Jan 282004
Authors: Joe Marshall

David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, resigned

from his post Friday. On Tuesday he released damaging evidence

highlighting how Iraq destroyed its chemical and biological

stockpiles in the mid-1990s.

While some may be surprised the United States hasn’t found so

much as a moldy jock strap in Iraq, this new report of how bad the

Central Intelligence Agency botched the intelligence data about

Iraq should shock no one.

Defenders of U.S. military intelligence are quick to point out

that the intelligence agencies in a number of other countries, most

notably Britain, France and Germany, all reached the same

conclusion about Iraq’s exotic weapons program. The spies and

analysts in all these countries were convinced Iraq not only had

readily available stockpiles of weapons, but also was willing to

use them.

They were probably correct about the latter statement, but how

could they so badly misjudge the former?

The CIA is the same agency that bombed the Chinese Embassy in

Sarajevo in 1999 after using outdated maps to choose its targets.

The CIA also received a warning of a possible terrorist attack on

Sept. 10, 2001, and did not examine the data until Sept. 12 after

the now infamous attacks.

The actual presence of weapons was only given so much credence

because of Saddam Hussein’s refusal to neither confirm nor deny

destroying his stockpile when it was reported that he did.

According to a Washington Post article, Kay concluded that Saddam

did this in order to maintain “an aura of power.”

With all the money and resources at its disposal, the failure of

the CIA to call the bluff of a man who was paranoid to the point of

psychosis bothers me deeply. What kind of manure was the agency

devouring to convince itself of Saddam’s WMD possession?

I think a better and fairer question is to ask what information

the agency was overlooking or failing to see. In his Wednesday

testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kay stated the

CIA possesses only a handful of interrupters who can speak Arabic.

Since the “war on terror” is being waged against a predominantly

Arab and Arabic-speaking enemy, logic dictates and should mandate

the acquisition of a surplus of Arabic-speaking analysts in the


It is true the CIA lacked direction and focus from the period

spanning from the end of the Cold War to Sept. 11, 2001. Yet while

this fact alone is adequate to explain the intelligence failures

leading to the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C, it cannot

justify the void of intelligence data on Iraq. The United States

has, for all intents and purposes, been in a state of war with Iraq

since 1991.

Saddam simply dismantled his weapons when United Nations

inspections got too tight, then expelled the inspectors so people

would assume he had them. Iraqi scientists came forward in the

mid-1990s to derail Saddam’s claims of possessing weapons of mass

destruction, but their claims were ignored.

In October 2002 President Bush declared he had an obligation to

“assume the worst” about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction

programs. Had Bush been privy to better intelligence there is a

possibility, slim and dim as it may be, he would have declined the

opportunity to make war.

We have already committed ourselves, our kin and our tax dollars

to Iraq and Afghanistan for better or worse. The fact the United

States and Britain invaded Iraq because they were “pretty sure”

Saddam Hussein possessed WMD is evidentiary of the difference

between 98 and 100 percent. Ninety-eight percent sure is not good

enough to justify an act like war. War, or any life and death

situation, is absolute. You either win a war or you lose.

Joe is a senior majoring in history. His column runs every


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