Alexander's Column

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence...(Part 2)

Mark Alexander · Jan. 30, 2004

Dr. David Kay, the CIA’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq (until his relief arrived last week), summarized his findings in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, saying that Iraq did not have “large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction.” In other words, Saddam had not likely produced significant quantities of chemical or biological weapons since 2001.

That notwithstanding, we do know Iraq had significant stockpiles of chemical WMD (like Saddam used on Kurdish men, women and children in 1988) and biological WMD (weaponized anthrax) as confirmed in 1998. Further, he refused to provide documentation of his regime’s claims to have destroyed its WMD – leading even the UN Special Commission to conclude in 2002 that Saddam still had large, unaccounted for WMD stores.

Dr. Kay went on to say that Saddam was not successful in his attempts to reconstitute his nuclear-arms program in 2000 and 2001 – leaving Iraq’s research programs short of the progress made by other terrorist states like Iran and Libya (as recently discovered). This tells us that Saddam’s formal nuclear-WMD research programs were in disarray, but it doesn’t tell us how much material and technological capability Iraq imported to support its programs prior to 2002. To this matter, our sources suggest that Saddam had the capability to construct as many as three crude portable nuclear devices prior to 2003.

Significantly, Dr. Kay does not conclude that Saddam was any less a threat to U.S. national security than originally estimated by President George Bush, noting, “I actually think this may be one of those cases where it was even more dangerous than we thought. I think when we have the complete record, you’re going to discover that after 1998 it became a regime that was totally corrupt. Individuals were out for their own protection. And in a world where we know others are seeking WMD, the likelihood…of a seller and a buyer meeting up would have made that a far more dangerous country than even we anticipated….”

Of course, it was precisely the prospect of Saddam and his minions brokering biological or nuclear WMD to surrogate factions like al-Qa'ida that led to the liberation of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition last year. “We know that terrorists were passing through Iraq,” Dr. Kay said. “And now we know that there was little control over Iraq’s weapons capabilities. … Iraq was a very dangerous place.”

Asked by Sen. John McCain if he agreed “with the fundamental principle here that what we did was justified and enhanced the security of the United States and the world by removing Saddam Hussein from power,” Dr. Kay responded, “Absolutely. … If you read the total body of intelligence in the last 12 to 15 years that flowed on Iraq, I quite frankly think it would be hard to come to a conclusion other than that Iraq was a gathering, serious threat to the world with regard to WMD.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, referring to preliminary findings from a committee report into the accuracy and completeness of pre-war intelligence, noted that the political finger-pointing directed toward President Bush is misguided: “Anyone who believes otherwise has not done their homework and certainly was not listening to Dr. Kay.”

The full context of Dr. Kay’s testimony, however, did not dissuade Demo-politicos and their Leftmedia talkingheads from reducing the content of his carefully crafted report to a single sentence about Saddam’s stockpile of WMD at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment.” Indeed, they have opportunistically though erroneously heralded this observation as conclusive evidence that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.

But, as we have noted previously, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (unless, of course, you’re a candidate for the Democrat presidential nomination). Put another way, what we don’t know only constitutes what is yet to be known – and ignorance, when it comes to WMD, is most certainly not bliss.

After reviewing Kay’s preliminary report with The Federalist’s well-placed military and intelligence sources, our analysts remain convinced that while Saddam’s chemical WMD may have been destroyed, unknown quantities of his biological WMD, and components of his nuclear WMD, were spirited out of Iraq well in advance of the anticipated U.S. invasion. This is consistent with our analysis in October, 2002, that the UN Security Council’s foot-dragging provided a large window for Saddam to export some of his biological and nuclear WMD.

At that time, we reported Allied Forces would be unlikely to discover Iraq’s WMD stores in Iraq, noting, “There is a substantial body of intelligence supporting our position that Saddam shipped Iraq’s chemical, biological (weapons-grade anthrax) and nuclear WMD stores and components to Syria and into Lebanon’s heavily fortified Bekaa Valley, for points beyond.” In December of 2002, our senior-level intelligence sources re-confirmed estimates that some of Iraq’s chemical and nuclear WMD had, in fact, been moved into Syria. (Coincidentally – or perhaps not – our military sources tell us this week that the U.S. is preparing to assault Hezbollah bases in the aforementioned Bekaa Valley.)

