The New York Times interviewed Dr. David Kay just after his resignation as chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq. Kay’s revelations in Ex-Inspector Says C.I.A. Missed Disarray in Iraqi Arms Program about the Iraqi WMD program have got to trouble the Bush Administration and the CIA for a number of reasons.
First, in judging that the Iraqis dismantled their nuclear weapons program (except for a short-term unsuccessful attempt in 2000 to revive it) after the 1991 Gulf War, Kay reveals how woefully wrong were the CIA contentions that Sadaam had such a program during the leadup to the current Iraq War.
Especially damaging to the CIA’s reputation is the article’s first sentence:
American intelligence agencies failed to detect that Iraq’s unconventional weapons programs were in a state of disarray in recent years under the increasingly erratic leadership of Saddam Hussein.
Kay also determined that Iraq also did not have a serious chemical or biological weapons program after 1991. The supposed existence of these programs was a pillar of Bush’s and Blair’s rationale for war.
Another worrying conclusion that Kay draws, is that the preventable, widespread looting which occurred in Iraq after the war made it all but impossible to find crucial documents that would verify the status of Sadaam’s weapons programs. Much of the most damning Iraqi government evidence was lost in the post war chaos. It seems ironic that the very documentation that Bush needed (if it ever existed) to bolster his case was destroyed in the entirely avoidable looting that followed the U.S. victory.
Kay contends that the CIA’s lack of ground operatives in Iraq prior to the war allowed it to continue in its ignorance of the true state of Iraq’s WMD program. This ignorance in turn contributed to the egregious distortions and outright lies served to the American people by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.
Kay found no evidence that CIA intelligence analysts were pressured by the White House to “doctor” their reports to conform to the Administration’s preconceived ideas about Iraq. But in throwing this “bone” to the Bushites, he makes another damning statement about the intelligence community:
“All the analysts I have talked to said they never felt pressured on W.M.D.,” he said. “Everyone believed that they had W.M.D.”
Everyone believed this false notion and no one thought to challenge any of the assumptions on which the faulty judgment was based. Again, in Kay’s words:
“Alarm bells should have gone off when everyone believes the same thing,” Dr. Kay said. “No one stood up and said, `Let’s examine the footings for these conclusions.’
Kay calls for far reaching overhaul of the intelligence evaluation apparatus in the CIA in order to avoid the type of disaster brought on by the Agency’s woefully mistaken judgement of Iraq’s WMD capabilities. But is anyone in Washington listening? Sure the Democrats and their Presidential candidates are. But they are listening in order to make political hay from this. Rather, is anyone in the Republican leadership listening? Is there anyone there who can rise above partisanship to realize that avoiding this type of disaster in the future should be one of America’s highest priorities?