Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 12, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE....Captain Ed defends the honor of the Bush adminstration in re The Case of the Dubious Mobile Bioweapons Labs:

What the Post neglects to mention in its sensationalist zeal is that this was one of several teams that investigated the trailers, and the totality of their evaluations came to a different conclusion than that of the leakers who supplied this story.

....To put it in advertising terms, two out of three inspectors agreed that the trailers were part of Saddam's WMD effort. The Pentagon relied on that majority opinion, as did the administration, and no one can argue that doing so constituted either an intent to deceive or even an unreasonable decision at the time.

Nice try, but cutesy advertising jingles to the contrary, this episode fits the usual MO of the Bush administration perfectly: a flat statement of fact about intelligence matters that's made with great fanfare even though they know there's significant dissent within the intelligence community. I haven't been keeping my list of examples up to date, but here are seven cases of the exact same thing, and what they demonstrate beyond question is that you simply can't trust the Bush administration's public statements about intelligence issues. The bioweapons story is #8.

So: Intent to deceive? Check. Unreasonable decision? Check. Deliberate lie? Check.

Kevin Drum 12:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (104)

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i work in retirement policy analysis and if I did that i'd be fired.

Posted by: fatinspanish on April 12, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

And who the hell are the "military experts" that went an identified it as mobile weapons lab anyway? Don't we want to know how qualified their analysis is before we go claiming that "majority rules"? This is a stupid justification. The report made by this team of civilian experts was credible and unanimous. Even if the reports made by the team of military or other analyists were as good, the very least the Bush administration would be guilty of in this case is as you say Kevin, ignoring dissent in the intelligence community. But if those two other teams are to this team as Joe's Auto Shack is to your dealer's service center, then they've deliberately and completely ignored the most credible opinion in favor of two opinions that were lesser in quality, and that as you say, is a lie.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on April 12, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Captain Ed is right of course. But also, this story is based on "anonymous insiders" who leak information to the press which makes them even less believable. Perhaps these are the same insiders who lied about the Dan Rather National Guard story or the Newsweek Koran story. *Snicker*

Posted by: Al on April 12, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

But iran is going to get nukes. we must stop them. do you want to wait for a mushroom cloud?

Posted by: DCB on April 12, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

we told you so

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on April 12, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I completely agree with Alexander -- what were the relative qualifications of the teams. We are told the minority team was composed of scientists and engineers. What about these other two that got it wrong? Sounds like a team of Judy Millers. This is eerily familiar to the centrifuge "dissent". Where physicists were over-ruled by idiots with no qualifications because of "majority rules".

Posted by: Jor on April 12, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - The analysts who evaluated the trailers were not unanimous.

Looks like you are "cherry-picking" information to build your case!

Posted by: BigRiver on April 12, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

The Wingers sure like to have it both ways. When Wapo/NYtimes/LaTimes/etc has a story with the correct truthiness for them, they go "lookie lookie - it's in the Wapo/NYtimes/LaTimes/etc". But when a story has the incorrect truthiness, it's that darn Librul media.

BTW - How many of Captain Ed's children or grandchildren are in Iraq?

Posted by: Robert on April 12, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

But we know there were teams specifically set up to tell the administration what it wanted to hear- the OSP, parts of the DIA- remember stovepiping? Just because you can find more people to say things in absolute numbers doesn't mean they're right. For a long time (and maybe still) a majority of Americans thought Saddam was behind 9/11, even though a majority of Americans couldn't locate Baghdad on a map- does that mean we trust the majority because it's the majority?

Posted by: SP on April 12, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

By October 2003, Iraq Survey Group head David Kay, who had not seen the classified report, reported to Congress that the ISG found no banned weapons in Iraq and could not verify the potential bio-warfare uses of the trailers. The final Duelfer Report from the Iraq Survey Group in October 2004 concluded definitively that the trailers were not in fact rolling bio-weapons labs:

ISG thoroughly examined two trailers captured in 2003, suspected of being mobile BW agent production units, and investigated the associated evidence. ISG judges that its Iraqi makers almost certainly designed and built the equipment exclusively for the generation of hydrogen. It is impractical to use the equipment for the production and weaponization of BW agent. ISG judges that it cannot therefore be part of any BW program.

The Bush administration, of course, already knew that. In fact, the White House knew it days before President Bush proclaimed in May 2003, "we have found the weapons of mass destruction."

For the full story, see:
"Trailer Trash: Bush's Bogus Bio-Weapons Claims."

For a complete archive of documents related to Iraq pre-war intelligence and weapons fo mass destruction, including the Iraq Survey Group, the Silberman-Robb Commission Report and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report, visit:

The Perrspectives Iraq WMD and Intelligence Resource Center.

Posted by: AvengingAngel on April 12, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'll bet 3 out of 3 mechanics looking at the picture could tell you that the trailers weren't mobile.

Posted by: toast on April 12, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ed must of course be forgetting that decisions happen within a given context.

The context of May 2003 was very much one of increasing public concern over why we hadn't found the WMD that had been so strongly touted before the war.

In that context, it seems to me that it's fundamentally obvious that any president who was going to make a statement as strong and certain as the one Bush made about having found the WMD had to be satisfied that an extremely high burden of proof standard had been upheld before shouting that "fact" from the rooftops.

So Ed's "hey 2 out of 3 so I'll just go ahead and say it" scenario is ridiculous.

It's of the same ilk as Bush claiming that telling Libby to leak information secretly is a legitimate form of "de-classification".

Posted by: JR on April 12, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

....To put it in advertising terms, two out of three inspectors agreed that the trailers were part of Saddam's WMD effort. The Pentagon relied on that majority opinion, as did the administration, and no one can argue that doing so constituted either an intent to deceive or even an unreasonable decision at the time.

To put it in reality terms, one out of the three inspectors who disagreed were scientists and engineers trained in the field who were basing their conclusions on the science, while the other two were military men who were saying what their superiors told them to.

"Majority rules"? What sort of a stupid standard is that? This is a matter of science and engineering, not democracy. It doesn't matter how many idiots you can get to support your claim if the underlying science isn't valid.

Besides, even using this new more flexible standard of theirs puts the lie to the Bush regime's previous claim that they "knew" "for a fact" that these were weapons labs. There was no equivocation, no "well some say this, some say that, who can really say?" in their previous statements.

Posted by: Stefan on April 12, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

What is even more sickening than Bush and Cheney's lies is the bootlickers who leap to their defense. These people really, deeply want to be slaves, subservient subjects of a King, not free citizens of a democratic republic.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 12, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

We knew that. They have no shame.

Posted by: lib on April 12, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Deliberate lie? Check.

You said it! Kev, I am so proud of you, baby!

Posted by: shortstop on April 12, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Weren't these the same facilities that Colin Powell nattered on about? The evidence that they were what he claimed? Photographs.

So, gimme a break about intelligence analysts. That isn't "analysis". That's poop.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 12, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Did these other teams also go over the trailers in person or did they do this from a distance? That is also a consideration along with respective qualifications of each team's members to make such evaluations. The degree of desperation in these defences by Al and Captain Ed on this particular idiocy is remarkable. One would have thought that the core tenets of their Faith had been debunked as so much nonsense by the lengths they are going to avoid facing the reality. These labs were never weapons labs, that this was clearly in dispute prior to the invasion, and that at every turn the Bush WH has done what it can to hide any and all dissenting reports on the status of these so called mobile weapons labs.

These were yet another example of Bushco's deliberate and systemic lies about Saddam's Iraq posing any kind of threat to anyone other than Iraqi citizens. These "labs" are yet further evidence of Bushco's suppression of anything that argued against their official line as well as their willingness to trust anything that supported their official line no matter how weak the evidence, no matter how strongly refuted by other intelligence, even intelligence of better source quality. Anyone willing to defend this piece of fiction by the Bush Administration at this late date has clearly shown not only their membership in the Trolletariat but their complete inability to face hard reality when it disagrees with their perception of it. It just goes to show how much these folks prefer living in consensual delusion instead of hard reality.

