Anyone who predicted failures of Iraq war and why?
March 21, 2007 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Was there anyone who publicly predicted, before the start of the Iraq war, the absence of WMDs and/or the extended occupation we would face, and justified those predictions in thoughtful detail?
posted by shivohum to Law & Government (35 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Me, to anyone that would listen to me.

sorry, that's not helpful (though true).

One thing you might research in relation to this is when the New York Times ran an article about the White House deciding to focus on pushing a war on Iraq post 9/11. I remember reading it in very early 2002. This, to me, was the biggest proof that the W administration had no interest in really being focused on al Qaeda after that event, as they knew that Iraq had no ties to that group. Instead, they decided to use 9/11 to push their Forever War. If they wanted closure on 9/11, they would have focused on Afghanistan and Bin Laden.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:44 AM on March 21, 2007

Barack Obama's pre-war speech is certainly worth a read as well.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:45 AM on March 21, 2007

Scott Ritter . . who was a UN weapons inspector for quite some time, was adamant that Iraq was not a real threat. Some links to stories I found with a quick google search:,8599,351165,00.html

And a little bit about him:

I'm sure there's a lot more out there
posted by nameless.k at 8:47 AM on March 21, 2007

Seconding Scott Ritter, nameless beat me to it.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:49 AM on March 21, 2007

I remember William Clark saying it was all about Saddam demanding Euros for oil instead of dollars back in 2000.

Iran is tryinig to do the same thing today, hence all of the nuke re-propaganda.
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 8:57 AM on March 21, 2007

Jeanine Garafalo on Air America everyday she was on with Sam Sedar.

Sam too.
posted by Freedomboy at 9:06 AM on March 21, 2007

Hans Blix led the UN's weapons-inspection team in Iraq right before the war. Looked all over, did not find any WMDs, and did not predict but concluded that there weren't any there.

It's important to remember this. There was public, independent intelligence refuting the administration's (then current) case for war. So the absence of WMDs is not something anyone had to try to predict, it's something we already knew. The administration essentially stuck their fingers in their ears and said "lalalala I can't hear you."
posted by adamrice at 9:07 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Freedomboy, Air America didn't start broadcasting until a year after the war started.
posted by stopgap at 9:08 AM on March 21, 2007

Joe Wilson.
posted by mkultra at 9:10 AM on March 21, 2007

Here's four examples.
posted by drezdn at 9:18 AM on March 21, 2007

I was involved in a march in Boston a week before and a week after the invasion of Iraq. Tens of thousands of people were there. We were called foolish by some bystanders. "You just wait and see" they yelled. "Go back to France!"

Everyone I know was very much opposed to invading Iraq, and would give you pretty good reasons. Millions of people were marching all of the world *before* the war in an attempt to stop the U.S. from invading. The media, who played cheerleader, pretends that nobody was opposed. However, unless you were off the grid in 2002-2003, you were well aware that anyone who knew anything at all about the situation was opposed. (NOTE: I'm not referring to you. I just feel that there is a trend to say that nobody opposed it.)
posted by tom_g at 9:20 AM on March 21, 2007

Every leftist I know said something along the lines of "oh great, there will be no WMDs, we'll get stuck in the country, and a civil war will break out."
posted by beerbajay at 9:21 AM on March 21, 2007

What tom_g said, and I was one of those people protesting. I was, at that time, getting most of my news from The Guardian and other British press, because it seemed more balanced than the rah-rah "Bush is always right" Amerian press. So it might be worth going through their website, too.
posted by occhiblu at 9:25 AM on March 21, 2007

You were reading MeFi before the invasion, yes? There were so many posts about this that limiting them became a major MeTa topic.

Yes, many authoritative sources called BS on the WMD claims both in general and in the specific.

Yes, many authoritative sources (I'll even say most) said the war would be a disaster for the exact reasons it has turned out to be a disaster.
posted by Skyriss at 9:33 AM on March 21, 2007

Retired Colonel Sam Gardiner was pretty outspoken. Here's an overview to get you started. More articles to be found within the results of your favorite search product.
posted by sageleaf at 9:46 AM on March 21, 2007

Dominique de Villepin?
posted by racingjs at 10:03 AM on March 21, 2007

The best--BEST--essay you will ever find on this topic was written by Jonathan Schell in The Nation, titled, "The Case Against the War." It is pure genius. Anyone who was conviced that the Iraq War was necessary would be swayed if they read Schell.

Another thing that you may find useful is a fascinating, heated debate among Robert Scheer, Christopher Hitchens, Mark Danner, and Michael Ignatieff on March 15, 2003. Danner also wrote a lot about how the occupation was fucked up.

Read the lengthy essays published in The New York Review of Books in the months prior to the war. George Galloway was also pretty convincing, though the American and British media totally smeared him in the press.

A lot of the anti-war arguments were based on reasoning and were very philosophical (but completely convincing and valid). Scott Ritter's argument was fact-based and impossible to argue with. He was also smeared by the media, but he had the best credentials of any anti-war activist.

