Iraq May Have Been 'Far More Dangerous' Than Believed, Kay Tells Senators
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2004 The man who spent eight months leading the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq told senators here Jan. 28 that although no such weapons have been found, he believes Iraq may have been "even more dangerous than we thought" before Saddam Hussein was removed from power.
David Kay, who stepped down last week as head of the Iraq Survey Group, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Kay told the senators he has changed his belief - which he pointed out was shared by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies, including those of governments that opposed the war - that Iraq had stockpiles of biological or chemical weapons, and possibly an advanced nuclear-weapons program, before the war began. But he added that he now believes Iraq actually may have been more dangerous than anyone might have believed at the time.
"I think the world is far safer with the disappearance and the removal of Saddam Hussein," Kay told the committee. "I think that 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 at some point in the future of a seller and a buyer meeting up would have made that a far more dangerous country than even we anticipated with what may turn out to be not a fully accurate estimate."
Iraq was in "clear material violation" of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, Kay said. The resolution gave Iraq a final opportunity to comply with previously mandated disarmament requirements. "They maintained programs and activities, and they certainly had the intentions at some point to resume their programs," Kay told the Senate committee.
Looking back on the evidence, Kay said, he understands the decision to go to war. "I think it's often easy to forget that in the case of Saddam, here's an individual who had invaded two neighboring countries, used chemical weapons against one of those, used them against his own neighbors, and who, by U.N. testimony, had cheated and lied for a decade," he said.
The day before, Kay appeared on the NBC "Today" show and said the notion that U.S. leaders misled the American people in building the case for war is unfair. "And it trivializes what we did find and the problem we face," he told interviewer Matt Lauer.
"The problem we face is that before the war, not only did the U.S. administration and U.S. intelligence, but the French, British, Germans and the U.N. all thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Not discovering them tells us we've got a more fundamental problem."
Kay also told Lauer that he believes the tendency to say inaccurate intelligence must have resulted from White House pressure is "absolutely wrong," and that the decision to go to war was "absolutely prudent."
"In fact," he said, "I think at the end of the inspection process, we'll paint a picture of an Iraq that was far more dangerous than even we thought it was before the war. It was of a system collapsing. It was a country that had the capability in weapons-of-mass-destruction areas and in which terrorists, like ants to honey, were going after it."
In his Senate testimony, Kay said intelligence since the first Gulf War strongly supported the notion of Iraq posing a serious WMD threat.
"All I can say is if you read the total body of intelligence in the last 12 to 15 years that flowed on Iraq," Kay said, "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."
Kay said that while he was not a party to the political decision on whether to go to war, he has no doubt what he would have done had it been his decision to make.
"I will just say I'm convinced myself, if I had been there, presented (with) what I have seen as the record of the intelligence estimates, I probably would have come to - not probably - I would have come to the same conclusion that the political leaders did."
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice appeared on two morning news programs today, and was questioned about Kay's testimony.
Rice told Hannah Storm on the CBS "Early Show" that intelligence communities around the world believed Iraq had WMDs, and had every reason to believe it.
"When you have a case of a very dangerous man in a very dangerous part of the world who refuses to account for large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and who has used them before," Rice said, "I don't know how you come to any other conclusion but that (Saddam) had weapons of mass destruction. Everybody thought that he did."
Acknowledging that differences exist "between what we knew going in and what we found on the ground," Rice said uncertainties are inherent in intelligence. "That's not surprising in a country that was as closed and secretive as Iraq," she said, "a country that was doing everything that it could to deceive the United Nations (and) to deceive the world."
On the "Today" program, Rice told Lauer that Iraq's behavior left no choice in the decision to go to war, as Saddam had every opportunity to prove he didn't have WMDs, but chose a course of deception.
"When you're dealing with a very secretive regime that is out to deceive, that refuses to account for very dangerous material - Saddam Hussein was given an opportunity to tell people if he had destroyed this - could the president of the United States really allow those unaccounted-for weapons stockpiles to sit in Iraq?" Rice asked. "This was a dangerous man. He needed to be dealt with. The world is better off without him."