Politics & Policy

20/20 Blindsight

The Carnegie Endowment's convenient amnesia.

In their recently published 107-page-report “WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications,” the antiwar Carnegie Endowment for International Peace accuses President Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and other members of the administration of intentionally exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD program in order to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. As Carnegie President Jessica Mathews declared during a taped interview with NBC News earlier this month: “There was a pattern of misrepresentation, or inaccurate statements, by administration officials over and above the intelligence failures.”

However, if one looks past Mathews’s assertions they will find literally hundreds of pages of evidence produced over the past decade by her own organization arguing just the opposite.

As recently as late 2002 in their report titled “Deadly Arsenals,” CEIP compiled a detailed list of Iraq’s suspected chemical weapon stockpiles, staunch refusal to fully cooperate with coercive inspections, and the ability to reconstitute their nuclear program, including the production of a nuclear weapon, within a matter of months.

Some excerpts from “Deadly Arsenals”:

On nuclear weapons: “Iraq’s ambitions and accumulated nuclear technical expertise remain, however, and with them the capability to restart the program covertly … If Iraq were to acquire material from another country, it is possible that it could assemble a nuclear weapon in months.”

On biological/chemical weapons: “The absence of U.N. monitoring since 1998 has aroused concerns that Iraq may again have produced some biological warfare agents. Iraq currently maintains numerous science and medical facilities furnished with dual-use equipment where potential biological warfare-related work could easily take place.”

“Because of the size of the Iraqi program, however, it is widely believed that significant quantities of chemical agents and precursors remain stored in secret depots … Rough estimates conclude that Iraq may have retained up to 600 metric tons of agents, including mustard gas, VX, and sarin. Approximately 25,000 rockets and 15,000 artillery shells with chemical agents also remain unaccounted for.”

In summary, the report concludes, “Saddam Hussein may have begun to reconstitute Iraq’s WMD programs, including the nuclear weapons program.”

CEIP’s pivot on Iraq’s WMD threat appears to have political implications beyond saving face in light of the as-yet failure to locate stockpiles of chemical weapons. The report calls for ending the policy of preemptive military action a half-dozen times, even going so far as to require “United Nations approval before engaging in defensive military action in the face of imminent threats.” Such a stark contrast to their previous findings led to a source no less than the BBC to describe the group as “The left-leaning Carnegie Endowment,”

During NBC’s packaged story on the CEIP findings, reporter Andrea Mitchell repeatedly makes reference to the administration’s “major reasoning” for war now being “undermined” by the report. After airing the story again the following morning on The Today Show, it took an extremely composed Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haas three times to rebuke Katie Couric’s claim that an al Qaeda-Iraq connection was the primary reason for going to war and that the search for WMD had ended.

So, did NBC News bother to ask Matthews or CEIP about the vast accumulation of contradictory reports Carnegie has published on the threat of Iraq’s WMD programs? Of course not. They must have been victims of faulty intelligence.

Eric D. Pfeiffer is a staff writer for National Journal’s “Hotline.”

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