Pathetic. Today we learn that the threat posed by Iraq was not imminent, nor grave, nor gathering, nor even a threat at all. What next, “Saddam was Jonesin’ for WMD”?
The government’s most definitive account of Iraq’s arms programs, to be released today, will show that Saddam Hussein posed a diminishing threat at the time the United States invaded and did not possess, or have concrete plans to develop, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, U.S. officials said yesterday.
The officials said that the 1,000-page report by Charles A. Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, concluded that Hussein had the desire but not the means to produce unconventional weapons that could threaten his neighbors or the West. President Bush has continued to assert in his campaign stump speech that Iraq had posed “a gathering threat.”
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the House intelligence committee, said she had not read Duelfer’s report but has been told that it thoroughly undercuts the administration’s assertions that Iraq posed a serious threat.
“Intentions do not constitute a growing danger,” Harman said. “It’s hardly mushroom clouds, hardly stockpiles,” she added, a reference to administration rhetoric used in the run-up to the war.
Duelfer’s findings follow reports by the Senate intelligence committee and his predecessor, David A. Kay, that criticized the prewar assessment that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. But Bush has pointed to the Duelfer report as the last word on the state of Iraq’s weapons programs. Asked in June if he thought such weapons had existed in Iraq, Bush said he would “wait until Charlie gets back with the final report.”
Another government official who was briefed on the report said that many U.S. officials had thought Hussein would “get down to business” in developing weapons when the U.N. inspectors left. “There’s no evidence of that,” the official said.
The official said that Iraq’s nuclear-related activity in particular had been dormant for years before the invasion. “They probably didn’t have a program for some period of time, well before we went in there,” he said.
The Bush administration has held out the possibility that illicit weapons and their components were secreted by Hussein across the border into Syria. This may still be true, but Duelfer’s team did not find any proof to support this notion, the official said. “They have no evidence of this,” the official said. “It’s an unresolved issue.” Syria denies it aided the hiding of illicit materials.