Joe Conason's Journal

A prominent Democratic hawk eats crow. Plus: A National Review columnist apologizes, sort of.

Published May 27, 2003 2:46PM (EDT)

"The claims of so-called experts"
Over the holiday weekend, National Public Radio broadcast a brief but revealing interview with Kenneth Pollack, the former National Security Council staffer whose book, "The Threatening Storm," played an important role in justifying war with Iraq. As he explained on public radio last fall, Pollack fervently believed -- and convinced many other well-meaning people -- that Iraq possessed a stockpile of biological and chemical weapons ready to use, and that Saddam Hussein was close to developing nuclear weapons as well.

Now, as the hunt for evidence supporting those claims continues without results, Pollack is backing away from those claims. Speaking again with NPR's Steve Inskeep on Saturday (scroll down for link), the author admitted that he is, uh, revising his assessment slightly:

INSKEEP: I really appreciate you agreeing to talk to us especially since -- I do want to put you on the spot a little bit. I want to know if the news from Iraq or maybe the lack of news from Iraq about weapons of mass destruction has changed your opinion about anything.

Mr. POLLACK: Yes and no. Probably not as much as I think you'd suspect. At first, what you may remember from my book was I'd never thought that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States.

INSKEEP: That's right.

Mr. POLLACK: I felt that it was a much more distant threat. And the real threat that I felt from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program was the potential for Iraq to eventually develop nuclear weapons. Now I did believe that the Iraqis probably had some weaponized [chemical and biological] agents in the country, somewhere that they probably did have some ballistic missiles.

INSKEEP: U.S. officials did suggest that Iraqi military units were ready to use chemical or biological weapons, that chemical weapons had been distributed to front-line troops and that sort of thing. That does seem to have turned out not to be true at least.

Mr. POLLACK: Right, that's absolutely the case. And, you know, here's one where, you know, I think that, you know, my expectation was off base.

INSKEEP: On another point, which is the most crucial point to you, about nuclear weapons. You told us last November when you came on this program that you believed there was a consensus among American, British, French, German and Israeli intelligence that Saddam Hussein had everything he needed to develop nuclear weapons. I suppose some people would question now whether all of the components for a nuclear program could really be hidden that well, whether they could have disappeared.

Mr. POLLACK: Yeah, I mean, you're now getting beyond my area of expertise, Steven. I try very hard not to talk about things I don't know. I mean, the point that I made on your show was a true point. That was the consensus of opinion among the intelligence community. It was hearing things like that that brought me to the conclusion that, you know, 'Boy, if this is the case, we've got to do something about this guy.' I think, you know, that is exactly the kind of thing that we're going to need to go back and look hard at the evidence that we were getting and those various intelligence services who were making those claims, I think, are going to need to go back and re-examine the methods they used. As I said, that was not me making that claim; that was me parroting the claims of so-called experts.

Huffing and puffing with Dave
With characteristic grace and good humor, David Frum acknowledges "error" in sliming Yale's union workers. Yet the NRO diarist still doesn't seem to get the Clarence Thomas joke. (I refuse to believe it's because he's Canadian.)
[11:17 a.m. PDT, May 27, 2003]

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