Published on Saturday, April 15, 2006 by the Boston Globe
Empty Boasts on Weapons Labs
by Derrick Z. Jackson
| Last week, it was the allegation that President Bush himself authorized leaks of intelligence to attack Joseph Wilson, the government's envoy who found no evidence of nuclear material transfers between Niger and Iraq. Wilson said Bush's use of intelligence ''was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
This week brings a new twist to the exaggerations. In his February 2003 presentation to the United Nations the month before America invaded Iraq, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell cited ''firsthand descriptions" of Iraqi mobile biological weapons laboratories. ''The description our sources gave us of the technical features required by such facilities are highly detailed and extremely accurate," Powell said. ''We know what the fermenters look like, we know what the tanks, pumps, compressors, and other parts look like. We know how they fit together. We know how they work. . . . Ladies and gentlemen, these are sophisticated facilities. . . . They can produce enough dry biological agent in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people."
Powell's performance had key Democrats surrendering to the drums of war. ''Compelling," said Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. ''Real and compelling," said Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. ''Irrefutable," said Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware. ''Very impressive," said Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. ''The administration threw the kitchen sink."
According to Wednesday's
The DIA technical team, collectively possessing at least 90 years of experience in biological weapons, ended the debate decisively. ''Within the first four hours," a member of the team told the Post, ''it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs."
In fact, a member said, ''There was no connection to anything biological." This was so far from weapons of mass destruction that the team called the trailers ''the biggest sand toilets in the world."
The team officially told their findings to superiors in Washington by e-mails and in a unanimous field report on May 27.
That unanimous report was never used. The next day, on May 28, the DIA and CIA published a public white paper, saying they were ''confident" the trailers were for ''mobile biological weapons production."
The day after that, Bush told Polish television, ''We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. . . . We've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."
The CIA and DIA would not talk to the Post about details of what that technical team found. One DIA official told the Post, ''Whether the information was offered to others in the political realm, I cannot say."
A month after Bush's boast to Polish television, Powell kept saying, ''I have confidence in the judgment of the CIA that they are for the purpose of developing biological weapons. It's been studied very thoroughly." In September 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney, pressed on NBC's ''Meet the Press" as to the whereabouts of the weapons of mass destruction, said, ''We've since the war found two of them. They're in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing the capacity for an attack."
In January 2004, Cheney told National Public Radio: ''We found a couple of semi-trailers at this point, which we believe were in fact part of that program. . . . I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did in fact have programs for weapons of mass destruction."
That last assertion of ''conclusive evidence" was eight months after the DIA team determined ''within the first four hours" that there was ''no connection" of the trailers to anything biological.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan this week called the Post ''reckless." The story of the technical team's report is conclusive evidence of the Nixonian recklessness of Bush and Cheney. The only thing missing is a tape saying, ''I want you to stonewall it."
© 2006 The Boston Globe