“Contrary to the insinuations which appeared in the British press, France is not behind the intelligence published in the British dossier dated September 24, 2002 and relative to the nuclear program of Iraq,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Italians deny it too.
In a sense, though, it really doesn’t matter where the information came from or whether the British are standing behind it. The CIA has already said they don’t believe it, and they didn’t believe it back when the president made his State of the Union claim either. So regardless of what the British think, the fact remains that the president of the United States ignored the conclusions of his own intelligence service because he was desperate to scare the American public into thinking Saddam had a nuclear bomb program.
So what else should we take a jaundiced look at, now that it’s clear how the Bush team was operating? The LA Times puts it well in their lead editorial today:
The most sweeping assessment of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s intentions was contained in October’s CIA report “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.” In it, the CIA made a number of allegations about Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs. The key judgments:
If left unchecked, Baghdad would probably have a nuclear weapon this decade. If it got enough “fissile material,” i.e. uranium, it could build a bomb “within a year.”
Baghdad had begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, including mustard, sarin and VX gases.
Every aspect of Hussein’s biological weapons programs was “active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War.”
Baghdad was developing missiles capable of delivering weapons payloads, including biological agents, to other nations.
Today, on its Web site, the best the agency can muster is a few pictures of suspected mobile weapons labs. Given this paucity, the jump in the level of CIA alarm from 2001 to 2002 is puzzling. In 2001’s report, the CIA told Congress: “We believe that Iraq has probably continued at least low-level theoretical [research and development] associated with its nuclear program.” The 2001 report also said “we are concerned that Iraq may again be producing [biological weapons] agents.” Last year, the assertion of such a program was categorical.
The CIA was right to be concerned about Iraq’s intentions, but in 2001 it was not describing an imminent threat to U.S. security. It is far from clear that Congress or ordinary Americans, not to mention the British government, would have supported war [merely] to oust a nasty dictator. That is the administration’s real problem.
That’s exactly right: knowing what we know now, would the American public have supported this war? That’s starting to look more doubtful every day.