- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

A former weapons inspector’s prediction that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will never be found in Iraq doesn’t invalidate President Bush’s decision to go to war, the White House said yesterday.

David Kay, who resigned Friday as the lead weapons inspector in postwar Iraq, said over the weekend that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed an “imminent threat” to the United States, but he is “personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction.”

Those comments have prompted Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, to invite Mr. Kay to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee tomorrow.

A U.S. intelligence official yesterday warned against reading Mr. Kay’s comments and jumping to conclusions.

“The search continues,” the official said. “We believe it’s premature to reach any judgments. There’s plenty of work to be done on the ground.”

Mr. Kay told the New York Times that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was attempting to reconstitute his fledgling nuclear program as late as 2001, and had an active program to use the deadly chemical ricin as a weapon until he was stopped by the U.S.-led invasion in March.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Mr. Kay echoed the Bush administration’s claim that “in the shadowing effect of September 11,” the president was right to “recalculate what risk [Saddam posed] based on the intelligence that existed.”

“I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat,” Mr. Kay said, adding that “what we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place potentially than, in fact, we thought it was even before the war.”

Mr. Kay told the New York Times that a “vortex of corruption” overtook the community of Iraqi weapons scientists to the point that Saddam — as well as Western intelligence agencies — were fooled into thinking that he had a growing stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.

Mr. Kay also told the London Telegraph newspaper that he uncovered evidence that components of Saddam’s WMD program was spirited to Syria shortly before the war began.

“We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons,” he said. “But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam’s WMD program. Precisely what went to Syria and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday that Mr. Kay’s comments wholly justify the president’s decision to depose Saddam by force because he was a “dangerous and gathering threat.”

“In reference to what Dr. Kay said, what we know today only reconfirms that the president made the right decision,” Mr. McClellan said. “The world is a safer and better place, and America is more secure because of the actions that we took.”

Democrats held up some of Mr. Kay’s comments to hammer the president on his decision to go to war.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Kay’s opinion “confirms what I have said for a long period of time, that we were misled… in the way the president took us to war.”

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean yesterday said the White House “has not been candid with the American people about virtually anything with the Iraq war.”

Recent polling shows that Democratic criticism of the war is having little effect on public opinion.

In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Jan. 15, 59 percent of respondents said that “all in all” the liberation of Iraq “was worth it.”

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