New CIA documents pertaining to Iraq’s
non-existent WMD threat are being characterized as an agency “mea culpa” (See: Time article). If one reads more carefully, however, the real truth emerges: the CIA, and its handlers in the Bush administration, didn’t believe Iraq’s claims that they didn’t have WMDs. The title of the document, “Misreading Intentions: Iraq’s Reaction to Inspection Created Picture of Deception,” is revealing—it was all about perception. Ergo, evidence was irrelevant.
The document, obtained by National Security Archive’s (NSA) FOIA request (filed 6 years ago!), is heavily redacted, but even so there are some enlightening passages.
For instance, we get this sort of absurdism, which is only possible in the world of espionage: “[E]ven at key junctures when the [Hussein] regime attempted to partially or fully comply with UN resolutions, its suspicious behavior and destruction of authenticating documentation only reinforced the perception that Iraq was being deceptive.” Translation: We didn’t work hard enough, but the Hussein regime really just fucked itself in the ass when it was all said and done.
The document also lays the blame on Iraq’s “cheat and retreat” strategy.
“Iraq concealed items and activities in the early 1990s, and when detected, attempted to rectify the shortcomings, usually secretly and without documentation. Those coverups were seen to validate analytical assessments that Iraq intended to deny, deceive, and maintain forbidden capabilities,” reads the report. In other words, the CIA couldn’t find any real evidence, so they just assumed Iraq was producing WMDs, and Bush just ran with these perceptions.
The best of all, however, is this: “When the [U.N. and International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections proved more intrusive than expected, the Iraqi leadership appears to have panicked and made a fateful decision to secretly destroy much of the remaining nondeclared items and eliminate the evidence.” Again, Iraq fucked itself—the CIA didn’t really have anything to do with it in the final analysis.
The CIA even admits that Iraq was attempting to move toward transparency, but that “significant alterations in their ‘cheat and retreat’ pattern — not only went undetected but instead seemed to confirm that Iraq could and would conceal evidence of proscribed programs.” Well, there we have it: the CIA was looking at “patterns” and not real, actual evidence. Could this have had anything to do with pressure from the Bush administration, which had a real hankering for war in Iraq?
Perhaps. At the very least, though, it makes the CIA look like the “league of morons” from the Coen Brothers’ excellent espionage satire “Burn After Reading.”
Read the full document over at the National Security Archive.