When WMDs were not found in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, though they had been a compelling reason for the US invasion, the story coming through unofficial channels was that Saddam had hastily moved them to Syria, to be stored there for him until he had beaten back the President Bush-led onslaught.
Although the sources were unofficial, they had proved themselves to be generally trustworthy. So many of those who heard the story believed it. But the sources could not be cited.
When the story was largely confirmed to “defense reporters” by [then] Lt. Gen. James Clapper* in 2003, it was still not widely accepted.
Is it more likely to be accepted now? If so, it may be too late to be useful to those who have defended the invasion of Iraq, but not too late to be interesting to historians.
Today, May 2, 2016, Front Page is re-running an article by Bill Gertz that was first published in the Washington Times on October 29, 2003:
Iraqi military officers destroyed or hid chemical, biological and nuclear weapons goods in the weeks before the war, the [US’s] top satellite spy director said yesterday.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said vehicle traffic photographed by U.S. spy satellites indicated that material and documents related to the arms programs were shipped to Syria.
Other goods probably were sent throughout Iraq in small quantities and documents probably were stashed in the homes of weapons scientists, Gen. Clapper told defense reporters at a breakfast.
Gen. Clapper said he is not surprised that U.S. and allied forces have not found weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq because “it’s a big place.”
“Those below the senior leadership saw what was coming, and I think they went to extraordinary lengths to dispose of the evidence,” he said.
Congress is investigating whether U.S. intelligence agencies overstated information indicating that Iraq had hidden its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has defended the intelligence agencies on prewar reports that the weapons were there.
Iraqi government officials “below the Saddam Hussein and the sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to dispose, destroy and disperse [them]”, he said.
So maybe it wasn’t Saddam himself who gave the order to transport the WMDs to Syria, but some authority did. (Was there an authority in Saddam’s Iraq other than Saddam himself?)
Gen. Clapper said he felt strongly that the satellite imagery of Iraq’s weapons facilities before the war was “accurate and balanced”. …
He also said the Iraqi government carried out operations after the fall of Baghdad in April to cover up the hidden weapons programs. The chaos following might have included both looting and “organized dispersal made to look like looting“, he said. “So by the time that we got to a lot of these facilities, that we had previously identified as suspect facilities, there wasn’t that much there to look at,” he said.
Valuable documents on Iraq’s weapons were destroyed or lost in the chaos, which included burning of major government ministries.
Saddam began dispersing his weapons and sending elements of his chemical, biological and nuclear programs out of the country in the weeks before the war, he said.
The dispersal included moving both weapons and equipment as well as documents. …
As for shipping weapons out of Iraq, he said, there is “no question” that people and material were taken to Syria. …
Convoys of vehicles, mostly commercial trucks, were spotted going into Syria from Iraq shortly before the start of the war March 19 and during the conflict, he said.
It may be a sign of instinctive wisdom that people are inclined to believe what they overhear more than what they are told.
*James Clapper is now Director of National Intelligence.