I sincerely hope the

August 28, 2003 11:44 a.m.

I sincerely hope the author of this article in today’s Boston Globe gets all his calls returned at the White House for a good long time. Because, boy, did he earn it. The piece lays out the “case” the Kay report is going to make about Iraqi WMD or, what the author calls, “the White House’s best case so far that Hussein hid an outlawed weapons program.”

The strategy behind the Kay report will apparently run something like this: Present a body of evidence that utterly discredits the administration’s pre-war arguments about WMD. But dress it up with tons of documents and details. Say it confirms the administration’s arguments. And then hope no one notices.

Here’s the lede from the Globe article …

Investigators searching for Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction will report next month that Saddam Hussein’s regime spread nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons plans and parts throughout the country to deceive the United Nations, according to senior Bush administration and intelligence officials.

Once freed of inspections and international sanctions, the weapons programs were intended to be pulled together quickly to manufacture substantial quantities of deadly gases and germs, the investigators will argue, although the development of a nuclear weapon would probably take many months, if not years.

That “many months, if not years” line is really one for the chronicles of egregious understatement. But look at the broader point. What they’re talking about is stuff like the centrifuge parts Mahdi Obeidi had under his rose bush.

Basically, Saddam had shuttered his ‘programs’ but kept the knowledge base on ice in expectation of a future point when sanctions would be relaxed and he could start back into the WMD business. The author of the Globe piece says “inspections and international sanctions.” But clearly the issue was sanctions since inspectors had been out of the country since 1998.

Then there are gems like this …

Officials said the investigators plan to paint a picture of an Iraqi government intent on expanding its ability to produce chemical and biological weapons and continuing its search for a nuclear bomb, while ensuring that the parts, if uncovered individually, would not be condemning or could be explained away as legitimate scientific and manufacturing endeavors.

A key aspect of the case, the sources said, will be so-called “dual use” equipment designed for making, for example, pesticides, but also useful for producing chemical weapons.

The argument here is that the thoroughly shuttered and static state of the Iraqi WMD ‘programs’ are a sign of how ingeniously covert they were.

Or another pearl like this …

The Iraqis’ so-called “break-out” program — which could rely on small, dispersed teams of specialists and hidden equipment and supplies to build weapons of mass destruction in the event of relaxed scrutiny — also could explain why the Republican Guard did not use chemical weapons against American troops in the war, as US commanders feared. Kay is expected to unveil evidence to support assertions by US officials before the war that Iraqi troops had been ordered to launch gas attacks on invading troops.

Let’s translate this: the Republican Guard’s failure to use weapons of mass destruction might be explained by the fact that Saddam had shuttered his WMD programs until sanctions were lifted.

That logic is pretty hard to dispute, isn’t it?

I don’t want to make light of this stuff too much. Weapons proliferation is a deadly serious issue. And we really do need a comprehensive report to tell us not just about the lead-up to this war, but everything we can glean about the history of the last dozen years of inspections and sanctions, not least of which how so many people — certainly, myself included — bought into many assumptions that simply weren’t true.

But Kay’s report is clearly going to be as political as it gets. And full of funny business. This is a deadly serious issue. But as long as they’re approaching it in this way, it merits ridicule.

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