New intelligence on Iraq was ended
It is bewildering.
President Bush stood before hundreds of soldiers on Veterans Day and told them, and the world, that opponents of the Iraq war must remember that “intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein … the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction” and that “more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate — who had access to the same intelligence [as the White House] — voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.”
It should not be the habit of this newspaper’s editorials to comment on topics on the national or international level. It’s a Cambridge newspaper and should focus on the city.
But when Bush makes comments such as these and draws reactions that are critical but still fail to call him on the most basic of deceptions — well, it’s bewildering.
More than 4,200 people in Cambridge read The New York Times daily, probably because they feel it contains “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But the Times’ 1,591 words covering Bush’s speech didn’t call Bush on the deception, nor have any of its columnists or editorial writers.
A paid search of “Major News and Business Publications” by Factiva didn’t find any mention of it in anything from The Christian Science Monitor to The Wall Street Journal.
Even a Google search found nothing in the blogosphere.
But in case the world has forgotten: There were United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, at Bush’s behest, starting Nov. 18, 2002. They convinced Hussein to turn over thousands of pages of documents about weapons of mass destruction, improve access to potential weapon caches for searches and destroy long-range missiles. But they didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction or active programs to manufacture them.
The weapons inspectors fled Iraq on March 18, 2003, only because Bush said he would attack the country within 48 hours.
Their failure to find weapons of mass destruction confirmed what the world’s intelligence agencies had been told by Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect, the man in charge of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological warfare programs and Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law. Kamel said in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed all such weapons.
In his Feb. 5, 2003, address to the United Nations, then Secretary of State Colin Powell cited Kamel as a source for U.S. information that weapons of mass destruction existed, conveniently never noting that Kamel said they didn’t.
On the eve of war, the Iraqi government admitted there were no weapons of mass destruction.
This confirmed what the U.N. inspectors had been finding, or, rather, not finding, which confirmed what we’d been told by an Iraqi defector we trusted enough to quote as a justification to go to war.
So when Bush reminds the world that “the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing [Iraq’s] development and possession of weapons of mass destruction,” well, they did so before its weapons inspectors returned to Iraq after an absence of almost four years.
When Bush notes that “more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate — who had access to the same intelligence [as the White House] — voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power,” they did so Oct. 11, 2002, a month before U.N. inspectors arrived in Iraq.
When Bush notes that President Clinton also believed Iraq to have weapons of mass destruction — he bombed chemical manufacturing plants in 1998 — well, this, too, was before U.N. inspectors returned to Iraq and found no cause for war.
The Bush administration excuses its invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has gone so fatally awry, on bad intelligence.
This is nonsense.
By declaring an invasion of Iraq was imminent, the Bush administration forced an end to the only flow of new intelligence on Iraq it could get.
It’s a minor point. But it’s odd that no one seems to remember it, or to see a point in mentioning it.
In fact, It’s bewildering.