a straw man argument, at least make it reasoned.

Wuh? So, your argument that after the WTC attacks it is ok to treat states the same way as one would treat Al Qaeda, is not a strawman? When you put up silly strawman arguments, you can expect a rejoinder in kind.

What denial? I am prepared to say that the intelligence was wrong, if after all the facts are known, this appears to be the case.

Er, good to know. The extreme unwillingness to move in this direction by at least some pro-war proponents suggests otherwise to me.

I am not prepared to accept your smug righteousness proclaiming how obvious this all was from the start.

My ‘smug righteouness’ as you put is confined solely to the fact that I don’t believe that WMD was the main driving force behind the decision to go to war. I am surprised that people still think so. Ah, well.

Nor can I accept that Iraq and Iraqis would have been better off left alone. Ask the Kurds and the Shia.

Rrrright, so we went to war to free the Kurds and the Shia? Apart from the fact that things are still not resolved on the ground and the Shia at least are sitting on the fence to see how things play out, I don’t think that states do go to war, to relieve the domestic oppression within other states. It would be nice if this was the case, but the entire history of international relations suggests otherwise and this was not how the war was sold to the domestic publics concerned. Still, it is nice to know that if the WMD rationale doesn’t pan out; the pro-War crowd can cover their assess by pointing out that they have engaged in a major act of national-liberation. Excuse me if I am less than convinced at this sudden benevolent interest in nation-building.

Perhaps you can share your insights with us and illuminate the collusive purposes of George Bush and Tony Blair?

Erm, what collusion? Bush decided to go to war and Blair reversing his earlier stance decided that it would be better for the UK to be with the US than not with it. I don’t see what there is to explain here; you can believe that Blair made these decisions while thinking of the suffering masses in southern Iraq, those who live in the real world can think that he did so because he calculated it would be in Britain’s best interests. Either way there isn’t much by way of ‘collusion’ to be explained, the reasons seem pretty straightforward to me.

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john s 02.02.04 at 12:50 pm

Conrad, your arguments against anyone pro-war are excellent. On the other hand, if you who are anti-war had succeeded, Saddam would still be in power. States may not invade other states for anything but machiavellian reasons but, even if that’s true, Saddam’s gone. You may have had higher principles (respect for international law etc) but your actions, if successful, would have left Saddam in power. I don’t believe that is preferable to the current situation.

58

BF 02.02.04 at 1:55 pm

“While I think all WMD are a bad idea, I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that any state which possesses them should be invaded. ”

Rrrrright, err, ummm, whoa! good to know…

Conrad, affected incredulity is a cheap, juvenile device, and a poor substitute for rhetoric.

The above argument is not a rejoinder of any substance. It’s ridiculous at face value. Immediate? Is 12 years long enough for ya? Any state? Sure, France is next. I mean, they have WMD and they don’t listen up do they? That Texan is sure enough gonna get ’em.

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Conrad Barwa 02.02.04 at 6:12 pm

Conrad, affected incredulity is a cheap, juvenile device, and a poor substitute for rhetoric.

bf, Okay, look back to how you turn around simple statements about treating state and non-state actors differently into somehow saying that Al Qaeda is not a threat and then think about what exactly passes for a cheap, juvenile device. Like I said, if you use shabby reasoning and then get responded to in kind, I don’t think you can complain too much about it.

Immediate? Is 12 years long enough for ya?

So after having waited for 12 years, the threat suddenly escalated to having to go to war immediately?

Any state? Sure, France is next. I mean, they have WMD and they don’t listen up do they? That Texan is sure enough gonna get ’em.

Well, let me put it this way; what do impact do you think this course of action will have on states that are determined to continue with any potential nuclearisation programme or acquire WMD? Surely the Iraq case set beside the NK one indicates that if one does want to negotiate the best bet is to acquire nuclear capability asap as this will actually lessen the risk of intervention rather than increase it.

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Conrad Barwa 02.02.04 at 7:00 pm

