WMD EXPECTATIONS MANAGEMENT WATCH….Warning! Do not necessarily believe this story from the BBC:

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq by the group looking for them, according to a Bush administration source who has spoken to the BBC.

This will be the conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group’s interim report, the source told the presenter of BBC television’s Daily Politics show, Andrew Neil.

….Mr Neil said the draft report ? which the source said is due to be published next month ? concludes that it is highly unlikely that weapons of mass destruction were shipped out of the country to places like Syria before the US-led war on Iraq.

….Mr Neil said that according to the source, the report will say its inspectors have not even unearthed “minute amounts of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material”.

Maybe this is all true. Maybe.

But the Bush administration has a history of leaking information that makes things appear far worse than they are. Then, when things end up being merely bad, instead of horrific, the punditry breathes a sigh of relief and suggests that we got off easy.

(We saw this most recently with the UN speech, where the pre-speech buzz was, essentially, that Bush would tell the entire world to completely fuck off. When he instead gave a speech of merely ordinary Bushian pugnacity ? no talk of irrelevancy at all! ? he mostly escaped serious criticism ? although the overall response was still pretty stony. And while we’re on the subject, note that Bill Clinton also used this technique to excellent effect right before the transcripts of his Monica deposition were released.)

So I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction: David Kay will release a report next month as suggested, and it won’t have much to say. But it will have a little bit to say: a few suspicious documents, some snatches of open-to-interpretation dialog from the interrogations, and a couple of tantalizing clues of one kind or another. But because we have been led to believe that the report has uncovered absolutely nothing, this miniscule amount of evidence will be taken to mean that the subject is still alive despite “expectations” that it would put a final nail in the WMD coffin. And the American public will therefore remain confused about whether Saddam had WMD after all.

If it goes down this way, just remember where those expectations came from, OK?

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