Posted by: Scotian on April 12, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Captain Ed's objection is incoherent. The Pentagon sent nine expert scientists and engineers to examine the purported Trailers of Doom. Each one had at least ten years of experience actually doing one of the steps of bioweapons production. The technical team went to the trailers and began to reverse-engineer them, to figure out how they worked. Within four hours, the experts decided the trailers were definitely not bioweapons labs.

It's irrelevant that some military folks opined that the trailers were bioweapon labs. Only a fool ignores the conclusions of experts to believe non-experts.

It would be as if I had a suspicious mole, and my doctor examined it carefully, took a biopsy and concluded it was cancer, but my brother-in-law and my hairdresser took a look and said it was a freckle. By Bush logic, I could happily announce I was cancer-free.

Posted by: Cardinal Fang on April 12, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The analysts who evaluated the trailers were not unanimous.

Yet, the Bush Administration during the advertising of the war, seemed to think so.

Posted by: ChrisS on April 12, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Alexander has it exactly right. These were not several independent evaluations to be weighted equally. There was a dispute as to the purpose of the trailers, and the "Jefferson Project" was undertaken by DIA to resolve the dispute. The "Jefferson Project" team members were selected based on their relevant expertise, and their conclusion was that the trailers were not biological labs. That was the definitive conclusion.

Posted by: thug on April 12, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

And of course the "minority report" turned out to be correct, as Captain Ed admits.

Calculated mendacity, or criminally incompetent judgement by the Bush admin?
You be the judge.

Again, everyone knows the administration lied us into war.

They will of course never admit it, and the flying monkies like Al, Captain Ed, and Fox News pundits will continue to defend them. How can they do otherwise at this point?

Posted by: Paul on April 12, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any right-wing blog where you don't have to register and create a username just to leave a comment? What a bunch of cowards.

Posted by: Red on April 12, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Weren't these the same facilities that Colin Powell nattered on about? The evidence that they were what he claimed? Photographs.

Don't forget the drawings from defectors! Look, World, a drawing of truck. Only a fool would doubt the case against Saddam now.

Posted by: Boronx on April 12, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

The bottom line is that Bush lied, since even had the mobile labs been capable of producing WMDs, they were not themselves WMDs.

Therefore, no WMDs had been found.

Bush didn't claim that the mobile weapons labs were evidence of WMD capability or active programs, but that actual WMDs had been found.

The trailers were not and could never be actual WMDs - only what they (purportedly) could produce would have been actual WMDs.

Bush lied.

Regardless whether intel showed the labs to be WMD-related or not.

End of story.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Aren't these the same trailers that the Brits admitted they built? (Hard not to, as they had badges from British companies riveted to them). As hydrogen generators for weather balloons?

Captain Ed, as usual, is full of shit.

Posted by: CN on April 12, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

BigRiver: Looks like you are "cherry-picking" information to build your case!

Irrelevant, as noted above.

Looks like you are ignoring the facts and engaging in deliberate misdefinition of words to build Bush's defense.

Looks like you are an idiot.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Can we point to any piece of intelligence that DOESN'T have dissenters? I agree that Bush & co. scrubbed the public presentations of any trace of that dissent, but it's mere existence doesn't tell you as much as you might think.

Posted by: G-Scobe on April 12, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The CIA report, at least, and I would assume that the other, un-named report as well, had its own significant qualification:

The trailers, if they were biological weapons laboratories, would only be part of such a facility, not a self-sufficient facility. The report mentions additional equipment that would be required, one to two additional trailers worth, of which no part had, as of that writing, yet been found.

So, the CIA report was itself highly qualified. It was far from being definitive, and it acknowledged that lack of definition, since the absence of the other, specific equipment cast doubt on the certainty of the use of the trailers--as they stood, the trailers could not be used to produce biological weapon payloads. The fact that The Washington Post didn't report this qualification today seems like quite a favor to Captain Ed.

Too, it was well-reported that the United Kingdom's Major government had sold Iraq artillery balloon and radar systems which used elements very similar to the trailers found in Iraq--it was a contracting scandal at the time of the sale, resulting in charges of insider deals. So, there was this doubt, too.

Posted by: Brian C.B. on April 12, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Captain" Ed is of course named "captain" because his girlfriend in the 70's mocked his Star Trek obsession.

No military bones in his body.

Posted by: james on April 12, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds to me like the "Two teams of military experts who viewed the trailers soon after their discovery" were low-ranking military intelligence officers who inspected the trailers immediately after capture. I don't doubt their integrity, just their level of training and knowledge of biological weapons production. The DIA team of civilians were probably the real experts dispatched for a proper analysis. Their report was probably meant to be considered definitive.

I'm an EMT. I may pick up a patient with chest pain and think: "Looks like a heart attack." I turn the patient over to an ER nurse who may agree "Yep, looks like a heart attack." If the attending ER physician says, "No, it's a dissecting aortic aneurysm," we don't call him the "minority."

Matt "SFJaykey"

Posted by: sfjaykjey on April 12, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Has anybody worked out what the trailers WERE for? I can tell you they weren't custom-built just for making hydrogen for inflating target balloons. Iraq bought off-the-shelf equipment for this from Britain during Thatcher's administration, which looks nothing like these trailers. Nor do they look anything like similar systems built by other nations.

This was the CIA report on the trailers. Note the date, one day before the speech mentioned in the article. Regardless of the reliability of the information in the report, Bush could hardly be blamed for drawing the conclusion he did.

This could all be settled quite easily. Send a team of scientists to where these trailers are, and tell them to produce hydrogen with them.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 12, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Captain Ed assumes that those inspectors and the assessments were equal, and thus their conclusions carry equal weight. They demonstrably were not equal. The assessments were progressively more thorough. Although the Duefer Report mentions only two previous assessments (Vol.3, Annex D, pg.79), the progression is clear...

The first team:

A team of military experts conducted a preliminary technical field investigation of trailer 1 soon after its capture. They assessed the trailer to be part of a possible Iraqi mobile BW weapon production system, with its equipment being capable of supporting a limited biological batch production process.
The second team:
A second examination was undertaken by a team of scientific experts, after Al Kindi personnel suggested the trailers were for hydrogen production. Their report concluded, The trailers have equipment and components possibly compatible with biological agent production and/or chemical processes that might include hydrogen production.
The third team? It's makeup and assessment, being "not made public until now", is speculative. However, it's reasonable to expect that it would be the most thorough assessment--at least until the later ISG assessment, which came to the same conclusions.

In short, Captain Ed is full of it.