John S,

What you say is true and a perfectly defensible position; I never had a problem with quite a few pro-war folks I know; simply because their reasons for supporting the war were quite clearly based on humanitarian considerations. As almost all of these were people who had spent a lot of their time and energy pursuing all sorts of causes in the past such from East Timor to Chechnya much before they became popular or well known fashionable causes, I had no doubts as to their good faith. I differ from them in the suitability of the intervention as it happened, considering the poor planning about what would happen once the campaign was over and serious miscalculations about localised nationalist sentiment – nobody likes armed missionaries even when they come bringing ‘national liberation’ (the Cold War should have taught us this, if nothing else). The problem is that not much attention was paid to these things; for those who want a viable democratic structure to be put in place in Iraq some concerns remain. Many southern Shi’ites favour democracy not out of any democratic fervour but because the demographics favours them and they feel that they have been denied the fruits of political power by a Sunni elite, the Kurds remain factionally divided into several groups; the two main ones have both at times collaborated with the Ba’athist regime when it suited them and indulged in a fair amount of internecine warfare to the severe detriment of their civilian populations. Genuinely democratic constituencies are few on the ground and imposing democracy from above is a risky process which takes substantial investments of time and resources. This is excluding the problems that exist in central Iraq; I do agree that as things stand a move to a representative Iraqi administration and reconstruction is the most important concern. My only question before the war started, to those who argued for supporting the war on the above grounds, was that if it was acknowledged that humanitarian concern for Iraqis was agreed not to be the prime interest or main motivating factor behind the US-led intervention but that nevertheless the outcome could be a beneficial one in overthrowing a regime that was extremely repressive; what would replace would ultimately be of decisive importance determining whether the position of Iraqis as a whole would have been improved. Such a structure would need to conform to some basic good governance norms as well as at least some democratic and pluralist principles; my only fear is (and was then) that since it is unlikely that the US-UK entered this war with the prime aim of furthering the civil and political liberties/rights of the great mass of Iraqis but for their own reasons, which were less than noble-minded, why exactly are we to believe that if the latter were main impetus for the war that any post-war settlement would not reflect this. Or to put it another way, if we could not trust the govts involved to go to war for the reasons they officially provided – or indeed the right reasons, how can they be trusted to impose the kind of bona fide independent and democratic government that the Iraqis deserve?

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malcolm 02.02.04 at 7:14 pm

bf:

It is you who “cannot deign to entertain an opposing argument” because you can obviously not even understand what I’m arguing. As I said in both my preceding posts, George Bush KNEW that Iraq was not a military or terror threat. It was OBVIOUS to him. I did not know this any better than him. He probably knew it better than me. He was LYING. It is and was very, very OBVIOUS that he was lying.

I have no interest in spending all day attempting to “prove” any of this to anyone whose ideological blinkers are so strong they can not see its sheer obviousness.

And Andrew, I’m sorry, but your claim that “if a person weighed the balance of claims and counterclaims before the war, they would be hard-pressed to reach a conclusion contrary to that pushed by the US govt” is hooey. Probably the majority of the world reached the opposite conclusion, and tens of millions of them marched on it.

John S: It is true that Saddam is gone, and that, in isolation, is certainly a good thing. But that means little in the real world, in which events don’t happen in isolation. One can not make meaningful judgements about a course of action without a sense of the wider context in which a decision was made. Spending quality time with ones children is certainly good in and of itself, but what if one has just seen a woman dragged screaming into an alleyway and, rather than so much as phone the relevant authorities, decides to take ones children to the park?

I believe it is much too early to judge what will come of the invasion of Iraq (civil war is not an unlikely prospect, unfortunately), but I am certain that, in any humanitarian cost/benefit analysis, invading Iraq was among the least productive paths we could have taken. Imagine what that $87 billion could have meant against the spread of aids, which is essentially devastating an entire continent and will soon be devastating another. Or, restricting ourselves to military intervention, the DRC – the site of the bloodiest (and perhaps most ignored) war since World War II – was (and is) a far more urgent candidate than Iraq was.

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malcolm 02.02.04 at 7:19 pm

Just to amend the last sentence of my previous post, the DRC would obviously require a very different sort of military operation (ie. peacekeeping) than we saw in Iraq.

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BF 02.02.04 at 9:14 pm

Good day Malcolm. Still spewing axioms I see. You know nothing of my ideological beliefs mate. Just more bilious hogwash from the arbiter of truth. And here I thought I had been permanently dismissed yesterday. Please make it so. If your not of mind to apologize to me, then f*** off.

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BF 02.02.04 at 9:50 pm

“Well, let me put it this way; what do impact do you think this course of action will have on states that are determined to continue with any potential nuclearisation programme or acquire WMD? Surely the Iraq case set beside the NK one indicates that if one does want to negotiate the best bet is to acquire nuclear capability asap”

That ‘s a fatuous argument because it negates the possibility of ever using force as a deterrent, for fear another state will accelerate their WMDs. If force is off the table, negotiation with states like Iraq becomes fruitless. You assume the events in Iraq would accelerate another state’s WMD program. There’s just as much reason to suppose that it would deter such a program. Your simply choosing the preferred outcome to fit your argument. Well maybe Libya came around because of years of negotiation, or maybe the fate of Saddam had something to do with it? We really can’t say, but I’m sure some on this page will insist it was the former with assured bombast.

