February 2, 2004 - Dr. David A. Kay ignited a political conflagration when his public declaration that Saddam Hussein’s regime, threatened with war, had neither stockpiles of unconventional weapons nor any viable program to produce them. That announcement contrasted starkly with the detailed case for war put to the United Nations Security Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell just a year ago. It came as a counter-point to Paul O’Neill’s revelation that the orders to prepare for an invasion of Iraq were given the Defense Department as early as the first week after President Bush took office. It came as a massive embarrassment to an administration that had parried questions about the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction by forecasting a Kay report that would vindicate the administrations claims.
As the political fallout from his announcement became clear Kay tried to soften the impact of his words. None of the CIA analysts to whom he spoke ever suggested that attempts had been made by the administration to skew the intelligence upon which it based its justification for war, he said, persistent accounts of Vice-President Cheney’s visits to Langley notwithstanding. That the administration got it wrong was a result of an intelligence failure and the when the administration acted on the faulty intelligence it received it acted responsibly if mistakenly. He called for an independent investigation to determine how that could occur.
Last fall, when the Administration tried to explain how the Nigerien Yellow-Cake reference crept into last year’s State of the Union address when it was revealed that the allegation was based on a clumsy forgery, the CIA’s George Tenet was chosen to fall on his sword even though it was a CIA warning that had kept the reference out of an earlier speech. Six months later it is the CIA’s George Tenet who is being fitted out again for the role as the administration’s scapegoat. The administration line is that President Bush relied on the same intelligence estimates that had been presented to his predecessor produced by George Tenet, a holdover Clinton appointee.
There is a significant problem with that justification. Speaking in Cairo on February 24th 2001, after the Defense Department had been ordered to prepare the invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State Powell said of Saddam Hussein, “He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.” Secretary Powell’s clear and unequivocal statement was clearly based on the intelligence estimates flowing from the intelligence community just a month after George Bush became President. Dr. Kay’s report to the nation shows that in February 2001 Secretary Powell got it exactly right. How then, a year later did he get it, in Dr. Kay’s words, so awfully wrong?
If George Tenet is playing the role of scapegoat, Colin Powell was chosen by the administration to play the Judas Goat, sent to the Security Council to lead the international community to the entrance of the slaughter-house of war. This time all the sheep did not fall in line. Only America’s client states followed the Judas Goat – who had it so awfully wrong.