As we approach the ten year anniversary of the launching of George W. Bush’s war on Iraq, it is worth my pointing out that I concluded even before the war began that the main rationale then given for it, Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program, was a fiction. I was following the inspectors which Bush had briefly let into Iraq and then abruptly pulled back out in early March when they weren’t finding anything. And I was following Muhammad Elbaradei, then head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who looked into the Judith Miller NYT/ Bush administration allegation that Iraq had ordered centrifuges and aluminum tubes for nuclear purposes and found that these were unsuited to such a program. I pointed out that Bush had gained the authorization for the war under false pretenses.
The administration went on claiming that the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ were there in Iraq somewhere for months after they had invaded the country and could inspect it further at will.
Bush apologists often later said that all the major Western intelligence agencies had come to the same conclusion about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. But in fact French military intelligence dissented, and most of the others were heavily dependent on the US for information. In any case, if I could come to this conclusion before the war based entirely on open sources, then intelligence analysts ought to have been able to.
Here’s what I wrote days before the war began:
“It appears to be the case that Iraq simply has no nuclear weapons program. Al-Baradei of the IAE[A] has swept the country with Geiger counters and cannot find evidence of such a thing. The program once employed 12,000 scientists, so it could not easily be hidden if it existed. The evidence given last summer and fall by US officials, including President Bush, included: 1) satellite photos showing expansion of buildings at a site once used for the program; 2) documents showing Iraqi purchases of uranium from Niger; 3) Iraqi purchase of aluminum tubing that might be used in centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. Al-Baradei visited the buildings and found that they were now devoted to some other use and their expansion had nothing to do with nukes. The Niger documents were closely examined and found to be forgeries. The aluminum tubing has the wrong specifications for use in a centrifuge and was purchased for making conventional missiles. The case for an Iraqi WMD program in the nuclear area has thus now completely collapsed. Since it was the nukes that were truly scary (rightwing commentators kept saying Saddam might give a suitcase bomb to al-Qaeda, never a likely scenario), not botulism or mustard gas, one wonders if the Congress would have authorized the President to go to war if it had known there were no nukes. The Niger documents turn out to be clumsy forgeries, raising questions about whether Bush, Cheney and others who depended on them were attempting to deceive US public opinion and that of the world.”