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May 19, 2021
What About the UN Weapons Inspectors?

Statement by Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball on the June 2008 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence “Phase II” Report on Prewar Iraq Intelligence

For Immediate Release: June 5, 2008
Press Contacts: Peter Crail, (202) 463-8270 x102 and Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.): The long-delayed Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released today underscores once again that the president and his war cabinet selectively used portions of the flawed October 2002 National Intelligence Assessment (NIE) to justify the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The new report documents, beyond a doubt, that Bush and his team cherry-picked the flawed intelligence estimate, which was filled with caveats and qualifications about Iraq’s alleged nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs.

Yet the committee report makes an inexcusable and obvious error of omission that most of the mainstream media and commentariat continue to overlook: the Bush administration and Congress ignored the widely-available findings of the UN weapons inspectors weeks before the U.S. invasion.

On Feb. 13, 2003, the chief UN inspector, Hans Blix, reported to the UN Security Council that there was no evidence of either active chemical or biological weapons programs or stockpiles. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported that there was no evidence of a reconstituted nuclear weapons program. On the basis of leads provided by U.S. and other intelligence agencies and information gained from earlier inspections, the UN inspectors conducted more than 760 inspections covering about 500 sites from November 2002 through February 2003.

The UN inspectors’ findings directly contradicted key assessments of the October 2002 NIE and provided ample reason to reassess that document, which was based entirely on information gathered before the return of the UN inspectors in November of 2002.

The UN inspectors again reported March 7 to the Security Council, once more rebutting the key findings in the NIE that the Bush administration had used to claim Iraq was actively pursuing prohibited weapons. For example, a full month before the U.S. invasion, the inspectors found strong evidence that Iraq was procuring aluminum tubes for artillery rockets rather than for nuclear weapons material production. The IAEA also exposed as “not authentic” the documents which laid the basis for the claim that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger.

The UN inspectors’ case against the Bush administration’s weapons allegations should have led Bush and members of Congress to delay the invasion, allow the inspectors to resolve remaining questions and contain any new Iraqi weapons work, and order a new intelligence assessment. Their failure to do so has cost innumerable lives, billions of dollars, lost American prestige, and insecurity.

The failure to consider the UN inspectors’ pre-invasion findings also has allowed the Bush administration to foist another falsehood on the public and on the lazy press corps: That the administration’s belief that there were prohibited weapons activities in Iraq was based on the intelligence available at the time and that everyone agreed with that assessment.

Wrong. The NIE was flawed and the UN inspectors told us so before the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq. Unfortunately, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has failed to fully correct the record.

For more information on Iraq, go to the Arms Control Association's Iraq Resource Page.

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