Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I've been tuned out of the warblogging these days, but I have a question for the warbloggers. Did they find any WMD? Because... if they didn't I've lost a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. It was his passionate argument about how he was convinced beyond doubt that Iraq had WMD that moved me to say I was "more supportive" of the US.


Hi Joi,

I agree. It is a question that lingers and wears on the conscience. At least CNN has brought up the issue in recent days.

I know from your blog and papers that democracy and weblogs are a great interest of yours. With this in mind, I thought to share the recent post on former US Senator Gary Hart's Blog, "Democracy Dies Behind Closed Doors" at :

As has been pointed out on, it really doesn't matter any more at this point.

Even if Saddam Hussein did have WMD, he did not use them even when faced with an invasion aimed at killing him and removing his regime.

So this means that we know now: There was no danger of WMDs being used, even if they existed.

Probably the Bush forces will get around to planting some WMDs sooner or later, or at least fabricate some "intelligence" by "unnamed Iraqi scientists". Or even find substantial WMDs the Iraqis really had before the war. Doesn't matter any more, IMHO.

>>Probably the Bush forces will get around to planting some WMDs sooner or later, or at least fabricate some "intelligence" by "unnamed Iraqi scientists". Or even find substantial WMDs the Iraqis really had before the war. Doesn't matter any more, IMHO.

Well, thanks for your friendly offer to get me some medication. I decline, however.

I suggest you send that Thorazine to Mr. Rumsfeld instead. He said lately:

"That will not stop certain countries and certain types of people from claiming, inaccurately, that it was planted."

So if you think that considering that possibility is an indication for your medicine, maybe he might take you up on your offer.

Don't get me wrong. I am not claiming that the Bush forces have planted anything. I said that quite possibly they will find substantial WMD some time later. My point is that it doesn't matter, since it is already proved beyond doubt that WMD were not used even in extreme circumstances. So even if some existed, they obviously weren't much of a threat.

Aren't you being a bit naive, Allan? Most of the people in this country believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Is it possible that they should all be on thorazine, or have those in power planted that notion in them?

something like 60% of Americans in a poll around the time of the *war* thought that iraq was involved in the trade centre attacks. not because of supposed links with terrorism, but actually 'responsible' for the attacks directly. this is frightening.

bush said recently that "there is no list and Syria isn't on it". today i see that powell has said that syria should be the subject of military action pending certain conditions. (bbc)

there is almost nothing original about america - we (the rest of the world) have created a monster.

It's amazing the number of people who should know better who will quote bunk statistics in order to score points in an argument.

not bunk stats - all available on the bbc website - all you need to do is search - i bet the american administration hates that...

They've probably already found some and are waiting for enough people (like dem pres candidates) to indignantly ask where the proof is before they release it. :)

Speaking of countries without their citizen's best interests in mind, Japan wants to reinstate the emporer and rebuild their army, navy and airforce. I can't help but feel depressed by this, am I wrong to?

Mainichi news article.

Well, at least one Iraqi scientist doesn't think Powell is right, and at the time, he was gnashing his teeth, many, most notably Hans Blix, dicredited Powell's UN testimony as one newpaper letter writer, this post and any number of other articles remind us.

Read "Saddam's Bomb" and "Saddam: The Secret Life" for some background details of why it might not be so strange that WMD evidence has not been found yet. The Iraqis had a lot of feedback from various sources about what the West knew, and adapted very, very quickly and cleverly. There is also some good stuff on Hans Blix in his first incarnation as a weapons inspector. The guy is a naive pushover chump with a chip on his shoulder. However, there were some guys on the UNSCOM team who were pretty good, if only the Russian members weren't leaking their moves to the Iraqis.

Anyhow. what I want to know is ... where is the Baghdad Blogger?? Why hasn't he come forth and introduced himself to the media in Baghdad? Let's get a special ops search team over there looking for him!

>>> Oh. Come on Karl-Friederich. What kinda underhanded comment is that. The US planting evidence.

Right. Because the US & UK have a wonderfully trustworthy record in this regard:

Many of the coalition’s critics believe Bush and Blair have only themselves to blame for international scepticism over the true nature of the Iraqi threat. The discovery last December that a key section of a British dossier on Saddam’s nuclear programme had been based on forged documents was followed by the revelation in February that a large chunk of supposed intelligence analysis had been copied from a Californian postgraduate student’s outdated thesis. (,,5944-662091,00.html.)