Posted by: has407 on April 12, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares what that sissy think? I just checked out this Captain Ed's bio. It contained blather on how he received his sobriquet complete with naval insinuations but alas--why wasn't I surprised?--military service is not listed on this, another pro-war, pro-defense, conservative's bio. I am SO sick of these pantywastes who just loove the military and the notions of a strong defense (apparently only measured in dollar terms) and muscular foreign policy but like the welfare cheats they abhor, when they were young and able-bodied, didn't make a point of serving, either on active-duty or in the Guard or reserves. Are they no less parasitic on U.S. society? I glanced an article published in today's TNR Online, that discusses Cindy Sheehan's book,"10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military," which, apparently is anti-military. I'm sure the uproar by conservative draft-dodgers and combat avoiders, from Rush Limbaugh, FOX's Bill O'Reilly and Brit Hume (Al Gore's St. Alban's classmate, who, despite graduating at the bottom of his class, was accepted at UVA and took advantage of the deferment program to remain safely in the U.S. while that pinko-commie-traitor Gore enlisted in the army and was deployed to Vietnam), the NYT's David Brooks to congressional non-servers, DeLay (TX), Hastert (IL), Boehner(OH), Bill Thomas(CA), Roy Blunt (MO), T. Feeney(FL), and on and on in the House, to Frist(TN), Lott (MS), Lamar Alexander (TN), John Cornyn (TX), B. Bennett(UT), W. Allard(CO), Bond (MO),Brownback, (KS), Georege Allen (VA) will be in high dudgeon. (Notice I had little trouble coming up with prominent Republicans from the South and West?)I suspect that Ms. Sheehan's book, co-authored by anti-war activistrs and journalists is somewhat unfair to the military. (I cringed when I heard the story of the Clinton administration staffer who refused to talk to members of the military.) However, at least Ms. Sheehan has come by her anger honestly. She lost a son to a war based on a series of lies by a feckless, dissolute, unpatriotic crowd comprised of mostly--you got it--draft-dodgers and combat avoiders. Dick Cheney for instance, requested and received FIVE draft deferments, which kept him out of Vietnam and has been quoted as sayiing he had "other priorities." I guess service, particulary combat service is for suckers who never had a future anyway. But Cheney is unquestionably described as a hawk. Wolfowitz, Perle, Bolton, Feith, Libby and Tenet served a combined ZERO days in the military. No killing a Commie for mommy for them. Dubya, well, he had a shot at combat and active service in the air force (why the Air National Guard?), but that's for "unstable" naval aviator idiots, who end up becoming POWs--say, like John McCain. As for the peaceniks i think they are hopelessy idealistic but PRINCIPLED. War is a frailty of mankind. There is nothing wrong with being opposed to killing other human beings. But in this "Alice in Wonderland" world we now live, to borrow from the great "Democratic" senator and retired naval officer (WWII and retired reservist) Daniel Patrick Moniyhan, we defined patriotism down. One can be pro-war (and by this I mean for military adventures and irresponsible "preemtion")and refused to serve (when our country had a draft, no less)or use the National Guard enlistment dodge, a manuever that was largely eliminated before Gulf War 1 and be considered patriotic. Those who served--even Teddy Kennedy, who didn't show up to his Harvard Spanish exam, but served two years in the army (without AWOL rumors)--are un-American. If a draft were instituted in this country, thousands of Red State precints would turn--yellow and our troop would be out of Iraq in 90 days. (Blue states would still remain blue. Vermont, New York, Maryland (where I hail), California, Vermont Connecticut,and Rhode Island, would certainly keep sending their young men and women, like they are NOW!)

I am a former active-duty Marine and currently a naval reservist who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq this summer, where I intend to PROUDLY uphold my oath. Something these fairweather, superficial conservatives know nothing about.

BTW, Check out the article in today's Washington Post re changing the name of the Dept. of the Navy to the Dept. of the Navy and Marine Corps. You'll see a pjhoto of that avatar of psuedo patriotism John Wayne dressed as a marine. The Duke many of you may not know, obtained a deferment and didn't serve during WWII. Can you imagine!? Did most Americans support THAT war? But the ol' Duke condemned those who opposed the Vietnam war and didn't want to serve there and made a movie ("Green Berets")to encourage young people to sign-up. Sound familiar?

Posted by: Allen on April 12, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

two out of three inspectors agreed that the trailers were part of Saddam's WMD effort.

So what? None of their reports were complete when the WH went public with it. They didn't wait for any of the inspections.

Creationists don't wait for pesky little things like facts, they already know what to believe.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on April 12, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Allen, Good post, but use paragraphs, man, paragraphs!

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on April 12, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

"The Winabagos of Death"

Posted by: R.L. on April 12, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, Check out the article in today's Washington Post re changing the name of the Dept. of the Navy to the Dept. of the Navy and Marine Corps. You'll see a pjhoto of that avatar of psuedo patriotism John Wayne dressed as a marine. The Duke many of you may not know, obtained a deferment and didn't serve during WWII. Can you imagine!?

Yep. John Wayne preferred to stay in Hollywood and pursue his movie career (as did his fellow actor Ronald Reagan). But such is the power of myth that people now believe that Wayne, who never served a day in his life, was a war hero, while they denigrate the service of such real-life war heroes as George McGovern or John Kerry.

It was actually the quieter actors, the ones who weren't blowhards, such as Jimmy Stewart, Leslie Howard, and David Niven, who signed up without question and served with distinction. A lesson to remember.

Posted by: Stefan on April 12, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: . . . Bush could hardly be blamed for drawing the conclusion he did.

His conclusion were that the trailers represented found WMDs.

They did not.

He could possibly have in good faith, under some scenarios about his knowledge or lack thereof, have concluded they were the means to produce WMDs, but they could never have been WMDs or evidence that WMDs had been found.

Therefore, they did not stand for the proposition that "we have found [the WMDs]".

Bush lied, tbrosz, and only a completely infatuated Bush apologist and rationalizer would doubt or deny it.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: This could all be settled quite easily. Send a team of scientists to where these trailers are, and tell them to produce hydrogen with them.

It would settle nothing.

The issue isn't whether the trailers would be capable of producing WMDs or hydrogen, but whether they were themselves WMDs, because that is what Bush claimed.

He lied.

What about that don't you understand?

Why do you keep throwing up strawmen and trying to divert the issue to irrelevant questions?

Why must you make crap up just to defend Bush, if it is not infatuation with or idealization of (per Apollo 13) Bush that infests your thinking?

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Allen --

glad to hear your commentary, and I hope that Iraq doesn't treat you too harshly.

Did you know that Vermont was #2 in per capita loss of life in Afghanistan/Iraq, second only to DC? (This was as of Oct. 2005, but the trend has not changed...) Yeah, "liberal" Vermont, with a socialist/independent congresscritter, legalized gay civil unions, you know. However, to be fair, the Vermonters who join the military tend to be from the more rural/conservative parts of the state.

Posted by: quietann on April 12, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

This could all be settled quite easily. Send a team of scientists to where these trailers are, and tell them to produce hydrogen with them.

If you actually read the report you will see that they found aluminum hydroxide in the vessel. So there is no question, they were used for hydrogen production. Biolabs has always been BS.

Posted by: Tim on April 12, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK


" I can tell you they weren't custom-built just for making hydrogen for inflating target balloons. "

That's almost exactly what they were. There was a biggish scandal about those Marconi sales to Iraq back in England: it was simpler to make some of their own. Not target balloons, though, the hydrogen is for artillery weather balloons. We have such vehicles ourselves - modified Humvees.

Using Google, I had this figured out in about a day, back in 2003. Of course I also managed to figure out that Iraq had zero nuclear porgram back in late in 2002: it was on Pournelle's site, you may seen it, Brosz. That took about fifteen minutes.
When I tried to check out the aluminum tubes story, that took almost an hour. I had to dig out the Review of Modern Physics article on Zippe-type centrifuges out of my closet. It was easy to see that aluminum was really suboptimal, since separation efficiency goes as the square of the cylinder strength-to-weight ratio: and that thick-walled cylinders couldn't work at all because of differential centrifugal force.

The CIA can't afford decent physicists: they don't pay enough, and the sheer excitement of using a key to go to the bathroom palls. On technical stuff, they're weak. But since the people running the country - the talking classes - don't know anything about science or engineering themselves, and evidently never ever speak to anyone who does know, few noticed that this was all bullshit.

And you of course don't care.

Posted by: gcochran on April 12, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: Has anybody worked out what the trailers WERE for? I can tell you they weren't custom-built just for making hydrogen...

Yes, they were for hydgrogen production, as the ISG analysis shows, from Vol 3, Annex D, pg 81:

After re-examining the equipment found on trailers in northern Iraq and reviewing previous reporting, documents, and results of chemical and biological analysis, ISG judges that the Al Kindi General Establishment at Mosul designed and built the two trailer-borne equipment systems as hydrogen generators for Republican Guard artillery units for use with radio-sonde balloons. Although the equipment is poorly constructed, it is consistent with the hydrogen generation process detailed in documents from the Al Kindi Company. The equipment on Trailer 1, although poorly
constructed, is consistent with the hydrogen generation process because...

