WASHINGTON -- Before the great hunt for scapegoats begins, let's look at what David Kay has actually said about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
First, and most trumpeted, he did not find ``large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction.'' He did find, as he reported last October, WMD-related activities, from a very active illegal missile program to research and development (``right up until the end'') on weaponizing the deadly poison ricin (the stuff found by London police on terrorists last year). He discovered ``hundreds of cases'' of U.N.-prohibited and illegally concealed activities.
Significant findings, but still a far cry from what the administration had claimed last March. Kay has now offered the most novel and convincing explanation for why U.S. intelligence -- and, for that matter, U.N. inspectors and the intelligence agencies of every country that mattered -- had misjudged what Iraq possessed.
It was a combination of Iraqi bluff, deceit, and corruption far more bizarre than heretofore suspected. Kay discovered that an increasingly erratic Saddam had taken over personal direction of WMD programs. But because there was no real oversight, the scientists would go to Saddam for money, exaggerate or invent their activities, then pocket the funds.
Scientists were bluffing Saddam. Saddam was bluffing the world. The Iraqis were all bluffing each other. Special Republican Guard commanders had no WMDs, but they told investigators that they were sure that other guard units did. It was this internal disinformation that the whole outside world missed.
Congress needs to find out why, with all our resources, we had not a clue that this was going on. But Kay makes clear that Bush was relying on what the intelligence agencies were telling him. Kay contradicts the reckless Democratic charges that Bush cooked the books. ``All the analysts I have talked to said they never felt pressured on WMD,'' says Kay. ``Everyone believed that (Iraq) had WMD.''
Including the Clinton administration. Kay told The Washington Post that he had found evidence that Saddam had quietly destroyed some biological and chemical weapons in the mid-1990s -- but never reported it to the U.N. Which was why Clinton in 1998 declared with great alarm and great confidence that Iraq had huge stockpiles of biological and chemical arms -- ``and some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal.''
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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