January 28, 2004

Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? Part CCCCXXVIII

The Wonkette (or is it "Wonkette"? Where's the stylebook on this?) wonders why we are ruled by these idiots:

WMD Update: David Kay testified that there may always be "unresolvable ambiguity" about WMDs in Iraq "because of the severe looting that occurred in Iraq immediately after the U.S.-led invasion and the U.S. military's failure to control it." He suspects that "Iraqis probably took advantage of that period of chaos to get rid of any evidence of weapons programs." Doesn't anybody in the Pentagon read the memos? First find the weapons, then let the country get mired in ugly and costly civil unrest. If they've heard it once, they've heard it a million times. . . .

The fact that searching for weapons of mass destruction was apparently last on the Pentagon's task list for Iraq (maintaining civil order was next to last) demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about what the purpose of the invasion of Iraq was.

Unless... Unless... Unless it was all part of a clever plan. Did the Pentagon know that the stovepiped and other intelligence about WMD was a crock? And did somebody think, "If we can make sure there is massive civil disorder and the country is ruined, then nobody will be able to prove that there weren't lots of WMD"? Is that possible. Nah. Even I'm not that paranoid.

Posted by DeLong at January 28, 2004 04:24 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

> Pentagon's .. complete lack of understanding about what the purpose of the invasion of Iraq was ...

The invasion plan gave high priority to securing the oil wells. Leading Wall St. analysts said securing the oil supply was neccessary and a major reason for the invasion. I think the Pentagon understood exactly what the Cheney/Rove Administration expected. Cheney underestimated the flack they'd get about WMD charade.

Posted by: cj on January 28, 2004 04:57 PM


Any reasonable analysis will show that letting Iraq fall into chaos was the only possible strategy for the Bush administration. What's more, it was their visible strategy even before the Iraq war -- it was being used in Afghanistan.

It goes like this. With the U.S. armed forces, conquering any non-nuclear country is easy. But how do you hold territory? Well, to do that you need a sustained commitment of money, troops, and national will over the long term. None of which the Bush administration can provide.

1. They can't provide money because they are committed to ever-increasing tax cuts.

2. They can't provide troops because they want to go on and conquer other countries. Also see number 3 below.

3. They can't provide national will because they are commited to doing whatever it takes for re-election.

So what strategy is left? Well, the Afghanistan one. If you invade a country and then let it fragment into a chaos of local warlords, it is easy to hold it. The U.S. army then becomes the largest warlord, able to move into the territory of any of the others. And there is no legitimate political authority that can tell the U.S. to leave.

Then is no reason to think that the Republicans don't plan a similar strategy for Iraq. After all, what else can they do?

Posted by: Rich Puchalsky on January 28, 2004 05:00 PM


The idea that Bush&Co didn't care about finding evidence of WMDs makes no sense to me. I'm sure it had become an unspoken goal of the war to use the weapons to make the French and the anti-war left look bad. The admin just thought the weapons would be all over the place in plain view - why bother to secure the documents? And anyway the orderly wind-up of the war would include collecting them.
A good thing about stupidity is that it's selected against in the long run...

Posted by: rilkefan on January 28, 2004 05:05 PM


I wonder if the whole Kay mission was a set-up, just so he could plant the disinformation now.

Posted by: Lee A. on January 28, 2004 05:18 PM


If I recall correctly, there was some sort of ministry building that was known in advance to contain many important documents, yet the US military was not directed to protect it.

Posted by: liberal on January 28, 2004 05:24 PM


Speaking of would-be "rulers" and "idiots", I know killing a bunch of illiterate peasants in Pakistan is probably real important but I just have to ask: Why isn't Brad 'thinking out loud' about this stuff too?

A global crisis

BRUSSELS Our planet is changing fast. In recent decades many environmental indicators have moved outside the range in which they have varied for the past half-million years. We are altering our life support system and potentially pushing the planet into a far less hospitable state.

Such large-scale and long-term changes present major policy challenges. The Kyoto Protocol is important as an international framework for combating climate change, and yet its targets can only ever be a small first step. If we cannot develop policies to cope with the uncertainty, complexity and magnitude of global change, the consequences for society may be huge.