No, they haven't found any WMD yet. And that could be a big problem. I'm beginning to wonder if it might be best for the US government to come clean and simply say, "We overthrew Iraq because we were pissed off at the Arab world." At least it might restore a bit of credibility.

Well they do keep finding mass graves all over the place, but that wasn't enough to convince people to go to war in the 1st place, so why should it matter now?

Fact of the matter is a brutal, horribly oppressive regime was removed from power at the cost of amazingly low numbers of civilian lives (indeed many Iraqi's were used as shields by their own troops). That matters, that is important, America did a good thing no matter how much anyone wants to nitpick.

But it is being "nitpicky" to point out that we may have been lied to by Bush, Powell et al? Not at all, but I think people need to give this more time (this is one of those things like after the 1st couple weeks into the war the press was all "we're bogged down" "quagmire quagmire". some patience and longer attention spans are required for here.) It is quite likely that Saddam buried many of his materials because the eyes of the world were so intensley on him, and he would have simply restarted things after the heat cooled down, it's how he played the world community in the past and I've little doubt that's what he thought was going to happen again. Besides, what if they only find a little bit? How much do they have to find to satisfy the critics? Because it seems to me, regardless of what happens, people who don't like Bush are still going to find a reason to complain.

PS -- Lawrence, China definately doesn't want a military powerful and resurgent Japan to deal with, so perhaps the talk/threat will prod them to take on N. Korea in a serious manner.

Scof wrote:
> Well they do keep finding mass graves all over the place, but that wasn't enough to
> convince people to go to war in the 1st place, so why should it matter now?

Maybe most of these unconviced people you refer to were not kids during the Desert
Storm operation, and know that what triggered the massacres in 1991 of these mostly
Chi'ite victims was the US unwillingness to support their uprising against Saddam in the
Iraqi south?
But then again it's true that lots of these Chi'ites have shown an absolutely unacceptable
preference for an Islam-contaminated form of government, instead of more civilized true
christian, or at least agnostic guiding principles... Maybe these Chi'ites have been
inspired by these loathsome "axis of evil" Iranian theocrats after all...

Anyway, speaking of massacres, the gratuitous killing in 1991 by the US of thousands of
retreating Iraqi soldiers on the "Highway of Death" is also something the world won't
easily forget...

You know, Scof, the world's a complicated place, and for most people it takes a certain
number of rides around the Sun after college to realize that youth doesn't confer any
special insights or body of knowledge from which to pontificate credibly over the moral
justification of Neocon policies or ultimately uninformed "what-if" Iraqi WMD scenarios...

P.S. "Definitely" is spelled "defin*i*tely", not "defin*a*tely"

hey. I don't think i'm being naive. first, i'm not happy that we went to war. but i can't change that. and while i hope damn sure they find these WMD, I'm not going to get worked up waiting for someone to plant something. askt he thousands of kurds who died as a result of Saddam's WMD. Maybe he used them all. Scof notes the massive grave sites we keep finding. But we don't seem to have a lot of chatter about that.

though harvalis -- quite an interesting find, i hadn't seen that. but i frankly don't believe that our government would plant weapons to save face. what's done is done. besides, if they were going to do this i believe we would've seen something by now. i'll leave the LA Police Department for the repsonsiblity of planting evidence...;-)

So hard to tell sarcasm over the net, but yes the Shia preference for theocracy is unacceptable in this day & age. As 'neocon' as that sounds, recent history bears out that it is oppressive regimes that seek to start wars of conquest & aggression outside their borders.

It's funny how one can try to honestly compare the killing of civilians with those of soldiers in a time of war. Is there something wrong with killing enemy soldiers in a time of war? if they were attacking you and are not surrendering, it would seem foolhardy just to let them escape.

Well you can tell a thread is dead when someone starts to pick on your spellling, or lack thereof. (and to be nitpicky because I have so much time to kill, it is Shia, not chia -- that's a ceramic pet that grows fungus.)

In closing, it doesn't take more than a couple rides around the sun to realize everything isn't relative nor to appreciate that more people are free from oppression today and that is a great thing. Never argued that we or anyone is perfect (see failing to support the '91 shia uprising for example), but I see that a larger good was defin I tely done here.

Scof wrote
> it is oppressive regimes that seek to start wars of conquest & aggression outside their borders

Indeed. I think lots of people in central and south America, in the middle east and in south-east
Asia would rather have preferred to see, well, a more restrained deployment of military might
"outside" the borders of the US... Heck, some people have even suggested that they felt, well,
"aggressed" by the US. How is that possible? But these are also well, historical events of the past
40 years with which you are apparently not familiar and over which I shan't dwell or bore you...