As far as NK is concerned, the United States actually did negotiate with NK, and that agreement was broken, as they continued a clandestine nuclear program. Yet, the United States still continues to try to negotiate. Indeed, it is trying to conduct multilateral negotiations involving China, which is the only sensible course of action. So much for “unilateralism”.

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GMT 02.02.04 at 10:51 pm

John S.:

And just what the hell would have been wrong with leaving our former employee in power? The one for whom we (and the UK) supplied the weapons whose spetre is the cover for invasion? For whom we provided diplomatic cover when he used those weapons against civilians?

My country funded death squads and terrorists the length and breadth of Latin America. How stupid would anyone have to be to think that removing Saddam (while leaving so many others) could possibly be our reason for an invasion which in reality had been planned on a completely different basis for ten years and more?

Or is that simply the best place for humanitarian hawks to hide, having been so vilely used?

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GMT 02.02.04 at 10:54 pm

As far as NK is concerned, the United States actually did negotiate with NK, and that agreement was broken, as they continued a clandestine nuclear program. Yet, the United States still continues to try to negotiate. Indeed, it is trying to conduct multilateral negotiations involving China, which is the only sensible course of action. So much for “unilateralism”.
Well, yes, aside from unilateraly abandoning said agreement (after which NK said it was reactivating their nuke program) because the agreement didn’t play well with the Tom Clancy crowd here at home. Yep, that unilateralism.

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GMT 02.02.04 at 10:56 pm

Well maybe Libya came around because of years of negotiation, or maybe the fate of Saddam had something to do with it? We really can’t say, but I’m sure some on this page will insist it was the former with assured bombast.
bf, we have FOX news, we don’t need you.

Libya ran out of money, then got a pat on the back for not doing what it couldn’t do anymore, and we (who had just demonstrated our military limitations) claimed we’d spooked ’em into being good.

And in some quarters, it actually worked. Apparently.

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Conrad Barwa 02.03.04 at 12:22 am

That ‘s a fatuous argument because it negates the possibility of ever using force as a deterrent, for fear another state will accelerate their WMDs.

No, it means that the use of unreasoned force will predictably not be much of a deterrent. As is becoming increasingly clear, whether Iraq had WMD or not was more a pretext for war rather than its main rationale – if disarmament was the prime motivation then conflicting evidence and evidence to the contrary would not have been ignored and supporting evidence would not have been so crudely manufactures. A reasonable view to draw from the run-up to wear is that regimes which are deemed to be legitimate targets on some putative basis can be attacked on the assumption/declaration that they either have WMD or might possess them.

If force is off the table, negotiation with states like Iraq becomes fruitless.

Rubbish, there are a number of other options. Besides, I never said “force is off the table” it is you who put those words into my mouth (yet again); containment rested on the threat of force.

You assume the events in Iraq would accelerate another state’s WMD program.

If the interests of that state clashed with those of the US, hell yeah. Unless a state has already decided to change its external policy, this seems to me the logical conclusion to draw. Of course it doesn’t mean that every dodgy regime is suddenly going to come on the market and start immediately bidding for nuclear technology, these decisions are taken fairly early on and have a long time frame. You think India and Pakistan just suddenly ‘decided’ to go nuclear in 1998?! They had been moving towards this in former case at least from the mid-1960s (after China expanded its arsenal) and in the latter from the early 1970s (after Pokhran-I). My estimate is that states like Iran, would now have decided that they will need to stick with and maintain their nuclear programmes to guarantee their internal autonomy. This might actually lead them to temporarily disavow it and put it on the backburner for a while to defuse any excessive scrutiny but their long-term calculations would not have changed. I am hardly alone in arguing this, I think one of the more relatively recent examples was Laurence Freedman, who a prof of War Studies and Military History from KCL, who wrote an article to this in the FT a while ago.

Your simply choosing the preferred outcome to fit your argument. Well maybe Libya came around because of years of negotiation, or maybe the fate of Saddam had something to do with it?

The fact that Ghaddafi was already seeking rapprochement with the West by having handed over the Lockerbie bombers and was eager to end Western sanctions, played no role at all then? The reorientation from a Pan-Arab to a Pan-Africanist foreign policy and problems with local Islamist extremists also of no relevance? Most reports I saw indicated that the Libyan case was greeted by Brit and Euro diplomats as a vindication of their gradualist approach.

We really can’t say, but I’m sure some on this page will insist it was the former with assured bombast.

Ah, we have only just met and you know me so well already!

As far as NK is concerned, the United States actually did negotiate with NK, and that agreement was broken, as they continued a clandestine nuclear program. Yet, the United States still continues to try to negotiate. Indeed, it is trying to conduct multilateral negotiations involving China, which is the only sensible course of action. So much for “unilateralism”.

