LA Times editorial: Deepening doubts on Iraq

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Mon Sep 1 20:58:26 MDT 2003


Los Angeles Times August 29, 2003,1,660

August 29, 2003

Where are the weapons of mass destruction? As President Bush and other
administration officials made the case for war with Iraq, their
biggest selling point was the claim that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime
possessed chemical weapons. Allegations he had biological weapons were
shakier; assertions he had nuclear arms or could build them were even
more dubious. There were other ever-shifting official rationales for
the Iraq invasion, like Hussein's torture and killing of his own
people and promoting Mideast democracy through his ouster. The main
justification, however, for sending Americans to die in the desert was
Hussein's earlier use of chemical weapons, his continued possession of
them and the imminent threat he would inflict them on the United

In this year's State of the Union speech, Bush cited United Nations
reports or U.S. intelligence that showed that Hussein had failed to
account for 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin
and material for 500 tons of sarin, mustard agent and VX nerve agent.
"From three Iraqi defectors, we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had
several mobile biological weapon labs designed to produce germ warfare
agents," Bush said. Where are those chemicals, those poisons or those

Times staff writer Bob Drogin reported Thursday the deeply disturbing
news that U.S. intelligence officials were now laboring to learn
whether they had been fed false information about Iraq's weapons,
especially by defectors. U.N. inspectors' prewar searches found no
chemical, biological or nuclear stockpiles. Hundreds of inspectors
combing Iraq since major combat ended May 1 have fared no better. One
U.S. intelligence official says analysts may have been too eager to
find evidence to support White House claims about Iraqi arms.
Intelligence and congressional sources told Times reporters in
October, five months before the invasion, that senior Bush officials
were pressuring CIA analysts to shape their assessments of the threat
to build the case against Hussein.

On the eve of war, this editorial page said Iraq should be given more
time to disarm, otherwise the U.S. "risks being branded as the
aggressive and arrogant superpower that disregards the wishes of the
international community." The United States now wears that label,
especially in light of the administration's vacillations on involving
other nations' forces in postwar Iraq.

But worse is the possibility that nearly 300 American personnel and
dozens of British soldiers, plus U.N. officials and untold numbers of
Iraqis, have died due to incredibly bad or corrupted intelligence. In
Britain, a Sunday Telegraph poll showed that 67% of the public thought
that their government, the main U.S. ally, had deceived the British
people to get them into Iraq.

The war was more popular in the U.S. But Bush, administration
officials, intelligence analysts and Congress need to keep asking:
Where are the weapons of mass destruction? And if they are not found,
was the defiant U.S. insistence that Iraq had them the result of
incompetence or lies?

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