As weapons inspectors scale back their search in Iraq we talk to reporters from the Washington Post and the London Independent and hear White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer defend the administration’s claims.
U.S. military units assigned to hunt for Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction are receiving time off and are being assigned to other duties. Why? According to the Associated Press, they have run out of places to look.
Over the past week, several U.S. teams searching for weapons have been taken off assignment completely. They are writing letters home and brushing up on target practice.
Col. Keith Harrington’s team has been cut by more than 30 percent. He told the AP: “It doesn’t appear there are any more targets at this time.” He said, “We’re hanging around with no missions in the foreseeable future.”
The weapons inspectors say they are now waiting for a large team of Pentagon intelligence experts to take over the effort.
This comes as the controversy over why no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq has reached the boiling point on both sides of the Atlantic.
Time and time again, President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair drummed the same message home: Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. They told the American people this. They told the British people this. They told Arab states this. They told the U.S. Congress, the British Parliament, and the U.N. Security council this. It was all to try to justify an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation.
But now, two months after U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad, no weapons have been found. No evidence of weapons has even been found.
Meanwhile, a series of intelligence leaks and anonymous interviews with intelligence officers indicate that the White House may have overstated its own evidence. The Washington Post reported Saturday that an internal report by the Defense Intelligence Agency found there was “no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has or will establish its chemical agent production facilities.”
We are going to be joined by reporters Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and Kim Sengupta of the London Independent in a minute. But first we play an excerpt from yesterday’s White House press briefing with Ari Fleischer..
- Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary responding to questions from reporters on weapons on mass destruction on June 9, 2003
- Walter Pincus, National security reporter for the Washington Post who has written several reports on the administration’s weapons of mass destruction claims over the past week.
- Tony Blair, British Prime Minister responding to critics.
- Kim Sengupta, reporter with the Independent of London.