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Saturday, January 24, 2004

David Kay Jumps Ship

I guess David Kay watched yesterday's "Frontline" program on Iraqi WMD inspections, "Chasing Saddam's Weapons."

Reuters is running a few parting comments from Kay, and they are pretty revealing:
In a direct challenge to the Bush administration, which says its invasion of Iraq was justified by the presence of illicit arms, Kay told Reuters in a telephone interview he had concluded there were no Iraqi stockpiles to be found.

"I don't think they existed," Kay said. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last (1991) Gulf War, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s," he said.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats were quick to pick up on this:
"It increasingly appears that our intelligence was wrong about Iraq's weapons, and the administration compounded that mistake by exaggerating the nuclear threat and Iraq's ties to al Qaeda. As a result, the United States is paying a very heavy price," said Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"Dr. Kay's astonishing statement today cannot be ignored. It is increasingly clear that there has been a massive intelligence failure," said Rep. Jane Harman of California, senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

James Rubin, national security adviser for retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Kay's comments meant "the major premise for urgent war in Iraq has been devastated by the administration's own findings."
I know everybody will see this story, but I wanted to preserve the quotes and link.

Update: The Los Angeles Times had a story Friday about Vice President Cheney's ongoing rhetorical efforts to link Iraq with Al Qaeda and WMD, despite almost no evidence to support either position. Here's a snippet on the alleged mobile biological weapons labs (which the reporter on "Frontline" showed on TV Thursday night):
"We've found a couple of semi-trailers at this point which we believe were in fact part of [a WMD] program," Cheney said. "I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did in fact have programs for weapons of mass destruction."

That view is at odds with the judgment of the government's lead weapons inspector, David Kay, who said in an interim report in October that "we have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile [biological weapons] production effort."

In a BBC interview that aired Thursday night on public television in the United States, Kay said that is still the case. He said it was "premature and embarrassing" for the CIA to conclude shortly after the vehicles were discovered last year that they were weapons labs. "I wish that news hadn't come out," Kay said, calling the release of the information a "fiasco."

Experts are still in disagreement over the purpose of the vehicles, with some saying they may have been meant for biological weapons production and others saying it was more likely they were meant for making hydrogen.
Oh, I also decided to include a couple of additional quotes from Kay about the failed hunt for WMD in Iraq. These are from the same Reuters story cited above:
"We're not going to find much after June. Once the Iraqis take complete control of the government it is just almost impossible to operate in the way that we operate," Kay said.

"I think we have found probably 85 percent of what we're going to find," he said. "I think the best evidence is that they did not resume large-scale production and that's what we're really talking about."
The Chicago Tribune has a story today that includes a few other quotes from the same Kay interview:
While he [Kay] told Reuters his work had been complicated by looting, "you just could not find any physical evidence that supported a larger program."

He also said his group's interim finding from October on Iraq's alleged nuclear program--that there were only small and unsophisticated research initiatives under way--would probably be the final conclusion.

He told Reuters "there were a few little things going on, but it had not resumed in anything meaningful."
Kay's replacement, Charles Duelfer was deputy executive chairman of the UN team that carried out weapons inspections there 1993-1998. Kay has been home from Iraq, by the way, for over a month.

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