We have made impressive progress in the last century. Major diseases have been eradicated and life expectancy and standards of living have increased for many. But the global population has tripled since 1930 to more than six billion and will continue to grow for several decades, and the global economy has increased more than 15-fold since 1950. This progress has had a wide-ranging impact on the environment. Our activities have begun to significantly affect the planet and how it functions. Atmospheric composition, land cover, marine ecosystems, coastal zones, freshwater systems and global biological diversity have all been substantially affected.

Yet it is the magnitude and rate of human-driven change that are most alarming. For example, the human-driven increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is nearly 100 parts per million and still growing - already equal to the entire range experienced between an ice age and a warm period such as the present. And this human-driven increase has occurred at least 10 times faster than any natural increase in the last half-million years.

Evidence of our influence extends far beyond atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the well-documented increases in global mean temperature. During the 1990's, the average area of humid tropical forest cleared each year was equivalent to nearly half the area of England, and at current extinction rates we may well be on the way to the Earth's sixth great extinction event...



By the way y'all, what if anything, does this stuff have to do with our collective 'happiness' and/or the political economic sociopathy currently infecting Washington?


Fixing Democracy

The morning after the 2000 election, Americans woke up to a disturbing realization: our electoral system was too flawed to say with certainty who had won. Three years later, things may actually be worse. If this year's presidential election is at all close, there is every reason to believe that there will be another national trauma over who the rightful winner is, this time compounded by troubling new questions about the reliability of electronic voting machines.

This is no way to run a democracy...

Voting Technology: An accurate count of the votes cast is the sine qua non of a democracy, but one that continues to elude us. As now-discredited punch-card machines are being abandoned, there has been a shift to electronic voting machines with serious reliability problems of their own. Many critics, including computer scientists, have been sounding the alarm: through the efforts of a hacker on the outside or a malicious programmer on the inside, or through purely technical errors, these machines could misreport the votes cast.

They are right to be concerned. There is a fast-growing list of elections in which electronic machines have demonstrably failed, or produced dubious but uncheckable results. One of the most recent occurred, fittingly enough, in Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Florida just this month....

Voter Participation: Our ideal of government with the consent of the governed presumes universal participation in elections, or something close to it. But even in the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, a mere 51 percent of voters went to the polls, down from 63 percent in 1960, and far less than in most mature democracies.

We no longer have poll taxes, but there are still significant obstacles to voting. In Florida in 2000, Katherine Harris, then the secretary of state, hired a private company to purge the voting rolls of felons, but ended up purging many nonfelons as well. There will be more voting roll purges this year, and little scrutiny is being given to how secretaries of state, many of whom are highly political, are conducting them....

Competitive Elections: The founders intended the House of Representatives to be the branch most responsive to the passions of the people. But with the rise of partisan gerrymandering, redistricting to favor the party in control of the process, competitive House elections are becoming virtually obsolete. Only four challengers defeated incumbents in the 2002 general elections, a record low, and in the nation's 435 Congressional districts, there may be no more than 30 this year where the outcome is truly in doubt.

Pennsylvania is a classic case. After the 2000 census, Republicans, who controlled the state legislature, used powerful computers to draw bizarrely shaped districts...


Posted by: Mike on January 28, 2004 05:27 PM


Always look for the worst possible scenario. You won't be wrong with this group.

Posted by: Palolo lolo on January 28, 2004 05:28 PM


And what else isn't on Brad's "public" mind?

This comes to mind:





And this:


Blood Money



And this too:


US dollar hegemony has got to go



And why ISN'T this stuff 'front and center' around here, anyway?

(This is just a hunch mind you, but I think the answer is: Just thinking about guys like you thinking about stuff like this gives good ol' boys like Rubin and Greenspan and DeLong the heebie jeebies ;-)

Posted by: Mike on January 28, 2004 06:03 PM


Kay tried to be helpful to the president by saying the Iraq weapons effort was in chaos and corrupt, with scientists potentially free to cut their own deals with outsiders, as has been the case in Pakistan. In an authoritarian state like Iraq, I find this to be utterly ridiculous.

Posted by: Bob H on January 28, 2004 06:20 PM


Palolo, not sure if you are referencing our idiot rulers or the posters on this blog. I'm sure the former.

