Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Timeline to War
In all the discussion this last week on how the Intelligence Community failed the President and Congress, I haven't seen one member of Congress or one media analyst get the timeline to war correct. Everyone jumps on George Tenet for the weakness of the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002 and for his December 21, 2002 assurance to the President that proving Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction would be "a slam dunk." In his worldnetdaily column today, Gordon Prather points out that while it was almost certain at these points that Saddam had no WMD -- based on reports of a top defector -- there was still a small chance he did.
Where Tenet really was derelict in his duty was not taking into account the fact that the UN inspectors had been given Tenet's best evidence of WMD sites AFTER the "slam dunk" assurance, and had found nothing at all. Still, Tenet stood aside, saying nothing, when President Bush sent a formal assurance to Congress that diplomacy had failed and war was necessary. Of course, members of Congress could read the papers, and it was reported back then that the inspectors had checked the 100 top sites provided by Tenet's agents and found nothing. Why didn't they jump up and down and demand a pause before war? There was massive dereliction of duty by our political class, I think, and a dereliction by the news media as well.
Tenet's dereliction of duty
By Gordon Prather
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that the "key assessments" in the National Intelligence Estimate which was the basis for the Congressional Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq were "not supported by the underlying intelligence."
Hence, the committee has essentially accused Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet with "misleading Congress."
But the committee has implicitly accused Tenet of committing a far more serious crime dereliction of duty.
You see, it's the DCI's duty to keep the president and Congress fully informed about threats to our national security. And as the committee documents on page after page, Tenet made no attempt to correct that October 2002 NIE despite rapidly accumulating evidence that it was fatally flawed in the months immediately preceding Gulf War II.
Members of Congress say that if they had known then meaning in October 2002 what they now know, they would never have voted for the resolution.
But, the critical thing is not what Congress knew when it voted for the resolution. It's what Congress knew or ought to have known when it was called upon to accept or reject Bush's Determination of March 18, 2003, that Saddam Hussien posed an immediate threat to our national security and had to be eliminated that very day.
As the select committee notes, there is some excuse for some assessments in that NIE being wrong. After all, until 1999, their assessments had been necessarily largely based upon reports by the U.N. inspectors on the ground in Iraq. But in December 1998, the U.N. inspectors had been recalled and as of October 2002, had not returned.
But even back then, DCI Tenet had allowed President Clinton to publicly question the accuracy of the U.N. reports on which U.S. assessments were based.
By mid-1998, the U.N. Special Commission had verified that the "intelligence" provided UNSCOM, IAEA, CIA and MI6 in 1995 by Iraqi defector Gen. Hussein Kamel was correct. Kamel had been in charge of all Iraqi WMD programs, and his orders in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War that all WMD programs be discontinued and all WMD and associated materials be destroyed, had been obeyed.
Of course, you soccer moms knew nothing of Kamel's "intelligence" until the eve of Gulf War II. But Tenet had known all along and it was his duty to have kept the president and the select committee fully informed.
By mid-1998, on the basis of UNSCOM and IAEA reports, the majority on the U.N. Security Council judged Iraq to have complied with the disarmament resolutions and wanted to lift the sanctions imposed in 1991. But Clinton wouldn't allow it. He would never allow sanctions to be lifted so long as Saddam Hussein was in power.
So, in December 1998 to the horror of most members of the Security Council Clinton launched a pre-emptive strike against Saddam's presidential palaces. His rationale? Tenet's assessment that WMD must be beneath them, since the U.N. inspectors had not been allowed to search there.
Of course, they weren't there or anywhere else. But for a while thanks to Tenet Clinton thought he had killed Saddam which was, of course, his true objective.
Now, fast forward to Dec. 21, 2002, to a meeting in President Bush's office wherein DCI Tenet was to present the WMD "case" against Saddam.
By then, the U.N. chembio inspectors under Hans Blix and the nuke inspectors under Mohamed ElBaradei had been on the ground in Iraq for almost a month, had checked out virtually every site at the top of the CIA-supplied WMD-suspect list, and had already made their first report to the Security Council on what they had found.
So after Tenet's "case" which hardly depended on the by-now discredited October NIE was made for immediately attacking Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein, it is hardly surprising that President Bush reportedly asked Tenet "Is this the best we've got?"
That's when Tenet told Bush not to worry; it was a "slam-dunk case."
As the select committee notes, Blix and ElBaradei continued to make report after report, right up to the eve of Gulf War II, casting doubt on or outright refuting virtually every assessment in the October NIE.
So did DCI Tenet do his duty?
Did he rush up to Capitol Hill to retract the thoroughly discredited October NIE, assessment by assessment? Did he set Congress straight?
Result of Tenet's dereliction of duty?
Gulf War II.
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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.