After months of leading the U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, David Kay now says he believes stockpiles of such weapons never existed. Kay’s comments mark a major blow to the Bush administration which still claims that the search for weapons of mass destruction is not complete. Kay said "I don’t think they existed." Up until last week, Kay was heading a team of 1,000 on the hunt for weapons in Iraq. Kay’s replacement, former UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, has already said that he does not believe banned weapons would be found. In interviews over the weekend, Kay laid blame on the CIA and the intelligence community for failing to accurately analyze the state of Iraq’s weapons programs.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that he too didn’t know if weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq. When a reporter asked him if such weapons would be found, Powell said "The answer to that question is, we don’t know yet." He went on to speak about his address to the United Nations outlining the Iraqi threat. He said, "Last year when I made my presentation it was based on the best intelligence we had at the time. What is the open question is how many stocks they had and, if they had any, where did they go? And if they didn’t have any, then why wasn’t that known beforehand?"
Meanwhile Vice President Dick Cheney continued to claim weapons may still be found. He said "I think the jury is still out. It’s going to take ... time to look in all of the cubby and ammo dumps in Iraq."
On the campaign front, the Institute for Public Accuracy has released a report showing that five of the Democratic contenders at one point publicly said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
On October 9, 2002 Senator Kerry said "Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try? ... According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons ... Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents..." Yesterday we asked Kerry at a campaign stop in Nashua to clarify his position.
Meanwhile Senator John Edwards on October 10, 2002 said this about Saddam Hussein. "We know that he has chemical and biological weapons." Yesterday reporters asked him to comment on his remark.
A new biography of British Prime Minister Tony Blair charges that Dick Cheney "waged a guerrilla war" against Blair’s attempts to secure United Nations backing for the invasion of Iraq. Among other things Cheney’s aides repeatedly warned British officials of the vice president’s scorn for multilateralism.
In Iraq Eight U.S. soldiers died within a 24-hour period over the weekend, in the deadliest period for the U.S. since before the capture of Saddam Hussein. Most of the killings occurred in or near Baghdad. Meanwhile a U.S. reconnisanse helicopter crashed in Iraq. Two of its crewmembers are missing.
The Observer of London is reporting that military psychiatrists are estimating up to one in five U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq will suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Already at least 22 soldiers have committed suicide and 600 have been evacuated from Iraq for pyschiatric reasons.
The Iraqi Governing Council is now split on how to proceed with the transfer of power from the U.S. to Iraq. The council was supposed to draft an interim constitution by Feb. 28 but that is now unlikely to happen because of the deep split in the council. Most Shiite members are supporting a call by the influential cleric the Ayatollah Sistani for direct elections.
On Friday the Bush administration announced it wants to boost military spending by 7 percent next year to just over $400 billion. But the actual cost will be much higher because the budget request does not include military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. According to the Los Angeles Times this would bring the Pentagon’s budget to levels exceeding those at the height of the Cold War.
Halliburton has agreed to pay the Pentagon $6.3 million after it admitted that two of its employees illegally received kickbacks from a Kuwaiti subcontractor working in Iraq. Halliburton notified the Pentagon about the kickbacks on Jan. 15. On the next day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton a $1.2 bullion contract to rebuild the Iraqi oil infrastructure. California Rep. Henry Waxman said "It is incomprehensible that the administration could give Halliburton another billion-dollar contract without fully investigating serious criminal wrongdoing." According to the New York Times, Halliburton now has more than $9 billion in contracts in Iraq. Meanwhile the Pentagon continues to investigate whether Halliburton illegally overcharged the government on the company’s contract to supply gasoline to Iraqi civilians. And last night, CBS’ 60 Minutes revealed that Halliburton may have illegally created subsidiaries that existed in name only in an attempt to skirt U.S. laws that bar companies from dealing with Iran. On Thursday Vice President Dick Cheney defended the company which he headed before he took office. He said "Halliburton gets unfairly maligned simply because of their past association with me." He said the allegations of impropriety come from desperate political opponents who "can’t find any legitimate policy differences to debate."
Jane’s Intelligence Digest is reporting that the Pentagon is drawing up plans to carry out raids on Lebanon and Syria to target the group Hezbollah.
A new Newsweek poll shows that John Kerry’s support has soared in the past two weeks across the country and that he would beat President Bush in a face off. 52 percent of voters polled by Newsweek said they don’t want Bush to serve a second term. In a head-to-head race, Kerry would beat Bush by a margin of 49 percent to 46 percent.
The United Nations is condemning Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes and is warning that it will not be able to serve all of the people made homeless by the demolitions. The UN is estimating that 600 Palestinians have been made homeless in the last 10 days in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza where Israeli forces have leveled dozens of home. The BBC estimates that since October 2000, 14,000 people in the Gaza Strip have lost their homes.