Okay, now carefully re-read what you just wrote, and let me add the following: we know that NK ACTUALLY could have serious nuclear capability, we know that the Kim Jong regime ACTUALLY might be whacked out enough to launch nuclear weapons and based on the past 50 years of history the pattern of behaviour by NK leaves us a little nervous so we SENSIBLY involve the PRC (who BTW passed on missile technology via NK to Pakistan well aware of the latter’s nuclear capability but hey only ‘rogue’ regimes disseminate potentially devastating technology like this right?). Note we do not, I repeat, we do not; get ready for an amphibious invasion of NK and a pre-emptive strike on its possible missile sites because there ACTUALLY is a very real and CREDIBLE threat that they have some nukes and will not hesitate to use them if attacked. I think the contrast with Iraq, is quite instructive.

Unilateralism against a state like NK which is either very close to the nuclear threshold or has crossed it, would be a very, stupid act indeed; generally speaking one does not engage in unilateral pre-emptive action in these situations unless really eager for some kind of nuclear encounter. However, wrt Iraq, the fact that the Bush admin had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the UN to try the route of mulilateralism basically to please their Blair ally when they would much rather have by-passed it altogether, speaks volumes.

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Bernard 02.03.04 at 4:22 am

“As is becoming increasingly clear, whether Iraq had WMD or not was more a pretext for war rather than its main rationale…”

You gotta feel for the President and Prime Minister. I mean, to some folks, apparently, no matter what it wouldn’t have mattered; they’d still be a lyin’ pair of scoundrels.

Must be nice never having to worry about lapsing into inconsistency. Or, heaven forbid, ever changing your mind.

Beat a dead horse hard enough, you might even seem to make it flinch. In some quarters that passes as a reason, I guess.

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john s 02.03.04 at 9:15 am

Thanks Malcolm for:

“One can not make meaningful judgements about a course of action without a sense of the wider context in which a decision was made. Spending quality time with ones children is certainly good in and of itself, but what if one has just seen a woman dragged screaming into an alleyway and, rather than so much as phone the relevant authorities, decides to take ones children to the park?”

Great analogy, although I do have trouble working out who, in the context of the Iraq war, is the parent, the kids, the woman and the rapist. Actually, I think I know who the rapist is – it’s America isn’t it? Still, I’m going to use this analogy myself to argue with people why it is depressing that the allies fought Hitler in WWII and, even worse, that they actually won.

Thanks to you too gmt for:

“And just what the hell would have been wrong with leaving our former employee in power? The one for whom we (and the UK) supplied the weapons whose spetre is the cover for invasion? For whom we provided diplomatic cover when he used those weapons against civilians?”

I know, I know. I couldn’t sleep worrying about this. But then I remembered that being against the war would mean I supported Schroeder, Putin and Chirac. And, I mean, Germany was fascist and invaded loads of countries and exterminated people. And France! Napoleon wanted to take over Europe and blow up the sphinx. And, oh my God, Russia! Stalin!! How many tens of millions dead? And they all supplied many more arms (plus a nuclear reactor) to the Iraqis than the US and the UK. Oh, and they supplied Iraq with diplomatic cover when he gassed thousands.

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Conrad Barwa 02.03.04 at 2:41 pm

You gotta feel for the President and Prime Minister. I mean, to some folks, apparently, no matter what it wouldn’t have mattered; they’d still be a lyin’ pair of scoundrels.

As politicians I expect them to lie on occasion (inevitable given the nature of their profession), as the kind of politicians they are I would expect them to lie rather a lot (inevitable by the kind of politics they have chosen to espouse). On an issue of national security and momentous as taking their respective countries to war, I would have hoped that they would make an exception to this pattern and actually try and tell the truth. This does not seem to be the case. The sole difference between me and more trusting souls, is that while both hoped for the best, one of us tended to expect the worst. While congenial optimists who would like to still believe that elected leaders should always be trusted on their say so and rarely lie are free to argue this on trust, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain this faith without denying reason.

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john s 02.03.04 at 2:57 pm

what did they lie about Conrad?

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BF 02.03.04 at 5:59 pm

“Well, yes, aside from unilateraly abandoning said agreement (after which NK said it was reactivating their nuke program) because the agreement didn’t play well with the Tom Clancy crowd here at home. Yep, that unilateralism.”

gmt – the uranium enrichment program started during the Clinton years.

You don’t need me because you have Fox news? Well we also have Galloway, so we don’t need you either… What’s with this page? You all think your reasoning will be better received if you insult me? You meet disagreement with first recourse to your lowest instincts.

Not meant for you Conrad. I’ll get back to you. I don’t get paid by the blog word, but when time permits I’ll get back . I have to make a living in the meantime.