You could also check out Seymour Hersh's pieces in the New Yorker, especially the one about how the Defense Dept. "stovepiped" intelligence via it's own crack-intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans, led by Douglas Feith. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the OSP, wrote some truly great essays (here and here) revealing how the Pentagon was lying to lead us to war.

God, it's totally pissing me off just thinking about how transparent this sham was. Argh.

Oh, also read Frank Rich's NY Times columns and his new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold. He has a really comprehensive timeline here, which includes what the government actually knew vs. what it was saying in public.

This war is criminal.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:29 AM on March 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

This guy.
posted by deern the headlice at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2007

adamrice writes "It's important to remember this. There was public, independent intelligence refuting the administration's (then current) case for war. So the absence of WMDs is not something anyone had to try to predict, it's something we already knew. The administration essentially stuck their fingers in their ears and said 'lalalala I can't hear you.'"

It's the transparency of the lie that had me convinced Saddam had something and the US was the source (however covert). A canister of VX or a couple of pounds of refined uranium or a tanker of ricin, _something_. A smoking gun that the CIA had blacked oped into the country that the occupiers could arrow in on and reveal because they knew exactly where and what it was because the US had provided it.

The shock that the plan was instead the big lie was quite disappointing, an almost Watergate shift in perspective.
posted by Mitheral at 10:59 AM on March 21, 2007

Some of the problematic aspects of invading/occupying Iraq and deposing Hussein were considered by Scowcroft and Bush Sr. in writings discussing why Iraq was not invaded in the course of the first Gulf war. While it is a different situation, substantial elements of the analysis of what would happen turn out to be essentially correct.
posted by nanojath at 11:19 AM on March 21, 2007

I was always amazed that the administration didn't take that crucial next step and fabricate some huge 5-mile-long bunker full of WMDs, once reality sunk in.
I mean...didn't everyone expect them to do it?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:19 AM on March 21, 2007

One person who publicly stated that Iraq had no WMD program and who was in a position to know the truth: Saddam Hussein!
posted by HotPatatta at 11:24 AM on March 21, 2007

Some public comments:

In 2001 Colin Powell said Saddam Hussein "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction" and Condoleeza Rice said, "We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."

October 12, 2002. Putin demands proof over Iraqi weapons: "Vladimir Putin yesterday rejected Anglo-American claims that Saddam Hussein already possesses weapons of mass destruction..."

On February 14, 2003, both Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei told the UN Security Council that they couldn't find any evidence of Iraqi WMD, despite Iraq's improved cooperation and full access to all of the places the US alleged were WMD sites.

March 16, 2003. U.S. Lacks Specifics on Banned Arms:
Despite the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to give Congress or the Pentagon specific information about the amounts of banned weapons or where they are hidden, according to administration officials and members of Congress.

March 18, 2003. Bush Clings To Dubious Allegations About Iraq:
As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week, it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged -- and in some cases disproved -- by the United Nations, European governments and even U.S. intelligence reports.
Some of the administration's evidence -- such as Bush's assertion that Iraq sought to purchase uranium -- has been refuted by subsequent discoveries.
Part of the problem is that there were reports within the government or military that weren't made public until after the invasion, including these:

CENTCOM's Desert Crossing war game in 1999 predicted chaos in post-invasion Iraq even if the initial force was 400,000.

In September 2002, Iraq's foreign minister told the CIA that Iraq didn't have any WMD.

September 2002: a 'secret September 2002 Pentagon intelligence report concluded that there was "no reliable information' that Iraq had biological or chemical weapons."

October 2002: Doubts, Dissent Stripped from Public Version of Iraq Assessment: the declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate was edited to remove caveats about its claims, including doubts about the aluminum tubes and notes that evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program or links to al Qaeda were inconclusive. Five of the nine Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee (which saw the classified version of the NIE) voted against the war resolution.

The State Department's Future of Iraq report, based on the input of "more than 200 Iraqi lawyers, engineers, business people and other experts," also predicted many of the post-invasion problems, including security problems , and warned against disbanding the Iraqi army. One participant said, "a cynic might say that plan was only given to State to distract it from the plan to invade and occupy Iraq."
posted by kirkaracha at 11:41 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.
All of a sudden you've got a battle you're fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and techniques.
Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq.
Now what kind of government are you going to establish? Is it going to be a Kurdish government, or a Shi'ia government, or a Sunni government, or maybe a government based on the old Baathist Party, or some mixture thereof? You will have, I think by that time, lost the support of the Arab coalition that was so crucial to our operations over there.
I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today, we'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.
-- Dick Cheney
posted by kirkaracha at 11:55 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bush Sr wrote an op ed piece in the New York Times that explained all the reasons he did not choose to occupy Iraq. It's a laundry list of everything that's happened since, including the civil war.
posted by xammerboy at 1:19 PM on March 21, 2007

Folks, there's a difference between someone saying, before the war:

1) that Iraq had no WMD of any kind (which is what the questioner asked about). As conservatives love to point out, even the Europeans thought Iraq had at least something.

