Bremer to Blair: No Weapons Labs
The cover story of the Bush administration about the reasons for the Iraq war has become so full of holes that it is even confusing major officials and allies now. The Bushies started out saying that the war was about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. When it turned out that Iraq had virtually no such weapons, and hardly any programs, they started muttering darkly about Saddam’s mass graves and killing fields (even though past Republican administrations were in various ways complicit in all that).
In his Christmas message to the UK troops, PM Tony Blair said that the Iraq Survey Group had found “massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories.”
On ITV1’s Jonathan Dimbleby program, Bremer was asked about the quote but not told the source. Bremer replied, “I don’t know where those words come from but that is not what (ISG chief) David Kay has said. I have read his reports so I don’t know who said that. It sounds like a bit of a red herring to me. It sounds like someone who doesn’t agree with the policy sets up a red herring then knocks it down.”
Bremer later found out the statement he contradicted was Blair’s, and he backtracked, saying “There is actually a lot of evidence that had been made public . . . clear evidence of biological and chemical programs.” He added “Weapons of mass destruction or no weapons of mass destruction, it’s important to step back a little bit here, to see what we have done historically.”
It seems clear that Bremer knew no ‘huge system of clandestine laboratories’ had still been active in 2002, and he smelled a trap. If someone was saying such a thing, which was clearly false, then probably it was an enemy of the Bush administration trying to set up a trap that would be sprung later. He hadn’t counted on Tony’s earnest hyperbole (though the incident makes it clear that Tony is now doing Bush more harm than good by sticking with the cover story long after US officials had ceased trying to defend it.) When Bremer realized that he had been tricked by Fleet Street into calling Tony Blair a liar, he quickly backed down and tried to give the PM some cover. Well, there used to be laboratories back in the 1980s (we should know, we authorized US companies to supply them) . . .
What in the world Bremer meant by “Weapons of mass destruction or no weapons of mass destruction, it’s important to step back a little bit here, to see what we have done historically.” is obscure to me. But presumably it is yet another, somewhat maladroit attempt to liken intervention in Iraq to World War II.