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BF 02.03.04 at 6:00 pm

“Well, yes, aside from unilateraly abandoning said agreement (after which NK said it was reactivating their nuke program) because the agreement didn’t play well with the Tom Clancy crowd here at home. Yep, that unilateralism.”

gmt – the uranium enrichment program started during the Clinton years.

You don’t need me because you have Fox news? Well we also have Galloway, so we don’t need you either… What’s with this page? You all think your reasoning will be better received if you insult me? You meet disagreement with first recourse to your lowest instincts.

Not meant for you Conrad. I’ll get back to you. I don’t get paid by the blog word, but when time permits I’ll get back . I have to make a living in the meantime.

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malcolm 02.03.04 at 6:33 pm

You missed my point, John S. The comment about taking ones children to the park was not an analogy for the Iraq war. It was a somewhat tangential demonstration of the truism that context must play a role in any moral considerations. I would have thought that the preceding sentence would have made this clear, and that it was obvious that the following paragraph was meant to be an application of this principle. If not, I apologize.

I should warn you, however, that your absurd comment about World War II as well as your failure to even address the less truistic part of my argument (ie, the paragraph which succeeds the one you quoted) suggests that your response was at least partly in bad faith.

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John S 02.03.04 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for your apology Malcolm. It was totally unnecessary but very nice. And I apologise in turn. Mine’s not for bad faith but for teasing you.

I did understand your point about context, but I don’t see what that context is and I don’t see why that context (whatever it is) makes action against Saddam wrong today but perfectly ok against Hitler. What’s different?

I take your point about the $87 billion cost of war and AIDs, but I probably wouldn’t if I were Iraqi.

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Conrad Barwa 02.04.04 at 12:12 am

what did they lie about Conrad?

Leaving aside the domestic stuff – which lets face all politicians lie about from time to time. I would say that what annoyed me most about Blair and to a lesser extent Bush was the whole thing about linking the SH regime to Al Qaeda and the WTC attacks. I mean if any such links could be proved or established then war would really be the serious course of action; and while lot of arm-waving went on there was little if any really credible evidence. What really made me lose any shred of belief in Blair was when he said (I think it was just after the successful completion of the Afghan campaign) that there was no question of attacking Iraq unless such a link could be proven. This turned a few months later into the whol song and dance about WMD – which is even more ridicolous since this led to more deception. Glen Rangwala exposed one of Blair’s more blatant ones after his little televised debate with a cross-section of the public to convince them of a pro-war case; Blair referred to SH’s “far reaching plans to weaponise VX” which Rangwala traced back to an old Unmovic report which had stated that any such VX would have become useless by 1991 and what was left over was destroyed.

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cbk 02.04.04 at 1:02 am

From an Iraqi Blogger

Monday, February 02, 2004

Five gallons of gasoline.

Oh my god what a fool I was. Yes, I realized this just lately, although I had my doubts but I was blinded by some facts and now thanks to some good friends of the Iraqi people, I’ve opened my eyes to see the naked truth.

For the 1st time I realize what a big lie I’ve been living in for the last 9 months and the worst thing is that it was me who made that lie and believed it so much that I accepted no other opinion. The whole world was telling me to wake up and get real, have some brains and try to find the truth. They offered me several evidences that leave no doubt that I was living a lie, but I was so stubborn and I apologize for it.

For 9 months I’ve thought that things were OK, that America did the right thing, we got rid of S.H. and his killing machine, that I’m happy, free and dreaming of a better future.

Thanks to all the true friends of the Iraqi people, I began to have some doubts and began asking myself real questions and day by day my doubts grew bigger and bigger then I tried to do what I was afraid of during these 9 months. I decided to re-evaluate everything I see and compare it with what it was before the war.

So, one morning I walked down the streets as usual heading to the hospital were I work, but this time my eyes were open and I was very attentive to all that surrounds me:

-The 1st thing that struck me was that all the pictures of Saddam were gone, now of course I’ve noticed that before but I didn’t think about it seriously, I mean NOBODY asked me whether I liked it or not, besides who did this? Was it the Iraqi people? Impossible, Iraqis loved Saddam (the whole media can’t lie) was it the Americans? I think if they had spent their time removing his pictures they would’ve been in Nassireah right now. So I came to the conclusion that there must be a conspiracy behind this, and don’t ask me what conspiracy and who conspired and why, it’s a conspiracy and that’s it.

-The second thing that annoyed me was that NO policeman or security guard or American soldier bothered to ask me where I was heading, where did I came from and didn’t even ask for an I.D. I checked my wallet and I found that I wasn’t carrying any, and in fact I haven’t carried an I.D. since the 9th of April, while prior to that I used to carry 2 or 3 I.D. cards (including the military service certificate) and still I would check my wallet every now and then to make sure that I haven’t forgot or lost any on the road. I mean seriously what is a man without an I.D.?

