Had to go to the Irish Times to find this. You won’t see this in the Bush controlled American Press.
US calls off search for weapons of mass destruction
The Bush administration has quietly withdrawn a 400-member military team it sent to Baghdad to scour Iraq for evidence of unconventional weapons, write Conor O’Clery in New York & Deaglán de Bréadún in Dublin.
The move indicates that the US does not now expect to find illegal weapons, the main reason given by President Bush for the war last year that toppled Saddam Hussein.
At the same time, a prestigious Washington-based research foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has published a scathing report on President Bush’s case for war.
The US weapons team, whose withdrawal was reported yesterday by the New York Times, is the key unit of a 1,400-member US survey group sent to find weapons of mass destruction. Head of the group Mr David Kay is in Washington with his deputy, Gen Keith Dayton, and may quit his post soon, the paper also reported.
Most of the dozens of linguists and intelligence analysts assigned to the team, known as the Joint Captured Material Exploitation Group, have been transferred to anti-insurgency duties, a senior US Defence Department official said.
The newspaper said that, according to a senior official, the search for Iraqi weapons remains “the primary focus” of the survey group. But the official acknowledged that most of the new linguists and intelligence analysts to join the team had recently been given assignments combating the Iraqi insurgency rather than searching for weapons of mass destruction.
US analysts are still wading through a “10-mile high” cache of Iraqi documents stored in Qatar for evidence of weapons programmes, according to US officials.
The Carnegie report, WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications, which the endowment regards as the “first comprehensive review of everything we knew” said that President Bush’s case for war was “deeply flawed” and compromised the intelligence community.
“Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile programmes,” said the report. They lumped nuclear, chemical and biological weapons together as a single threat, despite the “very different” danger they posed, which distorted the cost/benefit analysis of the war, it said.
Senior EU security sources expressed grave concern over the findings. “It is very dangerous to manipulate the intelligence community.” They added that it would be very unhelpful: “If people get the impression that the intelligence community is being used politically.” The Carnegie Endowment analysts were “serious” people and what they were saying was “very, very troubling”.
The findings come when the EU-US relationship has been going through a relatively positive phase with all sides trying to put disagreements behind them.
US Secretary of State Mr Colin Powell acknowledged yesterday that he had seen no “smoking gun, concrete evidence” of ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, but responding to questions about the Carnegie report insisted that Iraq had had dangerous weapons and needed to be disarmed by force.
Meanwhile, nine people, all believed to be US soldiers, died yesterday when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Falluja which has been the centre of sustained resistance to the US occupation. The US also disclosed that one soldier was killed and 34 others were wounded in a mortar attack on a US military base west of Baghdad late on Wednesday.
Earlier yesterday, around 60 Iraqi prisoners were freed from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, in a goodwill gesture by the US army.