Indeed, Dr. Kay reiterated, “We know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam’s WMD program.” Kay added, ominously, “Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.”

It should be noted that among the great exodus of Iraqi vehicles into Syria prior to 2003, Saddam’s most critical nuclear WMD components could have been transported across the border concealed in the back of a pickup truck, and the bulk of his weaponized anthrax could have been hidden in a single tractor truck saddle tank. That WMD could just at easily be transported across our Canadian or Mexican border.

So, precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it?

Amid the din of all the political Lefthand-wringing, this is what we know to be true: On September 11, 2001, our homeland became a front line in the war with Jihadistan, that borderless nation of Islamic extremists with global reach, inhabited by al-Qa'ida and other Islamists who would target the U.S. These Jihadis seek to undermine U.S. cultural and political influence in the Islamic world, and they know that the most effective means to this end is to disable the U.S. economy by committing acts of terrorism on U.S. soil similar to those witnessed on 9/11.

Our sources currently estimate there are as many as six al-Qa'ida terrorist sleeper cells and support networks which have active plans to carry out simultaneous attacks on East Coast urban centers utilizing either homicide bombers, mass-distribution of weaponized anthrax, or detonation of nuclear dispersion or fissionable weapons. These cells likely already possess the material resources to carry out the first two types of attacks; however there have been no such attacks since 9/11 because domestic law-enforcement efforts have kept these rats in their holes.

While the timing of Dr. Kay’s report dilutes Democrats’ campaign-season claims that our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan were not justified, it should be noted that a great many of our fellow Americans have notoriously short attention spans. It is these, the most malleable among us – those who lack the grim resolve to take the fight directly to Jihadistan by undertaking pre-emptive strikes such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan – that the Left will seek to distract. Sadly, our collective resolve is not as easily nourished as in the days just after 9/11, when the ghoulish aftermath of Jihadi terror was fresh in our minds. Sadder still, this resolve will continue to weaken under the Left’s relentless assault on the Bush doctrine.

That weakness notwithstanding, on the Iraqi front with Jihadistan, our Armed Forces remain vigilant. Hassan Ghul, a top Jihadi out of Osama bin Laden’s terror network, was captured attempting to cross the country’s northern border this week. Said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez of the apprehension of this senior recruiter and facilitator for al-Qa'ida, a man who once reported directly to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed: “The capture of Ghul is pretty strong proof that al-Qa'ida is trying to gain a foothold here to continue their murderous campaigns.” In other words, our National Defenders are keeping the warfront on Jihadi turf rather than our own.

Quote of the week…

“There’s still going to be an unresolvable ambiguity about what happened. [Some of the looting] was designed by [Saddam’s] security services to cover the [WMD] tracks.” –Dr. David Kay on “unresolvable ambiguities.”

On cross-examination…

“Many of us feel that the evidence so far leads only to one conclusion: that what has happened was more than a failure of intelligence, it was the result of manipulation of the intelligence to justify a decision to go to war.” –Sen. Ted Kennedy to Dr. David Kay, who responded, “[You suggest] analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation. … I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, ‘inappropriate command influence’ that led them to take that position.”

Open query…

“I think that rightly does raise questions that we should be examining about whether or not the U.N. inspection process pursuant to 1441 might not also have worked without the loss of life that we have confronted both among our own young men and women, as well as Iraqis.” –Sen. Ms. Hillary Rodham-Clinton-Rodham questioning Dr. Kay, who responded, “Well, Senator Clinton…we have had a number of Iraqis who have come forward and said, ‘We did not tell the UN about what we were hiding, nor would we have told the UN because we would run the risk of our [losing our own lives]’ – I think we have learned things that no UN inspector would have ever learned given the terror regime of Saddam…. Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of Resolution 1441. … Iraq was in clear and material violation of 1441. … So there was a lot they wanted to hide because it showed what they were doing that was illegal. I hope we find even more evidence of that.”

Snap shots…

“‘Munching a porcupine, quill by quill’ is how Winston Churchill once described the hellish combat in World War II’s China-Burma-India theater. The quip is apropos of the War on Terror as well. And Syria seems to be our newest quill. … Ignoring complaints and warnings from most of the rest of the world, Syria continues to sponsor terrorism, pursue weapons of mass destruction and allow foreign fighters and terrorists to seep into Iraq. This behavior must meet serious consequences, and soon.” –Peter Brooks, The Heritage Foundation