From the Friday New York Times, we learn that some of the captured Iraqi documents, recently made available for public scrutiny on the Internet, contained technical details of atomic weapons production whose availability on-line alarmed arms control officials.
The Times published all this as an indictment of the public release of captured Iraqi documents.
The director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, had resisted setting up the Web site, which some intelligence officials felt implicitly raised questions about the competence and judgment of government analysts. But President Bush approved the site’s creation after Congressional Republicans proposed legislation to force the documents’ release…
Some intelligence officials feared that individual documents, translated and interpreted by amateurs, would be used out of context to second-guess the intelligence agencies’ view that Mr. Hussein did not have unconventional weapons or substantive ties to Al Qaeda. Reviewing the documents for release would add an unnecessary burden on busy intelligence analysts, they argued.
But the Times overlooks the fact that this kind of detailed technical information about an Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Program specifically confirms the Bush Administration’s causus belli, against which elite media (like the Times), and the most influential sectors of the Intelligence Community have so successfully waged a campaign of denial.
Does not the very existence of documents providing factual information of the highest relevance to the most vital public debate of the last three years, concealed by powerful elements of the Intelligence Community, perhaps prejudiced on policy issues, or possibly motivated (as some suspect) by partisanship, demand “second-guessing?”
Christopher Hitchens dissects the facile dismissal of Iraq seeking Niger uranium in the Pouting Spooks’ Senate Intelligence Committee report.
And, on page 54 we read, under the heading “Conclusions”:
Iraq had two contacts with Niger after 1998, but neither involved the purchase of uranium. The purpose of a visit to Niger by the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawie, was to invite the president of Niger to visit Iraq. The other visit involved discussions of a Nigerien oil purchase from Iraq.
Since the report does not trouble to supply any reasoning from the evidence to its conclusions, we are left to infer that there is nothing odd about Saddam Hussein’s envoy (to the Vatican) paying a visit to Niger, and nothing unusual about Niger’s desire to buy (“for cash”) crude oil from a country under international sanctions that is much less close and convenient a source of oil than, say, its neighbors Nigeria and Algeria.
That ambassador to the Vatican, it turns out, was none other than Wissam al-Zahawi. Ambassador Rolf Ekéus, head of the UNSCOM inspection team after the end of the first Gulf War, tells Hitchens:
When I first heard that it was Zahawie who had been to Niger, I thought well, then, that’s it. Conclusive.
One of my colleagues remembers Zahawie as Iraq’s delegate to the IAEA General Conference during the years 1982-84. One item on the agenda was the diplomatic and political fall-out of Israel’s destruction of the Osirak reactor (a centerpiece of Iraq’s nuclear weapons ambitions). . . . He was the under-secretary of the foreign ministry selected by Baghdad to represent Iraq on the most sensitive issue, the question of Iraq’s nuclear weapons ambitions. His participation as leader of the Iraqi delegation to the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference merely confirms his standing as Iraq’s top negotiator on nuclear weapons issues.
Hitchens sums it up.
The Senate report gives two versions of Zahawie’s name without ever once mentioning his significant background. It takes at face value his absurd claim about the supposedly innocent motive for his out-of-the-way trip. It accepts similarly bland assurances made by the government of Niger… It does not canvass the views of our allies, or of tried-and-tested experts like Ambassador Ekéus. It offers little evidence and no argument in support of its conclusions. It is a minor disgrace, but a disgrace nevertheless.
The merry gang of former John Kerry supporters in control of the US Intelligence Community under the Bush Administration have produced two extremely partisan reports, establishing that they were right all along: Saddam Hussein was perfectly harmless, had no WMDs, and had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or terrorism generally, and Bush lied.
These conclusions are reached by the artful selection of data, and by systematically dismissing the sources of all evidence to the contrary of a preferred reality as unreliable on a variety of questionable bases. This source spoke to the Press, that proves he’s lying. And that source took a job with the Iraqi opposition, obviously he was always peddling propaganda on their behalf. If you throw out every piece of evidence you don’t like, using any convenient rationalization, it isn’t difficult to arrive at the conclusions you desired all along.
The reports were adopted, and amended, in a series of partisan votes, in which so-called Republican Senators Olympias Snowe (Maine) and Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) voted with the democrats.
New York Times story
Now I know why journalists get their stories so wrong so often – they lack basic reading comprehension skills. With all the hoopla about the Senate Intelligence report supposedly saying there were no ties between Saddam and Terrorists (despite Iraq documents which log the training of thousands of terrorists, and notes regarding meetings with Al Qaeda) it might behoove people to read them for themselves.
