Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

WMD IN IRAQ....Atrios says today that maybe the administration really did believe there was WMD in Iraq before the war. Fine.

But, at the time, there were also plenty of reasonable people running around saying that this whole WMD stuff was nonsense. Remember how they were treated by our media? They were treated like escapees from an insane asylum who needed to up their Thorazine dose. Remember how radical and controversial it was to even suggest such a thing?

Actually, I think the administration did believe there was WMD in Iraq before the war. What's more, the CIA and MI6 thought the same thing and the yawning silence from both Republicans and Democrats about how our intelligence services could have been so wildly off the mark is a scandal of the first order. Is anyone serious about this stuff?

But I'm not really trying to start an argument about that. Mostly I just want a history lesson. I don't personally recall any first-rank analysts except Scott Ritter who claimed that the WMD evidence was seriously faulty around, say, the time of the UN speech (although obviously more people became skeptical later on as the inspections came up emptyhanded). Were there others? Who?

Like I said, I don't have any real argument here. I'm just curious.

UPDATE: Two things. First, as Atrios says in comments, he was just saying this for the sake of argument. In fact, he says, "I don't actually believe the administration believed that Iraq had any kind of WMDs which posed a real threat to the US or anyone else."

Second, I note that so far no one in comments has named a name, so let me make myself clear here: yes, the CIA hedged its estimates, and yes, the Bush administration clearly exaggerated what the CIA told them. No argument there. However, it is also abundantly clear that the CIA did in fact believe that Saddam had both WMD and active WMD programs.

So here's my question. Forget about threat assessments. Forget about whether their evidence was any good (obviously it wasn't). All I want to know is this: In September 2002, aside from Scott Ritter, were there any serious analysts (not Sean Penn, not bloggers, not Noam Chomsky) who were publicly saying that the intelligence was wrong and Iraq didn't have WMD? Are there any serious analysts today who have publicly said that back in September 2002 they doubted the existence of WMD but just couldn't say so at the time?

I'm not trying to restart the old fight about whether the evidence of WMD was any good. I just want some names of serious analysts who publicly questioned the intelligence back in September 2002. Does anybody have one?

Kevin Drum 9:57 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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