Was Prewar Intelligence Manipulated?
A renewed national debate is once again raging on whether prewar intelligence was manipulated. Despite the claims of both sides on this issue, it's far better to examine the facts.
Unlike all other nations that the CIA or military intelligence would use reliable spy plane or satellite evidence to evaluate any threat, there was really very little CIA or satellite evidence to support any belief that Iraq presented a serious WMD or nuclear threat after the first Gulf War destroyed most of the Iraqi military and UNSCOM inspectors survised the destruction of many more missiles that may have a longer than 150 mile range.
Ahmed Chalabi, who was convicted in Jordan in the nation's worst bank fraud scheme was paid regular CIA funds to an organization that he and and is brother operated. In exchange, this convicted major criminal offered the basis of most claims of Iraqi WMDs such as a nuclear program or chemical or biological weapons.
But compared to even the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which highly reputable spy plane photos existed, any evidence that 2003 Iraq presented any serious military threat after the dearming by the first Gulf War or by UNSCOM destruction was extremely thin. Very little evidence outside of the claims of convicted criminal Ahmed Chalabi existed. And Chalabi was so unethical that American authorities have also now claimed that he also sold "information" to Iran. Little doubt he probably did. For a con man like Chalabi, to profit by "inventing" evidence for profit seems highly likely. He no doubt had little real information and padded any claimed information with many more madeup fabrications solely to receive monthly CIA intelligence payments that totalled thousands a month.
What is known is that during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980's, that the Reagan Administration secretly used Agriculture Department CCC funds that were supposed to be used for disaster relief food aid to poor nations to assist Iraq to free up billions of dollars to purchase arms for this conflict, and many of the arms came from states like Brazil or France, as the Soviet Union declared a regional arms embargo intended to dry up the supply of arms and restore peace to this area. At the time, the Reagan Administration did look the other way at any attempt by Saddam Hussein to acquire any conventional weapons as well as any attempts to acquire some mustard gas, biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
While mustard gas was heavily used during the Iran-Iraq War, attempts to acquire other chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons were far more limited. What did exist was a large stock of pesticides that could have a limited chemical weapon use, but only for lack of better technology. Organophosphate pesticides such Tabun(developed by Germans in 1936) or even Sarin(Germany 1938) or Soman(Germany 1944) all have a legimate agricultural use in small quanity, but have the same lethal nerve agent effect on humans as insects when used in larger quantity. All these agents kill by shutting down the nervous system and causing suffocation. But as far as weapons, these are only somewhat more lethal than the accidental home laundryroom mixing of bleach with a laundry detergent with ammonia, that can create harmful or even toxic fumes.
Conservative William Kristol represented a group of proIsrael Jewish Americans who like Morton Krandrake and others looked for a way to to force American military action against Iraq in 1997 when he formed the Project For The New American Century. The intent was to build a case to use the American military to remove any potential military threat to Israel. But with 12 years of U.N. sanctions, little evidence existed that Iraq had the potential to offer much of a threat to nuclear armed Israel. Even at the height of military strength in the 1990-91 Gulf War, the scud missiles with conventional warheads only caused damage to a bathroom and a few broken windows to a home of a Israeli friend of mine when one landed in his backyard early one morning. And in another case, only one elderly man in Israel died of a heart atteck from the noise from another. Only one scud attack was really deadly, where an American military barracks in Saudi Arabia was struck killing 28 soldiers and 98 injured. Of the 88 scud missiles launched, only 46 managed to go beyond Iraq. These scud missiles were a very dangerous weapon when outfitted with a nuclear warhead like they were in Eastern Europe, but sharply limited by Iraq's conventional-only warheads, were a somewhat useless weapon not really worth the costof Iraq to purchase. According to the Jewish Institute for Military Affairs, a high potency chemical warhead on a scud missile weighing one ton, could kill 200-3,000 and injure an equal number of persons if fired into crowded Tel Aviv. However to extend range, the only warheads used were a maximum of 1,100 lbs in the 83 Al Hussein model scuds launched to extend the range to 373 miles. 5 Al Hijarah models were launched with a claimed range of 466 miles, but the warhea weight was further reduced to just 373 lbs. At a minimum the worst case scenario was only 100 could killed by one of these if outfitted with severe chemical weapon agents. And in the 373 lb. warhead model, the deaths could be only around 40 or so.
