IRAQ: Search is over for weapons of mass destruction
The White House said there is no longer an active search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Democrats demanded that President Bush how his rationale for war `was so wrong.'
By DAFNA LINZER
Washington Post Service
WASHINGTON - The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley, Va.
In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.
Four months after Charles Duelfer, who led the weapons hunt in 2004, submitted an interim report to Congress that contradicted nearly every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials, a senior intelligence official said the findings will stand as the group's final conclusions and will be published this spring.
Democrats said Wednesday that Bush owes the country an explanation of why he was so wrong, The Associated Press reported.
The Iraq Survey Group, made up of about 1,200 military and intelligence specialists and support staff, spent nearly two years searching military installations, factories and laboratories whose equipment and products might be converted quickly to making weapons.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said there no longer is an active search for weapons and the administration does not hold out hopes that any weapons will be found. ''There may be a couple, a few people, that are focused on that'' but it has largely concluded, he said.
''If they have any reports of [weapons of mass destruction] obviously they'll continue to follow up on those reports,'' McClellan said. ``A lot of their mission is focused elsewhere now.''
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Bush should explain what happened.
''Now that the search is finished, President Bush needs to explain to the American people why he was so wrong, for so long, about the reasons for war,'' she said.
''After a war that has consumed nearly two years and millions of dollars, and a war that has cost thousands of lives, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, nor has any evidence been uncovered that such weapons were moved to another country,'' Pelosi said in a statement released Wednesday. ``Not only was there not an imminent threat to the United States, the threat described in such alarmist tones by President Bush and the most senior members of his administration did not exist at all.''
President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials asserted before the U.S. invasion in March 2003 that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, had chemical and biological weapons, and maintained links to al Qaeda affiliates to whom it might give such weapons to use against the United States.
Duelfer is back in Washington, finishing some addenda to his September report before it is reprinted.
''There's no particular news in them, just some odds and ends,'' the intelligence official said. The Government Printing Office will publish it in book form, the official said.
The CIA declined to authorize any official involved in the weapons search to speak on the record for this story. The intelligence official offered an authoritative account of the status of the hunt on the condition of anonymity. The agency did confirm that Duelfer is wrapping up his work and will not be replaced in Baghdad.