Tag Archives: WMD

Mystery of the Missing W.M.D

Published on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 by the New York Times
by Nicholas Kristof

When I raised the Mystery of the Missing W.M.D. recently, hawks fired barrages of reproachful e-mail at me. The gist was: “You *&#*! Who cares if we never find weapons of mass destruction, because we’ve liberated the Iraqi people from a murderous tyrant.”

But it does matter, enormously, for American credibility. After all, as Ari Fleischer said on April 10 about W.M.D.: “That is what this war was about.”

I rejoice in the newfound freedoms in Iraq. But there are indications that the U.S. government souped up intelligence, leaned on spooks to change their conclusions and concealed contrary information to deceive people at home and around the world.

Let’s fervently hope that tomorrow we find an Iraqi superdome filled with 500 tons of mustard gas and nerve gas, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 29,984 prohibited munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, several dozen Scud missiles, gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, 18 mobile biological warfare factories, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles to dispense anthrax, and proof of close ties with Al Qaeda. Those are the things that President Bush or his aides suggested Iraq might have, and I don’t want to believe that top administration officials tried to win support for the war with a campaign of wholesale deceit.

Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons. As Seymour Hersh noted in The New Yorker, the claims were based on documents that had been forged so amateurishly that they should never have been taken seriously.

I’m told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy’s debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.

“It’s disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year,” one insider said.

Another example is the abuse of intelligence from Hussein Kamel, a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and head of Iraq’s biological weapons program until his defection in 1995. Top British and American officials kept citing information from Mr. Kamel as evidence of a huge secret Iraqi program, even though Mr. Kamel had actually emphasized that Iraq had mostly given up its W.M.D. program in the early 1990′s. Glen Rangwala, a British Iraq expert, says the transcript of Mr. Kamel’s debriefing was leaked because insiders resented the way politicians were misleading the public.

Patrick Lang, a former head of Middle Eastern affairs in the Defense Intelligence Agency, says that he hears from those still in the intelligence world that when experts wrote reports that were skeptical about Iraq’s W.M.D., “they were encouraged to think it over again.”

“In this administration, the pressure to get product `right’ is coming out of O.S.D. [the Office of the Secretary of Defense],” Mr. Lang said. He added that intelligence experts had cautioned that Iraqis would not necessarily line up to cheer U.S. troops and that the Shiite clergy could be a problem. “The guys who tried to tell them that came to understand that this advice was not welcome,” he said.

“The intelligence that our officials was given regarding W.M.D. was either defective or manipulated,” Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico noted. Another senator is even more blunt and, sadly, exactly right: “Intelligence was manipulated.”

The C.I.A. was terribly damaged when William Casey, its director in the Reagan era, manipulated intelligence to exaggerate the Soviet threat in Central America to whip up support for Ronald Reagan’s policies. Now something is again rotten in the state of Spookdom.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Conservatives in transports of social and political engineering

April 23, 2003 By MAUREEN DOWD, WASHINGTON

There’s nothing scarier than conservatives in transports of social and political engineering.

The Republicans strain to appear diffident in Iraq, not wanting to be cast as overbearing imperialists. (Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the new American viceroy, affects a Dockers look while meeting Arabs in jackets and ties.)

The Bushies pretend that we don’t want an all-access pass to Iraqi bases (we do); that we are not interested in influencing the disposition of Iraqi oil (we are); that we will stay out of Iraqi politics, even if they go fundamentalist (we won’t); and that we will leave Iraq soon (we can’t).

Even as they stifle their Pax Americana impulses in Iraq, the imperialists swagger with a Pox Americana at home. Karl Rove has broken creative new ground in appalling political opportunism by pushing back the Republican National Convention in New York City to September 2004, the latest date for a convention in the party’s history and only days away from you-know-when.

Mr. Rove envisions merging the Madison Square Garden party with the 9/11 anniversary commemorations into one big national security lollapalooza. Perhaps President Bush should just skip the pretense of the Garden and give his acceptance speech at ground zero.

In another red-meat moment, Rick Santorum, the obnoxious Pennsylvania senator who is No. 3 in the G.O.P., equated homosexuality with incest, bigamy and polygamy. “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality,” he told The A.P. “That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”

Even Mr. Santorum’s old mentor, Newt Gingrich, felt emboldened to slither back on stage with a proposal to eviscerate the State Department.

After vowing to reshape the American character when he became speaker in ’94, Mr. Gingrich ultimately faced ethics questions and criticism for having an extramarital affair with a young Congressional aide after pushing for Bill Clinton’s impeachment over his extramarital affair with a young White House aide. He stepped down in ’98.

The man who once depicted himself as an “Arouser of Those who Form Civilization” stepped back yesterday into a clash of civilizations between the Pentagon and the State Department. In remarks at the Temple of Triumphalism here (the American Enterprise Institute), Mr. Gingrich denounced Colin Powell’s domain as a “broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses” and demanded it be “transformed,” like Rummy’s.

He attacked Mr. Powell for announcing that he would visit (rather than bomb) Damascus and for the prewar failure of diplomacy with Turkey � conveniently ignoring the fact that it was the Pentagon hawk Paul Wolfowitz who had tried and failed to talk turkey with Turkey.

Rummy, who has taken on a Mars-like glow among carnivorous conservatives who crave more and more red meat, circulated a Kubrickian memo on North Korea, according to The Times’s David Sanger. While Mr. Powell pressed for diplomatic talks in China to help de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, Rummy’s memo suggested that the U.S. and China gang up on the crazed Kim Jong Il to force a regime change.

Even as the conservatives thump their chests in Washington, they have gotten a little nervous watching throngs of men flogging their chests bloody in Karbala. Their coolly rational schemes for establishing 18th-century-style democracy have run up against the 8th-century practices of Islam.

The Bushies were unpleasantly surprised by the sudden muscularity of the Shiite clerics in southern Iraq. According to The Times’s Douglas Jehl, Iranian-trained operatives have crossed into southern Iraq to help the Shiites who are demanding a state like Iran’s.

Administration officials have whispered other fears to reporters � that some of the weapons of mass destruction may have been removed to sell on the terrorism black market, accelerating the proliferation they had hoped to prevent. Or that Saddam loyalists are sneaking back into the government, waiting for the Americans, with their short attention spans, to pull out.