CIA Reports to Congress on Iraq, Hans Blix and the Power of Words
The unclassified CIA “Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction” of January to June 1999 contains the following paragraph:
We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs, although given its past behavior, this type of activity must be regarded as likely. The United Nations assesses that Baghdad has the capability to reinitiate both its CW and BW programs within a few weeks to months, but without an inspection monitoring program, it is difficult to determine if Iraq has done so.
I have chosen this particular paragraph because it appears in all the Reports in one form or another. There is no reason for feeling threatened and going to war contained in those words, although it points to problems well worth keeping an eye on. It talks about a possibility but admits to no verifiable fact without an inspection monitoring program. Almost the same paragraph is repeated in the report to Congress of January to June 2000:
We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs, although given its past behavior, this type of activity must be regarded as likely. We assess that since the suspension of UN inspections in December of 1998, Baghdad has had the capability to reinitiate both its CW and BW programs within a few weeks to months. Without an inspection monitoring program, however, it is more difficult to determine if Iraq has done so.
The Report for July to December 2000 begins to change, but not greatly. The “direct evidence” statement is gone, and Iraq’s past behavior has moved to the beginning:
Given Iraq’s past behavior, it is likely that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute prohibited programs. We assess that since the suspension of UN inspections in December of 1998, Baghdad has had the capability to reinitiate both its CW and BW programs within a few weeks to months. Without an inspection-monitoring program, however, it is more difficult to determine if Iraq has done so.
The authors judge that Iraq has the capability to reinitiate programs, but acknowledge that without the inspections, they do not know if Iraq has actually done so.
Then in 2001, after Bush takes office, words change. For the period of January to June 2001, the sentence in the Report about not having direct evidence is still absent, and the linkage to Iraq’s past behavior is again emphasized by becoming the first statement:
Given Iraq’s past behavior, it is likely that Baghdad has used the intervening period to reconstitute prohibited programs. We assess that since the suspension of UN inspections in December of 1998, Baghdad has had the capability to reinitiate its CW programs within a few weeks to months. Iraq’s failure to submit an accurate Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure (FFCD) in either 1995 or 1997, coupled with its extensive concealment efforts, suggest that the BW program has continued. Without an inspection-monitoring program, however, it is more difficult to determine the current status of these programs.
In the space of one year, the situation seems to seems have become more threatening, even though there are still no ascertainable facts to justify the assessment given. “We assess…” has again taken the place of “no direct evidence”. No new information is claimed, but a new speculation has been added based on the lack of accurate reports from Iraq and its secretive efforts that the BW program has continued. However, the final sentence about monitoring remains. Simply because Iraq might have the capability to reconstitute its programs doesn’t necessarily mean that it has. Much was unknown.
By the end of 2001, after 9/11, the wording of the reports changes totally. They are much longer and more detailed, and the language of doubt has just about disappeared. This paragraph becomes part of another on economic sanctions and missile development where it doesn’t seem to quite belong except that linking them leads to the idea of missiles equipped with chemical and biological agents:
If economic sanctions against Iraq were lifted, Baghdad probably would increase its attempts to acquire missile-related items from foreign sources, regardless of any future UN monitoring and continuing restrictions on long-range ballistic missile programs. With substantial foreign assistance and an accommodating political environment, Baghdad could flight-test an MRBM by mid-decade. In addition, Iraq probably retains a small, covert force of Scud ballistic missiles, launchers, and conventional, chemical, and biological warheads. We assess that, since December 1998, Iraq has increased its capability to pursue chemical warfare (CW) programs. After both the Gulf war and Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, Iraq rebuilt key portions of its chemical production infrastructure for industrial and commercial use, as well as former dual-use CW production facilities and missile production facilities. Iraq has attempted to purchase numerous dual-use items for, or under the guise of, legitimate civilian use. Since the suspension of UN inspections in December 1998, the risk of diversion of such equipment has increased. In addition, Iraq appears to be installing or repairing dual-use equipment at CW-related facilities. Some of these facilities could be converted fairly quickly for production of CW agents.
All of a sudden the report is guessing about Iraq’s intentions to acquire missiles. It talks about dual-use facilities and purchases, but the caveat in the last sentence about inspections is gone altogether. Iraq’s “likely” rebuilding has become “rebuilt”, but no new information is cited except “attempts” (successful?; unsuccessful?) to purchase dual use equipment. That Iraq appeared to be installing or repairing such equipment is unsupported by any factual reference, though that might have been contained in the classified report. There is obviously much that is still unknown, though the wording makes the situation seem to be more threatening. It begins to look a bit as though the writers were finding the answers they believed were there.
There is a definite question here as to why the emphasis has been changed. Was it altered to meet the preconceived ideas and wishes of the Administration, or were they so traumatized by 9/11 that uncertain possibilities are believed to be factual. One has to wonder if the judgment of those at the top was informed by any knowledge of Iraq’s history or culture, an awareness that any real “facts” about the country based on what was observable in the 1980’s when Iraq and the USA were partners in the Iran-Iraq war, or a world view that saw the gray unknown reality rather than the black and white of evil versus good.