Rachel Maddow Clings to Baathist Party Line That 'Saddam Wasn't Pursuing' WMD

Not to worry, Baghdad Bob, MSNBC's got your back.

Criticizing former president George W. Bush's newly released memoir, "Decision Points," Maddow said this on her cable show Monday night (video below page break)  --

In his new book, Mr. Bush says "removing Saddam from power was the right decision." Why was it the right decision? Mr. Bush says, "for all the difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD." (Maddow repeats this for emphasis) A homicidal dictator pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Do we really still have to go over this? As David Corn and Michael Isikoff pointed out today, authors of the book "Hubris" about the leadup to the war, Mr. Bush himself appointed Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Study Group to study this issue once and for all and settle it. They reported six years ago in 2004 that Saddam not only did not have those weapons, he did not have programs to make those weapons, he did not have anyone working on making those weapons. Saddam wasn't pursuing WMDs and we invaded anyway. It is proven, it is empirically known, it is settled, it's in black and white, it's true!

As can be seen at 0:38 in the video, an excerpt from the Duelfer report was shown while Maddow stated the remarks above, the excerpt shown as a breakout quote. The excerpt read as follows --

The former Regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam.

Here is the same paragraph -- in its entirety -- from the report's key findings in the section titled "Regime Strategic Intent" --

 

The former Regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam. Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal from their long association with Saddam and his infrequent, but firm, verbal comments and directions to them. (emphasis added)

At risk of stating the obvious, Saddam could never have reached "his goal" without, uh, "pursuing" it.

That Maddow cited so little of the Duelfer report comes as no surprise, given that so much of it contradicts her Woodstock-nation delusions. More excerpts (with emphasis added) --

Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq's WMD capability -- which was essentially destroyed in 1991 -- after sanctions were removed and Iraq's economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability -- in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks -- but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities. (key findings, "Regime Strategic Intent")

Iraq Survey Group (ISG) judges that events in the 1980s and early 1990s shaped Saddam's belief in the value of WMD. In Saddam's view, WMD helped to save the Regime multiple times. He believed that during the Iran-Iraq war chemical weapons had halted Iranian ground offensives and that ballistic missile attacks on Tehran had broken its political will. Similarly, during Desert Storm, Saddam believed WMD had deterred Coalition Forces from pressing their attack beyond the goal of freeing Kuwait. WMD had even played a role in crushing the Shi'a revolt in the south following the 1991 cease-fire. (key findings, "Regime Strategic Intent")

Throughout the 1990s and up to OIF (March 2003), Saddam focused on one set of objectives: the survival of himself, his Regime, and his legacy. To secure these objectives, Saddam needed to exploit Iraqi oil assets, to portray a strong military capability to deter internal and external threats, and to foster his image as as Arab leader. Saddam recognized that the reconstitution of Iraqi WMD enhanced both his security and his image. Consequently, Saddam needed to end UN-imposed sanctions to fulfill his goals. (key findings, "Regime Finance and Procurement")

Iraq's decisions in 1996 to accept the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) and later in 1998 to cease cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA spurred a period of increased activity in delivery systems development. The pace of ongoing missile programs accelerated, and the Regime authorized its scientists to design missiles with ranges in excess of 150 km that, if developed, would have been clear violations of UNSCR 687. (key findings, "Delivery Systems")

ISG uncovered Iraqi plans or designs for three long-range ballistic missiles with ranges from 400 to 1,000 km and for a 1,000-km-range cruise missile, although none of these systems progressed to production and only one reportedly passed the design phase. ISG assesses that these plans demonstrate Saddam's continuing desire -- up to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) -- for a long-range delivery capability. (key findings, "Delivery Systems")

Given Iraq's investments in technology and infrastructure improvements, an effective procurement network, skilled scientists, and designs already on the books for longer range missiles, ISG assesses that Saddam clearly intended to reconstitute long-range delivery systems and that the systems potentially were for WMD. (key findings, "Delivery Systems")

ISG uncovered information that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories to research and test various chemicals and poisons, primarily for intelligence operations. (key findings, "Chemical")

Iraq attempted to balance competing desires to appear to cooperate with the UN and have sanctions lifted, and to preserve the ability to eventually reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction. ("Cooperating with UNSCOM While Preserving WMD")

The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC's resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions. ("Looking Ahead to Resume WMD programs")

The quick end to Saddam's Regime brought a similarly rapid end to its pursuit of sanctions relief, a goal it had been palpably close to achieving. ("Miscalculation, 2002-2003")

A former IIS officer claimed that the M16 directorate had a plan to produce and weaponize nitrogen mustard in rifle grenades, and a plan to bottle Sarin and sulfur mustard in perfume sprayers and medicine bottles which they could ship to the United States and Europe. The source claimed they could not implement the plan because chemicals to produce the CW agents were unavailable. ("Iraq's Chemical Warfare Program -- Annex A")

Efforts leading to the Duelfer report's findings took place in exceedingly difficult circumstances -- a country engulfed in violent conflict.  "In fact, combined with the chaos of the war and the widespread looting in the immediate aftermath of the conflict," according to report's Scope Note, "it resulted in the loss of a great amount of potentially valuable information and material for constructing a full picture of Iraqi WMD capabilities. Sites were looted. Documents were either ignored or collected haphazardly or burned by either the Regime or Coalition forces."

Conditions in Iraq were so dangerous that two soldiers on the study group team, Sgt. Sherwood R. Baker and Sgt. Lawrence A. Rourkey, were killed on April 26, 2004 when an explosion destroyed a facility being inspected. "ISG teams have been shot at many times with some serious injuries," according to the report's Scope Notes. "Many armored cars have been destroyed in attacks."

Furthermore, in an 84-page addenda released in March 2005, the Iraqi Study Group stated that while "it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place," the ISG "was unable to rule out the unofficial movement of WMD-related materials."

The Duelfer report also does not settle "once and for all" the controversy over Iraqi WMD, as Maddow claimed. "This will not be the last word on the Iraqi experience with WMD," the reports states in its Acknowledgements.

As she does every time Maddow criticizes Bush's decision to oust Saddam by force, she doesn't  say what should have been done instead.

Would Maddow prefer that Saddam were still in control of a totalitarian regime in the most volatile region of the world, with not one but two sons to succeed him?

Would Maddow prefer that UN sanctions against Iraq were still in place, the ones that critics alleged were killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children every year, and which ended after the US-led invasion?

Would Maddow prefer that American soldiers were still stationed en masse in Saudi Arabia, because of the ongoing threat posed by Saddam after Iraq was expelled from Kuwait? A decade ago, infidel troops in the land of Muhammad was al Qaeda's single biggest grievance against the West. Just as UN sanctions against Iraq ended after Saddam was toppled, so did the US military presence on the Saudi peninsula.

In other words, would Maddow prefer circumstances as they existed in the Middle East before 9/11 -- that led to the attack?

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts