Iraq WMD not imminent threat
( 2004-01-08 15:13) (Agencies)
Bush administration officials "systematically" misrepresented the danger of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, which were not an immediate threat to the United States and the Middle East, a report from a U.S. think tank said on Wednesday.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in its study, "WMD IN IRAQ: Evidence and Implications," that there was "no convincing evidence" Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program and that U.N. weapons inspectors had discovered that nerve agents in Iraq's chemical weapons program had lost most of their lethal capability as early as 1991.
There was greater uncertainty about Iraq's biological weapons, but that threat was related to what could be developed in the future rather than what Iraq already had, the study by the liberal-leaning think tank said.
The missile program appeared to have been in active development in 2002 and Iraq was expanding its capability to build missiles with ranges that exceeded U.N. limits, it said.
The United States justified going to war against Iraq last year citing a threat from Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction.
Since the U.S. occupation of Iraq, American forces hunting for weapons of mass destruction have not found any stockpiles of biological or chemical weapons or any solid evidence Iraq had resurrected its nuclear weapons program.
It was unlikely Iraq could have destroyed, hidden, or moved out of the country hundreds of tons of chemical and biological weapons, dozens of SCUD missiles, and facilities producing chemical and biological weapons without the United States detecting some sign of that activity, the report said.
"Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's WMD and ballistic missile programs," the report said.
They lumped nuclear, chemical and biological weapons together as a single threat, despite the "very different" danger they posed, which distorted the cost/benefit analysis of the war, the study said.
Administration officials also insisted without evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, the report said.
"There was no evidence to support the claim that Iraq would have transferred WMD to al Qaeda and much evidence to counter it," the report said. There was also no solid evidence of a cooperative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, it said.
Prior to 2002, intelligence agencies appeared to have overestimated the chemical and biological weapons in Iraq but had a generally accurate reading of the nuclear and missile programs, the study said.
But from 2002 until the war in Iraq, there appeared to have been an environment of intense political pressure in which an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's banned weapons was hurriedly put together and included a high number of dissents in what was supposed to be a consensus document of the various intelligence agencies, the study said. The Pentagon created a separate intelligence office during that time.
Those factors suggested "the intelligence community began to be unduly influenced by policymakers' views," the study said.
Stuart Cohen, vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which produced the National Intelligence Estimate, told ABC's "Nightline" on Tuesday, "Assertions, particularly that we had shaded our judgments to support an administration policy, were just nonsense."
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