Everyone knows the ending to the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. After finding the Ark of the Covenant, Indy hands his prize over to the US government who then proceeds to catalog the Ark, crate it up after stamping a rather large number on it, with the very last scene showing the crate being moved by a dolly in a gigantic government warehouse to be placed with thousands of other crates that look exactly like the one that contains the Ark. The clear implication left with the viewer is that somewhere, in some forgotten government warehouse, the United States is storing a find of immense historical importance.
Could something similar be the case regarding proof that Iraq WMD’s were moved to other countries prior to the US liberation in 2003?
The rapid victory of American forces over Saddam’s military took most of the world by surprise. In fact, it caught Saddam’s bureaucrats unawares as well, evidenced by the fact that literally millions of pages of incriminating documents were not destroyed prior to the fall of Hussein’s government. And as Stephen Hayes points out in this Weekly Standard article, the treasure trove of knowledge contained in those papers – most of them unclassified – could hold the key to unraveling the mystery of Iraq’s missing WMD’s as well as further illuminate evidence of Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) ties to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups:
For two years, I have been working to obtain copies of unclassified documents discovered in postwar Iraq. My reasoning is simple: If we understand what the Iraqi regime was doing in the months and years before the war, we will be better able to assess the nature of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and, perhaps, to better understand the insurgency. It’s not a light subject, to be sure.
But the quest for the documents, while frustrating, has also been highly amusing. It is a story of bureaucratic incompetence and strategic incoherence. It is also a story—this one not funny at all—about the failure to explain the Iraq war. Two years after I started my pursuit, I’m not much closer to my goal.
Why? I have been told countless times by officials of the executive branch that there is no need to reargue the case for war, that what matters now is winning on the ground, that our intelligence professionals don’t have time to review history, so occupied are they with current intelligence about current threats. I’m sympathetic to at least part of that thinking; it’s hard to insist in the face of new and evolving threats that intelligence analysts should spend their precious time evaluating the past.
Apparently, despite these documents political importance to the Administration’s efforts to justify the Iraqi liberation in the eyes of the world and American citizens, a pitifully small number of analysts have been assigned to wade through this mish mash of documentation in order to obtain whatever nuggets of useful information that can be gleaned from their contents.
What’s even worse is that the intelligence agencies in charge of this effort have a vested interest in seeing that no information comes to light that contradicts their conclusion that Iraq destroyed its WMD program following the first Gulf War. John Tierney’s interview in Frontpage Magazine has some interesting thoughts along those lines:
On the post-war weapons hunt, the arrogance and hubris of the intelligence community is such that they canâ€™t entertain the possibility that they just failed to find the weapons because the Iraqis did a good job cleaning up prior to their arrival. This reminds me of the police chief who announced on television plans to raid a secret drug factor on the outskirts of town. At the time appointed, the police, all twelve of them, lined up behind each other at the front door, knocked and waiting for the druggies to answer, as protocol required. After ten minute of toilet flushing and back-door slamming, somebody came to the front door in a bathrobe and explained he had been in the shower. The police took his story at face value, even though his was dry as a bone, then police proceeded to inspect the premises ensuring that the legal, moral , ethnic, human, and animal rights, and also the national dignity, of the druggies was preserved. After a search, the police chief announced THERE WERE NO STOCKPILES of drugs at the inspected site. Anyone care to move to this city?
The search for documentary evidence of Iraqi WMD’s must also be placed in the context of the war being waged by many in the intelligence community against the Administration. While it is highly unlikely that any “smoking gun” evidence of WMD is being deliberately withheld, one can speculate on the reason why people like Stephen Hayes are having such a hard time getting access to unclassified documents. Could it be that there is some fear that Hayes and others would find something exculpatory of the Administration? This points up the real damage done by the opposition of the CIA, DIA and other intelligence agencies to the Administration’s policies; we simply can’t trust them to be honest and forthright when it comes to any work they do on Iraq’s WMD’s.
This brings us to the continuing, almost comical efforts by Hayes to get straight answers to simple questions regarding the documentation:
Because I’d been told that these documents are all unclassified, I requested copies from the Pentagon press office. For reasons I still do not entirely understand, the Pentagon would not provide them. Captain Roxie Merritt, the director of Pentagon press operations, suggested I file a Freedom of Information Act request. I did so on June 19, 2005. Two weeks later I received a letter from the Pentagon’s Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review.
The information you requested is under the cognizance of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). We have referred your request to them at the address provided below requesting they respond directly to you.
Mr. Hayes then gets a bureaucratic runaround reminiscent of a Keystone Cops routine in a Buster Keaton silent movie. As the spooks play hide and seek with Mr. Hayes, directing him to inquire at other agencies for permission to view the documents, one is left with the distinct impression that the bureaucrats would just as soon have Mr. Hayes run along and mind his own business. But Hayes makes a good point; if they don’t want to take the time and trouble to examine the documents, why not let others have a crack at them?
