October 6, 2004
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Undercutting the Bush's administration's rationale for invading Iraq, the final report of the chief U.S. arms inspector concludes that Saddam Hussein did not vigorously pursue a program to develop weapons of mass destruction after international inspectors left Baghdad in 1998, an administration official said Wednesday.
In drafts, weapons hunter Charles Duelfer concluded that Saddam's Iraq had no stockpiles of the banned weapons but said he found signs of idle programs that Saddam could have revived once international attention had waned.
"It appears that he did not vigorously pursue those programs after the inspectors left," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of the report's release.
Duelfer was providing his findings Wednesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee. His team compiled a 1,500-page report after his predecessor, David Kay, who quit last December, also found no evidence of weapons stockpiles.
The White House continued to maintain that the findings support the view that Saddam was a threat.
"We knew the dictator had a history of using weapons of mass destruction, a long record of aggression and hatred for America," President Bush said in a speech Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "There was a risk, a real risk, that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks. In the world after Sept. 11, that was a risk we could not afford to take."
Saddam was importing banned materials, working on unmanned aerial vehicles in violation of U.N. agreements and maintaining industrial capability that could be converted to produce weapons, officials have said. Duelfer also describes Saddam's Iraq as having had limited research efforts into chemical and biological weapons.
Duelfer's report will come on a week that the White House has been put on the defensive in a number of Iraq issues.
Remarks this week by L. Paul Bremer, former U.S. administrator in occupied Iraq, suggested he argued for more troops in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, when looting was rampant. A spokesman for Bush's re-election campaign said Bremer indeed differed with military commanders.
President Bush's election rival, Democrat John Kerry, pounced on Bremer's statements that the United States "paid a big price" for having insufficient troop levels. On weapons, however, the Massachusetts senator has said he still would have voted to authorize the invasion even if he had known none would be found.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Duelfer report "will continue to show that he was a gathering threat that needed to be taken seriously, that it was a matter of time before he was going to begin pursuing those weapons of mass destruction."
Compare that to the words of Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech on Aug. 26, 2002, 6 1/2 months before the invasion:
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said then. "There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us."
On Wednesday, the White House also continued to assert that there were clear ties between Saddam before the invasion and the al-Qaida linked terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But a CIA report recently given to the White House found no conclusive evidence that Saddam harbored al-Zarqawi before the war, two U.S. government officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity
They stressed, though, that the report did not make a final conclusion and the question of the al-Zaraqwi-Saddam ties is still being pursued. One of the officials said it is clear that al-Zarqawi had been planning terrorist attacks while operating out of Baghdad.
The CIA report was first revealed by Knight-Ridder.
During Tuesday night's debate, Vice President Dick Cheney said "there is still debate over this question." But he added: "At one point, some of Zarqawi's people were arrested. Saddam personally intervened to have them released."
In a speech on Oct. 7, 2002, Bush laid out what he described then as Iraq's threat:
-"It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons."
-"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."
-"Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles - far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other nations - in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work. "
What U.S. forces found:
-A single artillery shell filled with two chemicals that, when mixed while the shell was in flight, would have created sarin. U.S. forces learned of it only when insurgents, apparently believing it was filled with conventional explosives, tried to detonate it as a roadside bomb in May in Baghdad. Two U.S. soldiers suffered from symptoms of low-level exposure to the nerve agent. The shell was from Saddam's pre-1991 stockpile.
-Another old artillery shell, also rigged as a bomb and found in May, showed signs it once contained mustard agent.
-Two small rocket warheads, turned over to Polish troops by an informer, that showed signs they once were filled with sarin.
-Centrifuge parts buried in a former nuclear scientist's garden in Baghdad. These were part of Saddam's pre-1991 nuclear program, which was dismantled after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The scientist also had centrifuge design documents.
-A vial of live botulinum toxin, which can be used as a biological weapon, in another scientist's refrigerator. The scientist said it had been there since 1993.
-Evidence of advanced design work on a liquid-propellant missile with ranges of up to 620 miles. Since the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq had been prohibited from having missiles with ranges longer than 93 miles.