Analysis of the Kaye report on WMDs

The full testimony of Kaye can be viewed here:
The purpose of this thread is to examine the Kaye report in as nonpartison and unbiased fashion as possible and see what conclusions can be drawn from it with regard to the status of WMDs in Iraq as well as the US administration’s stance before the war:

I’m going to try to cover it in sections and take a representative quote from them as each point is made.

Section 1 Tentative

As has been pointed out by Mr. Svinlesha in a previous thread, the tentativeness of this report and its presentation as a work in progress is at odds to earlier statements about presenting a clear and definitive picture which this report was billed as.

Clearly, had they found large quantities of WMDs the report would by now be definitive. The failure to present a definitive report is itself a telling fact, despite the validity of mitigating circumstances described.

Kaye lists six reasons why the effort is being hindered. While some have validity others are representing a transition in the nature of what is being searched for as well as it’s scope.

Section 2 Positive Findings

A strong case is presented for concealment in violation of the UN resolution and their inspectors. The nature of what is concealed is not as clear and is induced rather than deduced from a pattern of destroyed evidence.

Because something was purposefully destroyed does not mean that it relates to a WMD, and a connection is at best circumstantial.


is a strong statement. Concealed research into bioweapons is not an actual bioweapon though.

Kaye continues on with the subject of bioweapons and makes a very strong argument that their was on ongoing program to create them, despite Iraqi claims to the contrary.

(to be continued)

Research and work were not declared.

The report fails to say of what this research and work consisted. It says that these’re some of the “WMD-related program activities.” That’s a vague category. Given the Admin’s history of legalistic use of language, I think that the phrase is signifgant for it’s broad generality.

Research is one of those words in English that means a number of different things. It could be truthfully said that I’ve conducted ‘research on biological weapons’, and all that I’ve done is read a handful of web pages.
Work is another word that means many things. Lacking the details and given the pattern of strictly defined communication it’s hard to know what signifgance this has. If there was some specific evidence, it would’ve been better if that had been presented instead of just ‘work.’

Depending on the nature of this research and work, it may well be that Iraq didn’t think it had to declare these activities to the UN. It’s only a lie or deception if you have intent, otherwise it may just be that these things were misunderestimated or were 'imprecise’ly considered.

The history of crafty language combined w/ a lack of details keeps this from carrying as much weight as it possibly could or possibly should.

I’d hesitate to call it a “strong statement.”

This really deserves much a more thorough analysis than I’ve been able to give it so far.

Iraq has good reason to engage in research on Brucella:

Iraq Livestock Crisis

Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever is also endemic to the region.

Well it seems to indicate that Saddam did materially obstruct the UN (no surprise) and planned on remaining a perennial sore in the region by resuming his weapons programs once sanctions were lifted. Which makes it all the more bizarre why he didn’t’ just fess up.

It reinforces my view that the US was in a no win situation. Remove Saddam and deal with blow back, contain Saddam alone with no end in sight, don’t contain Saddam and be required to potentially remove him when he has nastier weapons, or wait until Saddam’s family is ousted by a coupe and deal with an unknown variable with nasty weapons. Ick.

I’ll need to dig deeper into the report.

Is anyone really surprised by the idea that Saddam Hussein, while under glass by UN sanctions and locked in by the No-Fly Zones, was biding his time when he could finally flex his muscles and rebuild his weapons systems? Of course not; even the most pacifist nation is willing to take steps for self-defense, and Saddam was hardly a minimal-force non-interventionist type of leader.

IMO, the only thing new here is how the Bush Administration (and its assorted apologists) is trying to spin the blinding obvious into a justification for eminent war.

What it does rung is point out how amateurish the Bush Administration was in handling the diplomatic aspect of this entire fiasco.

The report seems to show that there was never going to be a time when Saddam would not be a threat in the region. He seems to have been working on what he could (material breach) and planning/researching what he’d need once he managed to throw off containment. It should’ve been so easy to bring sufficient numbers of nations on boards without the wild eyed “bombing London” cries. From a regional threat/humanitarian crisis perspective it should’ve been easy sell. The administration didn’t trust the rest of the world enough to present a complex case for war.

Or simply continuing the containment policy that had been working completely effectively for the last decade might have been the best approach. But the administration, and its cheerleaders, refused to even consider that, remember?

