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August 20, 2004

What "Everyone" Knew

Back in December of 2002, after the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, the Brookings Institution in Washington held two events about Iraq's purported WMD. Kenneth Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, was at both, and David Kay was at one.

The transcripts are lots of fun to read now. Pollack and Kay seem to be holding a contest to see who can say the thing that will look the most embarrassing in hindsight. In terms of opportunity for ridicule, it's a target-rich environment. (However, I will leave the actual ridicule as an exercise for the reader. See here and here.)

Beyond that, the transcripts contain many things that are interesting in their own right. For instance, here's an exchange between Pollack and Martin Indyk from the Brookings Institution, who was moderating the panel:

POLLACK: ...there is a real risk in going down this path which is every time the inspectors go to a site and find Iraqis cooperative and find the site clean, it reinforces the notion of those people around the world and in the United States who want to believe that the Iraqis are coming clean, that they are coming clean. We've had Iraqis come up to Martin in recent days and say to him maybe the Iraqis don't really have weapons of mass destruction.

INDYK: Correction. It wasn't Iraqis.

POLLACK: Israelis, pardon me. It's different. And when you've got Israelis saying that it's clear Saddam's strategy is working. It is having an impact.

This is more evidence that "everyone" wasn't wrong about whether Iraq possessed banned weapons. There were many people who were right. It's just it was hard to hear them over the sound of Kenneth Pollack calling them dupes of Saddam Hussein.

And then there's this snippet from Indyk's introduction to the first session:

INDYK: My understanding of Saddam's strategy starts from the premise that he still possesses weapons of mass destruction capabilities. If that were not the case he would have long ago completed the disarmament process and had the sanctions lifted and Iraq would have been able to rejoin the international community.

Indyk -- who held various high level posts in the Clinton administration -- must know this isn't true. It is the case that the relevant UN Security Council resolutions required that the sanctions be lifted when Iraq had "completed the disarmament process." But the Clinton administration stated flat out that it wouldn't allow this to happen. As Madeleine Albright put it in 1997, "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted."

Rather, the US wanted sanctions to remain as long as Hussein remained in power. As Tariq Aziz said later in 1997, "The American government says openly, clearly, that it's not going to endorse lifting the sanctions on Iraq unless the leadership of Iraq is changed."

So who was right, Aziz or Indyk? It's depressing that the answer is: the guy from the totalitarian regime.

Posted at August 20, 2004 01:38 PM | TrackBack