No WMDs? Really?

'Everyone knows' there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq when Bush decided to invade in 2003.  If there were any doubts about that, surely they were laid to rest by the Duelfer Report, the official findings of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) headed by Charles Duelfer, Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence.

Take your pick of excerpts from Duelfer's report.

  •  On nuclear weapons:  'Saddam Husayn [sic] ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war.  ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.'

  •  On chemical weapons:  'ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991.'

  •  On biological weapons (BW):  'ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW—specific work for military purposes.'

    Slam dunk, right?  Bush lied.

    Not so fast.  First, the ISG did find WMD.  In fact, it found at least 53 of them. 

    'Beginning in May 2004, ISG recovered a series of chemical weapons from Coalition military units and other sources.  A total of 53 munitions have been recovered.' 

    Why haven't you heard that?  Possibly because that information was buried on page 97 of Annex F of Volume 3 of the Duelfer Report.

    Even if the number of WMD found were short of the 'large stockpiles' threshold demanded by invasion critics, what about the ability to produce and use WMD in a short amount of time?  Here, the Duelfer Report is explicit.

  •   '[Saddam Hussein] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted.'

  •  'we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD production as soon as sanctions were lifted'
  •  'Saddam did express his intent to retain the intellectual capital developed during the Iraqi Nuclear Program.'
  •  'Iraq took steps to conceal key elements of its program and to preserve what it could of the professional capabilities of its nuclear scientific community.'
  •  'ISG found a limited number of post—1995 activities that would have aided the reconstitution of the nuclear weapons program once sanctions were lifted.'
  •  'Saddam never abandoned his intentions to resume a CW effort when sanctions were lifted and conditions were judged favorable.'
  •  'Iraq's historical ability to implement simple solutions to weaponization challenges allowed Iraq to retain the capability to weaponize CW agent when the need arose.'
  •  'Iraq Could Maintain CW Competence With Relative Ease'
  •  '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.'
  •  'Depending on its scale, Iraq could have re—established an elementary BW program within a few weeks to a few months of a decision to do so...'
  • As even the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) declared in 1999,

    'Iraq possesses an industrial capability and knowledge base, through which biological warfare agents could be produced quickly and in volume.'

    When is the best time to invade a hostile country, a few months before, or a few months after that country has developed usable biological weapons?

    But let's get to the issue of making logical conclusions based on evidence.  What does it mean if the ISG did not find WMD?  If they found none (well, only small stockpiles of old chemical bombs), does that mean the WMD were destroyed years ago?  That's exactly what Duelfer 'judges', at least in the executive summary sections.  But is that the only hypothesis, or even the most probable hypothesis?

    Here is another hypothesis: Iraq's WMD were hidden and/or moved out of Iraq prior to our invasion in March 2003.

    It was no secret that the U.S. and the rest of the world really wanted to find those WMD.  For over a decade the UN passed 16 resolutions to get at them and sent inspectors to look for them.  The United States built up an armed force of about 150,000 surrounding Iraq to support those inspectors.  Our Secretary of State testified in public on what we knew about Iraq's WMD and concealment methods.  Even at the end, President Bush gave Saddam 48 hours notice before invading.

    Is it any surprise that no WMD were found in the usual places like munitions depots?  Eliot Ness also had a problem finding anything illegal in Al Capone's hotel room.  Could it be that neither Al Capone nor Saddam Hussein was as dumb as a post?

    According to David Kay, Charles Duelfer's predecessor,

    'Even the bulkiest materials we are searching for, in the quantities we would expect to find, can be concealed in spaces not much larger than a two car garage.'

    Iraq is about the size of California.  Let me do some math for you.  The ratio of the area of Iraq to the area of a two car garage is about 5 billion to one.  The ratio of the volume of a haystack to the volume of a small sewing needle is about 5 million to one.  That is, finding WMD in Iraq is 1000 times more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack.  And that only includes the surface of Iraq.

    Would Saddam do such a thing as hide weapons?  Yes, absolutely.  The U.S. Coalition found dozens of military fighter aircraft buried in the desert.  You can see the pictures yourself. Some WMD related materials were buried in scientists' back yards.  Saddam had friends in Syria.  Saddam hid himself in a hole on a farm.  Most of his command and control network was underground.