The bottom line from the Kay report, and from everything else we know now and knew then is that Saddam was not an imminent, or even near-term, threat to anyone but his own people. To the rest of us he was a serious annoyance, but not one that had to be urgently dealt with.

Well as I said

Besides containment was a US (some UK) thing and not primarily a SC thing. I don’t remember Russian or French troop being stationed in Saudi Arabia. The problem, as I see with containment, is that since Saddam never planned on not being a threat, the containment would have to go on ad infinitum, along with the necessary sanctions.

…especially considering the other, very significant problems that the United States faces that ARE urgent problems that have to be dealt with, but are currently festering because of the resources that have been mis-allocated to the invasion of Iraq.

Sorry, that was meant as an addendum to

The containment policy was completely effective at what exactly? Making Saddam rich and his people poor? If Saddam didn’t build WMD’s it certainly wasn’t because he lacked the ability. The sanctions didn’t prevent him from having the wealth and power he needed to pursue such things.

We knew then that Saddam was not a threat? Bullshit.

Both Clinton and Bush after him considered Saddam a serious threat. Both said so. Both had good reason to think Saddam was a threat.

You can argue that they were wrong about how much of a threat Saddam was because we haven’t found smoking gun evidence of WMD’s. But to insist that before the war we knew that Saddam wasn’t a threat is just wrong.

So much for a non-partisan examination of the facts, eh Scylla? :wink:

But the report does not say that Iraq was an immediate threat to the US or London. It does seem to say that Saddam was a threat to the region if not contained. The fact that it is a crucial region to the West heightens the threat but does not in my mind excuse the exaggeration.

I haven’t read the report but here is a nice analysis by Fred Kaplan in Slate that is worth reading:

His main conclusion is that the report shows that containment was working very well in preventing Saddam from actually acquiring WMD and ballistic missiles despite his efforts in that direction. For example Saddam paid 10 million dollars to North Korea for missiles but the North Koreas didn’t deliver because they thought it would be too risky given the close attention the world was paying to Iraq.

debaser, I said “imminent”. Look it up.

CyberPundit I somewhat agree with the Slate article. However some of the statements, say about the cruise missile being taken apart in late 2002 due to UN efforts, only highlights the fact that unless focus was on Iraq efforts to circumvent the UN sanctions were given the green light. Would you agree that the level of focus on Iraq during 2002/2003 was unusual compared to 1992-2002 period?

The $10 million North Korea missile sale again points to focus, primarily a Bush white house era. I might be wrong if the sale took place before Bush took over; did anyone notice a date?

Regardless the sale of missiles by North Korea to Syria is impressive. cite


The containment policy was effective at containment. It’s right there in the word, see? You even used the word yourself.

The containment policy was not there to keep Saddam rich, or make his people poor. So it was successful. It’s tragic what the people over there went through, but that doesn’t mean that the containment policy wasn’t effective. It was. It contained him.

And, actually, the sanctions did prevent him from doing those things. The fact that they didn’t “prevent him from having the wealth and power he needed to pursue such things” is totally irrelevent. Because he failed to pursue such things.

Which is exactly what the policy was for.

But you know what? I’m one of those people who thought that ‘of course’ Saddam had WMD. There was no doubt in my mind that they’d find something.

I thought war was premature. If you’re constantly playing shell-game with your labs and factories, then they’re not doing a whole hell of a lot of research or production. As long as the inspectors were getting access to whatever they wanted to get access to, why start shooting?

I was wrong. See? I’m an adult. I can admit it. I didn’t even really get suckered by the administration. Not really. It was more of a gut instinct that he had them. All of the amateur justifications that Bush & Co. tried to use looked just plain amateurish to me.

Guess what, though? I didn’t have billions of dollars of intelligence data and aparatus at my disposal. I didn’t ignore them when they didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear…

-Joe, just one guy with Roadrunner


That’s an astute point, although I would phrase it more like, “The administration didn’t trust the American public enough to present a complex case for war.”

Rather than providing a true but complex picture of the Iraq situation, they sought to mislead us with oversimplifications and lies. That’s one of my biggest beefs with the whole project.

