Chief Weapons Inspector: WMD Didn't Exist In Iraq
Kay's parting shot undermines Bush
By WALTER PINCUS and DANA MILBANK
Jan. 24, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The departing chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq said Friday
that he now believes Saddam Hussein did not stockpile forbidden weapons after
the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and the incoming chief inspector indicated that he
will shift the focus of the hunt from finding weapons to learning what became
of Saddam's weapons programs.
The CIA announced officially Friday that Charles Duelfer, a former senior U.N. weapons inspector, will succeed David Kay, who is resigning after nine months of unsuccessful searches for banned weapons in Iraq. Duelfer, who as a private academic said the Bush administration's prewar allegations on Iraq's weapons were "far off the mark," said Friday that his goal is to reconstruct Iraq's "game plan" for its weapons and weapons programs.
The transition from Kay to Duelfer underscores a change in emphasis in the U.S. hunt for banned weapons. While Kay began his search with expectations of finding stockpiles, Duelfer has said the mission now is to discover when and how such stockpiles were eliminated. And while Kay emphasized physical searches for proof of weapons activity, Duelfer will rely on his previous relationships with Iraqi scientists from his days with the United Nations.
White House aides, who consulted with CIA Director George Tenet on Duelfer's appointment, said they do not see the succession as a redirection of the search. And some in the Bush administration continue to believe that weapons might be found -- Vice President Dick Cheney said this week that "it's going to take some additional considerable period of time in order to look in all the cubbyholes and ammo dumps."
President Bush, however, has moved away from his previous assertions. In his State of the Union address this week, he referred only to "weapons-of-mass-destruction-related program activities."
And while British Prime Minister Tony Blair Friday similarly stuck by his stance that weapons of mass destruction would eventually be found in Iraq, others in his ruling Labor Party expressed doubts. Donald Anderson, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, told BBC television: "It looks increasingly forlorn that there are any chances now of finding those stockpiles."
Democrats said Kay's statements raised serious questions about the administration's case for war and the quality of U.S. intelligence.
In a statement Friday, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., vice chairman of the Senate panel, said "Kay's statement that he now believes weapons may not have existed after 1991 is further confirmation of what we are learning -- Iraq did not possess weapon stockpiles nor did it have an active nuclear program. That raises truly alarming questions about our intelligence, the reasons and justification for going to war and the president's doctrine of pre-emption."
Duelfer said he is determined to find the truth about what happened to the weapons and programs he believed existed before the war began. Duelfer, who carried out weapons inspections in Iraq between 1993 and 2000 when he was deputy executive chairman of the U.N. Special Commission, told reporters Friday that "the goal here is to put together the most complete, credible and openly demonstrable picture of what Iraq had, what their programs were and where they were headed." He said it is up to others to determine the accuracy of the prewar intelligence assessments.
Kay, who worked for a year on the U.N. nuclear inspections in 1992, said when he took the job in May that he expected to find weapons. In July, he reported that cooperating Iraqis who had worked on the weapons programs were leading his teams to sites, that "solid evidence" was being produced and that "the American people should not be surprised by surprises."
But in October, Kay reported that he had not discovered any chemical or biological weapons or stockpiles of deadly agents, but only a rudimentary research effort in the nuclear field. He did report finding plans for prohibited missile programs and secret laboratories that could be used for biological or chemical weapons.
On Friday, in a statement, Kay described the inspection work in Iraq as "arduous ... inhospitable and often threatening." He added that he is leaving, though "there are many unresolved issues." Tenet praised Kay Friday, noting that he "provided a critical strategic framework that enabled the ISG to focus the hunt for information on Saddam's WMD program."
Duelfer, in an op-ed article in The Washington Post in October, mentioned "the apparent absence of existing weapons stocks." Though he still considered Saddam as posing a potential, future threat in the production of weapons of mass destruction, he wrote that "clearly this is not the immediate threat many assumed before the war."
Assuming that the search for weapons remained fruitless, Duelfer wrote, "it will be very important for the Iraq Survey Group to establish when all agents and weapons were eliminated." Duelfer said among the group's tasks was to demonstrate that Saddam "could outlast and outwit" the U.N. inspections.
Duelfer said Friday that he "won't prejudge" his findings and vowed to "pursue all possible avenues" in his search. "Comments I've made as an academic or as a scholar were the judgments or prognostications of an outsider," he said.
Reuters News Service contributed information to this story.http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/special/iraq/2368957.html