AP Writer Ignores Evidence of Iraq WMD

A recent article by Pulitzer—winning AP writer Charles Hanley entitled "Half of U.S. still believes Iraq had WMD" builds a not so subtle argument: those who believe Saddam Hussein still had WMD need to get fitted for tin foil hats. 

He begins the piece with a reasonable question 'Do you believe Saddam Hussein had WMD in 2003?' What follows is an examination of possible reasons why fifty percent of American's said yes:

experts see a raft of reasons why: a drumbeat of voices from talk radio to die—hard bloggers to the Oval Office, a surprise headline here or there, a rallying around a partisan flag, and a growing need for people, in their own minds, to justify the war in Iraq

Notice that the most reasonable conclusion as to why half of Americans answered in the affirmative is not posited by Hanley; that coalition forces did in fact find WMD in Iraq

Munitions Found in Iraq Meet WMD Criteria, Official Says

"These are chemical weapons as defined under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and yes ... they do constitute weapons of mass destruction," Army Col. John Chu told the House Armed Services Committee.

Col. Chu is the commander of the National Ground Intelligence Center. Is this a genuine omission on Hanley's part? Hanley tells us next:

The reality in this case is that after a 16—month, $900—million—plus investigation, the U.S. weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight.

Completely, unequivocally false. The very existence of a biological program was completely denied by the Saddam regime until a major stash of documents hidden at a farm was discovered in the mid nineties. And while the UN did destroy much of Saddam's WMD arsenal following the 1991 UN resolutions, the practice of carrying it out was delayed and denied by Saddam Hussein as was well documented at the time by the UN inspectors.

Rolf Ekeus himself, possibly the most knowledgeable man on the planet about the subject, said in a 2003 interview with Jim Lehrer of PBS that Iraq was still producing small quantities of chemical agents in the mid nineties.

JIM LEHRER: Hans Blix, your Swedish diplomatic colleague who was the last chief weapons inspector from the U. N., he said in an interview last week in London that he's come to the conclusion that, and what you're saying seems to be saying the same thing, that the Iraqis in fact destroyed whatever they had stockpiled after 1991. Do you agree with that?

ROLF EKEUS: No, not at all, because when we came in and UNSCOM in '91, in April '91 after the war ——

JIM LEHRER: Even since 1991.

ROLF EKEUS: Yeah, we came in, there we found huge quantities of chemical weapons, certainly they were not destroyed.

JIM LEHRER: In all fairness to Hans Blix, I misspoke —— what he said was since 1991 they had been destroyed through your offices.

ROLF EKEUS: We destroyed them, definitely. It had to be special destruction and it took several years to clean up, in 96, we could end biological weapons destruction programs. We took many years, first to find it. However, I agree, my sense is that they did not produce anything since '91, for several reasons. First of all, it was the presence of weapons experts. [emphasis added]

JIM LEHRER: Because you all were there, the inspectors were there, and they were under surveillance all the time.

ROLF EKEUS: Yeah, and they took a political decision, the son—in—law of Saddam Hussein who defected at some stage and returned and was killed by Saddam, he told me during the debriefings in Amman in '95 that they had taken the decision not to produce during the prevailing circumstances, any new biological, chemical weapons —— but instead develop the quality to...

JIM LEHRER: The capability to do it?

ROLF EKEUS: Precisely, the engineers, process specialists and so on.

JIM LEHRER: So back...

ROLF EKEUS: And quality. Small batches of production to develop quality.  [emphasis added]

And the very report that Hanley cites concluded:

Saddam never abandoned his intentions to resume a CW effort when sanctions were lifted and conditions were judged favorable

What is perhaps most startling about Hanley's piece is this statement:

The reality in this case is that after a 16—month, $900—million—plus investigation, the U.S. weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight.

But what did the ISG report say?

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991.

What's the difference? Notice the ISG report said this about the chemical program, not biological as Hanley claims. So what was the finding on the biological program?

In 1991, Saddam Husayn regarded BW as an integral element of his arsenal of WMD weapons, and would have used it if the need arose.

