Here's another question on those bio-weapons mobile trailers that never were.
When did the administration let Congress in on the fact that those mobile weapons labs weren't bio-weapons labs at all and that we'd just been conned by some emigres on the make?
now on the president's flogging of this bogus story shortly after the Defense Intelligence Agency gave a definitive verdict on the falsity of the claim. But when did they tell Congress? And how late did other administration heavies continue to make this claim?
My recollection is that with most of these stories like the trailers and the tubes and the nuclear this and that, most of this stuff wasn't definitively knocked down for many, many months after the war. Like old soldiers these fables didn't die so much as they faded away. The certainty diminished. More doubts were raised. But for what always struck me as deeply cynical reasons, the White House never publicly pulled the plug on any of these tales because as long as they kept some level of uncertainty hanging in the air they didn't have to address the fact that the central argument for the war had turned out to be false.
Hell, you've still got Hitchens publicly holding out for the Niger canard. And that's just an example of the fact that you can always find folks deep enough in the tank to churn out tall tales for the true believers to eat up.
Anyway, when did the White House tell Congress that the mobile weapons story was bunk?
A reader pointed me toward this portion of the congressional record from July 17th, 2003
in which Senators Durbin and McConnell discuss then heated WMD debate. They both discuss the mobile bio-weapons trailers with the assumption that that was what they were. And this was the day after then CIA Director George Tenet gave five hours of closed door Senate testimony on the WMD debacle. That certainly suggests that Tenet didn't knock down the mobile lab fable in that lengthy session dedicated to the topic of pre-war WMD intelligence.
What does Durbin say?
And how late were administration figures pushing the mobile bio-labs story?
Here's what Vice President Cheney said to Juan Williams on January 24th 2004 ...
In terms of the question what is there now, we know for example that prior to our going in that he had spent time and effort acquiring mobile biological weapons labs, and we're quite confident he did, in fact, have such a program. We've found a couple of semi trailers at this point which we believe were, in fact, part of that program. Now it's not clear at this stage whether or not he used any of that to produce or whether he was simply getting ready for the next war. That, in my mind, is a serious danger in the hands of a man like Saddam Hussein, and I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did, in fact, have programs for weapons of mass destruction.
Cheney's persistence in lying to the public about al Qaida and WMD claims is almost the stuff of legend. So even though the baldness of this lie still sort of grabs me, I can't say it's exactly shocking.
But again, Congress. For how many months did the White House continue to tell the Congress that the mobile bio-weapons story was true even while they knew it was false? For months? Or was it more like a year?