Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Year Late And A Dollar Short

Tim Dunlop from The Road To Surfdom, points to this article about Australian weapons inspector Rod Barton who was a part of the team looking for WMDs in post invasion Iraq. Barton even filled in as the de facto leader of the team in the interim period between David Kay's resignation and Charles Duelfer's arrival - but his time logged in Iraq, impressive credentials, and experience in the field of study leave little doubt as to why he was such an integral member of the weapons inspection unit.

Barton's story is of interest, as Dunlop points out, because of the historical gaps it fills in, and for the fact that Barton reveals the tendency to delay the release of negative reports and maintain the facade that the inspectors would discover WMDs long after the truth was apparent to those on the ground.

Although he did not know it at the time, Barton arrived at Camp Slayer in early December 2003 at a moment of crisis for the organisation. The American in charge of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, David Kay, had been an enemy of Blix and, before the invasion, a WMD super-hawk. After five months of fruitless searching he had rather suddenly come to accept the unhappy fact that there were no weapons. It was as if, Barton says, he had discovered there was no God. A British army officer who was at Slayer in November told Barton that Kay now walked with "shoulders sagged". Before Barton arrived, Kay had left for good. Barton was, accordingly, a special adviser with no one to advise....

Barton says he arrived in Iraq with "an open mind" on weapons of mass destruction. Within a week - after reading the critical reports and discussing the matter with trusted colleagues - he had reached the same conclusion as Kay. "By this stage we'd been to enough sites. We had talked to a lot of scientists and political people. I was experienced enough to know there'd be some indication," Barton recalls. Not one solid piece of evidence for the presence of banned pre-1991 weapons or post-1991 programs had been found.
Kay's replacement, Charles Duelfer, went along with the charade as well, long past its freshness date, and scuttled the work Barton had compiled up to the point of Duelfer's arrival:

Duelfer now told Barton he was unhappy with the idea that so shortly after his arrival he should take to Congress a detailed report. Barton's work would have to be scrapped. He would provide instead a very brief report with no conclusions.

"What this meant was that it would have no assessment," Barton says. He was dismayed.

Barton remained with the survey group as adviser to Duelfer during the preparation of the interim report. He suggested it should be sent out for comment. He was astonished when a reply came back from the head of MI6, John Scarlett, who suggested to Duelfer that he, in Barton's words, "sex the report up". Duelfer refused.

Even so, by the time Duelfer's misleading report reached Congress, Barton had resigned in protest. Two other senior members of the survey group, from Australia and Britain, had already resigned for similar reasons.

In August, when Duelfer was again working independently, Barton agreed to return to Baghdad to help him draft the final survey group report, which he regards as generally very good. Except for one important chapter, however, he believes an almost identical report could have been written in March. [emphasis added]
To Duelfer's credit, at least according to Barton, he refused to comply with MI6's request to embellish the report. That seems consistent with the somewhat underwhelming conclusions in the final Duelfer Report, which were still seized upon by Bush supporters to show that Saddam was potentially dangerous at some point in the future, and that he wanted to acquire weapons, perhaps, maybe, contingently, and so on. I also agree with Dunlop that Barton's account of the gung-ho George Tenet is comical to say the least (kind of reminiscent of the "slam dunk" exuberance):

In mid-February 2004 Kay's replacement, Charles Duelfer, arrived at Camp Slayer. His arrival coincided with a visit by George Tenet, the CIA director, who introduced Duelfer to the welcoming party: "This guy's as weird as shit, but he knows a hell of a lot."

Tenet addressed the assembly like a football coach: "Are we 85 per cent done?"

"No!" roared back the team.

"Then let's go out and find the stuff! It's out there!"

Barton was standing beside a British officer. "We could not believe what we were seeing and hearing."
In total, an ineteresting and balanced insider's account.

(cross-posted at
Liberals Against Terrorism)

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