Blitzer did not challenge Huckabee's claim that Saddam "said that he had" WMD
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On CNN's Late Edition, Wolf Blitzer failed to challenge Mike Huckabee's claim that Saddam Hussein "said that he had" weapons of mass destruction. In fact, in December 2002, Iraq issued a declaration to United Nations weapons inspectors on its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs and its long-range missile programs, and CNN.com reported that "Iraqi officials say the report proves Baghdad has no weapons of mass destruction."
On the October 28 edition of CNN's Late Edition, host Wolf Blitzer failed to challenge Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's claim that Saddam Hussein "said that he had" weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which Huckabee made after Blitzer asked whether President Bush "made a mistake" when he ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In fact, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saddam maintained that Iraq did not possess WMD, and following President Bush's speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2002, Iraq agreed to unconditionally accept U.N. weapons inspectors. Further, on December 7, 2002, Iraq issued a nearly 12,000-page declaration to U.N. weapons inspectors on its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs and its long-range missile programs. At the time, CNN.com reported that Iraqi officials said "the report proves Baghdad has no weapons of mass destruction." Rajiv Chandrasekaran wrote in a December 7, 2002, article in The Washington Post that Iraqi officials said the report "contains 'currently accurate, full and complete' details of the nation's chemical, biological and nuclear programs but reiterates claims that it has no weapons of mass destruction."
Blitzer also failed to challenge Huckabee's assertion that "[j]ust because we haven't found" the WMD "doesn't mean they didn't exist." Blitzer sought no response from Huckabee to findings by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) issued in October 2004, also known as the Duelfer report. The report stated that "ISG judges Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991"; "Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of BW [biological weapons] weapons and probably destroyed remaining holdings of bulk BW agent"; and "Iraq did not possess a nuclear device, nor had it tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991." The report also stated: "The problem of discerning WMD in Iraq is highlighted by the prewar misapprehensions of weapons, which were not there. Distant technical analysts mistakenly identified evidence and drew incorrect conclusions. There is also the potential of the obverse problem. Observers may have evidence before them and not recognize it because of unfamiliarity with the subject. Often ISG found no evidence of one thing or another. It may be that a more accurate formulation might be we recognized no evidence."
From the ISG report:
- While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad's desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered.
- ISG judges that in 1991 and 1992, Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of BW [biological weapons] weapons and probably destroyed remaining holdings of bulk BW agent. However ISG lacks evidence to document complete destruction. Iraq retained some BW-related seed stocks until their discovery after Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
- ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes. Indeed, from the mid-1990s, despite evidence of continuing interest in nuclear and chemical weapons, there appears to be a complete absence of discussion or even interest in BW at the Presidential level.
- Iraq did not possess a nuclear device, nor had it tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991.
- Saddam Husayn ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.
From the October 28 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Do you believe the Bush administration made a mistake in going after Saddam Hussein, launching the invasion back in 2003, knowing everything you know right now, including the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found?
HUCKABEE: Well, you know, sometimes people say we've never found the weapons. Just because we haven't found them doesn't mean they didn't exist. We haven't found Jimmy Hoffa either, but we know he exists. That's always the way that we're going to try to frame this sometimes, is that, well, we didn't find them. But you know, he was the one who said that he had them. He has used them in the past. It's easy to second-guess what we should have done. Frankly, that's no longer a good option for us, other than for us to try to make sure that in the future, we have the very best intelligence before we ever commit boots on the ground. But what we have to always remember is that if he failed to take action, weapons of mass destruction had been deployed, killing thousands, if not millions of people, then the other question would have been, "Why didn't we do something?" So, second-guessing, that's the easiest job in the world. People run for president so they make tough decisions. Sometimes they're not the best ones, but hopefully they're decisions that are always going to put the protection and the safety of the American people first.