Reporter Judith Miller revisits the war. . . .
She writes: (1) Team Bush did NOT fabricate WMD evidence; (2) her reportorial sources were the reliable sources she had relied upon in previous decade; (3) intel analysts were NOT pressured into altering their estimates about Saddam's WMD; (4) "neos" did NOT "strong-arm the president into war.
She summarized key post-conflict findings:
The 2005 commission led by former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb and conservative Republican Judge Laurence Silberman called the estimates “dead wrong,” blaming what it called a “major” failure on the intelligence community’s “inability to collect good information…serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather, and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions.” A year earlier, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence denounced such failures as the product of “group think,” rooted in a fear of underestimating grave threats to national security in the wake of 9/11.
A two-year study by Charles Duelfer, the former deputy chief of the U.N. inspectors who led America’s hunt for WMD in Iraq, concluded that Saddam Hussein was playing a double game, trying (on the one hand) to get sanctions lifted and inspectors out of Iraq and (on the other) to persuade Iran and other foes that he had retained WMD. Not even the Iraqi dictator himself knew for sure what his stockpiles contained, Mr. Duelfer argued. Often forgotten is Mr. Duelfer’s well-documented warning that Saddam intended to restore his WMD programs once sanctions were lifted. . . .
The CIA repeatedly assured President Bush that Saddam Hussein still had WMD. Foreign intelligence agencies, even those whose nations opposed war, shared this view. And so did Congress. Over the previous 15 years, noted Stuart Cohen, the former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, none of the congressional committees routinely briefed on Iraqi WMD assessments expressed concern about bias or error.
JM notes that lethal chemical weapons were indeed found:
Years would pass before U.S. soldiers found remnants of some 5,000 inoperable chemical munitions made before the first Gulf War that Saddam claimed to have destroyed. Not until 2014 would the U.S. learn that some of Iraq’s degraded sarin nerve agent was purer than Americans had expected and was sickening Iraqi and American soldiers who had stumbled upon it.
By then, however, most Americans had concluded that no such weapons existed. These were not new chemical arms, to be sure, but Saddam Hussein’s refusal to account for their destruction was among the reasons the White House cited as justification for war.
But, she notes, by then the damage had been done.
Judy's book, The Story: A Reporter’s Journey, was published yesterday. It promises to be a good read.
Bottom Line. A massive intel failure, along with the insurgency that arose, discredited the Iraq enterprise. The latter was damaging, but the former inflicted lasting discredit on American intelligence. We will be paying for this for decades.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, National Security, WMD, Conservative Politics