> It's funny how one can try to honestly compare the killing of civilians with those of soldiers in a time
> of war. Is there something wrong with killing enemy soldiers in a time of war? if they were attacking
> you and are not surrendering, it would seem foolhardy just to let them escape.

I guess you are not really familiar how military operations unfolded during operation Desert Storm.
Anyway, the US having previously easily shot, blown up, burned or buried alive 100000+ Iraqi soldiers
with little or no risk of loss on their side, I don't really see how the pitiful, shell-shocked and under-
equipped survivors who were *retreating* at the end of the war could have presented any significant
additional challenge to the US troops...
It also seems that it hasn't occured to you that in the real world there's little difference between a
civilian and a conscript, and that most of the thousands upon thousands of people gratuitously
slaughtered by the US on that highway were probably civilians who had gotten marching orders
and a uniform from their government but a few months before.
When there's such a demonstrated inbalance in military capability, an officer with morals would
probably have wondered whether such additional killings were necessary or justifiable. I don't doubt,
however, that it's trivial for some people in 2003 to dismiss these faceless people's deaths, or ignore
the fact that these conscripts probably also had families praying for their safe return.
Mass graves, anyone ?

> I see that a larger good was defin Itely done here

Hum, yes. You probably have an excellent understanding and knowledge of the social/economic/political
situation in Iraq today, and as for the region's future, you presumably have a crystall ball of remarkable
clarity and predictive power...

Get real. Your idol, the erstwhile Mr. Blix, claimed it would take years to find them (even with the regime's putative "cooperation" that Blix was at such pains to praise endlessly). And the fact is that you were prepared to wait, oh, roughly forever for him to turn up something. So for the sake of logical and moral consistency, you're just going to have to wait however long it takes -- certainly more than three weeks or six weeks.

bern de galvez wrote:
> Get real. Your idol, the erstwhile Mr. Blix, claimed it would take years to find them

Hmm, did Blix really say "years", as you pretend? People who listened to what he actually said might beg to differ...

But then again, Mr. de galvez, why indeed should such details get in the way of the formation of your "educated" view...

Well it's obvious that Bush has lied to the whole world. There were never any WMD in Iraq. And all those mass graves they're finding were Shiite rebels, so they deserved to get executed for their uppity behavior. And those Kurds were causing trouble when they got gassed and it was a long time ago in any event - no way Saddam was capable of making more and shielding it from the UN - that's perposterous. The people who had their ears cut off or their tongues cut out by the Baathists were guilty of sedition, and they were probably really obnoxious too, so it was just and legitimate, unlike Bush's war. And those athletes who were tortured, they were cheating and besides, who cares about a bunch of jocks.

Meanwhile the U.S. military has continued doing what it has always done, murdering women and raping children and not helping the elderly across the street. The Iraqi people under the U.S. oppression will never have it as good as they had it under Saddam. Saddam may have put dissidents into industrial shredders but at least the people had nice Palaces down the road from their little shacks. Democaracy for Iraq - never! We can only pray for civil war, Lebanon style chaos and fundamentalism - anything to prevent the criminal Bush from getting any credit or success. Chirac and Sean Penn were right and Bush is history's greatest criminal. Nothing can make up for what has been done but to start putting matters to right, at the very least, we need to try Rumsfeld in the Hague and by all means, BRING BACK SADDAM.

Do you think the warblog-searching bots run by NSA can distinguish "/sarcasm" so as to properly put into perspective all of your seditious-sounding unpatriotic strings of, no doubt, flagged search terms?

The 1991 Gulf War demonstrated that the threat of using chemical or biological weapons, even if they are not actually used, is enough to cause significant friction to Coalition forces. Air raid alerts cause everyone to take cover and suit up. The threat of tactical WMD also forces Coalition forces to fight in hot protective clothing and vehicles.

For Iraq, actually using WMD had many downsides. First, the rest of the world would be outraged and would rally to support the Coalition. Second, WMD used in Iraq would contaminate their homeland and risks collateral damage to Iraq’s citizens. Finally, since the Coalition has good WMD protective gear, actual use would not be that effective.

