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Sarajevo in 1999 after using outdated maps to choose its targets.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