Monday, August 31, 2009

Fisking the story that will not die: Eric Dondero and Saddam's amazing evidence-free WMDs

Eric Dondero of Libertarian Republican suggests that

Leftwing Anti-War activists and media, along with Libertarians from the isolationist wing of the movement who also opposed the War, may have some explaining to do this morning.

This assertion is followed by extensive quotations from the NYT piece on the current Iraqi government's discovery of 19 MIG fighters from Saddam's Air Force sent to Serbia for repairs during the late 1980s from damage taken during the Iran-Iraq War. Saddam was never able to ship them back. The article also covers Iraqi efforts to recover other military and financial assets of the old regime, including two naval vessels each in Egypt and Italy, as well as unspecified material in France and Russia. Everything discussed in the NYT piece covers traditional military hardware, most of which was dispersed before the First Gulf War in 1991.

But, with the proper concatenation of clipped quotes and technically accurate but highly misleading statements, Eric manages to transform this story into clues about what might have happened to Saddam's supposed caches of WMDs:

Numerous defense experts, and even former Iraqi high-ranking military personnel have maintained for years that Saddam Hussein had the bulk of his WMD shifted to Syria, weeks and months before the start of the American invasion in 2003.

Former Iraqi Air Force Two-Star General Georges Sada wrote a book in 2004: Saddam's Secrets - How an Iraqi General Defied And Survived Saddam Hussein. In the book he gave specific details of how Saddam had ordered Air Force pilots to fly parts of WMD stockpiles to Syria, and gave further information on efforts of ground transportation of such weaponry across the Syrian border.

You can read Sada's assertions about the Iraqi pilots in a 2006 New York Sun piece promoting the book. Eric quotes Sada's allegations to Sean Hannity, but neglects to mention what the Sun concluded:

Short of discovering the weapons in Syria, those seeking to validate Mr. Sada's claim independently will face difficulty.

Why would corroborating Sada's account be difficult? Simply because he provides absolutely no evidence. He says he was told this story by two Iraqi pilots after the fact. He does not name them. He doesn't actually give any evidence, and his bonafides rest [I'm not kidding here] on people who, after getting to know him, have decided he's an "honest man."

What did Defense Update, one of the more respected think-tank publications say about Sada's book?

In his book, Sada claimed that Saddam Hussein ordered to fly portions of the WMD stockpiles to secret locations in Syria. Although Sada's book included some highly contradictory material, the Post OIF coalition fact-finding mission (ISG) hunting for suspected stockpiles of WMD, ruled that it was unlikely that an "official" transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, it also acknowledged that ISG was unable to complete its investigation and was unable to "rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war."

Contradictory material ... transfer unlikely but could not be completely ruled out ...

And, more to the point, no further evidence supporting Sada's claims about these two pilots and their supposed 56 trips to carry yellow drums marked with a skull-and-cross-bones has ever emerged.

Eric would have you believe the contrary, however, by next quoting the blog Musings on Iraq, which he prefaces this way:

In related news, new information being revealed indicates that WMD were found at the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq which sheltered Zarqawi and Ansar Al-Islam. The blog Musings on Iraq has just run a well-sourced piece: "Why didn't Bush strike Zarqawi and Ansar Al-Islam in 2002"?

Now let's look at the two sentences Eric quotes, complete with those neat little elipsis dots separating them:

During the 2003 invasion, U.S. and Kurdish forces took the Ansar camp after four days of fighting. There they found that Ansar was working on poisons and WMD...

Khurmal turned out to be the only place in Iraq that the U.S. actually found WMD being produced, which was the major justification for the war in the first place.

What's missing, you wonder? Let's take a look at that first sentence with the missing material:

During the 2003 invasion, U.S. and Kurdish forces took the Ansar camp after four days of fighting. There they found that Ansar was working on poisons and WMD. They did not find evidence that the group was supported by Baghdad however. The group did receive foreign aid, and was considering launching attacks in other countries. Zarqawi was no longer at the camp though, having left when plans for a military strike against Ansar began leaking out to the press in 2002. Khurmal turned out to be the only place in Iraq that the U.S. actually found WMD being produced, which was the major justification for the war in the first place.

So, let's see:

1) The WMDs (if any) at Khurmal were not a part of any of Saddam's weapons programs.

2) The article may be well-sourced, but apparently Eric hasn't actually read the sources. For example, the Journal of Strategic Studies piece by Micah Zenko explicitly argues that there was no other WMD production occurring in pre-invasion Iraq:

This article, based on research and interviews with senior military and civilian officials, assesses four plausible explanations for why President Bush deferred attacking the only place in Iraq that was producing WMD, albeit in small quantities, before the 2003 war.

So what remains for anti-war activists and left-Libertarians to explain, Eric?

Nothing in your article rises to the level of news, except for your clip of the NYT piece on the jets in Serbia. And even that--if you stop and think about it--does not bode really well for arguing Iraq's technical proficiency. They were sending their fighters out to Serbia for repairs, for God's sake.

Nothing in your article presents the slightest piece of evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs or transferred them to Syria. In fact, if you go back and actually click the links in the post [as I have done above], they don't support your assertions in the slightest.

For Eric Dondero this represents an unfortunate continuing chapter in his obsession to find WMDs in pre-invasion Iraq, such as his July 2008 recycling of an easily-fisked piece of disinformation on the so-called Tuwaitha "Yellowcake."

Prozac is said to help with unhealthy obsessions.

Which is about as much explaining as anybody--libertarian or anti-war activist--needs to do when Eric trots out these ridiculous, unsupported allegations.


Eric Dondero said...

Wow. You call that a refutation of my piece? I call it, you backing up my article.

Again, I assert, fess up you NeoCon Isolationist Islamo-Fascist lovers.

You all have some "serious splainin'" to do.

Eric Dondero said...

Oh, btw, the "evidence" that Sada provides is simply his own testimony.


You'd think he'd know what he was talking about.


You NeoCon Anti-War Isolationists are complely clueless. Get some smarts, will ya???

Kn@ppster said...


And Baghdad Bob was the top spokesman in Saddam's regime.

Therefore, by your logic, US troops remain outside of Baghdad, where the glorious Ba'athist regime will destroy them in a rain of fire.