Another interesting tidbit along these lines is the insanity of the thermodynamics behind modern agriculture in the recent Atlantic Monthly (vol 308, no 1845), "The Oil We Eat," Richard Manning, 2004. (Not online yet.)

So, is who is Brad in the service of? The elites and he's managing our temperature and managing what we're fed, or is he on our side, educating, trying to get the temperature up a little bit, outing the corrupt and venal elites?

Posted by: Phil on January 28, 2004 06:38 PM


>"...So, is who is Brad in the service of? The elites and he's managing our temperature and managing what we're fed, or is he on our side, educating, trying to get the temperature up a little bit, outing the corrupt and venal elites?"

It's a "Heads they win, tails we lose" game for the largest part, Phil. Has been for a long time. Everybody knows that.

Did you see this?


Power to the people



I didn't think so....

Posted by: Mike on January 28, 2004 06:50 PM


(Did somebody say "Amen" ;?)


Religious zealotry and the crisis of American democracy



Posted by: Mike on January 28, 2004 07:15 PM


My contribution to the blog: go see this


It is GWB: you have a remote and you can make him say lies, change his outfit to the jumpsuit and make him spit out the pretzel he choked on. It's funny.

Posted by: Cal on January 28, 2004 08:41 PM


Now, let me get this straight. According to Kay, the problem wasn't that the Cheney/Rumsfeld gang pressured the CIA to cough up evidence of WMDs where there wasn't any. The problem was simply bad intelligence. ($30 billion/year budget just doesn't go as far as it used to, I take it.)

And then he says:

"And, [Kay] said, the U.S. intelligence community had become "almost addicted" to information coming from United Nations weapons inspectors during the 1990s, leaving them in trouble when those inspectors had to leave."

[Note of approval: at least the copy writer didn't repeat the "Saddamm kicked the inspectors out" lie.]

But wait a minute. If the intelligence agencies were too addicted to UN data, why didn't they trust the UN data they got in late 2002 and early 2003? Let's face it, Hans Blix' team's assessment was as accurate as it gets in that business.

Sorry, I think Kay's trying to cover Bush's ass. (Let's face it, Kay is in line for some fat private sector contracts if he stays a team player.) But the reality is that honest, accurate intelligence WAS available before the war, from the UN team. It was just ignored. Worse, it was publicly scoffed at. That speaks to intentional distortion, not bad intelligence.

Posted by: Moniker on January 28, 2004 09:33 PM


I'm willing to believe they might have *thought* of a WMD coverup strategy, but I don't believe they were competent enough to do it. Another variant of "malicious or incompetent (or both.)" I think they actually believed the Iraqis were going to throw flowers at our feet, and without Saddam's people actively hiding the WMDs, they'd be easy to find, right? So in this case I go with incompetent, rather than malicious. (For example, I recall reading how they thought they'd identified from satellite imagery some sort of WMD equipment outside of Qusay's home, and when they got there, it was a heating oil tank.)

Posted by: Redshift on January 28, 2004 11:08 PM


Bob H wrote, "Kay tried to be helpful to the president by saying the Iraq weapons effort was in chaos and corrupt, with scientists potentially free to cut their own deals with outsiders, as has been the case in Pakistan. In an authoritarian state like Iraq, I find this to be utterly ridiculous."

Maybe you're right about "cut their own deals with outsiders," but the chaos/corrupt part is entirely believable about a authoritarian (totalitarian?) state like Iraq. Though I agree with your overall point that Kay is bending over backwards to help Bush.

Posted by: liberal on January 28, 2004 11:32 PM


Ackerman and Judis wrote a nice article on Iraq's "WMDs" last June. I have a summary of it here, along with links to transcripts of some of the TV shows and speeches with the insistent quotes from folks in the administration:

Posted by: liberal on January 28, 2004 11:34 PM



"The idea that Bush&Co didn't care about finding evidence of WMDs makes no sense to me. I'm sure it had become an unspoken goal of the war to use the weapons to make the French and the anti-war left look bad. The admin just thought the weapons would be all over the place in plain view - why bother to secure the documents? And anyway the orderly wind-up of the war would include collecting them.
A good thing about stupidity is that it's selected against in the long run..."