    Other excerpts from the Duelfer Report (emphasis added):

  •  'Moreover, certain defined questions remain unanswered.  For example, we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war ... Likewise, there remains some uncertainty concerning reports of mobile BW capabilities.'
  •  'ISG technical experts fully evaluated less than one quarter of one percent of the over 10,000 weapons caches throughout Iraq, and visited fewer than ten ammunition depots identified prior to OIF as suspect CW sites.'
  •  'The most interesting discovery has been a 152mm binary Sarin artillery projectile—containing a 40 percent concentration of Sarin—which insurgents attempted to use as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The existence of this binary weapon not only raises questions about the number of viable chemical weapons remaining in Iraq and raises the possibility that a larger number of binary, long—lasting chemical weapons still exist.'
  • According to David Kay,

    'Some WMD personnel crossed borders in the pre/trans conflict period and may have taken evidence and even weapons—related materials with them.'

    Both David Kay and Charles Duelfer noted that Iraq continued to conceal its WMD activities, and suspected sites were often 'cleaned' or 'looted'.  Per the Kay report,

    'We have discovered dozens of WMD—related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002.'

    There are two viable hypotheses: (1) Iraq destroyed its WMD, and (2) Iraq hid its WMD or transported them to other countries, prior to the March 2003 invasion.  The ISG simply did not find enough evidence to falsify either hypothesis, or even to favor one hypothesis over the other.  Note the language of Duelfer's Executive Summary:

    'ISG judges ... ISG found no direct evidence ...'

    One can only guess why Duelfer chose to 'judge' in favor of the 'destroyed WMD' hypothesis.   The simplest answer is that the ISG wanted to avoid the embarrassment of simply stating 'we don't know what happened to them', after having spent significant time and effort looking for WMD.  In fact, even the 53 WMD that were found, were found by Coalition forces, not the ISG itself.

    Let me give an alternative executive summary of the ISG's findings that could have been written from the same set of facts.

    'Iraq was known to have had large WMD stockpiles at least until 1991.  In the following 12 years, Iraq refused to destroy, or adequately account for the destruction of, all those WMD as required by multiple UN resolutions.

    'After the U.S. led Coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003, the ISG searched a tiny fraction of Iraq and found 53 chemical weapons and evidence of concealed research and development activities.  The ISG cannot conclude whether the missing WMD were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq, hidden in Iraq, or transported out of Iraq.  Any of those possible alternatives would have been in violation of multiple UN resolutions.  It is also possible that WMD exist in weapon caches or munitions sites not searched by the ISG.

    'Regardless of the status of these stockpiles, Iraq had both the intent and the capability to develop and produce large quantities of chemical and biological WMD quickly once sanctions were lifted, and probably could have produced nuclear weapons in a matter of months to a few years.

    'By bribing various UN and other officials under the oil—for—food program, Iraq was forcing the end of sanctions.  Had not the U.S. led Coalition invaded Iraq, the UN sanctions and inspection regime would have collapsed and Saddam Hussein would have recovered any hidden and transported WMD and revived his WMD programs, and would have had ready—to—deploy WMD by the time this report is being written.'

    Think about it.  Saddam once had and used WMD.  He still wanted them.  He lied about having them.  He refused access by inspectors.  He concealed WMD activities over a period of 12 years.  He said he destroyed what WMD he had, but he had no evidence to prove that.  Even if he had destroyed them, that would have violated UN resolutions and the terms of his surrender in 1991.

    Would any sane person believe that he really didn't have WMD in 2003?  If you don't know any sane people, try out some of these:

  •  'And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.'  President Clinton, December 16, 1998

  •  'We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.'  Al Gore, September 23, 2002

  •  'We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.'  Ted Kennedy, September 27, 2002

  •  'I think Iraq is the most serious and imminent threat to our country.'  Senator John Edwards, February 24, 2002

    This was not a coin flip.  The consequence of trusting Saddam would have been WMD in the hands of anti—American terrorists.  Had President Bush simply trusted Saddam Hussein he would have violated his oath to defend his country.
    On March 22, 2003, or three days into Operation Iraqi Freedom, President Bush addressed the nation. 

    'And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.'

    Which part of 'the mission' was a lie?  Which part was not accomplished?