One of the documents, “Iraqi Efforts to Cooperate with Saudi Opposition Groups and Individuals,” had been provided to the New York Times last summer. Thom Shanker, one of the Times’s best reporters, wrote a story based on the document, which was an internal Iraqi Intelligence memo. The Iraqi document revealed that a Sudanese government official met with Uday Hussein and the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in 1994 and reported that bin Laden was willing to meet in Sudan. Bin Laden, according to the Iraqi document, was then “approached by our side” after “presidential approval” for the liaison was given. The former head of Iraqi Intelligence Directorate 4 met with bin Laden on February 19, 1995. The document further states that bin Laden “had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative”—a comment that suggests the possibility had been discussed. (According to another Iraqi Intelligence document, authenticated by the DIA and first reported on 60 Minutes, the regime considered bin Laden an “Iraqi Intelligence asset” as early as 1992, though it’s unclear that bin Laden shared this view.)
According to a report in the Times, bin Laden requested that Iraq’s state-run television network broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda; the document indicates that the Iraqis agreed to do this. The al Qaeda leader also proposed “joint operations against foreign forces” in Saudi Arabia. There is no Iraqi response provided in the documents. When bin Laden left Sudan for Afghanistan in May 1996, the Iraqis sought “other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of his current location.” The IIS memo directs that “cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement.”
What kind of cooperation resulted from this discussion and agreement?
You’d think the U.S. government, journalists, and policy types—not to mention attentive citizens—would want to know more. You’d think they’d be eager.
Meanwhile, John Tierney in the aforementioned interview by Frontpage Magazine dropped a few bombshells of his own, not the least of which is his crystallizing much of information about the real possibility that Saddam may have moved his stockpiles of WMD to Syria prior to the war.
FP: Letâ€™s talk a little bit more about how the WMDs disappeared.
Tierney: In Iraqâ€™s case, the lakes and rivers were the toilet, and Syria was the back door. Even though there was imagery showing an inordinate amount of traffic into Syria prior to the inspections, and there were other indicators of government control of commercial trucking that could be used to ship the weapons to Syria, from the ICs point of view, if there is no positive evidence that the movement occurred, it never happened. This conclusion is the consequence of confusing litigation with intelligence. Litigation depends on evidence, intelligence depends on indicators. Picture yourself as a German intelligence officer in Northern France in April 1944. When asked where will the Allies land, you reply â€œI would be happy to tell you when I have solid, legal proof, sir. We will have to wait until they actually land.â€ You wonâ€™t last very long. That officer would have to take in all the indicators, factor in deception, and make an assessment (this is a fancy intelligence word for an educated guess).
In fact, in a little noticed story back in April, the CIA admitted there was “sufficiently credible evidence” that Iraq WMD had been moved to Syria:
But on the question of Syria, Mr. Duelfer did not close the books. “ISG [Iraq Survey Group] was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war,” Mr. Duelfer said in a report posted on the CIA’s Web site Monday night.
He cited some evidence of a transfer. “Whether Syria received military items from Iraq for safekeeping or other reasons has yet to be determined,” he said. “There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation.”
Given all the uncertainty surrounding the question of what happened to cause every major intelligence service in the world to be fooled into believing that Saddam did in fact have WMD’s, might it be a case where, given ample time in the lead up to America’s invasion of his country, Saddam, with the help of Russia was able to both destroy and spirit out of the country his stockpiles of WMD?
The answer may be contained in those documents that Mr. Hayes and others want to get a look at. At the very least, those documents should be examined and publicized for what they can tell us about the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.
The precedent for this was the remarkable example found at the end of World War II. The rapid collapse of the Nazi regime meant for the first time in history, huge caches of documents, diaries, and other historical artifacts fell into the hands of a conquering army. What we found in those documents was absolutely chilling; plans for the systematic murder of millions of innocents. The “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was a plan to make Europe “Jew free” by shipping the continent’s Jewish inhabitants to death camps were they were to be exterminated by the millions. We know this to be true because of the meticulous records kept by both German government and businesses whose plans and calculations for cold blooded murder would be unbelievable if they weren’t put down on paper for all to see.
My guess would be that contained in those millions of Iraqi documents is similar evidence of planned, systematic atrocities against the Shias and the Kurds. For this reason alone, those documents should be examined by dozens of teams of experts from around the world in order to wring whatever information contained therein which would bring the perpetrators of Saddam’s horrors to justice. History demands it. And there will be no justice in Iraq until the full story of Saddam’s tyranny is brought into the light of day where history’s judgment can be meted out to Saddam and his cutthroat band of murderous gangsters.