John Leo

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,, 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.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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