The Washington Post reports that the initial search for weapons of mass destruction is ending.
Army Col. Robert Smith, who leads the site assessment teams from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said task force leaders no longer "think we're going to find chemical rounds sitting next to a gun." He added, "That's what we came here for, but we're past that."
Motivated and accomplished in their fields, task force members found themselves lacking vital tools. They consistently found targets identified by Washington to be inaccurate, looted and burned, or both. Leaders and members of five of the task force's eight teams, and some senior officers guiding them, said the weapons hunters were going through the motions now to "check the blocks" on a prewar list.
U.S. Central Command began the war with a list of 19 top weapons sites. Only two remain to be searched. Another list enumerated 68 top "non-WMD sites," without known links to special weapons but judged to have the potential to offer clues. Of those, the tally at midweek showed 45 surveyed without success.
Task Force 75's experience, and its impending dissolution after seven weeks in action, square poorly with assertions in Washington that the search has barely begun.
In his declaration of victory aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, President Bush said, "We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated." Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that U.S. forces had surveyed only 70 of the roughly 600 potential weapons facilities on the "integrated master site list" prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies before the war.
But here on the front lines of the search, the focus is on a smaller number of high-priority sites, and the results are uniformly disappointing, participants said.
This is what happens when you go to war on the basis of a plagiarised master's thesis and the excitable rabbitings of an administration desperate for war. The shabby record of the PNAC material shows these people wanted to invade Iraq long before 11 September. They justified it on weapons of mass destruction and they cannot find any weapons of mass destruction.
All three coalition leaders, Bush, Blair and Howard claimed to hold intelligence confirming WMD in iraq. I would have thought such intelligence might actually locate said WMD in Iraq. Indeed if there was any real intelligence of such weapons you'd expect the signpost to be a little more specific than 'somewhere in Iraq'. The next few question times in the UK house of commons and the Australian house of representatives should be extremely interesting. Bush is probably fortunate he does not have to face unstaged events and answer unscripted questions.