Posted by: has407 on April 12, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Not that Scott McCellan, that paragon of virtue and truthiness, has angrily denied and denounced the report of the deliberate lie by GWB on the matter of these trailers, I demand that all the liberal posters here and Kevin Drum apologize to the President and his loyal subjects for defaming him and for sullying his stellar record of honesty and integrity.

Posted by: lib on April 12, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

If you just keep repeating that Bush "lied", will it become true?

It seems pretty obvious to me that Kevin, and most of the posters here, do exactly what they accuse Bush of doing: there is conflicting evidence, out of which they pick the parts that support views they have already reached, then pretend that there is no contrary evidence.

Kevin, like Bush, isn't really lying, in the sense of saying something he knows to be false, but is instead emphasizing information that he likes, and de-emphasizing information that he doesn't. Neither Bush or Drum (or most posters here) are really interested in the truth.

Posted by: bobinnv on April 12, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

The most damning thing in the article, IMO, is this bit:

After team members returned to Washington, they began work on a final report. At several points, members were questioned about revising their conclusions, according to sources knowledgeable about the conversations. The questioners generally wanted to know the same thing: Could the report's conclusions be softened, to leave open a possibility that the trailers might have been intended for weapons?

That is, the experts we asked to spin their final conclusions to not flatly contradict the lies that were told previously while ignoring their early reports, so that if and when the report did become known, it wouldn't be as damaging.

There is clearly no conceivable motive there besides minimizing the perceived impact of the earlier misrepresentations once they became known; its all cover-up.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the real scandal here the fact that the DIA team's report got labelled "secret" and shelved, so that not even David Kay knew about it? He says CIA dropped a hint about "backsliding" experts, but he wasn't actually apprised of their findings until his time as Iraq Survey Group leader was nearly up.

It's not just that the top intelligence officials misrepresented the internal debate and said that opinions were unanimous when they were divided. They took findings that were the opposite of what they wanted to hear, and basically suppressed them.

I think the White House wants this to be about Bush, because they have a plausible story about why he wouldn't have known on May 29 about findings that only just been received. But there's no way on earth to justify David Kay not knowing about them for months. That's where the administration has been caught red-handed.

Posted by: nandrews3 on April 12, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK
If you just keep repeating that Bush "lied", will it become true?

Its true already. There are, of course, a handful of Bush regime dead-enders that continue to deny it, but their numbers are, from all evidence, shrinking daily.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

bobinnv:Actually most posters here are interested in the truth.

The question is, did Bush have a good faith effort to tell the truth. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he made a mistake. We can all make them, of course.

So...can anybody give me a reference to where admitted his mistake and apologized for it? Because that's part of telling the truth in good faith. If it's proven wrong afterwards, you make amends for it.

Posted by: Karmakin on April 12, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

bobinnv: If you just keep repeating that Bush "lied", will it become true?

It's being repeated because it is true.

And, yes, Bush did lie.

WMD labs are not WMDs.

Bush said, referring to the labs, that we had found WMDs.

We had not.

Even if they had been WMD labs.

Bush's statement, therefore, was factually false.

Bush lied.

That you refuse to admit this and insist that this is just an example of info/opinion cherry-picking shows that you are a liar too.

Bush's statement was factually false in all respects.

There is no way to make it true.

The means to produce a WMD is not a WMD.

Bush lied.

What about that don't you understand?

Are the words not small enough?

There is no conflict here: a WMD production facility cannot be a WMD. Ever. Just like an automobile factory is not an automobile. Ever.

Bush lied when he called the labs, whatever they were to produce, WMDs.

End of story.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Neither Bush or Drum (or most posters here) are really interested in the truth.

you'll note, of course, the number of people Kevin's selective reading has sent to their graves is a bit less than Bush's number.

Posted by: cleek on April 12, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

bobinnv: If you just keep repeating that Bush "lied", will it become true?

Apparently yes ("Bush is incompetent/idiot/liar" moved from 27% to 48% in the last three years) . . .

Released March 15, 2006: The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is "incompetent,"and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: "idiot" and "liar." All three are mentioned far more often today than a year ago.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

So lets see if I understand Captain Ed's (and the trolls above) correctly...Let's use the pre-school version...

--An assault is called in on the radio.

--The first responders, the local police department arrives. He sees a red stain on the carpet and signs of a struggle.

--"Captain, it looks like we have a blood stain. I will write up a report. Can you call in forensics?"

--Forensics arrives and pulls out their lab equipment. After extensive analysis, they conclude beyond a doubt that the stain is ketchup and determine it was a prank.

In Captain Ed's world, these are two balanced reports and the Sheriff should go on TV and say definitive evidence was found by one of his departments of blood stains at the scene and disregard the actual evidence.

In the reality based world, the sheriff would say job well done to everyone and move on to the next issue.

Of course, we know that Captain Ed and his crew have no interest in reality. Kinda of like this Administration...

Posted by: justmy2 on April 12, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

The question is, did Bush have a good faith effort to tell the truth. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he made a mistake. We can all make them, of course.

Oh,c'mon. f the last five years should have taught you anything, it's that you never, ever give Bush the benefit of the doubt. The truth is always so much worse than you could ever have imagined.

As jayarbee noted on another thread, what Bush said in 2003 was

We have found the weapons of mass destruction. We've found the proof we were looking for. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons? They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them.

Note that he conflates and confuses the labs with the weapons. At no point did he have a good faith basis for saying we'd actually found "weapons," because none had been found. At most he could have had a good faith basis for claiming we'd found mobile labs, and we know he didn't even have that.


Posted by: Stefan on April 12, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

At least nobody died over Kevin Drum's lies.

Posted by: Afro Thunder on April 12, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush is too stupid to distinguish between the means to produce and the thing produced, then he is too stupid to distinguish between the authority to launch nuclear weapons and actually launching them.

That makes him far too dangerous to lead this nation.

If he is not that stupid, then he deliberately misstated the evidence to enhance his credibility on the issue of Iraq - he lied.

So, those who are defending Bush must either admit that he is too stupid and dangerous to lead, and that they were and are foolish for supporting him and that by doing so they are placing the nation in grave danger, or that Bush lied, since those are the only two possibilities given the irrefutable facts of this matter.

Which is it going to be?

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

'Advocate for God' seems confused by a number of things. No, saying something that turns out to be false is not lying. Lying is when you say something you know to be false. That Bush was wrong is not in question - the question is did he believe that the "mobile labs" were unrelated to WMDs, but said otherwise, or was he repeating bad information that he believed to be true?

And no, because more people believe Bush lied doesn't mean he did.

Posted by: bobinnv on April 12, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

go see the Duelfer Report, Page 81, table 1

that should put to rest any questions about their suitability for bioweapons - if you still have any.

Posted by: cleek on April 12, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Lying is when you say something you know to be false.

lying is also when you say something conclusively when you know the evidence for it is not conclusive.

that's what this discussion is about: the people who actually knew about bioweapons labs, aluminum tubes, uranium purchases from Niger, likely results of the invasion, etc. all disagreed with Bush's conclusions, but Bush and his minions shoved those opinions under the rug and only gave credence to opinions they agreed with. Bush told the country, conclusively, that we'd found the WMDs. he knew that conclusion was doubted by people who would know.

Posted by: cleek on April 12, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

bobinnv:

I see you do need small words.

Bush was told, at most, that we had found mobile weapons labs - the means to produce WMDs.

Bush was never told we had found WMDs.

Bush said we had found WMDs.

This is factually false and Bush knew it was factually false.

It is no different than if Bush had been told we had found an automobile factory and then stated that we had found automobiles.

It doesn't take any special expertise to repeat what one has been told, which in Bush's case would have been, again in a light most favorable to Bush, "we have found the means to produce WMDs in Iraq".