-Another distressing incident came as I went to buy a newspaper, I found dozens of strange Iraqi newspapers and magazines and more foreign ones ( the total number of Iraqi newspapers till now is 132) instead of the 10 that were all owned by the government before the war, and I said ”what a mess! Who am I supposed to believe now? How can I tell which one of these is telling the truth?” and only for my further disappointment I read a title of the new Iraqi army celebrating the graduation of 700 volunteers! Now what? Aren’t we going to fight anymore (I mean a real war)? What a waste, we had only the chance to go through 3 major wars in the last 23 years and there are still many enemies that we haven’t taught a lesson yet.

-Another depressing news was that there will be no more public executions, what am I talking about, there will be no executions at all, can you believe it? There are no more action or amusement!

-Finally I got to work and there I didn’t find a large difference although I missed those sensational moments when a child dies simply due to the lack of cheap medications and his mother’s cries and the reporters from all over the world who were always around would rush in to get a good shot and make a smashing report about the effects of the sanctions. Things are now very boring, we just treat people and a lot of them even get well!

-Then a friend of mine told me that it was payment day and when I got my salary, they gave me these strange banknotes with no pictures of any Iraqi president. I remember well, and I said it here before, that my salary was around 17$ a month before the war. This time they gave me 200 thousand Iraqi Dinars which if divided by the current exchange rate (which is now 1330 ID for each US$) will be about 150 $ and what was worse is that they confirmed a raise has been approved to make that 300$ starting from the next month with possible raises in the future. And I saw clearly what that meant, they are bribing us! yes, I’m not an idiot! they’re going to steal our oil, and they can say they’re giving the money back to us and that they even assigned billions of dollars to build Iraq and push many countries to cut down the Iraqi debts, but WE are still the ones who are going to lose, and don’t ask me how, because I’ll be damned if I knew the answer.

-On the other hand before the war, Saddam gave us nearly nothing at even better times than these. Still he didn’t steal the oil, he kept the funds safe in his pocket.
And what if he used some to enjoy himself and his family? It’s his right by birth, and what if he made some gifts to the good friends of the Iraqi people like George Gallaway, Bernarde Merime or Jackie… Oops, sorry, the last one is just a rumor.

-And more and more, the long lines at the gas stations, the high prices for kerosiune are all gone and back to normal, and the only things that were left to remind of the (good old days) were the ruins and garbage here and there. But they were also(sadly) being, although slowely, removed and rebuilt . But then I heard an explosion and gave a sigh of relief and thanked my Muslim brothers “ at last, a sound from the past”

What an ignorant I was to think that it was OK and again thank you CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Mr. Dean, Mr. Cherac and our dear Arab and Muslim leaders for showing me the truth, and I’m not talking about the silly things I have mentioned. I’m talking about the most important fact:

You made me realize that freedom doesn’t worth waiting for hours to get 5 gallons of gasoline, and 10 hours of power shortage a day (even if it was temporarily). in fact you showed me that freedom means NOTHING to me. Thank you for showing me that I was born to be a slave and that I enjoyed getting down on my knees in front of my master whoever he was (and there was no one better than Saddam to bow to).

I loved kissing the ground he walks on, and I adored his way of insulting, raping, torturing and killing Iraqis everyday.

A friend has asked me never to use the 4 letter word (and it’s not my style to do so), sorry Scott but I can’t help not saying For all those who tried to show me how I should feel:

Even if I was wrong (and I’m sure I’M not)To hell with oil, to hell with power supply and F***YOU ALL. GWB MADE THE RIGHT DECISION AND AMERICA DID THE RIGHT THING AND WE ARE FREEEEEEEEEE!

-By Ali.

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/archives/2004_02_01_iraqthemodel_archive.html#107573858721557072

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BF 02.04.04 at 2:44 am

“The fact that the contrary belief prevailed for so long is testament to the power of faith in the face of experience”

Thank you cbk for providing a glimpse of the real face of experience.

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BF 02.04.04 at 3:31 am

Another face of experience:

Transcript of Kay’s Opening Statements

The following is the statement former U.S. Weapons Inspector David Kay made to the Senate committee before questioning:

KAY: As you know and we discussed, I do not have a written statement. This hearing came about very quickly. I do have a few preliminary comments, but I suspect you’re more interested in asking questions, and I’ll be happy to respond to those questions to the best of my ability.

I would like to open by saying that the talent, dedication and bravery of the staff of the [Iraq Survey Group] that was my privilege to direct is unparalleled and the country owes a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served over there and continue to serve doing that.

