The Wall Street Journal has published Judith Miller's defense of her Iraq War writings, in which she specifically denies responsibility for helping lead America into that war. There are others far more qualified than I am to pick apart what she's written in the Journal (and what will appear in Miller's book The Story, from which the Journal piece is excerpted). I'll limit myself to this:
Another widespread fallacy is that such neoconservatives as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz strong-armed an inexperienced president into taking the country to war. President Bush, as he himself famously asserted, was the “decider.” One could argue, however, that Hans Blix, the former chief of the international weapons inspectors, bears some responsibility. Though he personally opposed an invasion, Mr. Blix told the U.N. in January 2003 that despite America’s ultimatum, Saddam was still not complying fully with his U.N. pledges. In February, he said “many proscribed weapons and items,” including 1,000 tons of chemical agent, were still “not accounted for.”
Did Blix say in January 2003 that Iraq wasn't fully compliant? Yes, he did. You can read the January 27, 2003, report here. Though please note that Blix says that Iraq was largely cooperative with regard to process:
Iraq has on the whole cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field. The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt. We have further had great help in building up the infrastructure of our office in Baghdad and the field office in Mosul. Arrangements and services for our plane and our helicopters have been good. The environment has been workable.
Our inspections have included universities, military bases, presidential sites and private residences. Inspections have also taken place on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest, on Christmas day and New Years day. These inspections have been conducted in the same manner as all other inspections.
But yes, there was some resistance by Iraq up to that point. Blix said so. However, a few days later, he made it abundantly clear, in an interview published in The New York Times, that nothing he'd seen at the time justified war:
Mr. Blix said he continued to endorse disarmament through peaceful means. "I think it would be terrible if this comes to an end by armed force, and I wish for this process of disarmament through the peaceful avenue of inspections," he said.
And he specifically rebutted a large number of allegations advanced by the Bush administration:
Mr. Blix took issue with what he said were Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's claims that the inspectors had found that Iraqi officials were hiding and moving illicit materials within and outside of Iraq to prevent their discovery. He said that the inspectors had reported no such incidents.
Similarly, he said, he had not seen convincing evidence that Iraq was sending weapons scientists to Syria, Jordan or any other country to prevent them from being interviewed. Nor had he any reason to believe, as President Bush charged in his State of the Union speech, that Iraqi agents were posing as scientists.
He further disputed the Bush administration's allegations that his inspection agency might have been penetrated by Iraqi agents, and that sensitive information might have been leaked to Baghdad, compromising the inspections.
Finally, he said, he had seen no persuasive indications of Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda, which Mr. Bush also mentioned in his speech. "There are other states where there appear to be stronger links," such as Afghanistan, Mr. Blix said, noting that he had no intelligence reports on this issue.
It's good that Miller is at least honest enough to acknowledge Blix's opposition to war, given his debunking of administration claims and his belief that persistence in pursuing inspections was a better path to disarmament.
(Did I mention that Miller was the lead author of the Times interview story?)
In his February report, Blix did say that "many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for." But let's put that quote in context (emphasis added):
How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programmes? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been declared and destroyed. Another matter -- and one of great significance -- is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for. To take an example, a document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were "unaccounted for". One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded.
Blix's February report suggested that Iraq was cooperative and the process as working well:
Since we arrived in Iraq, we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming.
The inspections have taken place throughout Iraq at industrial sites, ammunition depots, research centres, universities, presidential sites, mobile laboratories, private houses, missile production facilities, military camps and agricultural sites.....
Through the inspections conducted so far, we have obtained a good knowledge of the industrial and scientific landscape of Iraq, as well as of its missile capability....
More than 200 chemical and more than 100 biological samples have been collected at different sites. Three-quarters of these have been screened using our own analytical laboratory capabilities at the Baghdad Centre (BOMVIC). The results to date have been consistent with Iraq's declarations.
We have now commenced the process of destroying approximately 50 litres of mustard gas declared by Iraq that was being kept under UNMOVIC seal at the Muthanna site. One-third of the quantity has already been destroyed. The laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, which we found at another site, has also been destroyed.
Blix made clear that the process required more time. He wasn't going to get more time, however. The bombing started less than a week later. It wasn't his idea. It wasn't his fault.
FYI, here's the jacket design for Miller's book, which will be published on Tuesday:
That might be the ugliest book jacket I've ever seen. It couldn't have happened o a more deserving person.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog