The Associated Press has spelled out the whole sad story of how the Bush Administration tried to bend reality to convince itself and the world that the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had had destroyed in 1991 still existed as recently as last year.
Hans Blix, U.N. inspector, says Washington's "virtual reality" about Iraq eventually collided with "our old-fashioned ordinary reality."
Month by month, David Kay and his 1,500-member Iraq Survey Group labored over documents, visited sites, interrogated detained scientists and came to recognize reality. But when he wanted to report it, Kay ran into roadblocks in Washington.
"There was an absolutely closed mind," Kay tells AP. "They would not look at alternative explanations in these cases," specifically the aluminum tubes and bioweapons trailers.
In December 2003, Kay flew back to Washington and met with [then CIA director George] Tenet and CIA deputy John McLaughlin. "I couldn't budge John, and so I couldn't budge George," he says. Kay resigned, telling the U.S. Congress there had been no WMD threat.
It's a long story, but worth the read. The AP starts with the interrogation of Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, who told US intelligence in 1995 that the weapons had been destroyed., and continues through the arguments and obfuscations during the run-up to war. Much of the material has been published before, though there is a new anecdote of Tenet leading the Iraq Survey Group in a sort-of pep rally in February 2004.
"Are we 85 percent done?" the CIA boss demanded. The arms hunters knew what he wanted to hear. "No!" they shouted back. "Let me hear it again!" They shouted again. The weapons are out there, Tenet insisted. Go find them.
Veteran inspector Rod Barton couldn't believe his ears. "It was nonsense," the Australian biologist said....
"It wasn't that we didn't know the major answers," recalled Barton, whose account matched that of another key participant. "Are there WMD in the country? We knew the answers."
In the wake of the horrors of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, it's almost easy to forget the devastation wrought by the belief in WMDs. Editor & Publisher, which previewed the AP special report, also notes:
At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.