A great deal has been accomplished by the team, and I do think … it important that it goes on and it is allowed to reach its full conclusion. In fact, I really believe it ought to be better resourced and totally focused on WMD; that that is important to do it.

But I also believe that it is time to begin the fundamental analysis of how we got here, what led us here and what we need to do in order to ensure that we are equipped with the best possible intelligence as we face these issues in the future.

Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here.

Sen. [Edward] Kennedy knows very directly. Senator Kennedy and I talked on several occasions prior to the war that my view was that the best evidence that I had seen was that Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction.

I would also point out that many governments that chose not to support this war — certainly, the French president, [Jacques] Chirac, as I recall in April of last year, referred to Iraq’s possession of WMD.

The Germans certainly — the intelligence service believed that there were WMD.

It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing.

We’re also in a period in which we’ve had intelligence surprises in the proliferation area that go the other way. The case of Iran, a nuclear program that the Iranians admit was 18 years on, that we underestimated. And, in fact, we didn’t discover it. It was discovered by a group of Iranian dissidents outside the country who pointed the international community at the location.

The Libyan program recently discovered was far more extensive than was assessed prior to that.

There’s a long record here of being wrong. There’s a good reason for it. There are probably multiple reasons. Certainly proliferation is a hard thing to track, particularly in countries that deny easy and free access and don’t have free and open societies.

In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point of the Iraq Survey Group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441.

Resolution 1441 required that Iraq report all of its activities — one last chance to come clean about what it had.

We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material.

I think the aim — and certainly the aim of what I’ve tried to do since leaving — is not political and certainly not a witch hunt at individuals. It’s to try to direct our attention at what I believe is a fundamental fault analysis that we must now examine.

And let me take one of the explanations most commonly given: Analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.

As leader of the effort of the Iraqi Survey Group, I spent most of my days not out in the field leading inspections. It’s typically what you do at that level. I was trying to motivate, direct, find strategies.

In the course of doing that, I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated. Reality on the ground differed in advance.

And never — not in a single case — was the explanation, “I was pressured to do this.” The explanation was very often, “The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there’s another explanation for it.”

And each case was different, but the conversations were sufficiently in depth and our relationship was sufficiently frank that I’m convinced that, at least to the analysts I dealt with, I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, “inappropriate command influence” that led them to take that position.

It was not that. It was the honest difficulty based on the intelligence that had — the information that had been collected that led the analysts to that conclusion.

And you know, almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that.

We get rid of the people who, in fact, were exercising that.

The fact that it wasn’t tells me that we’ve got a much more fundamental problem of understanding what went wrong, and we’ve got to figure out what was there. And that’s what I call fundamental fault analysis.

And like I say, I think we’ve got other cases other than Iraq. I do not think the problem of global proliferation of weapons technology of mass destruction is going to go away, and that’s why I think it is an urgent issue.

And let me really wrap up here with just a brief summary of what I think we are now facing in Iraq. I regret to say that I think at the end of the work of the [Iraq Survey Group] there’s still going to be an unresolvable ambiguity about what happened.

A lot of that traces to the failure on April 9 to establish immediately physical security in Iraq — the unparalleled looting and destruction, a lot of which was directly intentional, designed by the security services to cover the tracks of the Iraq WMD program and their other programs as well, a lot of which was what we simply called Ali Baba looting. “It had been the regime’s. The regime is gone. I’m going to go take the gold toilet fixtures and everything else imaginable.”

I’ve seen looting around the world and thought I knew the best looters in the world. The Iraqis excel at that.

The result is — document destruction — we’re really not going to be able to prove beyond a truth the negatives and some of the positive conclusions that we’re going to come to. There will be always unresolved ambiguity here.

But I do think the survey group — and I think Charlie Duelfer is a great leader. I have the utmost confidence in Charles. I think you will get as full an answer as you can possibly get.

And let me just conclude by my own personal tribute, both to the president and to [CIA Director] George Tenet, for having the courage to select me to do this, and my successor, Charlie Duelfer, as well.

Both of us are known for probably at times regrettable streak of independence. I came not from within the administration, and it was clear and clear in our discussions and no one asked otherwise that I would lead this the way I thought best and I would speak the truth as we found it. I have had absolutely no pressure prior, during the course of the work at the [Iraq Survey Group], or after I left to do anything otherwise.

I think that shows a level of maturity and understanding that I think bodes well for getting to the bottom of this. But it is really up to you and your staff, on behalf of the American people, to take on that challenge. It’s not something that anyone from the outside can do. So I look forward to these hearings and other hearings at how you will get to the conclusions.

I do believe we have to understand why reality turned out to be different than expectations and estimates. But you have more public service — certainly many of you — than I have ever had, and you recognize that this is not unusual.