Bush didn't say that.

He said "we have found WMDs."

This was a lie.

And the fact that you say it isn't a lie does not make it not a lie.

It is you who is clearly confused or dishonest and you prove it by suggesting that Bush's statement "we have found WMDs" was really in fact "we have found WMD-related labs".

But no amount of lying on your part will change the historical record which shows that he did not say we had found WMD-related items.

He didn't add "-related", jackass, no matter how much you want to pretend that he did and he didn't refer to the labs as a means to make WMDs - he referred to them as actual WMDs and they were not and never could be and it didn't require a PhD in physics or biology to know that a means to produce a thing is not the thing.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

bobinnv: And no, because more people believe Bush lied doesn't mean he did.

It is in conservative world.

Remember, the overriding conservative meme is "belief [faith] is truth."

I know, because it has been ubiquitously repeated by virtually every conservative leader from the president through the GOP members of Congress to right-wing talk show hosts.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

No, saying something that turns out to be false is not lying. Lying is when you say something you know to be false.

Again, when Bush said "We have found the weapons of mass destruction" did he have any reason to say that? At most we'd only found mobile labs, not weapons. He had no reasonable or even unreasonable basis for saying we'd found weapons. He knew we hadn't found weapons, and yet he said it anyway in order to cover up his failure. He was lying then and he's lying now.

Posted by: Stefan on April 12, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

He knew we had not found weapons and he could not have assumed that we had because he was never told, under any version of events, including McClellan's mendacious version, that actual biological agents were found in the labs.

Indeed, had such agents been present, or even containers for storing such agents (which would have been far different than hydrogen-storing containers), then there never would have been any question.

Thus, from the very beginning Bush knew that the items to be produced were not found in the labs and he knew that only the labs had been found, not their products.

Therefore, under no scenario could his claim that we had found actual WMDs have been based in good-faith.

If you can't accept this as a lie, bobinnv, then you are obviously so infatuated with Bush that there is no amount of proof in the world that could be offered regarding any statement of Bush's that would convince you that Bush ever lied.

In fact, God himself could come down and write "Bush lied" on a stone tablet and you would clearly still dispute it.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Read the CIA White Paper to which Tbroz links. Nothing could undercut Cap'n Ed's argument more quickly.

Note that paper draws largely on secondary intelligence information, not a complete examination of the trailers themselves. Because Curveball (not named, of course) and his ilk described an Iraqi program using mobile weapons production facilities, this has got to be one of them. Because Iraq is supposed to be using false stories to disguise their programs, hydrogen production from these trailers must not be the purpose, only a cover. Because we deem all the information that we've received so far to be true, the trailers must be consistent with that information. If they aren't, after all, that circumstance would cast doubt on the original information. And, we can't have that. Presumption bias, or telling someone what he wants to hear.

Paperwork--receipts and work orders issued for the refurbishment of the trailers--support their use as hydrogen generators. They will work for that purpose, although the refurbishment contractor complained that the Iraqi Army didn't use distilled water as it should, so urea damaged some of the vessels on a continuing basis. As I pointed out, upthread, the trailers were projected to be part of a two-trailer (minimum) facility. Where's the other equipment?

Posted by: Brian C.B. on April 12, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, quoting Ed Morrisy, The Pentagon relied on that majority opinion, as did the administration, and no one can argue that doing so constituted either an intent to deceive or even an unreasonable decision at the time. (emph added).

Here, I have to agree with Kevin and take issue with the Captain. Ed should have written, Only a complete moron like Kevin Drum ....

Indeed even Kevin Dumbo didn't make an attempt at argumentation.

Hey Kevin, here's my standard challenge to you: State your best case for calling GWB a liar -- give us your best example, and I'll mop up the floor with you. You really are an idiot.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 12, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, give me a break. The best evidence that Bush "lied" you can come up with is that he intermixed the supposed 'mobile lab' and the weapons it could produce in a speech? You can't read the paragraph reproduced above and tell that he was refering to the mobile labs as "weapons"? Do you think that at the time of the speech, people thought that both labs and weapons had been found? I'd like to see some proof of that one..

Posted by: bobinnv on April 12, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Its interesting to see how quickly the Bush apologists appear to leap to the conclusion that the information publicly released by the Bush administration was the only relevant information available to them.

It doesnt seem to bother them that the only way we seem to find out about other information that doesnt support the bush administration is via leaks.

As for those that parse words, what does "We found the weapons of mass destruction." mean to them in plain English? Is it via the Bush apologist's dictionary they get, we found some equipment that might be usable in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction given additional equipment, know how and specific materials?

Of course, the fact is the trailers werent WMDs and wernt even related to biologicals.

Some say, well there are two other reports that say they were, well produce them in the entirety and show they were as valid as the report that concluded they obviously wernt WMDS and that the authors wernt just producing the desired PR for public consumption.

Posted by: Catch22 on April 12, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The best evidence that Bush "lied" you can come up with is that he intermixed the supposed 'mobile lab' and the weapons it could produce in a speech?

oh, i see. Bush just misspoke! well, that's entirely different.

Posted by: cleek on April 12, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

bobinnv: Oh, give me a break. The best evidence that Bush "lied" you can come up with is that he intermixed the supposed 'mobile lab' and the weapons it could produce in a speech? You can't read the paragraph reproduced above and tell that he was refering to the mobile labs as "weapons"? Do you think that at the time of the speech, people thought that both labs and weapons had been found? I'd like to see some proof of that one.

As I said, you will make every effort to defend Bush no matter what and no matter how much you must lie about what he said.

He intermixed nothing.

He made a flat-out statement that we had found WMDs.

"We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

We found NO SUCH THING no matter how much you want to engage in convoluted mendacity in order to twist his words into meaning something other than what he said.

As for proof, dozens of polls found that a significant number of Americans believed, after that statement, that the US had found WMDs in Iraq.

I'm not going to link to those any more than I would link to proof that the sun is hot.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 12, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

This could all be settled quite easily. Send a team of scientists to where these trailers are, and tell them to produce hydrogen with them.

How about we send a team of scientists and ask them to produce biological weapons with them.

Posted by: Stephen on April 12, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate for God: Do you honestly think, reading the full paragraph above, that includes the sentence "We have found the weapons of mass destruction", that Bush was saying that BOTH mobile labs AND weapons of mass destruction were found? Or was he refering to the mobile labs as WMD?

Posted by: bobinnv on April 12, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

You have a war that the President declared to be justified self-defence with a single clear mission - disarmorment.

After invading none are to be found. However, you do have some older intelligence based upon second hand accounts and informants suggeting there might be weapons labs.

Given the importance you send a team of experts to actually investigate the assertions. The team that actually investigates and physically inspects the site, unanimously concludes that the trailers have nothing to do with biologicals let alone WMDs.

If you are an honest straightalking leader, what do you do?

A. Ignore the findings of those on the ground and announce Weapons of Mass Descrtuction have been found. Continue making this claim for close to a year until its completely and totally discredited and beaten to death.

OR

B. Gather the best available evidence before making the dramatic claim that Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found.

Having made a mistaken assertion that Weapons of Mass Destuction were found:

A. Come clean and tell the public it was a mistake. OR

B. Assert that its obvious that when the President says both We found the Weapons of Mass Destrcution and also claims that we found facilities that could produce WMDs that it is quite obvious that he actually only meant that we found production facilities and that anyone who says otherwise is biased. Furthemore, dont bother to confirm whether that is true either.

ANSWER KEY:
Bush apologists apparently pick A and B respectively, but only if they agree with the politics of the President.

Posted by: Catch22 on April 12, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK
Oh, give me a break. The best evidence that Bush "lied" you can come up with is that he intermixed the supposed 'mobile lab' and the weapons it could produce in a speech?

