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Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Saddam's trailers of mass destruction.

If you take your memory way back to April and May of 2003, you might remember hearing reports about a couple of trailers found in the Iraqi desert — trailers that were supposed to be mobile bioweapons labs. As we posted at the time [here and here], the proposition that Saddam's military was cooking up germ warfare in those trailers was a pretty shaky one at the very best. By that August, it was pretty damn obvious that the trailers had nothing to do with WMDs [as I'll discuss more later in this post].

Ooooh, scary!

One of those 'suspicious' trailers found by US forces in northern Iraq in April 2003. [Photo: AP]

None of the doubts expressed about the trailers back in April and May 2003 made any difference to Dubya or his various surrogates, however. For a year after the war began, administration officials used the existence of the trailers as a justification for the invasion of Iraq, with the prez himself telling Polish reporters on May 30, 2003 that 'We have found the weapons of mass destruction.'

Uh, no.

According to the Washington Post, Dubya's administration knew as early as May 27 that the trailers had nothing to do with WMDs. If you're counting [and you should be], that's two days before the prez's remark to the Polish press. On the 27th, a secret team of US and UK experts submitted a report containing their conclusions after a thorough study of the trailers in question. While that study remains classified, six members of the team have told the Post that the trailers were not used to make bioweapons:

"There was no connection to anything biological," said one expert who studied the trailers. Another recalled an epithet that came to be associated with the trailers: "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

The Post story contains a lot of details about the team's work in Iraq, and about what happened to their report once it reached Washington, and it's well worth reading just to get an idea of the political struggles between the intelligence agencies and Dubya administration politicos. However, the story doesn't answer one question that this magpie had almost immediately: Why has it taken the Washington Post so long to report that the administrration lied about the trailers — information that's been floating around for well over two years?

Right after I read the Post story, I went into the Magpie archives to see what I'd posted about the trailers back in 2003. Besides the posts cited above, I also found this one, which links to this NY Times story from August 8, 2003, which seems to refer to the same secret team mentioned by the Post:

Engineering experts from the Defense Intelligence Agency have come to believe that the most likely use for two mysterious trailers found in Iraq was to produce hydrogen for weather balloons rather than to make biological weapons, government officials say.

The classified findings by a majority of the engineering experts differ from the view put forward in a white paper made public on May 28 by the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which said that the trailers were for making biological weapons.

That report had dismissed as a "cover story" claims by senior Iraqi scientists that the trailers were used to make hydrogen for the weather balloons that were then used in artillery practice.

A Defense Department official said the alternative views expressed by members of the engineering team, not yet spelled out in a formal report, had prompted the Defense Intelligence Agency to "pursue additional information" to determine whether those Iraqi claims were indeed accurate....

The engineering team that has come to believe the trailers were used to produce hydrogen includes experts whose task was to assess the trailers from a purely technical standpoint, as opposed to one based on other sources of intelligence. Skeptical experts had previously cited a lack of equipment in the trailers for steam sterilization, normally a prerequisite for any kind of biological production.

To be fair, the Times didn't really follow up on this 2003 story, either. But the fact remains that the country's major newspapers almost certainly could have uncovered the story of how Dubya's administration deliberately kept lying about Iraq's WMDs after the war was over long before now.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:23 AM | Get permalink

Liar, liar, pants on fire!


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