Former CIA Director George Tenet acknowledged Wednesday that the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was not a “slam dunk,” as he famously claimed in the buildup to war against Baghdad, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, June 3, 2004).
“Those were the two dumbest words I ever said,” Tenet said in a speech at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
“We didn’t get the job done, and we understood it before any commission report,” Tenet said, referring to the Sept. 11 commission and other panels that have excoriated U.S. intelligence agencies for their work in Iraq.
U.S.-led weapons inspectors finished their work in Iraq without finding weapons of mass destruction or weapons programs (see GSN, April 26).
The CIA’s assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs were not made “for political reasons or a craven desire to lead the country to war,” Tenet said.
He said the agency was hurt by budget and personnel losses and restrictions instituted by Congress, AP reported.
“The atrophy was tremendous,” Tenet said. “We were nearly bankrupt” (Associated Press/PhillyBurbs.com, April 28).
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday released a prewar memo from his chief legal adviser that questioned whether there was legal standing for an invasion of Iraq, the Washington Post reported.
Attorney General Peter Goldsmith stated in the March 7, 2003, document that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which demanded that Iraq comply with weapons inspections, did not definitively support war.
“I remain of the opinion that the safest legal course would be to secure the adoption of a further resolution to authorize the use of force,” the memo states.
British lawmakers and cabinet members never saw the memo before the war, the Post reported, and three days before the invasion, Goldsmith issued another statement expressing complete support for war, even without a U.N. resolution.
Blair released the 13-page document after sections were leaked to a television news program. He again rejected claims by opposition lawmakers that his government had led the United Kingdom into war under false pretenses.
Goldsmith never stated that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal, the prime minister said.
“This so-called smoking gun has turned out to be a damp squib because he did advise it was lawful to proceed,” Blair said.
“I worked my socks off to get the second U.N. resolution — we didn’t get it” (Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, April 29).
The finished document from the Iraq Survey Group includes anecdotal evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein never let go of the idea of reproducing unconventional weapons, the Washington Times reported yesterday.
Former Iraqi defense official Abduallah al Mullah Huwaysh told inspectors that in 2001 “Saddam approached him immediately following a ministers’ meeting to ask how long it would take to restart production of chemical agents,” the report states.
Huwaysh said that mustard agent production could begin quickly, but that it would take more time to reconstitute VX and sarin development efforts.
Hussein also directed in 2002 that production begin of a ballistic missile with a range of more than 300 miles, Huwaysh told inspectors.
There was no indication at the time of the invasion that any such weapons production had actually begun, Huwaysh said (Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, April 28).