2) and saying that Iraq may or not have WMD, but they pose no threat to us, and invading Iraq on this basis will not further any nonproliferation goals.

Someone linked to the Jonathan Schnell piece. It's a great piece, but he never refutes the claim that Iraq may have some WMD capability.
posted by Brian James at 2:09 PM on March 21, 2007

A lot of people have posted a lot of great links and quotes, but it seems to me that only Saddam explicitly stated that Iraq had no WMDs. Everyone else seems to either say that the Bushies had no proof of Iraq's reconstituted weapons, and thus shouldn't invade, or that Iraq isn't really a threat to the US.

Here's Scott Ritter from that Time link above:

Time: "In 1998, you said Saddam had "not nearly disarmed." Now you say he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Why did you change your mind?

Ritter: "I have never given Iraq a clean bill of health! Never! Never! I've said that no one has backed up any allegations that Iraq has reconstituted WMD capability with anything that remotely resembles substantive fact."

Have I missed the quotes? Can someone please note the actual speech or book where someone states Iraq has no WMDs?
posted by spork at 2:32 PM on March 21, 2007

Brian's correct. In addition...

Most of the people who poked holes in the administration's case prior to the war (including Ritter and Blix) were arguing that the evidence of WMD was bullshit, not that that there were no WMD.

This is an important distinction. It's the difference between a defense lawyer arguing that the defendant didn't do the crime and arguing that the prosecution doesn't have the evidence necessary to convict him. As I understand shivohum's question, he's looking for people who were saying from the beginning "This guy didn't do it and the DNA test will prove it. Just you watch."

Personally, I can't recall any statements quite that bold. I don't think anyone associated with the weapons inspection teams said anything like that. They wanted to continue their inspection program.
posted by Clay201 at 2:49 PM on March 21, 2007

Maybe it's just too obvious, and I can't find any specific article, but I remember reading Noam Chomsky writing plenty of essays arguing against the WMD evidence.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 2:54 PM on March 21, 2007

Yeah, Noam pointed out the shortcomings of the WMD evidence. However, he never said anything like "they don't have anything." In fact, I specifically remember hearing a speech in which he said that the inspectors would 'never find everything.' He explained that 'if Iraq has a high school science lab, they have the capacity to make some biological weapons.' His argument was always that, even if Saddam did have WMD, the US still had no right to attack Iraq.

Can't find the quotes with a google search, though I did come across someone else paraphrasing Chomsky's argument. I'm pretty sure this was in a video or audio recording of one of his lectures.
posted by Clay201 at 3:06 PM on March 21, 2007

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists thoroughly debunked the "evidence" for WMDs in Iraq in September 2002 (as discussed on MeFi).

The US Army War College also published a paper or two on the post-war scenario: [research by the US Army War College estimates that rebuilding will need] "a post-conflict Iraq US Army requirement of 65,000-80,000 personnel plus additional coalition forces. The US led, UN supported, military occupation is expected to last a minimum of five years and possibly as many as ten . . ." (source [with link to PDF]) (also as discussed on MeFi).

Both links are busted now, but thanks the the magic of, we have the information in our hands!
posted by The Michael The at 3:26 PM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's the difference between a defense lawyer arguing that the defendant didn't do the crime and arguing that the prosecution doesn't have the evidence necessary to convict him.

There is a reason the legal system works the way it does. It is very, very hard to prove a negative.

"This guy didn't do it and the DNA test will prove it. Just you watch."

I think this is a misunderstanding of DNA evidence. See above about how the legal system works.. DNA can only prove one very limited thing, and that is only useful in carefully reconstructed context. And then, DNA can only indicate a likely match, it is not guaranteed.

Anyway, didn't they find a couple of old chemical weapons artillery shells, or something? Yes, here is pseudo confirmation:
Throughout the life of ISG and SCP-B, there were only two occasions where chemical weapons were found. The first was a sarin mortar shell which had been reworked into a roadside improvised explosive device by insurgents. The second was a handful of 122-millimeter rocket warheads filled with inert mustard gas that was recovered near Babylon. Both were thought to be remainders from the Iran-Iraq War and were useless as offensive weapons. Both were later destroyed by ISG personnel. In late 2004 the ISG and the MCTs undertook some counter insurgency operations, although many details remain classified. There were other missions and organizations operating within the ISG which are Top Secret and are unlikely to be declassified anytime soon.
It is a stupid argument. It is just this kind of misshaping of reality that allowed the war to happen. What was important is, Iraq was not a threat to anybody at all (with the possible exception of Saddam's involvement with Palestinian groups).
posted by Chuckles at 3:29 PM on March 21, 2007

If you want to read an article that will rock your world, read Blind Into Baghdad by James Fallows.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:31 PM on April 14, 2007

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