Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2004 / 10 Shevat, 5764
Kay's say and the CIA
David Kay's exit interview was odd. In
resigning as chief U.S. weapons inspector
in Iraq, he made news. "I don't think they
existed," he said of the WMD supposedly
stockpiled by Saddam Hussein. But this
announcement came not in a Washington
press conference but in a phone interview
with a London-based news outlet (Reuters).
Then he declined to answer phone calls and
E-mails from the New York Times and talked to the London Telegraph
Reuters said Kay "fired a parting shot at the Bush administration." This
wasn't true and may have reflected the journalistic expectation (or hope) that
Kay would slam the door on the way out. Reuters eliminated the "parting
shot" from its copy a couple of hours later.
The right-leaning Telegraph, possibly with an opposite expectation, ran its
story under a sensational HEADLINE SADDAM'S WMD HIDDEN IN SYRIA,
SAYS IRAQ SURVEY CHIEF. Kay was quoted as saying that interviews with
former Iraqi officials established that "a lot of material went to Syria before the
war, including some components of Saddam's WMD program." The story
was tamer than the headline. Kay's account grew tamer still when he got
around to talking to U.S. media and the Senate: Whatever had been shipped
to Syria (satellites and on-the-ground reports established "a constant stream
of trucks, cars, rail traffic") could not have amounted to much, since no
significant, telltale evidence of production of weapons of mass destruction
has been found anywhere in Iraq.
Retooling. The first reports on Kay's comments, based solely on the brief
and thin Reuters dispatch, stuck to the simple failure to find WMD. But once
Kay started adding qualifiers and nuances, the story seemed less damaging
to the Bush administration and less helpful to the "Bush lied" constituency.
The stark no-weapons reporting (IRAQ ILLICIT ARMS GONE BEFORE WAR,
INSPECTOR INSISTS, said the first New York Times article) faded from
certainty to the finding that the weapons "probably" were gone when the
United States invaded. Kay is personally convinced that Iraq had no WMD,
but he acknowledged a dwindling chance that such forbidden weapons might
still be found.
Kay told National Public Radio that Saddam "had a large number of WMD
program-related activities," repeating the awkward phrase used in Kay's
interim report last October and repeated in President Bush's State of the
Union address. "So there was a WMD program. It was going ahead. It was
rudimentary in many areas." Later, he said that Iraq began retooling its
nuclear weapons program in 2000 and 2001 but never got as far toward
making a bomb as Iran and Libya. The Iraqis were working to develop
biological weapons using the poison ricin "right up until" the invasion in
March. Officers in the Republican Guard, he said, told interrogators that they
believed other guard units had biological or chemical weapons. This might be
interpreted as a small olive branch offered to the intelligence
community--maybe the CIA was picking up reports of beliefs, rather than hard
facts, about the existence of WMD.
"Clearly, the intelligence that we went to war
on was inaccurate, wrong," Kay said, but he
did not think intelligence reports had been
deliberately distorted and said he had found
no evidence that analysts had been
pressured to shade their assessments in
order to justify a war. His only political
finger-pointing was toward the Carter
administration (for its policy of relying so
heavily on technological surveillance and downgrading the need for spies) and
in the general direction of unnamed political or military leaders who allowed
post-invasion looting to go on in Iraq, thus allowing the destruction of official
papers about weapons.
Kay's smooth and convincing testimony at his Senate hearing helps to
discredit the theory that neoconservatives in the Bush administration
conspired to manipulate intelligence reports. In an op-ed piece in the
Washington Post, Duke professor of political science Peter Feaver writes:
"How could even the all-powerful neocons have manipulated the intelligence
estimates of the Clinton administration, French intelligence, British
intelligence, German intelligence, and all the other `coconspirators' who
concurred on the fundamentals of the Bush assessment?" Belief that
Saddam had WMD was so universal that one blogger, Calpundit.com,
launched a contest of sorts seeking the names of any serious analysts who
publicly doubted the actual existence of WMD in Iraq before September of
2002, when the U.N. inspections resumed. The blogger and his readers
identified two people who qualified: Russian President Vladimir Putin and
former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The point here is unmissable.
The huge consensus about WMD in Iraq was wrong, and the arrow is pointing
toward the intelligence services.
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