Monday, January 25, 2016

mountain or molehill? you decide

Politico has a story, written in breathless prose, suggesting that Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld concealed a 2002 report on Iraqi WMD programs he himself called "big" from his National Security Council colleagues. The article notes that the report, declassified in 2011 and circulated by Rumsfeld as part of his memoir, expresses considerable uncertainty about some aspects of the Iraqi WMD programs. The implication is that if other senior officials knew of these judgments, they might not have supported or defended the invasion of Iraq.

Look over the actual document and see if this is some kind of smoking gun.

I don't think so for many reasons. The report, prepared by the intelligence director of the Joint Staff, reflects the broader intelligence community consensus that Saddam Hussein wanted to have nuclear, chemical and biological programs, so we were very suspicious. The report stresses that the Iraqis had the knowledge to conduct such programs, but in most cases the U.S. could not locate actual sites.

It needn't have been shared because it truly said nothing new. The expressions of uncertainty would not have convinced senior officials of the unwisdom of their planned invasion because the fears of an Iraqi nuclear weapon were just too great. [Vice President Cheney espoused the  "one percent doctrine" -- that we should act even if there was only a one percent chance that Saddam would acquire nukes.]

On the contrary, the report justified Rumsfeld's own distinctions about "known knowns" and "unknown unknowns."  It acknowledged, "We don't know with any precision how much we don't know." That was hardly an argument for inaction to Rumsfeld.

The findings were also consistent with Cheney's personal interrogations of intelligence community personnel. I'm told that he kept asking questions like,Can you prove that they don't have such a program or facility? The analysts had to answer that they couldn't -- and that was enough in the view of many to justify action.

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