Therefore Saddam appears to have followed this strategy: Mothball the WMD labs and production facilities. Save weapons & ingredients already produced which have a long shelf life. Destroy weapons and incriminating precursors that are perishable. Bluff about WMD being deployed and cleared for use (through deception of intelligence channels) so that the Coalition has to fight in “Nightmare Drag”.

This strategy minimizes the risk that a “smoking gun” would be found during the combat phase of the war.

This means that the process of finding WMD evidence will be a slow, expensive, forensics intensive process. Complex criminal investigations can take years. Patience is required.

It's irritating the way people consistantly straw-man legitimate critiques of the manner in which the White House, Pentagon and State Department conducted themselves in the prosecution of this war.

For those who cry victory and justification because a brutal dictator is gone, yet cauting a 'wait and see' attitude towards the question of WMD, I would suggest a reversal of attitude. The question of whether or not the war was justified because it removed Saddam from power will not be clear until the country is stabalized under new leadership, most likely one or two years down the road. There's no reason to be certain that whatever rises up to fill the Iraqi power vaccum will be more benevolent than Hussein.

Furthermore, the basis for initiating the war was to disarm Iraq, plain and simple. We were told that he had WMD, and that we had intelligence that was watertight. Now it turns out that we've searched all the places the Pentagon said held WMD and nothing has been found. There's also significant evidence showing that cautionary intelligence that ran counter to the pro-war effort was systematically marginalized and outrightly ignored by the architects of this conflict. So it would seem that the leadership wilfully misled the people of America into a conflict that will saddle them with the awesome responsibility of rebuilding a nation from scratch, a responsiblity we may likely fail to fulfill given our own faltering economic state, and in doing so allow yet another monstrosity to replace the old.

These are legitimate causes for grevious concern.

Why the War on Iraq was "Now or Never"

Intelligence analysts claim the Iraq could field nuclear weapons in less than a year, provided they could produce or acquire fissionable material. They were "within a year" in 1991.

North Korea can produce both enriched uranium and plutonium. North Korea has been involved with many shady deals, including operating a large-scale heroin smuggling operation. They also need money to prop up their failed socialist economy.

Is it that hard to imagine Saddam Hussein buying fissionable material from North Korea? While delivery presents problems, if North Korea can smuggle heroin, they obviously could covertly ship uranium or plutonium. Saddam would pay top dollar.

War in the Middle East is only feasible during the winter months. This creates windows in which invasion is possible (or not). At the beginning of this year’s window, Iraq attempted to delay things by agreeing to cooperate with UN inspectors. At first, cooperation was begrudgedly given, and later, improved somewhat. I believe this was done to appeal to those who were hoping against hope to avoid a war and have them pressure the US to extend the time for inspections past the end of this year’s combat window.

If they succeeded, Saddam would have gained 6-8 months more to get fissile material, throw together a demonstration device, and conduct a nuclear test. He would have then been able to deter the Coalition from acting, break out of his box, and advance toward his dream of dominating the Middle East.

Another reason for acting now is that the US was obviously “wearing out their welcome” in Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf States as well) and we needed to wrap things up. Also, the CIA had not had good coverage of Middle Eastern affairs in the past decades and capturing records and personnel in Iraq is a great way to make up for that.

The war, while a military success, has had a terrible cost in human lives and damage to Iraq’s infrastructure and heritage. I wish it were not necessary. However, I consider the nightmare vision of an aggressive nuclear power threatening the world’s oil supply and conquering neighboring countries to have been a lot closer to becoming a reality than many skeptics have thought.

Sigh. How about a simple answer for Joi? No, they haven't found WMDs in Iraq yet. Yes, you should be disappointed in Colin Powell, because he caved in to considerable pressure and went to the U.N. with incredibly poor intel.

Powell is involved in a fairly nasty little struggle inside the Executive Branch. As he himself puts it, he sleeps like a baby--that is to say, he wakes up every few hours screaming.

Even Blix said it would take Months and it is a big country and we are trying to put money & people into finding WMD at the same time trying to rebuild the country. Patience is needed. Joi I suggest starting this thread again in 6 months, if you remember. Let's see where we are at then.

Scof wrote: "Joi I suggest starting this thread again in 6 months, if you remember. Let's see where we are at then."

Well, 6 months have elapsed.
Have any WMDs been found ? Do some people still think that the Bush administration's propaganda was more sound than Hans Blix' assessments of Iraq's capabilities?

No Iraq had WED - Weapons of Economic Destruction.

They controlled the 3rd largest supply of oil and George W's buddies wanted control of the oil - plain and simple.

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