It doesn't make sense to anybody, but that's the way that it happened. IIRC, the US had special ops teams in Iraq before the official start of the war, so securing at least *some* sites by surprise should have been easy (mainly geographically isolated sites, for which air power could be used to support the team). And, considering what Al Qaida might do with a few trucks of nerve gas-filled artillery shells, it would be worth risking the loss of a number of special ops teams.

Posted by: Barry on January 29, 2004 04:25 AM


Bob H wrote, "Kay tried to be helpful to the president by saying the Iraq weapons effort was in chaos and corrupt, with scientists potentially free to cut their own deals with outsiders, as has been the case in Pakistan. In an authoritarian state like Iraq, I find this to be utterly ridiculous."


"Maybe you're right about "cut their own deals with outsiders," but the chaos/corrupt part is entirely believable about a authoritarian (totalitarian?) state like Iraq. Though I agree with your overall point that Kay is bending over backwards to help Bush."

Liberal, Bob H, I too find it plausible that some of the funding was skimmed. I might find it plausible that most of the money was skimmed.

What I don't find plausible is that 100% of the money was skimmed - which had to have happened. Remember, it wasn't the case that the 'vast stockpiles' of WMD's were 'medium', or 'small', or 'petit', but that they weren't there at all.

And there has been no publicly available evidence
of any decoy or dummy programs. So the 'they skimmed the money' scenario is actually 'they skimmed all of the money, and didn't even have a fake operation set up to fool Saddam, who didn't even check up in the slightest over a period of many years'.

I find that hard to believe.

Posted by: Barry on January 29, 2004 04:31 AM


What "ambiguity"? Seems pretty damn unambiguous to me that there were and qre no WMDs in Iraq. Could anythoing about this whole sorry mess be plainer?


Posted by: charles on January 29, 2004 06:21 AM


Mike raises some great points. There's a whole panoply of issues in which the G.W. Bush administration is leading the country toward irreversible decline, by both its actions and its inactions. Somehow we've got to get this message out to the vast numbers of my compatriots in the political center. One to add to your list was raised in a piece in the current issue of the "Washington Monthly" by Richard Florida, who is the author of "The Rise of the Creative Class".


Florida's book had documented the rapidly increasing importance of creative people to the economy but the magazine piece discusses how the administration's policies, from the emphasis on the 'old' economy of steel, oil, etc. to the draconian homeland security policies to the anti-science policies of stem-cell research etc. are undermining the most creative elements of our economy.

Regarding the 'Electoral Dysfunction' issue raised by Mike, I'm involved in an organization here in Minnesota that advocates Instant Runoff Voting as an alternative to the dominant First Past the Post system.


We believe that one of the reasons for so much voter apathy is that people are dissatisfied with the Hobson's choices they are so often presented with by the major parties. We're making some progress in getting the attention in the legislature, whose 2004 session begins next week. Wish us luck.

Posted by: Chuck on January 29, 2004 07:17 AM


“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you have to concentrate on.” George W. Bush, Gridiron Dinner, December, 2000, as quoted by Paul Krugman, NYT, 4/11/01

And we thought he said this in jest!!

Posted by: Chuck on January 29, 2004 07:23 AM


Everybody in Saddam's command was in mortal fear that he might shoot one of them dead on sight, as he did several times. Or torture them horribly and behead their families, first. And he made continuous last-minute decisions to visit high-security sites throughout Iraq to check on things, for the length of his reign. He was enormously cagey. It is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that there was the least bit of chaos, corruption, or "outside deals" regarding something as important to Saddam as mass weapons, certainly among the scientists and most likely among all but a very few officers.

Indeed, if there were "outside deals", we'd almost certainly have had "better intelligence"!

But of course the whole idea that our intelligence failed is an ass-saving slander. Kay = disinformation. Just wait to see if anyone agrees to take the fall. There were six to eight different stories in the run-up to the invasion that different retired intelligence professionals received inside word that the agencies were being pressured, and Tenet already made his testimony to Congress, about what was known, and who the info was sent to in the White House, in May 2002.

BushCo decided to IGNORE the evidence in favor of the greater glory, supposing that U.S. intelligence would certainly have overlooked one or two craters, and most likely there'd be something to find once we got there.