Nope, the best evidence that the Bush Administration lied about the trailers and the worked to cover it up is the evidence that, having information from experts on the ground in hand which said that the previous conclusion regarding the labs was untenable, they went ahead and stated unequivocally and publicly as established fact that the previous conclusions were correct and, further, after the fact, asked those experts to soften their final conclusions so that, if the report ever became public, the contradiction between the expert conclusion and the statements of the Administration would be minimized.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Density of hydrogen at sea level: 50g/cubic metre
Volume of a large weather balloon: less than one cubic metre
Number of daily balloon launches by the USWS: less than 100
Assuming that the Iraqi weather service launched 10/day
Annual hydrogen requirements of the Iraqi weather service: approx 100kg.

ie: a couple of cylinders. For a whole year. There's no need here for mobile, on-site production capability.

(And this assumes the existence of an Iraqi weather service. Does anyone believe that?)

Given that the dissenting reporters' alternative explanation is so trivially shot down, CIA and policy-makers were sensible to not accept it.

But this is Leftist World in which simple facts and logic count for naught. Everything is a conspiracy from the evil Bush Cabal.

Posted by: am on April 12, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

For the record, Bush's statement was made in an interview on TVP (Poland, see here):

Q But, still, those countries who didn't support the Iraqi Freedom operation use the same argument, weapons of mass destruction haven't been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?

THE PRESIDENT: We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.

Bush seems pretty adamant, or very confused, about "weapons" vs. "laboratories". However, in an interview shortly after that with TV3 (France, see here):
Q Mr. President, what do you answer to the American press that are trying to say that you have not released yet the proof of the existence of arms of massive destructions in Iraq? What do you answer to them?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they must not be paying attention, is what I answer, because we've discovered mobile biological laboratories, the very same laboratories that Colin Powell talked about at the United Nations, the very same laboratories that were banned by the resolutions of the United Nations.

So maybe someone explained the difference to him. In any case, Bush obviously jumped the gun. The fact that he was heading to a G8 summit, and on to Poland and the Middle East, and was getting beat up about it, I'm sure had nothing to do with it (*cough*).

Posted by: has407 on April 12, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

The trolls on this thread are proof of the old adage "who is so deaf or so blind as he that wilfully will neither hear nor see?"

There's nothing to be gained by explaining the truth to fools who refuse to see it.

Posted by: Greg VA on April 12, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I can tell you they weren't custom-built just for making hydrogen for inflating target balloons.

Chemist with Ph. D. and experience manufacturing hydrogen disagrees with amateur googler posting from his garage:

"The reaction used on the trailer to make hydrogen (aluminum metal plus sodium hydroxide plus water)," said Spencer, "has been used for that purpose since at least the early part of the 20th century (there's at least one US patent from that date for a system that uses that reaction) and was also mentioned in a 1960s or 1970s National Geographic article, which is where I learned of it. I was in graduate school at the time and tried the reaction at home, learning in the process that the heat was produced: I ended up more than once with a bottle of boiling lye solution with a balloon on the neck of the bottle. The trailers would surely have to produce hydrogen at something like 100 to 1000 times the volume I produced, with corresponding increase in the amount of heat evolved. It would be essential to remove that heat to avoid damage to valves and pumps from boiling lye."

Posted by: trex on April 12, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK
Assuming that the Iraqi weather service launched 10/day

Um, the mobile production facilities were not for meteorology balloons for the Iraqi weather service.

They were for meteorology balloons for Iraqi artilleryforces.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Let's check out the timing here. The 3 page preliminary field report came to the Pentagon (DIA is basically Pentagon and is often antagonistic with the CIA - long standing rivalry, not partisan, just typical inter-office politics) on the 27th. The CIA report came out the 28th. It takes longer than one day to write a CIA report, and it takes far longer than one day for the Pentagon to share info over to CIA. The CIA analysts for the 28th report almost certainly didn't know about the field report - it was still based on the first two cursory examinations. The speech was the 29th. Presumably it was written based on the CIA report. It is conceivable, though not likely, the field report would have filtered up to Rumsfeld by then, but it is more likely that the Pentagon would have held off until they received the final report 3 weeks later.

They would have sent the three pager upstairs had they known that the speech would bear on it, but White House speechwriters tend not to vette their speeches past Pentagon analysts - the latter have better things to do than edit political content. Bush's 'lies' were of the class that he expressed confidence in information which he knew, or should have known, to be probabilistic and dicey. He didn't say "I know X" when he knew 'not X', he said "I am sure of X" when he thought 'X', but there still was a chance of 'not X'. Plug in pretty much every justification for the war in as 'X', and you have a statement of truth. By the time of the speech, they were grasping at straws to ex post justify the decision to invade.

If the administration had known there were no WMDs, we would know about WMDs by now, because we would have 'found' something whether they were there before the invasion or not. Bush may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, but Rove and Cheney aren't that stupid, and are pretty venal and Machiavellian. (See Scooter and Plame) They thought the WMDs were there, they said they knew it, and got burned by it. End of story.

Posted by: rvman on April 12, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

one note, rvman:

Weve, since the war, found two of them. Theyre in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing the capacity for an attack.

that's Cheney, on Meet The Press, 9/14/03, lying.

Posted by: cleek on April 12, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

am writes:

ie: a couple of cylinders. For a whole year. There's no need here for mobile, on-site production capability.

These are not weather service facilities, although I see no reason why Iraq would not have been able to run a weather service. However, these trailers are supposed to be part of weather and wind station associated with artillery units that might operate in remote areas. As noted above, they or the trailers on which they are modeled are products of the UK. They are devices that have counterparts in western armies, including our own, where they were designated AN/TMQ-42 hydrogen generator (HG) as late as 1996. Note that the attached PDF brags that our HGs will produce 150 cubic feet of hydrogen and store 300 cubic feet, so the rapid, frequent production of hydrogen is of military interest to the USA, too.

http://sill-www.army.mil/famag/1996/JAN_FEB_1996/JAN_FEB_1996_PAGES_18_21.pdf


Posted by: Brian C.B. on April 12, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

The Corner:

White House Actually Fights Back on Something
04/12 05:00 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday angrily denied a newspaper report that suggested President George W. Bush in 2003 declared the existence of biological weapons laboratories in Iraq while knowing it was not true. [...]

White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the account "reckless reporting" and said Bush made his statement based on the intelligence assessment of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), an arm of the Pentagon.

Bush cited the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction as the prime justification for invading Iraq. No such weapons were found.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed the existence of the field report cited by the Post, but said it was a preliminary finding that had to be evaluated.

"You don't change a report that has been coordinated in the (intelligence) community based on a field report," the official said. "It's a preliminary report. No matter how strongly the individual may feel about the subject matter."

McClellan said the Post story was "nothing more than rehashing an old issue that was resolved long ago," pointing out that an independent commission on Iraq had already determined the intelligence on alleged Iraqi biological weapons was wrong.

When an ABC reporter pressed McClellan on the subject at his morning briefing, McClellan upbraided the network for picking up on the report.

"This is reckless reporting and for you all to go on the air this morning and make such a charge is irresponsible, and I hope that ABC would apologize for it and make a correction on the air," he said.
It's about time. And as long as you guys are in a fighting mood, how about asking for some apologies and corrections for this small matter?

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on April 12, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Given that the dissenting reporters' alternative explanation is so trivially shot down, CIA and policy-makers were sensible to not accept it.

There is no question about the trailers. The question is: when did the president and his spokepeople find out that they weren't mobile weapons labs, and how long did they push that line after they found out it wasn't true.

Posted by: Stephen on April 12, 2006 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

I think you're a bit off and jumping to conclusions about this old news. You rake the Captain over the coals because he points out that three different teams actually reported and the Pres went with the two he agreed with. I don't think this is true. Bush went with the consensus document - the CIA white paper, and he avoided using a field report that had not yet been analyzed. The CIA white paper that Bush did use came out one day after this field report and stated that "U.S. officials were confident that the trailers were used for mobile biological weapons production." So why was it wrong for Bush to say this?

