"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." -- Sen. John F. Kerry, Oct. 9, 2002.
Two more points. I find much to criticize in the CIA, but it's too easy to make the agency the fall guy for what is, let's be honest, a truly weird development. Saddam used WMDs on Iran and the Kurds; he threatened to incinerate Israel with chemical weapons; he chased the U.N. inspectors out of his country; he refused to provide proof that he had destroyed the weapons he once had, though providing such proof would have staved off an invasion that spelled the end of his reign. The whole thing is so improbable that it cries out for alternative explanations. Perhaps he has secretly shipped the weapons to Syria or the Bekaa Valley. Perhaps he really believed that the weapons existed but his underlings were lying to him.
In any case, we know that our intelligence services have become risk averse and overly dependent on "national technical means" -- i.e., satellites, phone intercepts and other listening devices. But nothing in the spy world can replace human beings. One lesson of this episode is that we'd better rush to train Arabic, Farsi and Urdu-speaking officers.
But it is purest cant to suggest that President Bush misled anyone. Kay took pains to note that Saddam's regime was continuing to pursue nuclear and other weapons. It was only a matter of time, he estimated, before nuclear material and corrupt nuclear scientists met and shook hands on a deal. And that was one of the chief reasons President Bush thought it prudent to act now and not wait. It is those who opposed the war, not those who supported it, who have a lot to answer for.