Sunday, January 18, 2004

Pollack on WMD's - What Went Wrong?

A good article by Kenneth M. Pollack in this month's Atlantic Monthly (January 2004) on Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong. Pollack served as a intelligence analyist for the CIA and was a leading expert on Iraqi affairs in the Clinton Administration. He is author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq in 2002. True to his profession, Pollack's article is a good analysis of the state of Saddam's WMD program and the various reasons for the failure of the U.S. to uncover WMD's in post-war Iraq -- or the uncomfortable possibility that Saddam might never have had them to begin with.

A brief observation in light of the recent accusations of ex-Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, that the Bush administration had planned a war in Iraq well before 9/11. Pollack says that "the U.S. intelligence community's belief that Saddam was aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction pre-dated Bush's inauguration, and therefore cannot be attributed to political pressure" -- a charge made by many critics of the war.

In fact, the Bush administration's concern for WMD's and the removal of Saddam was based on the precedent of his predecessors, who were firmly convinced that Saddam has reconstituted his WMD's following withdrawal of UN inspectors in 1998. Moreover, says Pollack, this conviction was held by not only the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the organization established for overseeing the removal of WMD's in Iraq, but "Germany, Israel, Russia, Britain, China, and even France . . . In sum, no one doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."

Pollack offers what I think is a reasonable explanation why so many -- especially those in the intelligence community, himself included -- were probably deceived.