Posted by: Lee A. on January 29, 2004 07:34 AM


Is there any hope of ever finding the "truth" as long as this admin is in D.C. Look at what has happened in the UK -- where the PM was not blamed for basing policy on completely wrong intelligence but the newspaper that correctly pointed out some of the intelligence was incorrect was blammed. How can we hope to ever have an honest evaluation of what happened as
long as Bush& co are in charge?

Posted by: spencer on January 29, 2004 08:17 AM


These are the ex CIA spooks who have been so adamant about the pressure on their former cohorts.

Memo to the President Your State of the Union Address
25.01.2004 [20:20]

January 15, 2004

We write this, our fifth such memorandum to you since our critique of Secretary of State Colin Powell's UN speech last February, out of concern that the same advisers who served you so poorly in drafting the Iraq section of last year's state-of-the-union address will embarrass you again. Your credibility and that of the intelligence community suffered a major blow from the hyperbole that characterized that speech--not to mention the infamous 16 words based on the forgery alleging that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. The panel led by Gen. Brent Scowcroft, whom you asked to investigate how that wound up in your speech, reportedly attributes it to desperation on the part of your staff to "find something affirmative" to support claims like those made by Vice President Dick Cheney that Saddam Hussein had "reconstituted" Iraq's nuclear program. We suggest you ensure that those over-eager functionaries responsible for the 16 words, and for your claim last spring that weapons of mass destruction had been found in the form of two "bio-trailers"--since proven to be generators of hydrogen for weather balloons--take no hand in drafting this year's address.


Before your state-of-the-union address last year we urged you to resist the temptation to favor "ideologues and spin doctors over the professional intelligence officers paid to serve you." Specifically, we noted that most of our major allies, with whom we have extensive intelligence sharing arrangements, had taken strong issue with US claims regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They found the evidence on the presence of weapons of mass destruction inconclusive--and far short of what would be necessary to justify war. Ten months of unsuccessful quest for such weapons, together with freshly obtained documentary evidence, has proved them right.

After all the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction as the main reason for war, it will take considerable humility and courage to acknowledge error. But such a step is needed to stem further erosion in the credibility of your administration's statements and the intelligence adduced to justify them. Further dissembling on Iraq will inevitably bring still more damage. Besides, conceding error is the honorable thing to do--and the only way to go forward with confidence and self-respect.

Each week brings new evidence that the case for war was bogus. On January 7, for example, the prestigious Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a meticulously documented study concluding that:

"Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs."

We in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity recently completed a post mortem on why, hardened professional skeptics that we are, most of us still expected that some weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq (not enough to justify war, but some). Why that conclusion? Our post mortem found that our professional judgment was beclouded by the repeated claims by you and your senior advisers that the evidence available to you "left no doubt" about the presence of WMD in Iraq. There were also hints that the evidence was too sensitive to reveal, and we are very familiar with that dilemma. In addition, there was a new factor for us who, until now, have devoted what we used to call "propaganda analysis" only to the pronouncements of foreign leaders. In all candor, as Americans we found it difficult to be as objectively critical of statements from Washington as we would have been of ones from Baghdad or, say, Paris. Consequently, most of us were inclined to give you and other administration spokesmen the benefit of the doubt.

Hussein Kamel Also Said: the Full Story

But we were being told only half the story. Consider, for example, the information provided by Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, who defected in August 1995. He is the defector you quoted in the key speech you made on October 7, 2002, the speech that gave great impetus to the successful attempt to persuade Congress just four days later to cede to you its power to declare war. Referring correctly to Kamel as "the head of Iraq's military industries," you noted that his defection forced Baghdad to admit to having produced "deadly biological agents."

Kamel had already been extolled as defector par excellence. In his scene-setter-for-war speech of August 26, 2002, Vice President Cheney singled out Kamel "as a reminder to all that we often learned more as the result of defections than we learned from the inspection regime itself."

The vice president spoke truth in underscoring the value of the first-hand information provided by Kamel. But it was half-truth, of the kind we warned you about before the war--in our memorandum "Forgery, Hyperbole, Half-Truth: A Problem," for example. There we noted that:

"Kamel also said that in 1991 Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them."

