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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What Happened to Iraq's WMD - How Politics Corrupts Intelligence

by Scott Ritter

The recent exchange of vitriol between Republican and Democratic lawmakers over the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and more specifically the disconnect between the intelligence data cited by the Bush administration as justification for invading Iraq and the resultant conclusion by the CIA that all Iraqi WMD had already been eliminated as early as 1991, has once again thrust the issue of the use of intelligence for political purposes front and center.

Democrats accuse the president and his supporters of deliberately misleading them and the American people about the nature of the Iraqi threat. Republicans respond that the Democrats are rewriting history, that all parties involved had access to the same intelligence data and had drawn the same conclusions. Typical of the Republican-led rebuttal are statements made by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who noted that "every intelligence agency in the world, including the Russian, French, including the Israeli, all had reached the same conclusion, and that was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

But this is disingenuous. The intelligence services of everyone else were not proclaiming Iraq to be in possession of WMD. Rather, the intelligence services of France, Russia, Germany, Great Britain and Israel were noting that Iraq had failed to properly account for the totality of its past proscribed weapons programs, and in doing so left open the possibility that Iraq might retain an undetermined amount of WMD. There is a huge difference in substance and nuance between such assessments and the hyped-up assertions by the Bush administration concerning active programs dedicated to the reconstitution of WMD, as well as the existence of massive stockpiles of forbidden weaponry.

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Scott Ritter

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