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Iraqi WMD

Prior to the Second Gulf War in 2003, it was accepted by almost everyone concerned that Iraq had active programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, probably including inventories of chemical weapons and advanced efforts towards nuclear weapons. Iraq denied this, but Iraq had denied it before the First Gulf War, and those denials were lies. However, this time it turned out (at least after the mid-1990's) that Iraq had told the truth. No evidence of WMD programs was found after the Second Gulf War, and there hadn't been any programs for several years. Naturally, this led to rounds of finger-pointing as each Washington player tried to blame others for the failure of intelligence. Was this failure the result of a successful program of deception by Saddam Hussein rather than just self-delusion in Washington? If so, how and why it was carried out?

A condition of the cease-fire that ended the First Gulf War in 1991 was that Iraq would dismantle its WMD programs. These had been substantial, and most threatening among them was a nuclear weapons program then considered capable of building a bomb by the mid-1990's. Yet the disarmament and inspection program immediately ran into Iraqi refusal to cooperate. The inspectors were stalled and lied to, their demands (justified under the UN resolutions that ended the First Gulf War) thwarted, and equipment and records spirited away, often from under their very noses. This was called ``cheat and retreat'', but the Iraqis only retreated when caught red-handed. Progress generally came only with information from high level defectors, most notably in 1995. It appears that the Iraqi WMD effort ended then, or shortly thereafter.


next up previous
Next: Iraqi Deception Up: Deception and Denial Previous: The failure of intelligence
jonathan katz 2005-09-01