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Old 08-17-2007   #41
Merv Benson
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Default Accounting for WMD

Marc,

When we talk about honesty on the WMD issue too often we over look how we got there. Iraq was required to account for its WMD by virtue of a cease fire agreement and some 16 or so UN resolutions. It was never able to do so and was given one last chance before the war in 2003.

After we defeated Saddam's army, the US was also unable to account for all of Saddam's WMD. To suggest that the President was dishonest because of the failure of both sides to account for the weapons is to lose the plot. It is a diversion from the inarguable facts, but it has had serious political consequences in support for the war effort.

What should be clear is that if we were not able to account for these weapons with unfettered access, then it would have been impossible for the UN or Iraq to have accounted for the missing weapons given his limited "cooperation."

One of the ironies of the debate about "lying about WMD" is that those who are most likely to make that argument never challenged Iraq's failure to account for his WMD and opposed the war anyway because they thought Saddam would use the WMD.
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Old 08-17-2007   #42
marct
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Hi Merv,

I used that example as a case in point for of a number of reasons - mainly because of its potential as a political football. If we really want to look at it, I would make a couple of points.

First, the issue of accountability via the UN is quite interesting. Your president decided to bypass the UN after his initial appeals and go to war without UN support so, as far as using the UN as validation for the decision to unilaterally go to war, I would have to say that that is an invalid claim. On the issue of Iraq being responsible for accounting for their WMDs to the UN - sure, they were as, I would note, is Iran.

Quote:
After we defeated Saddam's army, the US was also unable to account for all of Saddam's WMD. To suggest that the President was dishonest because of the failure of both sides to account for the weapons is to lose the plot. It is a diversion from the inarguable facts, but it has had serious political consequences in support for the war effort.
Can we say "Nigerian yellowcake"? I am not and was not suggesting that he was dishonest. What I did say was that some of the claims he used for going to war have been proven (later) to be false. This has absolutely noting to do with accounting for weapons, it has to do with the establishment of a causus bellum. Furthermore, what I was pointing to was the impossibility of ever knowing, with 95%+ accuracy, what he actually believed at the time. He may well ave believed the yellowcake report, he may have thought it possible but not proven, he might have had other unpublished intel and knowingly used the yellowcake as a front even knowing it was false. My point was that we do not know what his motivations and beliefs were for using it at that time. The broader point I was trying to make was that he could be completely honest in his presentation of his beliefs and perceptions and still be wrong in fact.

Quote:
What should be clear is that if we were not able to account for these weapons with unfettered access, then it would have been impossible for the UN or Iraq to have accounted for the missing weapons given his limited "cooperation."
Absolutely true, although I would note that you did not have "unfettered access" to the situation when the claims were made. The weapons might have been smuggled out of the country (there were some rumours about that - I've no idea if its true) - it's also possible the weapons may have been dismantled and the parts shipped all over. When the US got in a position to look for them, they were looking at a changed situation from when Saddam was in power.

The entire issue is precisely so complex because of its political football dimensions. After all, what do we "know" with 95% accuracy? Well, we do know that he had used gas weapons, fire bombs and other non-nuclear non-biological weapons. So of the NBC trinity of WMDs, he had certainly used the chemical ones (NB: this does not mean that he actually had any at the time of the invasion, just that it is a "reasonable supposition). We also knew that Iraq had both the capability and the raw materials to produce certain types of biological weapons - anthrax comes to mind since I believe that the CDC mentioned four shipments to Iraqi laboratories. We "inferred" (applied a schema) that he was pursuing nuclear weapons.

Of these three, we can state with 95%+ accuracy, that he "had" chemical weapons (at least at some point in time), he may have had biological ones and certainly had the capacity to produce them, and he might have had a development program for nuclear ones.

Returning to the question of "honesty", I certainly believe that your president was honest in claiming that the Iraqis "had WMDs" - no question in my mind that he had or could easily produce, chemical weapons and had the will to use them. Did he have biological ones and a continuing program for developing nuclear? My guess, and this is all anyone can do barring further evidence, is that the answer is no. But that is speaking with hindsight - in terms of assessing the presidents honesty in his claims, it is also moot. His claims were based on perceptions, which may be true or false (as some have been shown to be) but, as far as assessing his honesty is concerned, the only valid way to do so is to prove or disprove that e actually believed those claims.

Marc
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Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
Carleton University
http://marctyrrell.com/
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