Like it or not, Republicans are going to keep hearing President Bush being accused of lying to us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq for another three years. And Senate Democrats are going to keep being reminded that they, too, were convinced Saddam Hussein had such weapons. Yet the plain truth is that none of these gentlemen lied. They were lied to -- by the CIA. But how were they so easily fooled?
In a Washington Times op-ed, former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida complained that 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 Graham nonetheless said at the time that 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 that they were all so gullible as to be taken in by such an obvious CIA deception.
In June 2003, in "Intelligence Without Brains," I wrote, "The senators should have read the CIA report last October, and not just the summary." Many irate critics then questioned my own intelligence, but not one pretended to have bothered to 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 that "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons."
The second page 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 method of delivering "agents" to the U.S. homeland, you were fooled twice.
The second page did claim Iraq has "mobile facilities" to produce nameless biological weapons. Since they couldn't find anything, something horrible must be happening inside invisible gypsy wagons.
By page 5, the CIA was reduced to arguing that because the agency was totally clueless, that is their 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 there must be something fishy going on. All they could find were "attempts" to buy high-strength aluminum tubes, although "some (experts) believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs." On page 6, the guessing game continued with, "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 was 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 "potentially" being able 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 that 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 through 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 that, "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 covert 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, then the nonexistent anthrax would have been dissipated into the wind where it could not have been inhaled in sufficient doses to have killed 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.