The 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequent U.N. inspections destroyed Iraq's illicit weapons capability and, for the most part, Saddam Hussein did not try to rebuild it, according to an extensive report by the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq that contradicts nearly every prewar assertion made by top administration officials about Iraq.
Charles A. Duelfer, whom the Bush administration chose to complete the U.S. investigation of Iraq's weapons programs, said Hussein's ability to produce nuclear weapons had "progressively decayed" since 1991. Inspectors, he said, found no evidence of "concerted efforts to restart the program."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John R. Warner (R-Va.) listens to testimony from Charles A. Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group.
(Evan Vucci -- AP)
MSNBC Video: The Post's Dana Priest talks about details of Saddam Hussein's personality contained in the report.
AP Report: The top U.S. arms inspector said Wednesday he found no evidence that Iraq produced any weapons of mass destruction after 1991.
_____Today's Post Coverage_____
Hussein Used Oil to Dilute Sanctions (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
War's Rationales Are Undermined One More Time (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
A Leader With an Eye on His Legacy (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
Inspector Is Known as Tough, Thorough (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
Timing of Report Called Inspector's Decision (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
The findings were similar on biological and chemical weapons. While Hussein had long dreamed of developing an arsenal of biological agents, his stockpiles had been destroyed and research stopped years before the United States led the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Duelfer said Hussein hoped someday to resume a chemical weapons effort after U.N. sanctions ended, but had no stocks and had not researched making the weapons for a dozen years.
Duelfer's report, delivered yesterday to two congressional committees, represents the government's most definitive accounting of Hussein's weapons programs, the assumed strength of which the Bush administration presented as a central reason for the war. While previous reports have drawn similar conclusions, Duelfer's assessment went beyond them in depth, detail and level of certainty.
"We were almost all wrong" on Iraq, Duelfer told a Senate panel yesterday.
President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials asserted before the U.S. invasion that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, had chemical and biological weapons and maintained links to al Qaeda affiliates to whom it might give such weapons to use against the United States.
But after extensive interviews with Hussein and his key lieutenants, Duelfer concluded that Hussein was not motivated by a desire to strike the United States with banned weapons, but wanted them to enhance his image in the Middle East and to deter Iran, against which Iraq had fought a devastating eight-year war. Hussein believed that "WMD helped save the regime multiple times," the report said.
The report also provides a one-of-a-kind look at Hussein's personality. The former Iraqi leader participated in numerous interviews with one Arabic-speaking FBI interrogator. Hussein told his questioner he felt threatened by U.S. military power, but even then, he maintained a fondness for American movies and literature. One of his favorite books was Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." He hoped for improved relations with the United States and, over several years, sent proposals through intermediaries to open a dialogue with Washington.
Hussein, the report concluded, "aspired to develop a nuclear capability" and intended to work on rebuilding chemical and biological weapons after persuading the United Nations to lift sanctions. But the report also notes: "The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam" tasked to take this up once sanctions ended.
Among the most diplomatically explosive revelations was that Hussein had established a worldwide network of companies and countries, most of them U.S. allies, that secretly helped Iraq generate $11 billion in illegal income and locate, finance and import banned services and technologies. Among those named are officials or companies from Belarus, China, Lebanon, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Duelfer said one of Hussein's main strategic goals was to persuade the United Nations to lift economic sanctions, which had devastated the country's economy and, along with U.N. inspections, had forced him to stop weapons programs. Even as Hussein became more adept at bypassing the sanctions, he worked to erode international support for them.
Democrats seized on the exhaustive report, which comes amid a presidential race dominated so far by the Iraq war, to argue that the administration misled the American public about the risk Hussein posed and then miscalculated the difficulties of securing postwar peace.
"Now we have a report today that there clearly were no weapons of mass destruction," Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), the Democratic vice presidential candidate, said in West Palm Beach, Fla. "All of that known, and Dick Cheney said again last night that he would have done everything the same. George Bush has said he would have done everything the same. . . . They are in a complete state of denial about what is happening in Iraq."
Neither Bush nor challenger John F. Kerry spoke directly about the report yesterday, though at a campaign appearance in Pennsylvania the president emphasized that Hussein was a threat to the United States.