The resignation of CIA chief weapons inspector David A. Kay, his subsequent statements that there were no significant stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the administration's own backtracking, put an end to any veracity behind the Bush Administration's reason for the U.S. attack on Iraq.
The emptiness of that claim leaves important questions dangling. Assuming that the Bush Administration acted in good faith in taking America to war on a belief that Iraq had biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, the mistake then lies primarily with the CIA in providing the administration bum intelligence.
Dr. Kay, in departing, recommended a major overhaul of both CIA collection and analysis capacities. It is worth noting that the CIA also appeared to have missed completely the overseas terrorist preparations for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Accepting that President Bush acted on what he believed to be good intelligence, there is still reason to ask why he never questioned what the CIA put in front of him about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and plowed straight ahead, especially since the information turned out to be wrong.
That grave error and the CIA and FBI failure to detect the preparations for Sept. 11 suggest clearly that Central Intelligence Director George J. Tenet should be fired, and that the agency he heads should undergo a major revision of leadership and culture.
The other, alternative hypothesis is that President Bush knew that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, but wanted to take the United States to war for other reasons and so deliberately shaped or misread the intelligence to justify the March attack.
If one accepts that, the question then becomes, if the United States did not go to war because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, then why did it go to war?
Among the reasons are a desire to take Iraq's oil, a wish to eliminate whatever threat Iraq presented to Israel, personal revenge by the Bush family, a desire to get rid of Saddam Hussein the tyrant, or a wish to assure Mr. Bush a second term (a goal his father didn't achieve) by making him a "war president" who arguably should not be replaced midstream in 2004.
Wherever one is led politically by Dr. Kay's resignation and comments, interesting information emerged in the process.
First, Iraq was well behind Iran, Libya, North Korea, Israel, India, and Pakistan in the weapons of mass destruction threat it posed to the world.
Second, there is no conclusive evidence that Iraq moved its weapons programs to Syria. Third, Mr. Bush's claim that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa had no basis in fact.
Finally, Dr. Kay concluded that the United Nations inspectors were on the right track, and that concern over what they might find had driven Saddam Hussein's Iraq to get rid of its leftover stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, starting in 1991.
The CIA apparently didn't know that either.
The magnitude of the miscalculation can be measured in several disturbing ways:
The difficulty the United States is experiencing in extracting itself from Iraq. The billions being spent on the conflict. And the death toll of American soldiers standing well over 500.
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