- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 26, 2005

Like it or not, Republicans will keep hearing accusations President Bush lied to us about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq for another three years. And Senate Democrats will continue being reminded they, too, were convinced Saddam Hussein had such weapons.

Yet the plain truth is that none of them lied. They were lied to — by the CIA. But how were they so easily fooled?

In an op-ed article in The Washington Times, former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida complained the abbreviated 29-page public version of the October 2002 CIA report on Iraq’s WMD was purged of many skeptical footnotes in the original 90-page version. Yet Mr. Graham nonetheless said at the time he believed Iraq had such weapons, as did other Democratic senators, such as Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and John Edwards of North Carolina.

The real scandal is not that these senators or the president lied when they all agreed Iraq had fearsome stockpiles of mysterious weapons. The real scandal is they were all gullibly taken in by such an obvious CIA deception.

In June 2003, I wrote, “The senators should have read the CIA report last October, and not just the summary.” Many irate critics questioned my own intelligence, but not one pretended to have read the report. Why not? It can be easily downloaded at www.odci.gov/cia/reports.

The first two pages of that WMD story were called “key judgments,” though there was no judgment and little intelligence. All the strong conclusions appear on these first pages, followed by ample waffling. The second sentence flatly asserts, “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.”

Page 2 says, “Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW [biological weapon] agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers and covert operatives, including potentially against the U.S. homeland.”

If you think that says Iraq actually had any anthrax, you were fooled. If you think it says Iraq actually had any way to deliver “agents” to the U.S. homeland, you were fooled twice.

Page 2 claimed Iraq had “mobile facilities” to produce nameless biological weapons. Since they couldn’t find anything, horrible things must have been happening inside invisible gypsy wagons.

By Page 5, the CIA was reduced to arguing its own cluelessness was its best clue: “Baghdad’s vigorous concealment efforts have meant that specific information on many aspects of Iraq’s WMD programs is yet to be uncovered. … Limited insight into activities since 1998 clearly show that Baghdad has used the absence of U.N. inspectors to repair and expand dual-use and dedicated missile-development facilities and to increase its ability to produce WMD.”

With no “specific information” and “limited insight,” the CIA concluded something fishy had to be going on. They only found “attempts” to buy high-strength aluminum tubes, though “some [experts] believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs.” On Page 6, the guessing game continued: “Baghdad probably uses some of the money it gains through its illicit oil sales to support its WMD activities.”

Page 8 listed Iraq’s use of bombs and rockets filled with mustard gas in the war with Iran, but the last incident occurred in 1988. All the CIA could find after that was “gaps in Iraqi accounting,” such as “Iraq has not accounted for … about 550 artillery shells filled with mustard agent.”

Those artillery shells might as well be added to that earlier comment about Iraq’s “potentially” ability to deliver something “against the U.S. homeland” by dropping bombs, launching missiles or using aerial sprayers.

Did everyone who agreed with such “intelligence” actually imagine terrorists could simply drop bombs or missiles over the U.S. homeland, or fly around spraying something nasty on U.S. cities, or fire artillery shells from cannons on U.S. streets? Did they also believe in goblins and ghosts?

Pages 11-16, and the last page, are devoted to “dual use” conjectures, because essential factories producing chlorine, phenol, castor oil, phosphates, vaccines and pesticides could conceivably be used to produce dangerous products. Castor bean pulp “can be used to extract ricin toxin,” said the CIA, and terrorists once killed one man with ricin, by injection.

Page 15 frets about “aflatoxin [a potent carcinogen that can attack the liver, killing years after ingestion].” Yet fear of liver cancer from “ingestion” of aflatoxin was foolish, because the CIA was speculating about Iraq dropping this peanut mold from airplanes. The last page of the report warns, “Iraq has been able to repair modern machine tools.” Machine tools. How frightening. If dual-use conjectures are taken as adequate proof of WMD, the United States could use that excuse to invade just about any country with any industry at all.

The next few pages of the 2002 CIA report worried about “the size of certain facilities” for missile testing, which “suggests that Baghdad is preparing to develop systems that are prohibited by the U.N.” Suggestions about “preparing to develop” something were a far cry from having it.

The report ends with fanciful visions of an “unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program … which most analysts believe probably are intended for delivering biological warfare agents.” If you think that says Iraq had even one UAV, you were fooled once again. It says they once had a program — “a history of experimenting with” UAVs — and that analysts have beliefs about probable intentions behind something that never worked.

“Before the Gulf war,” said the CIA, “Baghdad attempted to convert a MiG-21 into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to carry spray tanks capable of dispensing chemical or biological agents.” The report added, “Iraqis already have produced modified drop-tanks that can dispense biological or chemical agents effectively.” Many of the drops were of water or water and glycerin. If Iraq had weaponized anthrax — which the CIA never claimed — and if some terrorist were allowed to drop anthrax over a U.S. city from an airplane, the nonexistent anthrax would have been dissipated into the wind where not enough of it could have been inhaled to kill anyone. Yet that was the scariest imaginary scenario the CIA managed to dream up, unless you count aflatoxin.

It was recently leaked that the annual intelligence budget amounts to $44 billion. What a waste.

Alan Reynolds is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide