Independent probes should
examine faulty intelligence


The former chief weapons inspector in Iraq has blamed faulty intelligence gathering for the belief that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction.

FORMER weapons inspector David A. Kay's conclusion that it was "highly unlikely" that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction when the United States chose to attack requires an independent investigation to determine what went wrong with U.S. intelligence. The flaws threaten America's credibility and have raised questions about U.S. policy on the justification for going to war.

President Bush contended nearly a year ago that a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein's regime was warranted because of the "imminent threat" to America and Iraq's neighbors created primarily by biological and chemical weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before the United Nations Security Council that U.S. intelligence had confirmed Iraq's possession of such weapons.

"We were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here," Kay testified last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Kay has joined several senators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in calling for an independent inquiry to determine what went wrong.

Kay, who resigned this month as head of the Iraq Survey Group, said he is convinced that the White House did not pressure intelligence agents to support the view that Iraq had such weapons. At the same time, a British judge issued a 740-page report clearing Prime Minister Tony Blair of accusations in a BBC report accusing Blair and his aides of "sexing up" the case for attacking Iraq. In other words, neither U.S. nor British intelligence agencies needed any prodding to make a mess of their work.

The president has stopped repeating claims that evidence of weapons of mass destruction eventually will be discovered in Iraq, but he wants the Iraq Survey Group to complete its hunt for weapons before reaching any conclusions. Kay said the group's work is 85 percent complete.

Even if no evidence of such weapons is found, Bush insists that the U.S. attack was justified because Hussein posed "a grave and gathering threat to America and the world." Those words differ dramatically from the doctrine that military action be taken only in the event of an "imminent threat." They give new meaning to Bush's warning to Hussein following the Security Council's rejection of military force that the United States would strike Iraq "at a time of our choosing."

The war in Iraq has had some positive results. Kay agreed that "the world is a safer place" with Hussein behind bars, as do many people. Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, undoubtedly responding to the U.S. action in Iraq, has renounced weapons of mass destruction and invited inspectors to verify that he has none. North Korea and Iran are paying attention.

Those results do not justify the mistakes that led to American people being given false information about the need for going to war. Nor should justification of the U.S. attack bring about radical change in U.S. foreign policy, turning worldwide respect for America into fear.



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