That part of Kamel's debriefing was suppressed until Newsweek disclosed it on February 24, 2003, several weeks before the war. On the day the Newsweek report appeared, CIA spokesman Bill Harlow pulled out his entire tray of deprecatory adjectives, branding it "incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue." But a few days later when the official transcript of the Kamel debriefing (originally classified UNSCOM/IAEA SENSITIVE) was made available to the press, there on page 13 was Kamel stating categorically:

"I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons--biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed."

The rest of the information that Kamel provided about major WMD programs, many of them undetected before his debriefing, proved to be accurate. Understandably, his assurances that he had decided to "disclose everything" required confirmation, but it is odd that those assurances were totally suppressed--particularly since so much of what he said had already proved true.

Confirmation has now come in two very persuasive ways. First, none of the weaponry that Kamel said was destroyed at his order has been found. Second, documentary evidence corroborating Kamel's testimony has now come to light. In a lengthy Washington Post article on January 7, "Iraq Arsenal Was Only on Paper," Barton Gelman reported he had acquired a handwritten letter written to Saddam Hussein's son Qusay five days after Kamel's defection.

The writer was Hossam Amin, director of the key Iraqi office overseeing UN inspectors. The letter was essentially a damage report warning that after Kamel's defection the cover stories masking forbidden weapons were no longer sustainable. Considered together with the subsequent findings of the UN inspectors who pursued every item in Amin's catalogue, the letter shows that Iraq had in fact destroyed its entire inventory of biological weapons during the summer of 1991, before the UN inspectors even knew of their existence.

You will recall that in September 2002, when your administration mounted a full-court press to make the case for war in Congress, the Defense Intelligence Agency published a dissonant report which, had it not also been suppressed, might have caused a game-losing turnover. The DIA report asserted that there was "no reliable information" that Iraq had chemical or biological weapons. DIA specialists had read and evaluated the Kamel debriefing reports as well as the other available evidence on this issue. To their credit, even lacking the documentary confirmation now provided by the Amin letter, DIA analysts apparently decided that, since most of what Kamel said had proven accurate, it would be less than honest to simply ignore his important claim that chemical and biological weapons had been destroyed at his order.

This did not prevent your advisers from inserting into your important speech of October 7, 2002 an alarming passage exaggerating what Kamel said about biological agents and omitting altogether what he said about having had them all destroyed:

"In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions."

In your state-of-the-union address last year you reiterated those claims. And a week later, in his UN speech of February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized that it was only after Kamel's defection that Iraq finally admitted that "it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes." Powell, too, neglected to mention that Kamel had also said that such stocks had been destroyed. Nor did he mention that in the seven and a half years since Kamel's debriefing the US had turned up no evidence challenging his testimony.

It is important that you be completely clear on timing. While the Newsweek report of February 24, 2003 was the first to publicize Kamel's testimony that the weapons had been destroyed, US and British intelligence (as well as UN officials) had had that information since August 1995. If you were not given a full account of what Kamel said before it appeared in Newsweek, your advisers should certainly have given you the whole truth when Newsweek did break the story three weeks before you sent US troops into Iraq to destroy those same weapons. If they did not tell you, heads should roll. If they did, it becomes necessary to explain why the information from Kamel had no apparent effect on your decision to launch the invasion.

The "Bio-Trailers"

Barton Gelman's detailed report also addresses other key aspects of the case made against Iraq on weapons of mass destruction. Discussing the two trailer-mounted "bio-labs" found near Mosul last spring--the ones that led you to say while on a trip to Poland that weapons of mass destruction had been found--Gelman quotes David Kay's description of that find as a "fiasco." Kay told the BBC last fall, "I think it was premature and embarrassing." The two trailers, it is now widely accepted, are mobile hydrogen generators purchased from the UK in 1982 to fill weather balloons measuring wind and temperature for Iraqi artillery units.

Summarizing his talks with the investigators working under Kay, Gelman writes that they have found no support for the twin fear expressed in Washington and London before the war--that Iraq had a hidden arsenal of old weapons and advanced programs for new ones. What is now clear is that Iraq did not have the wherewithal to build a forbidden armory on anything like the scale it had before the Gulf War in 1991. In his interim report of October 2, 2003, Kay reported no discoveries last year of finished weapons, bulk agents, or ready-to-start production lines, and some of the investigators working for Kay told Gelman they now have little expectation of such a find.