ISG judges that Iraq's actions between 1991 and 1996 demonstrate that the state intended to preserve its BW capability and return to a steady, methodical progress toward a mature BW program when and if the opportunity arose.

And note that Hanley found it convenient to leave out the word 'unilaterally' from his inaccurate recitation of the ISG report. Why is that important? Because these weapons can not all be confirmed as being destroyed. In fact Dr. Laurie Mylroie has quite adeptly pointed out that to the public's knowledge; the Saddam regime did not hand over a single biological weapon to the UN.

On to Hanley's next point:

I'm flabbergasted," said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002—03.

"This finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence," Massing said.

Oh, well then, get your tin foil hats now half of America, a media critic is disappointed in you. For shame! 

Note that he did not quote the Director of DIA who said

'I do believe the former regime did a very poor job of accountability of munitions, and certainly did not document the destruction of munitions... "The recovery program goes on, and I do not believe we have found all the weapons.'

Hanley proceeds:

Pentagon and outside experts stressed that these abandoned shells, many found in ones and twos, were 15 years old or more, their chemical contents were degraded, and they were unusable as artillery ordnance.

The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq stated:

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

Notice the argument here made and maintained by the Bush Administration and congress had nothing to do with firing artillery shells as artillery ordinance, but the possibility that these weapons could be handed over to terrorists who would use them in an IED fashion. Nobody said Saddam was going to shoot artillery rounds at DC from Iraq. These rounds were perfectly suited for IED use as did happen in Iraq when a chemical round was used against coalition forces.

Since the 1990s, such "orphan" munitions, from among 160,000 made by Iraq and destroyed, have turned up on old battlefields and elsewhere in Iraq, ex—inspectors say. In other words, this was no surprise.

Clearly the intent of Saddam plays into this argument. Was Saddam's intent to comply fully with the UN resolutions, or to hide weapons? Saddam had twelve years to find all of his WMD. He had an international community willing to help. If Saddam really wanted to find all his WMD, why didn't he ask for help instead of kicking the inspectors out from 1998 to 2002? He wanted less compliance not more.

Hanley posits a rationale that these weapons were just left on a back shelf or buried underground. But the salient question is why coalition forces, in less than three years while fighting terrorists and an insurgency, found these weapons, yet Saddam couldn't find them in twelve years in a country that he owned.

Saddam's intent is not concealed by his supposed failure to find weapons; Saddam had no intention of 100% compliance.

Hanley writes:

As recently as May 27, Bush told West Point graduates, "When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity."

"Which isn't true," observed Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a scholar of presidential rhetoric at the University of Pennsylvania. But "it doesn't surprise me when presidents reconstruct reality to make their policies defensible." This president may even have convinced himself it's true, she said.

Really? Not according to TIME dated Feb 24, 2003: 

UN weapons inspectors have demanded that Iraq destroy its entire arsenal of the offending missile by March 1. Chief inspector Dr. Hans Blix has declined to negotiate with Baghdad over that demand — leaving no doubt that failure to comply would lead him to report to the Security Council that Iraq has failed a benchmark disarmament test. And although Saddam hinted at a defiant response in a TV interview with CBS, Monday, his handling of the crisis thus far suggests he'll ultimately comply.

So here, just days before the war, Saddam is not being compliant but defiant about handing over prohibited weapons. He did hand them over just 2 days before the start of war, after dragging the process out for a few weeks. In other words, the attack was imminent and it was a last—second attempt after 12 years of stalling to delay a little while longer.

Hanley's article fails to note that experts have concluded that these weapons found in Iraq were WMD. It fails to note that the true threat was the potential for Saddam to hand such weapons to terrorists, as plainly stated but the U.S. government. The most boisterous expert statements in the article are from people who are not WMD or Iraq experts. Excerpts from official reports are modified to fit his thesis. And the general tenor is that everybody knows Saddam had no WMD, go get your tin hat.

Despite the fact that Col. Chu did not win a Pulitzer, I think I will take his word that those 500 WMD rounds were, in fact, WMD.