The day after the team's 'field' report was sent to 'Washington,' the the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were confident that the trailers were used for mobile biological weapons production."

As Scott McClellan points out today, and Reuters, "A U.S. intelligence official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed the existence of the field report cited by the Post, but said it was a preliminary finding that had to be evaluated. "You don't change a report that has been coordinated in the (intelligence) community based on a field report," the official said. "It's a preliminary report. No matter how strongly the individual may feel about the subject matter."

I think you are just flat wrong here. A field report comes in and states that these aren't mobile labs. But it's a FIELD report, a preliminary report, that hasn't yet been assessed. It would have been silly of the pres to use this information for ANYTHING until it had been assessed. What Bush did use was the white paper put out by the CIA with DIA signing on to it; a consensus document.

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on April 12, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

As Scott McClellan points out today

first of all, fuck Scott McClellan.

second of all, they ran with that trailers=WMD story for months.

Posted by: cleek on April 12, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

They ran with it for months - why? Perhaps because there were discussions about whether or not these were bio labs, but the majority view still held that they were indeed? If this May 28 field report proved that they were not labs, as you seem to contend, then why did David Kay say in June that some CIA analysts were now backsliding. Why would there be backsliding if this was already proven? Why did Tenet say in Feb 2004 that it was possible these were bio labs? Could it be that this field report was not regarded as definitive proof? Could it be that until such definitive proof emerged it made more sense to use the consensus CIA white paper?

June 2003:

Kay, in an interview, said senior CIA officials had advised him upon accepting the survey groups leadership in June 2003 that some experts in the DIA were backsliding on whether the trailers were weapons labs.


February 5, 2004:

Still, as late as February 2004, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet continued to assert that the mobile-labs theory remained plausible. Although there was no consensus among intelligence officials, the trailers could be made to work as weapons labs, he said in a speech Feb. 5.

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on April 12, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK
They ran with it for months - why?

Lying.

Perhaps because there were discussions about whether or not these were bio labs, but the majority view still held that they were indeed?

The people that are experts and have seen them and examined them say their not, but we've still got these stories from Curveball...

Mendacity, or gross incompetence that always fails in the same direction? The former seems far more credible.


If this May 28 field report proved that they were not labs, as you seem to contend, then why did David Kay say in June that some CIA analysts were now backsliding.

Because Kay never saw this report, as containing it was part of the strategy of maintaining the lie.

Why would there be backsliding if this was already proven?

Presumably, the backsliders had seen, or became aware of the facts in, the report.

Why did Tenet say in Feb 2004 that it was possible these were bio labs?

If you lie hard enough for Bush, you can get the Medal of Freedom.

Could it be that this field report was not regarded as definitive proof?

It could be, again, if the lies of Curveball were held to outweight the evidence from direct examination by experts, but that raises the question of mendacity vs. consistent unidirectional incompetence raised above.

Could it be that until such definitive proof emerged it made more sense to use the consensus CIA white paper?

You are arguing that it makes more sense to continue to maintain, as an established fact, the veracity of conclusions based on stories from highly suspect sources and distant estimates when all physical evidence is to the contrary until the possibility of the stories can be categorically excluded as utterly impossible?

No, sorry, it couldn't be more reasonable.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK


If you want to grow microorganisms, there has to be temperature control - there wasn't any. If you want to grow _particular_ organisms, you need steam sterilization to kill walk-ons; Wasn't any. This was bullshit from day one.
As for the various morons who are saying that those vans can't be what they actually are, that you can't produce hydrogen chemically or that there's no use for portable hydrogen generation, that these vans can't be what Marconi sells and what the US Army has their own version of, fuck 'em. They need to learn some basic chemistry - I suggest they go play with nitrogen tri-iodide.

Look, they didn't want to make the President look like the jackass he actually is.
It might be bad for their careers, capische?
So they delayed, they fudged, they tried to get people to soften the truth. They clicked their heels togeter and hoped for a miracle. They took almost a year to admit what was obvious in the first few days. Effectively, the US government, under these guys, is dumber than any single honest & knowledgeable analyst. Superhumanly powerful and subhumanly stupid - a hell of a combination.

If the US runs into any _real_ life-and-death challenge, we're doomed.


Posted by: gcochran on April 12, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Jerry: Did you read the CIA white paper? Notice, as I mentioned upthread, that the paper relies on a correlation of the trailers with prior testimony from defectors and other sources, i.e., on a shoe-horning of the trailers into an existing narrative, instead of starting with the trailers and asking to what purposes the trailers might have reasonably been put. Such analysis fineds that the purpose of gas generation quickly becomes equally plausible as compared to biological production, then the most plausible on extended analysis. Note that the field report isn't informed by defector information, so far as we know, and that the analysts don't conclude how the trailers were used, just what they will NOT do. Which is produce biological agents. This narrow finding, however, challenged the prevailing White House narrative, which finds bioproduction the only reasonable purpose for the trailers, and the credibility of the pre-war informants and intelligence. At the point the report was delivered, maintaining the existing narrative meant the White House was either lying or being willfully ignorant of new and perhaps (well, no perhaps about it, in short stead) true information. In order to avoid being found out as a liar, Bush has got to plead incompetence. Since either incompetence or lying is evidence of untrustworthiness, I don't really see this as a good place for Bush to be.

Posted by: Brian C.B. on April 12, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

trex:

You avoid some major points:

--These trailers are not the equipment sold to Iraq by Britain.

--They do not resemble any existing off-the-shelf system for the function they supposedly have. Brian's link earlier shows a typical unit.

--The mechanisms for producing hydrogen for artillery targets were not forbidden under sanctions, and there would be no reason to construct customized units.

--If you're going to drop an argument from authority on me, I like a little more information about an "expert" other than that he has a PhD in something, and that a partisan hack pronounces him an "expert." He is not identified as a chemist, and his listed experience with hydrogen production is a grad school experiment that any chemistry student has done.

"Truthout" may not be generated in a garage office, but it probably isn't much bigger as an operation.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 12, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK
These trailers are not the equipment sold to Iraq by Britain.

No, they are locally built replacements for the decades-old British trailers.

They do not resemble any existing off-the-shelf system for the function they supposedly have.

They aren't off-the-shelf systems, which, as military technology, while not prohibited to Iraq by the sanctions regime, were prohibited to be traded to Iraq by the sanctions regime. Which prohibited Iraq from buying off-the-shelf.


The mechanisms for producing hydrogen for artillery targets were not forbidden under sanctions, and there would be no reason to construct customized units.

They hydrogen isn't for "artillery targets", as noted repeatedly in the thread, plus, see above regarding sanctions; there was a strong reason to construct custom units, as while Iraq was allowed to have such units, it wasn't allowed to buy them from outside under the sanctions regime.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely has it all right, tbrosz has it all wrong. Anyone who paid any attention has know all this for two years, while anyone who paid _close_ attention has known it for more than two and a half years. Local ersatz verion of Marconi hydrogen-production units.

The people who run this country are a good deal poorer at evaluating intelligence than the Republican widow who lives just south of us. Come to think of it, the widow who lives just north may be better too, but I haven't asked her.

Posted by: gcochran on April 12, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Should have read "artillery targeting systems." The balloons are used to check wind and other conditions.

Most modern systems for this function use simple pressurized storage tanks. Iraq apparently went to quite a bit of work to create systems that generate hydrogen on site.

I used to have more links to sources on this kind of equipment, but AMS/Marconi has gone through too many changes, and most of my 2003 links are dead.

In any case, the issue here is less about the function of the trailers and more about how reasonable it was for Bush to think the trailers were suspect based on what was known in May of 2003.