—————————————————— Flopping Aces quotes some sources the reports overlooked:
“Whereas members of al-Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq…
I’m still weeding through this “report”. First impressions I got is that it seems to read as if it were trying to convince me that Saddam had no ties to Al Qaeda as if by repeating over and over again I would descend in to a state of BDS and start a new liberal blog…
Our Senate Intelligence Committee could care less about getting to the truth, for the Democrats on the committee it was just another way to get Bush, nothing more, and nothing less.
On Moharram 10th (Arabic calendar) [14 March 2003], prior to US/allied invasion to Iraq, fifty (50) Iraqi trucks entered Syria as convoys (or groups), I met some the drivers of those trucks, they got no idea about the content of their trucks.
The loads basically came from some where in Baghdad, Iraqi intelligence were escorting the loads. During their tripe, those truck drivers were stopped and asked frequently by the intelligence officers about whether or not they got any idea about the content of their loads, the divers replied “we have no idea”, then the officers would say “thank you”.
Upon their arrival to Deayr Ezoor city/ Syria, the drivers were ordered to get down, elements from Syrian intelligence got into the trucks, they took the trucks to big barracks for downloading.
After that; Iraqi drivers got their trucks back, they got $200 as a reward.
The drivers told me that it was their second time to bring such secret shipment; the first shipment was Moharram 1st.
A second Qassam missile launched by Hamas militia from Gaza struck the Israeli city of Ashkelon Wednesday night, one day after the first rocket to hit a city in Israel landed on a high school. Another missile exploded harmlessly south of the city. Depkafile reports:
Eight people in shock, four of them children. The missile exploded on residential Efraim Tsur Street.
One Qassam rocket fired Tuesday evening by Hamas militia units struck a high school in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, 6 miles (10 km) over the border from the Gaza strip. No one was injured, and the rocket apparently did not carry a chemical warhead. This rocket strike represented the deepest penetration into Israel by a Qassam rocket so far, and was described as “a major escalation” by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Another Israel report says that an additional three Qasam rockets were fired Tuesday morning from Northern Gaza into Israel, all three landed in the Negev region and caused no injuries and no damages. One rocket landed near kibbutz Yad Mordechai and two other in open fields near kibbutz Nahal Oz.
The use of the Qassam rockets against Israel by Hamas militia units, though so far producing little in the way of results, is of international interest because al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades boasted in leaflets distributed in Gaza on June 25th of possessing both chemical and biological weapons capabilities.
Depkafile reports that, yes, Virginia, at least three Palestinian missiles were fired (presumably by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades) into Israel from Gaza.
So, tell us aready, did any of the three feature the chemical warhead, Palestinian sources said they had launched yesterday?
An unexploded Palestinian missile armed with two engines to extend its range was found in Ashkelon cemetery Friday.
It was the first to land inside the town and one of three missiles fired at Ashkelon from northern Gaza Thursday night. Two exploded in the Ashkelon industrial zone, another near the big power station. Israel’s air force went into action and for the second time in a week blasted Gaza’s transformer station, outing electricity in many parts of the Gaza Strip. Two more Qassam missiles blew up Friday outside Kibbutz Gevim and Sderot.
In leaflets distributed in Gaza on Sunday, reported in the Jerusalem Post, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were claiming to have “developed” 20 different types of chemical and biological weapons.
It is hardly likely that the simple and uneducated street fellahin making up the membership of Palestinian “Martyrs Brigades” have any such scientific capabilities, but the close ties between Hamas and Syria are only too well known.
Right now, the leadership of Hamas is hiding in Syria, while directing kidnappings, murders, and rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.
There is a good deal of reason to believe that a very large portion of Saddam Husssein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction were hastily evacuated to Syria at the time of the US Invasion in 2003. It is consequently not very difficult to connect the dots, if WMDs of any form really are established to have appeared in Palestinian hands in Gaza.
A spokesman for gunmen in the Gaza Strip said they had fired a rocket tipped with a chemical warhead at Israel early on Thursday.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the claim by the spokesman from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.
The group had recently claimed to possess about 20 biological warheads for the makeshift rockets commonly fired from Gaza at Israeli towns. This was the first time the group had claimed firing such a rocket.
“The al-Aqsa Brigades have fired one rocket with a chemical warhead” at southern Israel, Abu Qusai, a spokesman for the group, said in Gaza.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army had not detected that any such rocket was fired, nor was there any report of such a weapon hitting Israel.
In Gaza. In the hands of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militia arm of Yasir Arafat’s al-Fatah.
