In early September 2002 the Bush White House announced that it wanted Congress to authorize the use of force against Iraq by the next month. Members of Congress demanded that a public paper be released by the administration so that lawmakers could use it in their arguments, especially after meetings with high officials provided little new in details about Iraq’s weapons programs. This led the CIA to release an Iraq White Paper in October 2002.
The document claimed that many of Iraq’s facilities had been rebuilt, and efforts to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons were all underway. On chemical weapons the White Paper said that Iraq could produce these agents using its chemical industry, and said that it could convert some of its commercial facilities to produce biological weapons as well. In fact it said many of these plants had expanded and that Iraq’s program was larger than what it was before the Gulf War. Similar comments were made about Iraq’s nuclear program. In the text it named the Fallujah II Chlorine Plant, the al-Dawrah Vaccine Facility, the Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, and the Fallujah III Castor Oil Plant as examples of Baghdad’s attempt to rebuild and expand its WMD program under the guise of dual-use facilities.
In October 2002 the United Nations passed Resolution 1441, which renewed weapons inspections for Iraq. Hans Blix’s U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and Mohammed El Baradei’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would do the work. They both arrived in Iraq in November. By the end of December the inspectors had gone on 202 visits, and admitted that they had gone through their entire list of suspected sites, and found no evidence of renewed weapons programs. They were going on repeat visits, and requested the United States provide actionable intelligence to track down other potential leads. By January they had doubled the number of inspections, but still turned up nothing.
The problem was that most of the American reports on Iraq were based upon speculation and a strong bias against Iraq due to Saddam’s repeated hindering of the 1990s inspection regime. It had become an article of faith within the U.S. intelligence community that when the original inspectors left in 1998, Iraq had restarted its weapons programs. All the U.S. had to go on however was satellite intelligence, and Iraqi defectors, most of whom were making up stories either for money or to push the White House into war. The inspectors were actually going into these facilities that the U.S. had photos of, and found no incriminating evidence inside them. UNMOVIC went to the Amiriyah Institute found nothing. Fallujah II and III weren’t even in commercial use anymore. When they went to the al-Dawrah Facility it was abandoned and full of trash.
The Bush White House never believed in the inspections in the first place, and were only hoping to use them to build international support, and as a pretext to go to war. In March 2002 Tony Blair’s office suggested just that when political advisor David Manning met with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice in Washington. The administration did nothing but attack Iraq and the inspections during the whole process, and never ended up sharing intelligence as they had promised. In doing so, they ignored the fact that UNMOVIC had disproved much of the argument made in the October 2002 CIA White Paper that Baghdad had restarted its WMD and nuclear programs, and that they were larger than before, since all of the major plants listed were either abandoned or not working on any military related activities. A nuclear weapons program for example, required huge amounts of equipment and electricity to all be assembled together that would be easily detectable. These would be too large and unwieldy to be moved around covertly by Iraqi agents as the White House claimed at the time. Yet after inspectors went to the al-Tuwaitha complex twelve times, which the U.S. said was one of Iraq’s main nuclear sites and turned up zero evidence, the administration claimed this was proof that the inspections would never work. The American government’s perception was that Iraq had these programs, so UNMOVIC not finding them was just further proof that Saddam was hiding them. The result was that the U.S. ended up going to war in March 2003 only to find out afterwards that UNMOVIC and the IAEA were right.
Excerpt From David Manning Memo to Prime Minister Tony Blair After Trip To Washington, 3/14/02 – Known As One Of The Downing Street Memos
“- the Un dimension. The issue of the weapons inspectors must be handled in a way that would persuade European and wider opinion that the US was conscious of the international framework, and the insistence of many countries on the need for a legal base. Renwed refused by Saddam to accept unfetted inspections would be a powerful argument;”
UNMOVIC Inspections of Sites Named In White Paper
Fallujah II: Visited on 12/9/02, 12/17/02, 1/8/03, 1/19/03, 3/2/03 and had an aerial inspection on 1/31/03. Was found not to be in use
Al-Dawrah: 11/29/02. Was found not in use and abandoned
Amiriyah: 12/15/02 and 1/19/03. Nothing found
Fallujah III: 12/8/02, 12/19/02, 1/6/03, 2/16/03 and had an aerial inspection on 1/31/03. Had tagged dual use equipment, but plant had stopped being used by Iraqis in July 2001
Allen, Mike, “War Cabinet Argues for Iraq Attack: Bush Advisers Cite U.S. Danger,” Washington Post, 9/9/02
Collier, Robert, “Repeated inspections but no hard evidence; To Iraqis, site visits are a pointless charade,” San Francisco Chronicle, 12/30/02
MacLeod, Scott, “Live From Baghdad: What the Iraqis Told Blix,” Time, 11/21/02
Manning, David, “Your Trip To The US,” 3/14/02
McGeary, Johanna “6 Reasons why So Many Allies Want Bush To Slow Down,” Time, 2/3/03
- “Dissecting The Case,” Time, 2/10/03
Prados, John, Hoodwinked, The Documents That Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War, 2004
Rangwala, Glen, “Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons,” University of Cambridge, 2004
Risen, James and Johnston, David, “Split at C.I.A. and F.B.I. on Iraqi Ties to Al Qaeda,” New York Times, 2/2/03
Tumulty, Karen, “Making His Case,” Time, 9/16/02