A recent article by Pulitzer—winning AP writer Charles Hanley entitled "Half of U.S. still believes Iraq had WMD" builds a not so subtle argument: those who believe Saddam Hussein still had WMD need to get fitted for tin foil hats. 

He begins the piece with a reasonable question 'Do you believe Saddam Hussein had WMD in 2003?' What follows is an examination of possible reasons why fifty percent of American's said yes:

experts see a raft of reasons why: a drumbeat of voices from talk radio to die—hard bloggers to the Oval Office, a surprise headline here or there, a rallying around a partisan flag, and a growing need for people, in their own minds, to justify the war in Iraq

Notice that the most reasonable conclusion as to why half of Americans answered in the affirmative is not posited by Hanley; that coalition forces did in fact find WMD in Iraq

Munitions Found in Iraq Meet WMD Criteria, Official Says

"These are chemical weapons as defined under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and yes ... they do constitute weapons of mass destruction," Army Col. John Chu told the House Armed Services Committee.

Col. Chu is the commander of the National Ground Intelligence Center. Is this a genuine omission on Hanley's part? Hanley tells us next:

The reality in this case is that after a 16—month, $900—million—plus investigation, the U.S. weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight.

Completely, unequivocally false. The very existence of a biological program was completely denied by the Saddam regime until a major stash of documents hidden at a farm was discovered in the mid nineties. And while the UN did destroy much of Saddam's WMD arsenal following the 1991 UN resolutions, the practice of carrying it out was delayed and denied by Saddam Hussein as was well documented at the time by the UN inspectors.

Rolf Ekeus himself, possibly the most knowledgeable man on the planet about the subject, said in a 2003 interview with Jim Lehrer of PBS that Iraq was still producing small quantities of chemical agents in the mid nineties.

JIM LEHRER: Hans Blix, your Swedish diplomatic colleague who was the last chief weapons inspector from the U. N., he said in an interview last week in London that he's come to the conclusion that, and what you're saying seems to be saying the same thing, that the Iraqis in fact destroyed whatever they had stockpiled after 1991. Do you agree with that?

ROLF EKEUS: No, not at all, because when we came in and UNSCOM in '91, in April '91 after the war ——

JIM LEHRER: Even since 1991.

ROLF EKEUS: Yeah, we came in, there we found huge quantities of chemical weapons, certainly they were not destroyed.

JIM LEHRER: In all fairness to Hans Blix, I misspoke —— what he said was since 1991 they had been destroyed through your offices.

ROLF EKEUS: We destroyed them, definitely. It had to be special destruction and it took several years to clean up, in 96, we could end biological weapons destruction programs. We took many years, first to find it. However, I agree, my sense is that they did not produce anything since '91, for several reasons. First of all, it was the presence of weapons experts. [emphasis added]

JIM LEHRER: Because you all were there, the inspectors were there, and they were under surveillance all the time.

ROLF EKEUS: Yeah, and they took a political decision, the son—in—law of Saddam Hussein who defected at some stage and returned and was killed by Saddam, he told me during the debriefings in Amman in '95 that they had taken the decision not to produce during the prevailing circumstances, any new biological, chemical weapons —— but instead develop the quality to...

JIM LEHRER: The capability to do it?

ROLF EKEUS: Precisely, the engineers, process specialists and so on.

JIM LEHRER: So back...

ROLF EKEUS: And quality. Small batches of production to develop quality.  [emphasis added]

And the very report that Hanley cites concluded:

Saddam never abandoned his intentions to resume a CW effort when sanctions were lifted and conditions were judged favorable

What is perhaps most startling about Hanley's piece is this statement:

The reality in this case is that after a 16—month, $900—million—plus investigation, the U.S. weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight.

But what did the ISG report say?

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991.

What's the difference? Notice the ISG report said this about the chemical program, not biological as Hanley claims. So what was the finding on the biological program?

In 1991, Saddam Husayn regarded BW as an integral element of his arsenal of WMD weapons, and would have used it if the need arose.