The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday (but the New York Times and the rest of the US MSM are pretending they have not read it):
The Aksa Martyrs Brigades announced on Sunday that its members have succeeded in manufacturing chemical and biological weapons.
In a leaflet distributed in the Gaza Strip, the group, which belongs to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party, said the weapons were the result of a three-year effort.
According to the statement, the first of its kind, the group has managed to manufacture and develop at least 20 different types of biological and chemical weapons.
The group said its members would not hesitate to add the new weapons to Kassam rockets that are being fired at Israeli communities almost every day. It also threatened to use the weapons against IDF soldiers if Israel carried out its threats to invade the Gaza Strip.
I’ve clarified the headline, since readers could not actually see my sardonic smile, and may have often read it as a completely literal statement.
Israel invaded Gaza today (attempting to recover the kidnapped Israeli soldier), so we may soon find out whether that Palestinian militia was really telling the truth about having WMDS.
Jim Dunnigan’s Strategy Page explains why the Defense Department withheld information about WMDs found in Iraq by coalition forces for so long.
June 23, 2006: The revelation that Coalition forces have discovered about 500 shells containing chemical weapons (mostly sarin nerve gas and mustard gas) since 2003, most of which are pre-1991 Gulf War vintage, leads to the question as to why the U.S. waited so long to reveal this. The U.S. government has taken a beating for supposed failures to find weapons of mass destruction in the press, and from political opponents. There have been some discoveries that have made the news, most notably an incident in May, 2004, when terrorists used a 155-millimeter shell loaded with sarin in an IED. The shell detonated, exposing two soldiers to sarin nerve gas (both of whom survived and recovered). It is this attack that provides one explanation as to why many of the finds have been classified.
If the United States were to have announced WMD finds right away, it could have told terrorists (including those from al-Qaeda) where to look to locate chemical weapons. This would have placed troops at risk — for a marginal gain in public relations. A successful al-Qaeda chemical attack would have been a huge boost for their propaganda efforts as well, enabling them to get recruits and support (many people want to back a winner), and it would have caused a decline in American morale in Iraq and on the home front.
The other problem is that immediate disclosure could have exposed informants. Protecting informants who provide the location of caches is vital. Not only do dead informants tell no tales, their deaths silence other potential informants — because they want to keep on living. A lack of informants leads to a lack of human intelligence, and the troops don’t like being sent out on missions while short on intelligence — it’s easy to get killed.
Democrats continually repeat the Big Lie that the US Invasion of Iraq was based on administration falsehoods about Weapons of Mass Destruction which did not exist. Good evidence of the hasty evacuation by truck and airplane of something to Syria are studiously ignored.
Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) disclosed today in a press conference on Fox News that an unclassified portion of a US intelligence report reveals that US forces have found 500 artillery shells containing sarin or mustard gas.
NBC News reported this evening that Naji Sabri, Iraq’s Foreign minister under Saddam Hussein, served in the period leading up to the US invasion, as a paid informant to the CIA.
NBC News’ informants sound rather like the usual gang of leaking, pouting spooks endeavoring to inflict revenge on the Bush Administration for past policy differences. NBC’s informants are described as “Intelligence sources” speaking “on condition of anonymity.”
The goal of these revelations is apparently to make public information in the possession of US Intelligence prior to the invasion testifying to Saddam’s not possessing weapons of mass destruction.
For example, consider biological weapons, a key concern before the war. The CIA said Saddam had an “active” program for “R&D, production and weaponization” for biological agents such as anthrax. Intelligence sources say Sabri indicated Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program. Sabri was right. After the war, it became clear that there was no program.
Another key issue was the nuclear question: How far away was Saddam from having a bomb? The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in “several months to a year.” Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that. Sabri was more accurate.
On the issue of chemical weapons, the CIA said Saddam had stockpiled as much as “500 metric tons of chemical warfare agents” and had “renewed” production of deadly agents. Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had “poison gas” left over from the first Gulf War.
Both Sabri and the agency were wrong. NBC tells us. But, since NBC News has neglected to look in Syria, I’m afraid I’m not willing to take their word on that one.
It’s kind of sad when your own leak, even partially, supports your opponent’s case, and damages your own: Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had “poison gas” left over from the first Gulf War.
But, at least, a poor pouting spook can count on his media allies to bang down the gavel, and declare him right in the end.
It might be the fact that NBC News was selected as the venue for the leak that is the most interesting detail here, really. It may indicate that some previously favored media allies are, at this point beginning to get the wind up, are thinking of possible legal consequences to themselves, and are currently less eager to cooperate than they have been in the past.