--We suggest that you announce that you will now permit the reintroduction of UN inspectors. It is time to bring in the experts. They know Iraq; they know the weapons and what it takes to produce them; they know the Iraqi scientists, with whom they have dealt in past years; and they even have adequate UN funding to do the job. If weapons are to be found, they will find them.

In contrast, David Kay's is a highly inefficient operation. Of the 1,400 people in his group, most have no prior experience as inspectors because, for some reason, previous UN inspectors were generally not invited to join. Consequently, fewer than 100 of the 1,400 are actually involved in generating information from field investigations, and the number of Iraqi weapons scientists interviewed by Kay's inspectors is very low.

--Announce that you are asking Gen. Brent Scowcroft, head of your Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, to look into why only half of Kamel's story was told. This would be a limited investigation into one discrete aspect of the general credibility problem, not unlike the inquiry Scowcroft recently completed into how it was that the canard about Iraq seeking uranium found its way into your speech last year. This time the Scowcroft panel should find out which government officials and which members of Congress were told the full story and when. The panel should be asked to report back to you by May 1.

--Make it clear that you will hold people accountable if the Scowcroft panel investigation turns up evidence of ineptitude or deliberate distortion of intelligence. And be prepared to make good on that. The buck does stop with you.

--Announce that you are widening your circle of advisers beyond what has become known as your "praetorian guard." This is all the more necessary as it grows clearer and clearer that fresh ideas are needed on how to address the post-invasion situation in Iraq.

A ready lesson can be drawn from what President Lyndon Johnson chose to do when he began to realize he had been misled on Vietnam by his closest advisers. Just weeks after the surprise Vietnamese Communist Tet offensive in early 1968 (another major intelligence failure), Johnson asked Clark Clifford to convene a panel of "Wise Men" to review the entire Vietnam situation de novo and develop its own policy recommendations. Just three weeks later the panel briefed the president on the gravity of the situation; Johnson abruptly changed course and sought a negotiated settlement with Hanoi. One key lesson here is that a panel of distinguished advisers need not take inordinate amounts of time to come up with constructive recommendations.

--Looking toward more systemic problems and the longer term, we suggest you endorse the following recommendation from the report that the Carnegie Endowment put out this month, "WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications:"

Create a nonpartisan independent commission to establish a clear picture of what the intelligence community knew and believed it knew about Iraq's weapons program throughout 1991-2002, which can be compared to what actually happened in Iraq when that becomes known. The commission should consider the role of foreign intelligence as well as the question of political pressure on analysts and the adequacy of agencies' responses to it."

--Finally, you may wish to read the advice we provided prior to last year's state-of-the-union address. We append our letter of last January, in the hope it will encourage you to take this year's recommendations seriously.


Gene Betit, Arlington, VA
Ray Close, Princeton, NJ
David MacMichael, Linden, VA
Ray McGovern, Arlington, VA

Steering Group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Attachment: VIPS Warning, January 2003
(from The Birmingham News, January 28, 2002)

Mr. President:

As you prepare to make the case against Iraq in your State of the Union address Tuesday, beware the consequences of favoring ideologues and spin-doctors over the professional intelligence officers paid to serve you.

Until last week many Americans were inclined to take your top aides at their word that the looming war with Iraq is not about oil or vengeance but rather about Iraq's continuing pursuit of "weapons of mass destruction." Now all but the most unquestioning loyalists are having serious second thoughts.

Doubt grew exponentially as France and Germany, with whom we have extensive intelligence sharing arrangements, took strong issue with your administration's claims about Iraq. Those two major allies and others have concluded that the evidence that Iraq is continuing to pursue new weapons of mass destruction is far from conclusive and that it falls far short of justification for starting a war.

Your speeches on Iraq last October--in Cincinnati and at the UN--were rhetorical triumphs. But you need to be aware now that much of the evidence you adduced against Iraq could not withstand close scrutiny. Your advisers had you shooting yourself in the foot with hyperbole.

