Ed Driscoll

Weapons of Meme Destruction

“The topic of WMD in Iraq has been a hot potato for more than two decades, ever since the end of the first Gulf War and the procession of 17 UN Security Council resolutions demanding that Saddam Hussein verifiably destroy them,” Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air:

If the WMD existed in Iraq, what happened to it? Many suspected that it got transferred to Syria prior to the 2003 invasion, but the New York Times reports today that the CIA actually did find at least some of the suspected and undeclared caches of chemical weapons — and destroyed them:

The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.

Read the whole thing. And then if you need a refresher course on the topic, check out Gabriel Malor, who wrote at Ace of Spades in October 2014, “Despite What You May Have Read In The Papers, The Iraq War Was Not About An Active Weapons Program.” As Malor notes, Nowhere in Bush’s speech to the UN in September of 2002 “will you find a claim that Hussein had an ‘active weapons program,’ as the NYTimes writers would now have you believe. Rather Bush talked about finding Hussein’s old weapons and deterring his hope to once again restart his weapons programs.” Early in the following year, Malor adds in his post, “Bush gave one of the speeches he will no doubt be long remembered for, the ‘Axis of Evil’ State of the Union speech, in which he again noted Iraq’s old weapons. Note well: He didn’t accuse Iraq of having an active weapons program.”

Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Laurence H. Silberman, the former co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction wrote “In recent weeks, I have heard former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier on Fox News twice asserting, quite offhandedly, that President George W. Bush ‘lied us into war in Iraq:'”

I found this shocking. I took a leave of absence from the bench in 2004-05 to serve as co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction—a bipartisan body, sometimes referred to as the Robb-Silberman Commission. It was directed in 2004 to evaluate the intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—I am, therefore, keenly aware of both the intelligence provided to President Bush and his reliance on that intelligence as his primary casus belli. It is astonishing to see the “Bush lied” allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.

The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated, in a formal presentation to President Bush and to Congress, its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction—a belief in which the NIE said it held a 90% level of confidence. That is about as certain as the intelligence community gets on any subject.

Recall that the head of the intelligence community, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, famously told the president that the proposition that Iraq possessed WMD was “a slam dunk.” Our WMD commission carefully examined the interrelationships between the Bush administration and the intelligence community and found no indication that anyone in the administration sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings. As our commission reported, presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

The Clinton administration you say? Will Hillary and the former president/potential “First Gentleman” be asked about this period of their lives?

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(Headline inspired by the Bard of Des Moines/Austin.)