ISG judges that Iraq's actions between 1991 and 1996 demonstrate that the state intended to preserve its BW capability and return to a steady, methodical progress toward a mature BW program when and if the opportunity arose.

And note that Hanley found it convenient to leave out the word 'unilaterally' from his inaccurate recitation of the ISG report. Why is that important? Because these weapons can not all be confirmed as being destroyed. In fact Dr. Laurie Mylroie has quite adeptly pointed out that to the public's knowledge; the Saddam regime did not hand over a single biological weapon to the UN.

On to Hanley's next point:

I'm flabbergasted," said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002—03.

"This finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence," Massing said.

Oh, well then, get your tin foil hats now half of America, a media critic is disappointed in you. For shame! 

Note that he did not quote the Director of DIA who said

'I do believe the former regime did a very poor job of accountability of munitions, and certainly did not document the destruction of munitions... "The recovery program goes on, and I do not believe we have found all the weapons.'

Hanley proceeds:

Pentagon and outside experts stressed that these abandoned shells, many found in ones and twos, were 15 years old or more, their chemical contents were degraded, and they were unusable as artillery ordnance.

The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq stated:

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

Notice the argument here made and maintained by the Bush Administration and congress had nothing to do with firing artillery shells as artillery ordinance, but the possibility that these weapons could be handed over to terrorists who would use them in an IED fashion. Nobody said Saddam was going to shoot artillery rounds at DC from Iraq. These rounds were perfectly suited for IED use as did happen in Iraq when a chemical round was used against coalition forces.

Since the 1990s, such "orphan" munitions, from among 160,000 made by Iraq and destroyed, have turned up on old battlefields and elsewhere in Iraq, ex—inspectors say. In other words, this was no surprise.

Clearly the intent of Saddam plays into this argument. Was Saddam's intent to comply fully with the UN resolutions, or to hide weapons? Saddam had twelve years to find all of his WMD. He had an international community willing to help. If Saddam really wanted to find all his WMD, why didn't he ask for help instead of kicking the inspectors out from 1998 to 2002? He wanted less compliance not more.

Hanley posits a rationale that these weapons were just left on a back shelf or buried underground. But the salient question is why coalition forces, in less than three years while fighting terrorists and an insurgency, found these weapons, yet Saddam couldn't find them in twelve years in a country that he owned.

Saddam's intent is not concealed by his supposed failure to find weapons; Saddam had no intention of 100% compliance.

Hanley writes:

As recently as May 27, Bush told West Point graduates, "When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity."

"Which isn't true," observed Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a scholar of presidential rhetoric at the University of Pennsylvania. But "it doesn't surprise me when presidents reconstruct reality to make their policies defensible." This president may even have convinced himself it's true, she said.

Really? Not according to TIME dated Feb 24, 2003: 

UN weapons inspectors have demanded that Iraq destroy its entire arsenal of the offending missile by March 1. Chief inspector Dr. Hans Blix has declined to negotiate with Baghdad over that demand — leaving no doubt that failure to comply would lead him to report to the Security Council that Iraq has failed a benchmark disarmament test. And although Saddam hinted at a defiant response in a TV interview with CBS, Monday, his handling of the crisis thus far suggests he'll ultimately comply.

So here, just days before the war, Saddam is not being compliant but defiant about handing over prohibited weapons. He did hand them over just 2 days before the start of war, after dragging the process out for a few weeks. In other words, the attack was imminent and it was a last—second attempt after 12 years of stalling to delay a little while longer.

Hanley's article fails to note that experts have concluded that these weapons found in Iraq were WMD. It fails to note that the true threat was the potential for Saddam to hand such weapons to terrorists, as plainly stated but the U.S. government. The most boisterous expert statements in the article are from people who are not WMD or Iraq experts. Excerpts from official reports are modified to fit his thesis. And the general tenor is that everybody knows Saddam had no WMD, go get your tin hat.

Despite the fact that Col. Chu did not win a Pulitzer, I think I will take his word that those 500 WMD rounds were, in fact, WMD.