Preventing Catastrophe: The Use and Misuse of Intelligence in Efforts to Halt the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Thomas Graham Jr.; Keith A. Hansen | Go to book overview
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5 Intelligence on Iraqi WMD
Programs and Policy Reactions

The road leading up to the US decision to use military force against Saddam Hussein in March 2003 was complex and multifaceted. Intelligence had only limited influence on that decision. To understand what transpired, particularly the role that intelligence played, we must break the episode into discrete parts: first, the US Intelligence Community's beliefs about the facts on the ground in Iraq, particularly on the status of Saddam's clandestine WMD programs; second, policymakers' preferences and how they chose to receive and use the intelligence information given to them; and third, the international community's beliefs, including what UN and IAEA inspectors had uncovered, or not uncovered, and their conclusions about Iraq's WMD programs. Finally, one must treat nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons individually, even while public discourse often confuses them. As we stated in the Introduction, important distinctions among these weapons must be kept in mind when reviewing the Iraqi or, indeed, any other case.


Efforts to Monitor Saddam's WMD Programs

As mentioned briefly in Chapter 3, the Intelligence Community had been following Saddam's efforts to acquire WMD capabilities for two decades. But its effort to achieve an accurate understanding of the status of Iraq's WMD programs in late 2002 was hindered by a variety of factors. Everyone knew that Saddam had previously used chemical weapons against Iran and on his own Kurdish population; his regime had a long history of using concealment and deception to spoof national and international efforts to monitor his clandestine programs; contrary to UN Security Council resolutions, he refused to resume inspections by international experts in 1998 following the temporary withdrawal of inspectors for a planned US-UK bombing campaign; and his

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Preventing Catastrophe: The Use and Misuse of Intelligence in Efforts to Halt the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
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