what we know so far about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction:
of the 600 or so sites identified by United States intelligence and
Iraqi officials as places where the country's biological weapons may
be hidden, about 100 of these sites have been searched over the past
six weeks and not a single speck of anthrax or other WMD has been
Two skeletal trailers that may have been used to develop anthrax or
botulism, scrubbed from top to bottom when it was found, leaving no
biological weapons traces behind, according to the Department of Defense,
is the only evidence the U.S. has found so far to justify its preemptive
strike against Iraq. But this is far from a "smoking gun"
and the prospects for finding any WMD in the months ahead are becoming
The media is pestering U.S. military officials in Iraq on why WMD
haven't been found yet. The responses are short and to the point.
"I honestly don't know," said Stephen Cambone, undersecretary
of defense for U.S. intelligence, during a briefing May 30.
Prior to the war, nearly every major media outlet warned, based on
reports from the Pentagon, that Iraq's cache of chemical and biological
weapons could be used on U.S. and British troops sent into Iraq to
destroy Saddam Hussein's regime.
To back up these claims, President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld said Saddam's history of using WMD on his own people and
in the war the country fought against Iran was evidence of the viciousness
of the dictatorship. So are we to believe that Saddam suddenly got
a dose of humanity, opting instead to let his regime be torn apart
rather than go out in a blaze of glory? Or could it be that Iraq either
destroyed its WMD or never had anything substantial to begin with?
Looking back at the events that led up to the war, it's likely the
latter. The Bush administration never presented the proof to the United
Nations that its intelligence suggesting Iraq was developing chemical
and biological weapons was superior to that of the U.N. weapons inspectors
who actually combed through the country looking for stockpiles of
anthrax, botulism or VX. Now the military, which has taken over inspections,
are finding exactly what U.N. weapons inspectors found nothing.
Even Al Capone's safe had a couple of empty bottles of liquor in it
when Geraldo Rivera opened it up twenty years ago.
In October 2002, President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati and spoke
about the imminent threat Iraq posed to the U.S. because of the country's
alleged ties with al-Qaeda and its endless supply of chemical and
"Surveillance photos reveal that the (Iraqi) regime is rebuilding
facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons,"
Bush said. "Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range
of hundreds of miles far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel,
Turkey, and other nations in a region where more than 135,000
American civilians and service members live and work. We've also discovered
through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned
aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological
weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring
ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.
And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems aren't required for
a chemical or biological attack; all that might be required are a
small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative
to deliver it."
None of this intelligence information has ever panned out, according
to dozens of news reports over the past five months. Most notably,
according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Bush erred when
he said last year that Iraq was six months away from developing a
nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the president's claims that thousands
of high-strength aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were intended for a
secret nuclear weapons program were also incorrect.
Bush said last September in a speech that attempts by Iraq to acquire
the tubes point to a clandestine program to make enriched uranium
for nuclear bombs. But experts contradicted Bush, saying that the
evidence is ambiguous.
The report, from the Institute for Science and International Security,
a copy of which was acquired by the Washington Post, "also
contends that the Bush administration is trying to quiet dissent among
its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence."
David Albright, a physicist who investigated Iraq's nuclear weapons
program following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a member of the International
Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team, the Post reported,
authored the report.
The Institute, headquartered in Washington, is an independent group
that studies nuclear and other security issues."
"By themselves, these attempted procurements are not evidence
that Iraq is in possession of, or close to possessing, nuclear weapons,"
the report said, according to the Post story. "They do
not provide evidence that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant or
when such a plant could be operational."
The lack of evidence and public blunders by other high-ranking officials
in the Bush administration is endless.
Secretary of State Colin Powell made it clear in an op-ed piece in
the Wall Street Journal on February 3, a day before his famous
meeting at the U.N. where he presented "evidence" of an
Iraqi weapons program, which turned out to be the empty trailers the
U.S. military found earlier this month, that there was no "smoking
"While there will be no 'smoking gun,' we will provide evidence
concerning the weapons programs that Iraq is working so hard to hide,"
Powell said in his op-ed. "We will, in sum, offer a straightforward,
sober and compelling demonstration that Saddam is concealing the evidence
of his weapons of mass destruction, while preserving the weapons themselves."
However, Powell did no such thing. Instead, Powell held up a small
vial of anthrax at the U.N. meeting to illustrate how deadly just
a small vial can be and then used that to couch his claims that Iraq's
alleged stockpile of anthrax would be much deadlier.
The same day, February 3, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
dodged a dozen or so questions about the intelligence information
from sources in Iraq and from the CIA that showed, without any doubt,
that Iraq possessed WMD.
"I think the reason that we know Saddam Hussein possesses chemical
and biological weapons is from a wide variety of means. That's how
we know," Fleischer said.
In virtually every press briefing (archived
on the White House's web site), and every speech by President
Bush between January and the days leading up to the war in March,
hundreds of questions were directed at Bush during stakeouts and Fleischer
at his press briefings about what intelligence information the U.S.
had that could be declassified to support its allegations that Iraq
was either developing WMD or was hiding them. However, not a single
shred of proof was offered up by the White House to back up its claims.
Moreover, when the White House finally seized on something tangible
prior to the war, such as the existence of long-range missiles, Iraq
started destroying the weapons in the presence of U.N. inspectors.
But at this point war with Iraq was inevitable.
In an interview with "Meet the Press" on February 9, Tim
Russert, the program's host, asked Powell about one of the alleged
WMD sites Powell spoke about at a U.N. meeting the week before. Russert
asked Powell if the U.S. knew where certain weapons in Iraq were being
stored why not just send the U.N. inspectors in or destroy the facility
rather than go to war?
Powell's response is poignant:
"Well, the inspectors eventually did go there, and by the
time they got there, they were no longer active chemical bunkers."
To suggest today, nearly three months after the war in Iraq started,
whether there may have been an intelligence failure now that WMD have
yet to be found is to suggest there was some sort of intelligence
in the first place.
Besides, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Assistant Secretary
of Defense Paul Wolfowitz both said publicly during interviews last
week that the war in Iraq was planned two days after the 9-11 terrorist
attacks, well before the issue of WMD was ever discussed by the Bush
Leopold is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires.
He is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis.