Yesterday I pointed to Matt Yglesias’ touting of the “60 Minutes” blockbuster piece with the CIA’s former top man in Europe. Daniel McKivergan reacts to it here. NBC had the story a month ago, and in their version this was all a CIA foul-up, not a Bush foul-up. Now that the CIA is in open rebellion against Bush and despite the fact that George Tenet had told Bush the case was a “slam dunk,” he’s supposed to have gone with the lower ranking CIA guy he may not even have heard of. Meanwhile, reader skepticism and dismissal runneth over:
I love these “blockbuster” stories. Each one is based on some truth with all the inconvenient facts removed, like pulling the legs off an ant.
Naji Sabri Bottom line: indicated stockpiles of chemical (poison gas), but no to nuclear and bio.
If you can manage to ignore the stockpiled poison gas, Naji Sabri said there was no WMDs.
I’ve written about Sabri before.
He actually said Saddam had a WMD program:
“For example, consider biological weapons, a key concern before the war. The
CIA said Saddam had an “active” program for “R&D, production and
weaponization” for biological agents such as anthrax. Intelligence sources
say Sabri indicated Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons
program. Sabri was right. After the war, it became clear that there was no
Another key issue was the nuclear question: How far away was Saddam from
having a bomb? The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could
build a nuclear bomb in “several months to a year.” Sabri said Saddam
desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that. Sabri
was more accurate.
On the issue of chemical weapons, the CIA said Saddam had stockpiled as much
as “500 metric tons of chemical warfare agents” and had “renewed” production
of deadly agents. Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had “poison
gas” left over from the first Gulf War. Both Sabri and the agency were
Matt Yglesias really needs to pay more attention to
the news, and CBS apparently doesn’t realize it’s a
month behind. Here’s the NYT on March 22:
“According to Mr. Tenet’s account, which is generally
in accord with that of NBC and the former intelligence
officials, the source now identified as Mr. Sabri gave
a mixed account of Iraq’s weapons programs when he
spoke with French intelligence officers in the fall of
“Mr. Tenet said in his speech, at Georgetown
University in February 2004, that a source who had
direct access to Mr. Hussein had said that Iraq had no
nuclear weapons but was “aggressively and covertly”
seeking to develop them. Mr. Tenet said the source had
also reported that the Hussein government was
“dabbling” with biological weapons but had no “real
I didn’t see 60 Minustes either, but I assume they
recycled the above, doubtless adding their customary
dollops of sensationalism and falsehood. Taking it
all at face value, it scarcely dents the
administration’s case. They stated explicitly and
repeatedly that Iraq did not have operating nuclear
weapons. Sabri confirmed Iraq was working on it, and
also confirmed, seemingly in rather muted tones, that
it had non-nuclear WMD. So, assuming that Sabri was
100% reliable, which the CIA obviously couldn’t afford
to assume, nothing he said really undercut the
rationale for invasion.