I told Sen. [John] Warner [chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee] earlier that I’ve been drawn back as a result of recent film of reminding me of something. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the combined estimate was unanimity in the intelligence service that there were no Soviet warheads in Cuba at the time of the missile crisis.

Fortunately, President Kennedy and [then-Attorney General] Robert Kennedy disagreed with the estimate and chose a course of action less ambitious and aggressive than recommended by their advisers.

But the most important thing about that story, which is not often told, is that as a result after the Cuban missile crisis, immediate steps were taken to correct our inability to collect on the movement of nuclear material out of the Soviet Union to other places.

So that by the end of the Johnson administration, the intelligence community had a capability to do what it had not been able to do at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

I think you face a similar responsibility in ensuring that the community is able to do a better job in the future than it has done in the past.

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john s 02.04.04 at 9:00 am

Conrad,

Blair lied about VX? Hans Blix was still worrying about Iraqi VX in February 2003. In his report to the security council then, he said “The nerve agent VX is one of the most toxic ever developed. Iraq has declared that it only produced VX on a pilot scale, just a few tonnes and that the quality was poor and the product unstable…UNMOVIC, however, has information that conflicts with this account.” Maybe Rangwala is the one who’s playing fast and loose with the truth?

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Conrad Barwa 02.04.04 at 12:52 pm

John S,

The point is that Blair used an out of date intelligence report that he knew was out of date; Rangwala has categorically said that there was no UNMOVIC information to the contrary – suspicions yes, “information that conflicts with this account” no. Since Rangwala is an academic who has studied these things as being part of his field and since he was also the one that exposed the dossier which had plagiarised a Master’s student’s out of date thesis and dressed it up as current intell info I am thinking the score is currently Rangwala – 1, Blair govt – 0. Given this track record (and track record is what we are told, sooo important) I would be rather reluctant to believe Blair over Rangwala and then to accuse Rangwala of lying considering he has already caught the admin peddling dodgy information once before and then trying to deny it.

I don’ think this an unreasonable position to take; in anycase it is just a mere part of the broader problem. Blair said quite categorically that invasion of Iraq was out of the question unless some links of being behind the WTC attacks could be proved; no such evidence appeared and the rationale shifted over to WMD as the pretext for war. Either Blair is somewhat unhinged, or he lied at one of these stages; I incline towards the latter.

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john s 02.04.04 at 3:32 pm

But Conrad, it wasn’t Blair who said “information that conflicts with this account”, it was Hans Blix, in February 2003. David Kelly may have been sceptical about the 45 minute claim, but he seemed to think Saddam had a WMD programme and was a danger. Surely, you’ll admit he knew something about this issue too?

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Conrad Barwa 02.04.04 at 6:28 pm

John S,

Okay, there are two basic issues here. (i) did Iraq have WMD and (ii) was there a credible threat that they would use them to threaten the UK/USA. Now to prove (ii) there was a lot of smoke and not much else, links between Al Qaeda and the SH regime didn’t materialise so this goes out the window. Now we have (I) which is to do with simple possession of WMD – as I have mentioned before I think from any realistic POV only nuclear capability is the real threat as it can change the strategic equations between states quite rapidly and significantly. The point about the VX claim was this: it was said be Blair in a televised debate where he was seeking to convince the public that such a threat and weapons did indeed exist, it was meant to be the outcome of a balanced assessment at a time when we knew different people were saying different things – after all Ritter, Ekeus, the IISS and the CIA all felt that any credible stocks had either been destroyed or past their usable dates and you can check out Rangwala’s full statement on this issue made in April 2003 here:

http://middleeastreference.org.uk/latw020404.html

With different experts saying different things – surely some caution and more time would have been needed, rather than the evangelical faith Blair had that Iraq indeed did possess these WMD. Moreover as we know any attempts to prove (ii) didn’t go anywhere and there was no reason to think that Iraq had suddenly posed so much of a greater threat than it did a few months back. If SH was planning some sort of pre-emptive strike against the UK or Europe I could have understood the rush to war – as it was Senior intelligence officials – outraged at the abuse of their work – clearly told the BBC that the original mention of a 45-minutes response time referred to the length of time it might have taken the Iraqis to fuel and fire a Scud missile, or to load and fire a multiple rocket launcher. The original intelligence said nothing about whether Iraq possessed the chemical or biological weapons to use in these weapons. The government had turned a purely hypothetical threat into something else entirely.

I am a bit puzzled about all this need to run over ground that has been covered in the run up to the war; are you really telling me that Blair genuinely took a completely balanced account of the case, that the govt didn’t try and influence the evidence available in any direction, that there was no desire whatsoever to find a case for war? Amazing.

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