It would be nice if Bush had had the Duelfer report available back then, rather than in September of 2004. But he didn't.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 12, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: Most modern systems for this function use simple pressurized storage tanks. Iraq apparently went to quite a bit of work to create systems that generate hydrogen on site.

Modern systems do both, as the Iraqi unit was designed to do. The ancient Russian unit (not Marconi) that the Iraqi unit was modeled on had numerous problems, including thermal problems and lack of adequate gas storage. But apparently the Iraqi unit also had a few problems, as the Republican Guard had some "not particularly favorable" comments. (There was even a declaration of it to the UN in Dec 2002.)

The Deulfer Report shows a paper trail that goes back quite a ways, and it's pretty fascinating (if you're into that sort of thing anyway). Read it. As David Kay remarked long ago, the Iraqis are excellent beaurecrats. Any suggestion that these things were intended for, or could be adapted to, BW is an fantansy.

In any case, the issue here is less about the function of the trailers and more about how reasonable it was for Bush to think the trailers were suspect based on what was known in May of 2003.

What would have been reasonable is for Bush to exercise prudence when discussing intel he was receiving, especially given the track record. He was dissembling, or reckless, or a certified idiot, or all of the above.

Posted by: has407 on April 12, 2006 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

From CIA report:

The design, equipment, and layout of the trailer found in late April is strikingly similar to descriptions provided by a source who was a chemical engineer that managed one of the mobile plants.

They misspelled "lying drunken sot."

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 12, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty sad state of affairs when the President quoting an CIA/DIA report constitutes lying to the American public...

Read it and weep:

http://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/iraqi_mobile_plants/paper_w.pdf

Posted by: scott on April 12, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

"cmdicely has it all right, tbrosz has it all wrong. Anyone who paid any attention has know all this for two years, while anyone who paid _close_ attention has known it for more than two and a half years. Local ersatz verion of Marconi hydrogen-production units. The people who run this country are a good deal poorer at evaluating intelligence than the Republican widow who lives just south of us. Come to think of it, the widow who lives just north may be better too, but I haven't asked her."
That the very good

Posted by: jousi on April 12, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

CIA report:

Examination of the trailers reveals that all of the equipment is permanently installed and interconnected, creating an ingeniously simple, self-contained bioprocessing system.

So "ingenious" that the real inspectors figured out there's no possible way it could work. Not to mention that the "self-contained" system didn't have what was needed to make it work as even their report stated ("The missing trailer or trailers from one complete unit would be equipped for growth media preparation and postharvest processing and, we would expect, have equipment such as mixing tanks, centrifuges, and spray dryers.") My, that analysis is breath-taking. Give or take a facility for preparation of growth media, it was "self-contained" ... About the only thing that was specifically biological there was the "fermenter", and it's not at all obivous that's what that really was. In fact ... it wasn't....

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on April 12, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK
In any case, the issue here is less about the function of the trailers and more about how reasonable it was for Bush to think the trailers were suspect based on what was known in May of 2003.

No, it isn't.

The issue here is whether it reasonable for Bush to claim as established fact that we had found WMD and WMD production facilities on the basis of the trailers in May 2003, not whether it was reasonable for him to "believe they were suspect."

He didn't claim we had found "suspect trailers that just remotely plausibly might be something somehow connected to a WMD program."

It would be nice if Bush had had the Duelfer report available back then, rather than in September of 2004. But he didn't.

The CIA/DIA report wasn't credible at the time; it was transparent delusional fantasy based on stretching the facts to meet the fables told by a source that was known unreliable -- known to many in the CIA, to German intelligence that told the US he was nuts, etc. -- before the war (but who was, conveniently, closely connected to Chalabi and through him to the entire cabal set up inside the government to bypass quality analysis to guarantee that the intelligence supported the policy, rather than the truth.)


Posted by: cmdicely on April 13, 2006 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

You avoid some major points

Actually no, I was ignoring your misdirection. Having established by expert assessment that the trailers were clearly not meant for nor capable of manufacturing bioweapons, it's not incumbent upon me to answer your so-called "major points."

That would just serve to accommodate your attempts to obfuscate the issue.

If you're going to drop an argument from authority on me, I like a little more information about an "expert"

The matter of whether or not the trailers were used for bioweapons labs is empirically falsifiable, and to determine the factual accuracy of these claims it is necessary to subject them to the scrutiny of experts. However, the forensic observations made by Brad Spencer stand on their own merits, and are not an appeal to authority. Your inability to refute them simply goes to your lack of expertise in this discipline and the futility of your making claims about a technical matter which falls outside the scope of your knowledge.

"Truthout" may not be generated in a garage office, but it probably isn't much bigger as an operation.

The germane comparison is not between the size of your garage and that of Truthout's operation (which has at least three times the manpower) but rather between your layman's guesses and the expertise of someone with a Ph.D. in the relevant discipline and field experience with the scientific processes that are the heart of the issue.

a partisan hack

I make an effort to give charitable readings to opposing arguments, to weigh evidence as impartially as possible and draw appropriate conclusions. While I fully acknowledge that I'm subject to POV like everyone else, I do try to employ practical epistemological methods to maintain as much objectivity as I can, such as fully immersing myself in an opposing point of view to help uncover where I am being swayed by emotion, sentiment, or inattention from bias.

Even if I dreamed of a future as a partisan hack, on a relative scale I don't believe I could approach the level of predictable deflections, cheap tactics, and indefatigable one-sided ideological puffery that you exhibit here if I tried.

I simply have too much self-respect and a healthy sense of shame.

In point of fact, I started out as a true-believer in WMD's, having been sucked in by Judy Miller's reporting, and initially gave Bush the benefit of the doubt. Once I began critically reviewing the body of evidence, however, it became clear that the case was trumped up and I was correctly predict that Iraq would not be found to possess WMD's -- which, by the way, is just one more factual matter in a list of many around this war that you were wrong about, as reflected by your assertions and innuendo in this blog.

Posted by: trex on April 13, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

NR Media Blog:

CNN national security correspondent David Ensor just threw a large bucket of cold water on the Washington Post's front-page insinuations that the president lied about the Iraqi trailers found after the invasion. As he explained to Situation Room guest host Heidi Collins, it is highly unlikely that Bush ever saw the report on which the WaPo story is based:

ENSOR: Something like this is a field report, Heidi, done by a group of people that were actually not government employees, but they'd been asked by CIA and others, the Pentagon, to go look at these labs, so this kind of a report is a raw field report. It would not have gone to the president's desk. He's not an intelligence officer. He's a consumer of intelligence. It would go to the CIA or to the appropriate place in the government where they would analyze it, compare it with other intelligence they had, and only when they were satisfied that they could draw some kind of meaningful conclusion... they would then pass that on to policymakers, possibly including the president.

So it's really not fair, in a way, to accuse him of saying the wrong thing in this particular case. I mean after all, in October of that year many months later David Kay, who was assigned by the CIA to look at these weapons, was still saying they could be bioweapons labs. February, the following year, George Tenet, the then-still director of central intelligence, was saying in a speech that he wasn't sure. So to blame the president for saying it back in May, may not be fair.

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on April 13, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK
So it's really not fair, in a way, to accuse him of saying the wrong thing in this particular case. I mean after all, in October of that year many months later David Kay, who was assigned by the CIA to look at these weapons, was still saying they could be bioweapons labs. February, the following year, George Tenet, the then-still director of central intelligence, was saying in a speech that he wasn't sure. So to blame the president for saying it back in May, may not be fair.

Both of those people work for the President, and we have no way of knowing that their public statements were not shaped by what the White House wanted them to say. Particularly as political pressure was applied to get the final report of the team that conclusively stated that they could not be bioweapons labs softened, and that was a classified report whose only political threat was that it would leak, not a public statement that would have immediate effect.

Therefore, it is naive to take any subsequent public statement confirming the position of the White House by any member of the executive branch as if it had any degree of independence.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 13, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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