Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Ex Posting The Factos
On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."
The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.
A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.
The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.
Yeah, maybe. But that was like, so after the invasion. Before the invasion, the Bush administration was entirely forthcoming, interested in vetting all intelligence related to WMD, dialectical in their pursuit of dissenting opinions, relying only on experts and, in general, absolutely refusing to cherry pick or exaggerate any threats, claims or evidence. Foremost amongst the groups within the Bush administration committed to balanced and accurate intelligence analysis was the Office of Special Plans.
After the invasion, however, the "gloves came off," and some might have, ya know, exaggerated a thing or two. But only after. And someone, maybe, forgot to tell the Iraq Survey Group about these somewhat inconvenient, um, "findings." Probably just a bureaucratic snafu:
[David] Kay, in an interview, said senior CIA officials had advised him upon accepting the survey group's leadership in June 2003 that some experts in the DIA were "backsliding" on whether the trailers were weapons labs. But Kay said he was not apprised of the technical team's findings until late 2003, near the end of his time as the group's leader.
"If I had known that we had such a team in Iraq," Kay said, "I would certainly have given their findings more weight."
Well, yeah you probably would have David. Hence the 'not showing you' part. Some more details:
By the end of [the inspection team's] first day, team members still had differing views about what the trailers were. But they agreed about what the trailers were not.
"Within the first four hours," said one team member, who like the others spoke on the condition he not be named, "it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs."
News of the team's early impressions leaped across the Atlantic well ahead of the technical report. Over the next two days, a stream of anxious e-mails and phone calls from Washington pressed for details and clarifications.[...]
The official report eventually confirmed the findings made in the first few hours by the team of experts. Go figure.
[The Iraq Survey Group Report] said the trailers were "impractical for biological agent production," lacking 11 components that would be crucial for making bioweapons. Instead, the trailers were "almost certainly designed and built for the generation of hydrogen," the survey group reported.
The group's report and members of the technical team also dismissed the notion that the trailers could be easily modified to produce weapons.
"It would be easier to start all over with just a bucket," said Rod Barton, an Australian biological weapons expert and former member of the survey group.
In typical fashion, the Bush administration was interested in getting at the truth and making it publicly available as soon as possible. There was absolutely no pressure put on analysts to alter their opinions or statements.
The technical team's preliminary report was transmitted in the early hours of May 27, just before its members began boarding planes to return home.
After team members returned to Washington, they began work on a final report. At several points, members were questioned about revising their conclusions, according to sources knowledgeable about the conversations. The questioners generally wanted to know the same thing: Could the report's conclusions be softened, to leave open a possibility that the trailers might have been intended for weapons?
In the end, the final report -- 19 pages plus a 103-page appendix -- remained unequivocal in declaring the trailers unsuitable for weapons production.
"It was very assertive," said one weapons expert familiar with the report's contents.
Then, their mission completed, the team members returned to their jobs and watched as their work appeared to vanish.
"I went home and fully expected that our findings would be publicly stated," one member recalled. "It never happened. And I just had to live with it." [emph. mine throughout]
But trust me on this, nothing even remotely approaching this type of duplicity occurred before the invasion. That's just the insane conspiratorial ramblings of the Left.