Friday, January 30, 2004
Letter of the Day: Today's New York Times has a letter from a former State Department official during the Reagan administration. The writer makes an excellent point:
To the Editor:
Something has skewed what should be the obvious public take on the American intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (front page, Jan. 29).
It is a fact that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program and not only had chemical weapons but also used them. United Nations inspectors rightly concluded that Iraq had apparently terminated most if not all nuclear weapons programs. What was missing was the evidence that the chemical arms had been eliminated.
None of our intelligence assets detected significant destruction of chemical weapons, and everyone — including Hans Blix, the former chief international weapons inspector — had to conclude that until we found otherwise, we should assume that some existed. Now, David A. Kay, the former administration weapons inspector, tells us that Saddam Hussein authorized renewed nuclear and chemical weapons efforts in the last few years, but that his orders were not carried out.
The question over intelligence accuracy, therefore, is not why did we think Iraq maintained weapons of mass destruction programs but how could we have concluded otherwise.
W. D. HOWELLS
Kittery Point, Me., Jan. 29, 2004
The writer was the State Department's director of politico-military research, 1983-87.