04/11/2017

Are Syria's Chemical Weapons Iraq's Missing WMD? Obama's Director Of Intelligence Thought So.

Mark Hemingway, Weekly Standard

Who was the bigger liar on WMD? Bush or Obama?

During the Bush administration, the popular protest refrain was “Bush lied, people died." It's true that a major justification for the Iraq war was eliminating Saddam Hussein's stockpiles of so-called weapons of mass destruction, a catch-all phrase for biological and chemical weapons, as well as ridding Iraq of attempts to start a nuclear program. Saddam Hussein previously used chemical weapons on the Kurds, so we know he had these weapons at some point. But they were nowhere to be found when we invaded.

One popular theory for what happened to them is that they were smuggled into Syria. In 2003, none other than James Clapper—who went on to be Obama's director of national intelligence—said this is what happened to Iraq's WMD:

The official, James Clapper Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the U.S. invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material "unquestionably" had been moved out of Iraq.

"I think people below the Saddam-Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse," Clapper, who leads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said at a breakfast with reporters.

He said he was providing a personal assessment. But he said "the obvious conclusion one draws" was that there "may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq, and unquestionably, I am sure, material."

Clapper wasn't alone. Other credible reports from international officials and a well-regarded Syrian journalist and many other sources said that Iraqi WMD ended up in Syria as well. In 2005, the CIA's final report on the absence of WMD in Iraq called the transfer of chemical weapons to Syria "unlikely," but couldn't rule out the possibility that this is what happened.

However, given what we know now about Syria's chemical weapons use, it might be time to reassess whether the intelligence that Iraq had WMD was as faulty as we thought. And it's not just that WMD ended up in Syria, either. Though it was largely downplayed by the media, American troops in Iraq also stumbled across caches of chemical weapons—a handful of soldiers were even exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq with serious consequences. Further, there are chemical weapons stores in Iraq unaccounted for in areas now controlled by ISIS. The New York Times reported all of this in 2014, long after "Bush lied" was the settled line on WMD.

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