Quick follow-up to the last post, in which I expressed frustration (cough) at cognitively challenged righties who think newly released Iraqi documents contain evidence of an al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein connection —
John H. at Power Line hypes an undated document that describes the function and duties of the Iraqi intelligence service. The document lists such activities as developing and testing weapons, poisons, and explosives; providing training in “terrorist techniques”; and conducting operations of sabotage and assassination outside Iraq. [Update: I realized after I had posted that the previously “secret” document had been pulled off the web site of the Federation of American Scientists.]
It will not occur to the righties that without knowing how long these documents have been sitting around in a filing cabinet somewhere they don’t exactly prove anything. Righties have a weak grasp of linear time. You’ll remember, for example, how the gassing of the Kurds in 1988 (which the Right and the Reagan-Bush I administrations pretty much ignored in 1988) was repeatedly thrown in our faces as a reason to invade Iraq in 2003 — fifteen years later.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb
Strictly speaking, the sentence is true. This IAEA fact sheet on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program shows that Iraq was working hard to enrich uranium to make a bomb — before the 1991 Gulf War.
However, if you’ll scroll down the fact sheet page you’ll learn that “As of 16 December 1998” the Iraqi nuclear weapons program was defunct and not going anywhere. You can read an IAEA report (PDF) dated 1999 that says (on page 7): “These verification activities have revealed no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.”
And, of course, at the time Bush delivered the 2003 SOTU, IAEA inspectors had had a few weeks to visit the old Iraqi nuclear weapons sites, and they confirmed that the equipment and stores of yellowcake uranium were sitting unused, the IAEA inspection seals from 1998 still intact.
So, while the IAEA had confirmed that before the Gulf War Saddam had a nuclear weapons program, they also confirmed “All known indigenous facilities capable of producing uranium compounds useful to a nuclear programme were destroyed during the Gulf War.”
Bush left that part out of the 2003 SOTU. It still amazes me this little oversight hasn’t gotten as much attention as the Sixteen Words, since it is a more bare-assed and easily refuted misrepresentation than the African uranium story. The IAEA posts their inspection reports and findings on their bleeping web site. In English. I bet even Douglas Feith could have found them.
(In July 2003, when people were starting to wonder where the WMDs were, it was pointed out to Condi Rice that a lot of their “intelligence” about WMDs was, um, old. And this is what she said:
Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, said Saturday that the question of new evidence vs. old was beside the point. “The question of what is new after 1998 is not an interesting question,” she said. [James Risen, David Sanger, and Thom Shanker, “In Sketchy Data, White House Sought Clues to Gauge Threat,” The New York Times, July 20, 2003]
Perhaps the Bushies should have been a little more … interested.)
I hadn’t meant to ramble on so about the old news. But to get back to the Iraq Intelligence Service documents that J.H. finds so interesting — a document that (for all we know) was drawn up before the Gulf War doesn’t tell us anything about what Saddam Hussein was up to in 2003. [Update: I see a note at the end of the document that says “Maintained by John Pike Updated Wednesday, November 26, 1997.” It was on the web site of the Federation of American Scientists. This is just weird.]
And a document that talks about what the IIS was supposed to be doing doesn’t tell us if they were doing it. Which takes us to another bit of news, reported by Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz.
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein pretended to have chemical weapons because, among other reasons, he feared that Israel might attack if it discovered he did not. This is revealed in a recently declassified internal report by the American military.
The report was compiled from many dozens of interviews with senior Iraqi officials and hundreds of documents captured by the American forces during and after the war. …
… “According to Chemical Ali, Hussein was asked about the weapons during a meeting with members of the Revolutionary Command Council. He replied that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) but flatly rejected a suggestion that the regime remove all doubts to the contrary,” the report states. Ali explained that such a declaration could encourage Israel to attack, the report says.
The 100-page report has not been released yet, but some 9,000 words of it are to appear in the next edition of Foreign Affairs Magazine.
A lot of people have speculated that’s what Saddam Hussein was up to, but I don’t know that there’s been anything in the way of corroboration before now. But this I’ve heard before:
Senior Iraqi officials told their interrogators that Hussein had no idea what the true state of the country’s weapons was, because everyone lied to him and refrained from giving him bad news for fear of being executed.
Hussein’s deputy Tariq Aziz told interrogators, “The people in the military industrial commission were liars. They lied to you, and they lied to Hussein. They were always saying they were producing special weapons.”
“A captured military industrial commission annual report of investments from 2002 showed more than 170 research projects. When Hussein asked for updates on the nonexistent projects, they simply faked plans and designs to show progress,” the report says.
I don’t remember where I read that before and I’m not going to take time to hunt around for a link, but I’m sure at least one Iraqi weapons scientist pretty much said the same thing when he was interviewed after the invasion. Perhaps it was the same guy who had the remains of the Iraqi nuclear centrifuge buried in his flower garden.
Update to the Update: As I said in the first update, what might seem to be a translation of an Arabic document said to have been seized in post-invasion Iraq is actually an old report taken from the web site of the Federation of American Scientists. Information in the report appears to have been gleaned from various unclassified sources. It was last updated in 1997. John Hinkeracker of Power Line states in his post that the document was from the FAS, so I can’t accuse him of misrepresenting it — even though he published quotes from FAS under the heading “In Saddam’s Archives.”
However, Investor’s Business Daily is not so careful. In this articled titled “Declassified Truth” IBD quotes from the 1997 FAS document as if it were something discovered in Saddam’s archives. IBD says the FAS document refutes the claim that Saddam “had no weapons of mass destruction and no terrorist designs outside his own country.” I’m sure a big chunk of the Right Blogosphere will link to this article before the day is over.
These document were released per the direction of John Negroponte, note.