In both speeches they had you making alarmist claims that our allies know do not square either with the facts or the judgments of the US and wider allied intelligence communities. I'll mention just two:

--Singling out the high-strength aluminum tubes Iraq has been trying to purchase, you said they "are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." After an aggressive investigation, the UN inspectors in Iraq have now concluded that the tubes were not meant for enriching uranium but rather for making ordinary artillery rockets, as the Iraqis have said.

--You also claimed that Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon "in less than a year." Our allies are finding it difficult to reconcile that with the formal estimate of the US intelligence community that Iraq will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon until the end of the decade, if then.

On January 3, to the well-rehearsed cheers of our troops at Fort Hood, you stated three times that Iraq is a "grave threat" to the United States. But for our allies, and for an increasing number of Americans, repetition alone does not enhance credibility. They are looking for proof. (You are, after all, talking war.)

In the past, Mr. President, you have said that the CIA delivers the world's best intelligence, but now you seem captive to the "intelligence" coming from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz. You will recall how stung Wolfowitz was last fall, when the CIA insisted that reports tying Iraq to al-Qaeda lacked credibility and that the available evidence on Iraq's nuclear program was inconclusive. And you are probably aware that he has declared publicly that CIA analysis "is not worth the paper it is written on."

To be sure, CIA's conclusions are often unwelcome. The question is whether they are more accurate than the ones you are getting from the Pentagon.

When NATO ambassadors asked Wolfowitz last month about the evidence against Iraq, he likened it to pornography: "I can't define it, but I will know it when I see it." He did little to rehabilitate himself as super analyst last Thursday with his long, unpersuasive speech in New York.

Rather than offering evidence to support the points he was trying to make, Wolfowitz fell back on phrases like "there is every reason to believe." Worse, he has a peculiar affinity for information from defectors and exiles, sources that experienced intelligence professionals know to be notoriously unreliable.

Suffice it to say that were Wolfowitz an apprentice intelligence analyst in his two-year probationary period, I would not recommend taking him on as a career employee.

As you prepare for Tuesday's address, you might consider giving your principal intelligence adviser, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, an advance look at your draft this time. And please think long and hard about the rhetoric.

Talk is cheap, and it is easy to play down the significance of rhetoric. But it would be a serious mistake to do so with reference to major pronouncements like the State of the Union.

That words can have far-reaching consequences is shown by North Korea's decision, after you labeled it part of the "axis of evil" in last year's address, to renege on its commitment to forgo nuclear weapons. No one should have been surprised when the North Koreans concluded that, without a strengthened nuclear deterrent, they would be next in line after Iraq for a US "preemptive" attack.

Hopefully, your intelligence advisers have warned you of the possibility that Pyongyang will decide to take further advantage of your fixation on Iraq in the weeks ahead and perhaps even go beyond words to threaten the 37,000 US troops who form a human tripwire south of the demilitarized zone. There, beyond question, is a real and present danger.

Good luck Tuesday evening. Please cool the rhetoric and stay close to the facts.

The VIPS can be reached at: RRMcGovern@aol.com

Posted by: Mark Garrity on January 29, 2004 12:15 PM


Moniker: "I think Kay's trying to cover Bush's ass."

Yep. It's very skillfully done too. Acknowledge the existence of problems, mistakes, etc. to defuse the issue, but begin to misdirect the blame. He appears fairly objective, putting the president in a tough spot, but he's only acknowledging what was already known and couldn't be hidden much longer, and deflects the blame away.

Posted by: andrew on January 30, 2004 02:50 AM


I can't understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars.

Posted by: Rose Michael on March 17, 2004 05:36 PM


The Tao's principle is spontaneity.

Posted by: Kolker Danielle on May 2, 2004 12:58 PM


Study as though you will not reach, as if you may lose it.

Posted by: Pitarys Katherine on May 3, 2004 12:30 AM


There's nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

Posted by: Allocco Kate on May 20, 2004 02:24 AM


Don't give up, you are close.

Posted by: Neufeld Josh on June 2, 2004 08:51 PM


Truth is a kind and gentle lie.

Posted by: Rosenstiel Donna on June 30, 2004 05:56 AM


This is my personal homepage.

Chris Smith o

Posted by: Chris Smith on June 30, 2004 08:14 PM


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