The George Washington University National Security Archive recently published a newly releasedCIA document from January 2006 titled “Misreading Intentions: Iraq’s Reaction to Inspection Created Picture of Deception”. The document, the Archive notes, “blames ‘analyst liabilities’ such as neglecting to examine Iraq’s deceptive behavior ‘through an Iraqi prism,’ for the failure to correctly assess the country’s virtually non-existent WMD capabilities.” Foreign Policy magazine describes itas a “remarkable CIA mea culpa”. But nothing could be further from the truth. Far from acknowledging the CIA’s true role, the document does not present any kind of serious analysis, but only politicized statements rehashing well-worn official claims designed to further the myth that there was an “intelligence failure” leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003.
There was no such “intelligence failure”. On the contrary, there was an extremely successfuldisinformation campaign coordinated by the CIA in furtherance of the government’s policy of seeking regime change in Iraq. The language of the document itself reveals a persistent dishonesty. It speaks of “deepened suspicions” that Iraq “had ongoing WMD programs” and “suspicions that Iraq continued to hide WMD.” Needless to say, however, the Iraq war was not sold to the public on the grounds that government officials and intelligence agencies had “suspicions” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was sold to the public with declarations that it was a known fact that Iraq had ongoing programs and stockpiles of WMD. The tacit acknowledgment that the actual evidence only supported “suspicions” that this was so by itself is proof of that the narrative of an “intelligence failure” is a fiction.
The report relies heavily upon the 1995 defection of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal (respectively spelled “Saddam Husayn” and “Husayn Kamil” in the document), arguing that the information he revealed bolstered suspicions that Iraq was concealing ongoing WMD programs and continued to possess stockpiles of WMD. It argues further that the regime’s behavior indicated he was hiding such weapons. Kamal, who returned to Iraq and was killed there in 1996, was the same individual Vice President Dick Cheney referred to in selling the administration’s case for war on August 26, 2002, when he said that “we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors—including Saddam’s own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam’s direction.” But the fact is that Cheney was lying, and the CIA’s persistent adherence to essentially the same false narrative renders ridiculous the suggestion that this document is some kind of “mea culpa”.
The document states, “Analysts interpreted Iraq’s intransigence and ongoing deceptive practices as indicators of continued WMD programs or an intent to preserve WMD capabilities, reinforcing intelligence we were receiving at the time that Saddam Husayn continued to pursue WMD.” Yet the examples it lists of Iraq’s “intransigence” and deception do not support the CIA’s earlier judgments that Iraq had ongoing programs and WMD stockpiles. “In April 1991, for example,” the document says, “Iraq declared that it had neither a nuclear weapons program nor an enrichment program. Inspections in June and September 1991 proved that Iraq had lied on both counts, had explored multiple enrichment paths, and had a well-developed nuclear weapons program.” This is true. However, the document makes no mention of the fact that it was public knowledge that Iraq’s nuclear program was subsequently completely dismantled. As former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei, pointed out, the Agency had “destroyed, removed or rendered harmless all Iraqi facilities and equipment component of Iraq’s nuclear programme” by 1992. The IAEA reported in 1998 that it was “confident that we had not missed any significant component of Iraq’s nuclear programme”.
The document states that in “March 1992, Iraq decided to declare the unilateral destruction of certain prohibited items to the Security Council, while continuing to conceal its biological warfare (BW) program and important aspects of the nuclear, chemical, and missile programs”. As worded, this implies that Iraq in 1992 was continuing these programs. This is disingenuous, because in fact Iraq was at that time trying conceal past programs that it had ended following the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq did not continue these programs, but dismantled them and unilaterally destroyed its WMD in order to hide the fact that it had had such programs in the past. As the document acknowledges in its “Key Findings” section, “in 1991, Iraq secretly destroyed or dismantled most undeclared items and records”. Yet the very next paragraph contradictorily and disingenuously states, “We now judge that the 1995 defection of Saddam’s son-in-law Husayn Kamil—a critical figure in Iraq’s WMD and denial and deception (D&D) activities—promoted Iraq to change strategic direction and cease efforts to retain WMD programs.” This again implies that Iraq had ongoing WMD programs at least until 1995, which is false, as the CIA knew perfectly well at the time this report was written.