Did Saddam Have a Nuclear Program?

DID SADDAM HAVE A NUCLEAR PROGRAM?….Is Ken Pollack backing down on his prewar claims that Saddam Hussein’s WMD program posed a danger to the United States? Via Hesiod, Joe Conason in Salon excerpts parts of an interview that Pollack did this weekend on NPR about whether or not Saddam had everything he needed to build nukes:

I mean, the point that I made on your show [last year] was a true point. That was the consensus of opinion among the intelligence community. It was hearing things like that that brought me to the conclusion that, you know, ‘Boy, if this is the case, we’ve got to do something about this guy.’ I think, you know, that is exactly the kind of thing that we’re going to need to go back and look hard at the evidence that we were getting and those various intelligence services who were making those claims, I think, are going to need to go back and re-examine the methods they used. As I said, that was not me making that claim; that was me parroting the claims of so-called experts.

Hmmm. The problem is that Pollack has been a Mideast expert for over a decade, and many people (including, ahem, me) trusted his judgment on this. Unlike most of us, he’s had access to this intelligence, he knows where it came from, and he’s supposed to know how to evaluate it. If all he was doing was “parroting” what other people said, then his analysis isn’t really worth much, is it?

Earlier in the interview he also insists that in his book he called Iraq a “much more distant threat,” which I think is also a little disingenuous. It’s true that he did say the danger from Iraq wasn’t imminent, but he also made the point that the containment regime was bound to falter soon, allies like Saudi Arabia were getting ready to abandon us on Iraq if we didn’t act quickly, and, basically, that the sooner we solved this problem once and for all, the better.

There’s no question that Pollack’s position was a more measured one than George Bush’s, and it’s also true that the war did not unfold the way that Pollack wanted it to. Still, emphasizing that last year he thought Iraq was a “distant” threat is a bit heavy on the spin.