“Embarrassing,” a “fiasco”

"For those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."
— George W. Bush, May 30, 2003.

That was President Bush's statement touting what he said were two mobile "weapons labs" discovered by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Subsequent reports — none of which received a fraction of the attention of the initial "discovery" — found that the two trailers were almost certainly for the production of hydrogen for weather balloons, used by the Iraqi military since the 1980s for targeting mortar and rocket attacks.

Quiz time.

Regarding Bush's claim that these trailers were weapons labs and constituted ironclad proof of "banned weapons," one observer said this was a "fiasco" — "I think it was premature and embarrassing."

Who said this? Was it:

A. Howard Dean

B. John Kerry

C. Ambassador Joseph Wilson

D. "A senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity"; or

E. David Kay, former head of the Iraq Survey Group.

The answer, we learn from Barton Gellman's thoroughly researched report in today's Washington Post, is E.

I don't know about you, but I'm startled first by the candor of Kay's remarks, and second by the fact that this revelatory comment — broadcast on BBC Television on Nov. 23 — was virtually ignored by American newsmedia. (Okay, you're right, I shouldn't be surprised by the latter.)

I encourage you to read all of Gellman's exhaustive report: "Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper: Since Gulf War, Nonconventional Weapons Never Got Past the Planning Stage."

His research seems to support Gen. Anthony Zinni's description of Saddam Hussein's Iraq:

"He was contained," [Zinni] says. "It was a pain in the ass, but he was contained. He had a deteriorated military. He wasn't a threat to the region."

That's from Thomas E. Ricks' profile of Zinni, also in the Post, "For Vietnam Vet Anthony Zinni, Another War on Shaky Territory."

(I realize that Zinni's use of the "C" word above makes some folks apoplectic. If you're one of them, by all means, go read the rest of Ricks' interview and take up your case with the general directly.)

(post-edited to correct date of Bush's comment. good catch Chris)

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  • Chris

    Ummm, do you mean May 30, 2003?

  • mark

    Nice to see that Kay isn’t a complete idiot.
    Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post article about Dubya’s Bogus Journey in Poland.
    “You remember when [Secretary of State] Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons,” Bush said in an interview before leaving today on a seven-day trip to Europe and the Middle East. “They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two.
    “And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on,” Bush said. “But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong. We found them.”
    I’ve been building a list of links in a blog post I call Trailers of Mass Destruction