I couldn’t help but notice Frank Gaffney’s appearance on Chris Matthews’ show on MSNBC. It’s not worth getting bent out of shape over what neoconservatives will say on television, but Gaffney’s performance in this interview is especially ludicrous. In US political debate, it’s easy to blur lines and distort facts, but Gaffney takes things a step further with brazen prevarications. It is a hallmark of neoconservatism since its “Team B” days in the 70’s to repudiate actual experts and deny the most obvious facts. It is actually a travesty that Gaffney or any of his comrades are even allowed to appear on television or in print, given thirty plus years of intelligence failures. Matthews does a decent job of rebutting some of what Gaffney states, but most of his rebuttal is emotive. It was good he had David Corn with him on the interview. Corn and Michael Isikoff are authors of one of the better books that analyze the pre-Iraq war intelligence deceptions of the Bush administration, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, and Corn has the chance to briefly go into mis-use of the “aluminum tubes” intelligence in the run-up to the war. (I am always amazed at the ridiculous format of political shows in the US, which makes thoughtful dialogue next to impossible due to the constraints of fitting a 4-minute segment in between commercials.)

Strangely, Gaffney cites the Duelfer Report (2004) to make his points that Iraq constituted a dire threat to the US–the very same Duelfer Report that stated unequivocally that Saddam had no active nuclear, biological or chemical weapons or weapons programs-the very same Duelfer Report which was the final conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group, the Bush-handpicked team that searched for almost a year for WMD’s in Iraq and found nothing. So, he uses the very report that undermines his argument to make his own. This is not a new strategy for neocons. Gaffney himself has been peddling this garbage since the Duelfer Report was declassified.

Gaffney seizes on the presence of a few old artillery shells dating to the 1980’s when the US was providing them to Saddam for his war with Iran in order to argue that Hussein in fact had weapons he was aiming to use on the US and Europe in 2002. He refers to them as “vast quantities of VX sitting in artillery shells”. The Duelfer Report did mention a few rusty artillery shells that were found in the desert with traces of mustard and VX gas, but the report was clear that there were no active programs or elements that could create new programs. It states: “While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG [Iraq Survey Group] 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…”. Furthermore, “ISG did not discover chemical process or production units configured to produce key precursors or [chemical weapons] agents…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…Depending on its scale, Iraq could have re-established an elementary BW program within a few weeks to a few months of a decision to do so, but ISG discovered no indications that the Regime was pursuing such a course.” (It’s worth noting that your local high school biology lab could begin such BW production in a couple weeks’ time.) In addition, it states “Iraq did not possess a nuclear device, nor had it tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991. ISG has uncovered no information to support allegations of Iraqi pursuit of uranium from abroad in the post-Operation Desert Storm era.”

Gaffney goes on to repeat Cheney’s false claim from his recent ABC interview that post-invasion the US discovered that Hussein had “feedstock” for biological weapons. This is not true. All chemical and biological weapons were destroyed by UNSCOM in the early 90’s and all nuclear related material was secured and under seal. He went on to say that attacks were “imminent had we seen the sanctions lifted”, which is another argument altogether–Iraq was put under sanctions following the first Gulf War, and, despite some calls for their abandonment, there was never any serious consideration of their abandonment in the US government. Finally, Gaffney says that “agent that was in those laboratories…was being prepared to be put into aerosol cans to kill people here and in Europe”. Gaffney was referring to a small segment of the Duelfer Report which states “Mun’im Mustafa Fatahi, a close friend of Dr. Al Azmirli, reportedly told Al Azmirli that a group of people was actively pursuing ricin for weaponization. As of March 2003, ricin was being developed into stable liquid to deliver as an aerosol in small rockets, cluster bombs, and smoke generators, according to Al Azmirli.” The Duelfer Report went on to state that this account was “based on single source reporting of unclear veracity.” Having seen the multitudinous efforts of groups like the Iraqi National Congress and its “defectors”, the hearsay of one “friend” of a scientist hardly warrants mention in an intelligence report, and was probably an attempt to put a positive spin on an otherwise bankrupt report or to give a toehold to neoconservative apologists.

I have more to say.  I’ll finish this later.

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