Friday, November 18, 2005

The Weapons Game

There are those from one end of the political spectrum to the other, who have said I am naïve for believing WMD ever existed in Iraq and who were quick to jump on the “No WMD” bandwagon as soon as faulty intelligence could be used as the scapegoat.

The only difference between the two ends has been the way in which the issue has been framed: Those on the right say President Bush was “misled due to faulty intelligence” while those on the left say President Bush “used faulty intelligence to mislead us into war”. I maintain to this day that both views are shortsighted because both view the issue though a political prism instead of from a realistic and common sense perspective.

While I freely admit the available intelligence probably contained some errors, I don’t automatically assume those errors destroy the overall credibility of that same intelligence. I believe all intelligence contains errors, and would be of little use if every minute detail had to be fact checked prior to being deemed actionable. The overall picture the intelligence paints is much more important than a few errant brush strokes.

With that said, it was refreshing to read Jamie Glazov’s interview with Bill Tierney at Frontpage yesterday. Tierney has extensive first hand knowledge of Saddam Hussein’s weapons program as evidenced by this list of accomplishments:

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Bill Tierney, a former military intelligence officer and Arabic speaker who worked at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and as a counter-infiltration operator in Baghdad in 2004. He was also an inspector (1996-1998) for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) for overseeing the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles in Iraq. He worked on the most intrusive inspections during this period and either participated in or planned inspections that led to four of the seventeen resolutions against Iraq.

In the interview with Jamie Glazov, Tierney details the shell game Hussein played with weapons inspectors:

I came into the inspection program as an interrogator and Arabic linguist, so I crossed over various fields and spotted various deception techniques that may not have been noticed in only one field, such as chemical or biological. For instance, the Iraqis would ask in very reasonable tones that questionable documents be set aside until the end of the day, when a discussion would determine what was truly of interest to UNSCOM. The chief inspector, not wanting to appear like a knuckle-dragging ogre, would agree. Instead of setting the documents on a table in a stack, the Iraqis would set them side to side, filling the entire table top, and would place the most explosive documents on the edge of the table. At some point they would flood the room with people, and in the confusion abscond with the revealing documents.

Tierney goes on to detail a specific incident in which he found a critical document discussing Atomic projects only to have it disappear when the chief inspector fell for the “reasonable request” to lay it on the table for later discussion.

Another tactic used by Saddam Hussein to avoid inspection was to hold the inspectors at gunpoint outside the facility in question as his minions moved the material in question out the back door:

A good example of this was the inspection of the 2nd Armored Battalion of the Special Republican Guards in June 1997. We came in from three directions, because we knew the Iraqis had an operational center that tracked our movement and issued warnings. The vehicle I was in arrived at the gate first. There were two guards when we arrived, and over twenty within a minute, all extremely nervous.

The Iraqis had stopped the third group of our inspection team before it could close off the back of the installation. A few minutes later, a soldier came from inside the installation, and all the other guards gathered around him. He said something, there was a big laugh, and all the guards relaxed. A few moments later there was a radio call from the team that had been stopped short. They could here truck engines through the tall (10”) grass in that area. When we were finally allowed in, our team went to the back gate. The Iraqis claimed the gate hadn’t been opened in months, but there was freshly ground rust at the gate hinges. There was a photo from overhead showing tractor trailers with missiles in the trailers leaving the facility.

Tierney also notes an occasion in which the inspection team caught the Iraqis by surprise by rushing to a location while leaving one vehicle behind in an elevated position to watch the Iraqis remove the weapons from the facility.

Tierney believes the inspections process was flawed, not the pre-war intelligence. The process gave Saddam Hussein the ability and the time not only to hide the weapons ahead of the inspectors, but also to remove them from the country prior to the U.S. led invasion. Consider the following:

While working counter-infiltration in Baghdad, I noticed a pattern among infiltrators that their cover stories would start around Summer or Fall of 2002. From this and other observations, I believe Saddam planned for a U.S. invasion after President Bush’s speech at West Point in 2002. One of the steps taken was to prepare the younger generation of the security services with English so they could infiltrate our ranks, another was either to destroy or move WMDs to other countries, principally Syria…

There is also the practicality of weapons inspections/weapons hunts. After seventeen resolutions pleading with the Iraqis to be nice, the light bulb still didn’t go off that the entire concept is fundamentally flawed…

In Iraq’s case, the lakes and rivers were the toilet, and Syria was the back door. Even though there was imagery showing an inordinate amount of traffic into Syria prior to the inspections, and there were other indicators of government control of commercial trucking that could be used to ship the weapons to Syria, from the ICs point of view, if there is no positive evidence that the movement occurred, it never happened. This conclusion is the consequence of confusing litigation with intelligence. Litigation depends on evidence, intelligence depends on indicators.

The last entry in particular demonstrates that intelligence does not have to be perfect to be relevant. It does, however, have to be acted on to be useful. How is it that intelligence can be considered faulty if it was largely discounted due to a lack of “positive evidence”? How would one get this “positive evidence” other than to stop a truck or a ship once in a while to find out for sure? One must follow the intelligence where it leads in order to prove or disprove its reliability.

All of the indicators and countless eyewitness accounts pointed to Saddam Hussein not only having a weapons program, but also having the luxury of moving those weapons around at will. It is extremely unlikely that even he was bold enough to move them around without going to great lengths to disguise the cargo.

The sad fact is Saddam was in complete control of the process that was intended to eliminate his own WMD program. Only a fool or a political hack can come to the conclusion that these weapons either disappeared without a trace or were never there in the first place. The weapons were there but the inspections process failed to eliminate them or stop their movement.

Think about it this way: If Saddam was able to keep inspectors at bay by simply having guns drawn on them while his cronies finished moving the weapons out the back door, is it not also plausible that he moved them to Syria or some other location outside of Iraq? Is there really any doubt that, given the time he had between the removal of the inspectors and the U.S led invasion, Saddam could have moved the WMD practically anywhere he wanted? He was already doing that while the inspectors were there!

The only way to make the case that Saddam Hussein had no WMD program is to prove, in the words of Bill Tierney, that Saddam “had a change of heart”.

Bill Tierney’s not buying it, and frankly, neither am I.

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Thanks to: Stop the ACLU, Cao's Blog, California Conservative, Blue State Conservatives, The Political Teen, Wizbang Blog

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