Despite the fact that nearly every Iraqi long range missile over a 150 mile range was destroyed by the war or by the UNSCOM arms inspectors, and Iraq faced a world arms embargo and 12 years of sanctions, William Kristol's Project For The New American Century attempted to make a very thin case of a serious threat to regional security in the MidEast from Iraq's greatly depleted military. Military contractors were quick to support Kristol's organization because a renewed Iraq War was thought to be highly profitable and a easy military victory for America over a very weak military opponent. And Donald Rumsfeld, Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Jeb Bush and others joined the William Kristol organization that sought to restart the old Gulf War, and some of them signed a letter to Bill Clinton in 1998 urging a restart to the war.
In the January 26,1998 letter to President Clinton, rather than being able to prove that Iraq had possesed even a single chemical or biological weapon, Rumsfeld and other PNAC members actually were highly unsure whether Iraq possessed or was even was attempting to acquire such weapons. In the letter signed by Donald Rumsfeld, it stated that "We will be unable to determine with any reasonable level of confidence whether iraq does or does not possess such weapons". Yet the letter somehow encouraged the restart of he war on this extremely thin premise.
Given all the facts that the scud missile supply was pretty much depleted during the first Gulf War, and the warhead payload was sharply limited by attempts to extend the missile range. And the fact that Iraq only possessed mustard gas supplies earlier in the old Iran-Iraq War, and did not use any of these weapons in 1990-91 war or biological or other chemical weapons including a warhead even loaded with organophosphate insect killers. And 12 years of an arms embargo and U.N. sanctions prevented Iraq from acquiring new arms, then why did Bush, Rice or others make public statements that Iraq may pose a threat to the U.S. or U.S. "interests" and used terms like a "mushroom cloud" to promote public fear and promote the path to war?
If the Bush Administration is looking for real solid evidence of a military threat from Iraq to justify the 2003 war, then there really was no such good evidence based even on the worst false statements of Ahmed Chalabi to justify such fears to promote the war. Some proIsrael agents such as William Kristol wanted this war. Some military contractors wanted this war. But the normal proof of a military threat to the U.S. simply not did not exist to justify the war. And unlike WWII in which the U.S. was attacked by Japan, the ability of Iraq to kill more than just a few persons in Israel with pesticides used as a crude chemical weapon if any scud missiles with this range even existed in their military arms inventory was the only threat that Iraq could possiby in a very worse case scenario attempt to pull off. There absolutely was no evidence that Iraq was anywhere advanced in missile technology, missile range, chemical, biological or nuclear ability to have any missile system capable to carry a warhead to kill a single individual in Israel, let alone the U.S. in 2003 when Bush, Rice and others claimed a possible threat to the U.S. The "mushroom cloud" claims by this administration was pure fearmongering with no real good military capability evidence to support the claim whatsoever.
Current conditions in Iraq point out what a poor nation Iraq is. And the military threat from a nation such as this is hardly worse than any low level African state with a small conventional inventory of arms or small short range missiles. Certainly any real threat from Iraq was greatly hyped by the Bush Administration to promote public fear in the U.S. to promote the 2003 war. That's the only conclusion that a reasonable person can draw based on the facts. And facts are what should count in the evaluation of whether prewar intelligence was manipulated. Was the intelligence manipulated. Not likely based on the facts. But what little evidence of Iraq presenting any military threat was indeed hyped to a near hysterical level by the Bush Administration to justify the path to war though.