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Something I have been hearing over and over from the talking heads of late is that even if Bush, Cheney & Co. thought that there were WMDs in Iraq, so did everyone else, including the French and Germans. This is one of those lies that is endlessly repeated in relation to the Plane affair, like the lie that Joseph Wilson said that Cheney sent him to Niger.

I just want to point to two problems with this. First, not all that many countries have a significant intelligence capability. The list is probably restricted to the US, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, and Israel. (This is not to say that other countries are not able to spy with some success on their immediate neighbors.) Clearly, for present purposes, Britain can be scratched from this list, since the "special relationship" meant that Britain merely parroted what BushCo was saying. So that basically just leaves France, Germany, and Russia as countries having intelligence capabilibites independent to those of the US/UK. (Israel would not openly challenge the US/UK line, for obvious reasons.)

Now, I don't believe that French, German, or Russian intelligence agencies ever concluded that it was clear that Iraq had WMDs. Unfortunately, I don't have any documentation to back me up. But why this has stuck in my mind is that I remember in the lead-up to the war, about a week before the commencement of the US bombardment I believe, Jacques Chirac saying to reporters: We will find out if Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, "if indeed he has weapons of mass destruction", by letting the UN weapons inspectors continue to do their job. I was very surprised at the time to hear Chirac say this: I must admit that I thought he must be a bit unhinged, since I had been led to believe that there can be no doubt about this. But clearly, if Chirac said this at the time, that means that at least French intelligence was sceptical about the Anglo-American WMD claims.

Originally posted to Alexander on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 04:54 PM PDT.

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