Definitely a sticky wicket. Not to mention that the longer the sanctions dragged on, the more pressure would be exerted to end them by various parties, including certain other states (who did not perceive Iraq as a threat) as well as NGOs and human rights organizations. The sanctions were also having a negative impact on US relations in the region, no doubt. The “American sanctions are starving Iraqi children” line was also probably a useful recruitment slogan for Al Qaeda.

However, I’m not convinced that removing the sanctions would necessarily have led to unavoidable confrontation with a nuclear Iraq sometime in the future – although I admit that it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility.

Threat, shmeat.

Syria is a threat. Pakistan is a threat. North Korea is a threat. India is a threat. Gabon is a threat. Venezuela is a threat. China is a threat. Hell, even France is a threat.

In the state system, threats are ubiquitous. All states exist at the nexus of a network of threats – political, geographic, economic, military, and environmental problems challenge states from all sides.

The administration’s case did not rest on the mere fact that Iraq was a “threat” to the US. Rather, the administration argued that the threat Iraq represented was unique, primarily because of two interlocking reasons: 1) Iraq had ties to “terrorist groups” (read: Al Qaeda), and 2) Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” It was these two reasons that served as the government’s pretext to launch a “pre-emptive” invasion of a nation that, to my knowledge, has in fact never threatened US political, military, or geographic integrity, ever.

Would you consider an invasion of Iraq legitimate if you knew that it neither possessed such weapons nor cultivated such ties? If so, then by your logic it is legitimate for the US to invade any state it considers a threat, no matter how tenuous that threat might be.

But of course, the point is moot. Not even the current administration thought it could invade Iraq without, at the very least, some reason other than “Iraq is a threat.” That is why they continually harped on “WMDs” and the Iraq – Al Qaeda connection, despite the obvious dearth of evidential support.

In short, your argument holds no water.

Mr. Kay’s report reminds me of Mark Twains remark about palentology as a science, that offers “wholesale returns in conjecture from a modest investment of fact.”

“We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002…”

Its rather a pity that Mr. Kay could not have added an addendum to his testimony, being more specfic about these dozens of programs. Such specificity would go along way toward providing fodder for our unbiased and rhetoric free examination. No doubt the concerns for brevity precluded any such revelations. As we are given to understand our Admins deeply held concern for complete and utter candor, this dissappointment will no doubt be rectified quite soon, and a fact sheet enumerating and explicating these “dozens of programs” is available, or very soon will be.

Have any of you seen such?

Perhaps I misunderstand. Perhaps my definition of complete and open candor is somehow in error, and vague reference to some scientists statements and conjectures that require a almost preternatural certainty as to the mindsets of the Iraqi leadership are actually entirely satisfactory. Has the White House brought a clairovoyant on staff? That would be interesting. What would be the Civil Service title for such an employee? “Scryer of entrails, strategic”?

Boil off all the "maybe"s, “perhaps” "possibly"s and other such foggy obfuscations, and what have we? A bottle of botulism stored in a refrigerator for…how many years? 9? 10? A centrifuge buried under a rose bush. A state of the art mobile bio-weapons production facility cunningly disguised as a pile of scrap metal on wheels.

Contrast and compare with SecState Powells remarks of Feb. '01, regarding the effectiveness of the sanctions regime:

“…We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors…”

Note the lack of qualifiers and verbiage of mass prevarication. Not maybe, not could be, not perhaps.

I must reluctantly come to the entirely non-partisan conclusion that the Kay “report” is a load. It has taken thousands of licks to get to the center of the WMD tootsie roll pop, but the brown stuff in the center ain’t chocolate.

I suspect that you’ve sold it short. I fear that this may be just as dangerous as swallowing it whole.

Thank you, though I was speaking from an international perspective, not a domestic one. An American Administration knows how to sell to the American public. The issue I was trying to make was that the removal of Saddam could have been a large scale international project. The need, however, was to present the complete case, including the horrific conditions under the Saddam dynasty. The pathetic shifting of focus (Al Queda, WMD, Humanitarian crisis, the regional threat, American troop presence stoking zealots in Saudi Arabia etc.) coupled with a military presence driving the agenda made it look like ad hoc justification being presented to whatever audience might have been listening. Who would ever trust that?

Here I think is the crux of the OP. If the US administration’s information on Saddam was comparable to the report we’re discussing, minus the reveled conditions of the equipment, what level of threat could they have assigned to Saddam?