A committee of the U.S. Senate has discovered yet another instance in which the truth about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- there were none -- was made clear before the invasion of Iraq, only to be ignored.
The latest revelation: Before the war, the Central Intelligence Agency talked to relatives of Iraqi scientists about the weapons programs and were told the programs were defunct.
The interviews began in 2000, according to today’s New York Times, five years after Hussein Kamel -- head of Iraq’s weapons programs for 10 years and Saddam Hussein’s brother-in-law -- defected and told U.S. and British intelligence the same thing. The interviews were surely going on at the same time Scott Ritter, the former United Nations weapons inspector, was gathering the information that formed the basis for his movie “In Shifting Sands: The Truth About Unscom and the Disarming of Iraq,” which had the same message and was released in the United States in July 2001. The interviews may even have been going on in October 2001, when “60 Minutes” anchor Leslie Stahl traveled to Iraq and also was told there were no active weapons programs there.
They were almost certainly over by March 18, 2003, when Saddam Hussein himself, trying to head off the war that started the next day, said Iraq had once had the weapons, as protection against Iran and Israel, but no longer did. “We are not weapons collectors. When Saddam Hussein says he has no weapons of mass destruction, he means what he says,” the national news agency quoted him as saying.
March 18 was also the day U.N. weapons inspectors left, after more than three months of, not surprisingly, finding no evidence of active Iraqi weapons programs or the weapons themselves.
U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell in his infamous U.N. speech, used information provided by Hussein Kamel but ignored him saying there were no weapons. What the Times shows is even worse: The CIA disseminated information about Iraqi weapons but not assertions that the programs were dead even though they confirmed Kamel’s statements, the corroborative statements of others and the on-the-ground experience of U.N. weapons inspectors.
Again and again U.S. intelligence and media were presented with a consistent reason for the failure to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; but again and again they accepted and used data from sources that somehow couldn’t be trusted on the single most important point those sources were making.
How does anyone, in good conscience, build a case based on evidence from people who, it must have been argued, were either lying or didn’t know what they were talking about?