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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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Comment Preferences

  •  France, (none)
    Had plans to build a pipeline with Iraq, they never thought he had WMD's.....

    This is a ridiculous talking point, probably one to deter attention from the fact that BUSHCO didn't WANT Saddam to be negotiating to sell his oil to France.

    France's position was NEVER anything more than extremely skeptical, with it getting close to near hostility (and rightly so) that Bush was blatantly preventing them from securing any oil for themselves.....

    An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind--Gandhi (-9.38, -7.59)

    by hopefulcanadian on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 05:03:14 PM PDT

    •  Personally, I think the oil issue is tangential (none)
      France losing a few contracts if the US & UK invaded paled to insignificance compared to the general damage that the invasion would cause, and I think the French realized that.

      I dislike European conservatives as much as the next man, but that is no reason to think that they would be as mercenary, shelfish, and pig-headed in their thinking as Republicans coming out of Texas...

      In the 20th century, it was Nazi Germany. In the 21st, it is Republican America.

      by Alexander on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 06:20:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Remember Algiers? (none)
        Its often overlooked, but France was the last western industrialized nation to try to hold and administer an Arab nation - Algeria.

        In France's case, it administered Algeria for more than a century. When it tried to annex it (irony - Algeria would now be in the European Union), Arab nationalists mounted a vicious terrorist campaign. The French overreacted and brutally suppressed the nationalists - alienating the population and formenting even more resistance. This ultimately leading to France's decision to bail in the late 1960s (Vietnam timeframe).

        The French knew better than anyone else what we were getting into.

        The Russians had a similar experience called Afghanistan.

        The Bushies kept painting the French and Russians as self-serving and that may have been partly true. The alternative hypothesis is that the French and Russians really understood the mistake we were about to make.

        Friends don't let friends drive drunk.

        Maturity - Doing what you know is right even though you were told to do it.

        by grapes on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 08:43:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I forgot about Algiers (none)
          But the British apparently forgot about their own middle-East experience - Iraq. That an ignoramous like Blair could hijack his country - the residents of which, unlike us, have a relatively good sense of history - into following the neocons into their neo-imperial adventure shows the degree to which the English political system has become pathologically disfunctional.

          In the 20th century, it was Nazi Germany. In the 21st, it is Republican America.

          by Alexander on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 09:50:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Chirac Quote Alone Is Worth It (none)
    Pretty much establishes that it was an open question for the French. Can you add a date/source for it?

    But the Brits had more to do. I diaried (that a word?) on their disinfo programmes dating back to 1991, Operation Rockingham, and Operation Mass Appeal, which, respectively, manufactured and spread propaganda about Saddam's WMD threat. It's a big reason why "everyone" thought he had them.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/10/20/04837/416

    •  Can't find the quote (none)
      A search of the UK Guardian was useless. I don't know if the quote ever made it to the printed media.

      But I did find this:

      Russia was not convinced by either the September 24, 2002 British dossier or the October 4, 2002 CIA report. Lacking sufficient evidence, Russia dismissed the claims as a part of a "propaganda furor." Specifically targeting the CIA report, Putin said, "Fears are one thing, hard facts are another." He goes on to say, "Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that supports the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we have not received any such information from our partners yet. This fact has also been supported by the information sent by the CIA to the US Congress."...

      French intelligence services did not come up with the same alarming assessment of Iraq and WMD as did the Britain and the United States. "According to secret agents at the DGSE, Saddam's Iraq does not represent any kind of nuclear threat at this time�It [the French assessment] contradicts the CIA's analysis�" French spies said that the Iraqi nuclear threat claimed by the United States was a "phony threat."

      (The linked texts cites sources.)

      It is clear in hindsight that one problem in the lead-up to the war was that the American establishment was completely unwilling to listen to the Europeans - who were openly skeptical - choosing instead to take the Bush and Blair administrations at their word. Given that the Bush administration already had a very bad track record in the honesty department - considering that it had stolen the 2004 election - this amounts to a form of cultural chauvinism. Kerry is just one of the many establishment Dems that is guilty in this respect.

      In the 20th century, it was Nazi Germany. In the 21st, it is Republican America.

      by Alexander on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 06:02:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  excellent diary! recommended! (none)
    I have been wondering about this myself. How was it that everybody seems to be saying That French Intelligence thought that sadam had wmd? This is totally unprovable and therefore an easy lie.

    I doubt that French Intelligence even makes public proclamations one way or another. Thus, totally discrediting this.

    I would love to see proof of this lie. I think we should ask the MSM to prove this point.
    Send this diary to them.

    Healthy, happy and liberal.

    by OAS on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 05:32:56 PM PDT

  •  As for the Germans ... (none)
    ... it seeems the German Intelligence Service BND did not really believe in Saddam's WMD capabilities. Here is an article from the German Newspaper "Zeit" about the BND's opinion on Iraq before the
    war. "Unnamed sources close to the government" (whoever that's supposed to be) talk about the BND briefings they received during the runup to the war. On page 2, it reads (translation by me, sorry if there are mistakes):

    In their analyses, the German secret service people -- like their American and British colleagues -- had assumed that at some point there had been programs for the development of weapons of mass destruction; but differing from the allied intelligence services, the BND had emphasized that they did not have any evidence for a production of biological or chemical warfare agents. In the BND's opinion, Iraq constituted "no acute danger" for neighbouring coutries or the west.

    Obviously, the reports were clear enough on this point for the German members of cabinet to think that there was no functioning WMD program. Joschka Fischer, the foreign minister, always clearly stated that in his opinion there was no evidence of WMD capabilities. However, even liberal newspapers in Germany criticized him heavily for being undiplomatic, when in 2003, in his speech at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, he bluntly said: "Mr Rumsfeld, I am not convinced, it's that simple".

    •  Thanks for that (none)
      This is one of the best examples I know of how the accepted wisdom is manufactured by actors with power, as opposed to through rational discourse.

      I never cease to be appalled how even in Germany now "liberal" opinion expects people in their public pronouncements to be "diplomatic" with the thugs now in the White House, as opposed to being interested in determining the truth. I hope at some point the Germans will cure themselves of this Anglophone "perspectivism".

      This also shows one how the Internet changes far less than is often thought: one can often find out the truth through a Google search, but usually it will still be blocked out by lies, simply because the liars have far more access to the communication medium that still determines our reality - TV.

      In the 20th century, it was Nazi Germany. In the 21st, it is Republican America.

      by Alexander on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 07:05:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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