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Mobile Weapons Labs? April 12, 2006

Posted by nukemhill in WoT.

Captain Ed has the details on how the Washington Post, yet again, misrepresents information found in Iraq about potential weapons of mass destruction. Remember the mobile bio labs that weren't? Well, it turns out that after we found the two trucks, we sent three different groups to analyze them and determine what they were. The consensus was that they were, in fact, probably mobile labs. The minority report was that the trucks were for generating hydrogen for artillery shells.

Since then, the consensus has shifted to reflect the belief that the trucks were not mobile weapons labs. But, of course, the Post spins it to say that Bush knew that they weren't way back when only the minority report stated they weren't. Typical Post.

It get better, though. In Captain Ed's comments, comes this little gem, from George:

Regardless of what the Post (or anyone) says, the debate
on these trailers is unresolved. There still is no consensus
on whether they were for biological warfare agent
production or for producing hydrogen for artillery units.

What they do agree on is that the trailers were not
ideally configured for either use but could be made to
work for either. The Kay Report agrees with this and
noted "…nothing we have discovered rules out their
potential use in BW production."

An Iraqi artillery officer says they never used these types
of systems and that the hydrogen for artillery units came
in canisters from a fixed production facility.

It is a known fact that Saddam Hussein was pursuing
dual-use technologies that could be converted over to
his WMD programs once the U.N. inspections stopped.

More information can be found here:

Digging deeper into the WorldNetDaily article (originally posted October 6, 2004), we get this:

A trailer found by the U.S. in Northern Iraq last year likely was used by Saddam Hussein's regime as a mobile biological weapons laboratory, and not to fill hydrogen balloons as some in Britain and the U.S. have charged, a view supported by exclusive photos obtained by WorldNetDaily that for the first time offer inside views of the trailer components.

Brewing canister

Kurdish forces seized the trailer in April 2003 at a checkpoint near Mosul in northern Iraq. At the time, the unit was hailed as the closest U.S. forces may have come to finding a "smoking gun" in their search for weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq.

A general photo of the outside of the trailer was released to the media.

But initial swab tests of the mobile unit, which seemed to have been washed thoroughly with a strong decontaminating substance, yielded no traces of biological or chemical agents, leading many critics to conclude the trailer could have been used for legitimate medical purposes.

Some in British and American intelligence groups charged the trailers were used for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery and weather balloons.

However, photos obtained by WorldNetDaily from a U.S. Army source in Iraq offer a rare glimpse inside the trailer, which indicates the most likely use for the mobile unit was the production of biological agents and not hydrogen.

The internal components provide the kind of mobile biological weapons laboratory described to the United Nations' Security Council by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell before the conflict began, and match in design and configuration the mobile weapons labs U.S. intelligence learned about several years ago from an Iraqi scientist.

There's more. Read the whole thing. The jury is definitely still out, although I'm much more convinced than I was before that these weren't completely kosher.

Update: Here's the complete text of what David Kay has to say about the trucks:

We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile BW production effort. Investigation into the origin of and intended use for the two trailers found in northern Iraq in April has yielded a number of explanations, including hydrogen, missile propellant, and BW production, but technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers. That said, nothing we have discovered rules out their potential use in BW production.

Here's the CNN article on what Kay had to say in October, 2003. Definitely read the whole thing.

Update 2:

Here's the section of the Duelfer Report which seems to put the matter to rest. They explain, quite logically it seems to me, how the equipment could not have been used for bio-weapons creation. Fine. It appears to be thorough, and I think lays it to rest. And I'm not trying to hedge here, even though it sounds like it. If they weren't mobile labs, they weren't.

Here's my problem with the naysayers. Leading up to the war, we had all sorts of intelligence, mostly incomplete, indicating that Hussein was still up to no good. Part of that intelligence was a report, from 3 different sources (not just one questionable one), that Hussein had mobile labs. We had diagrams, and potential sites where they were being either built or serviced (I'm not clear about that. It's probably in the Duelfer report). Given the history in and around Iraq, and the huge potential for mischief if we let Hussein stay in Iraq, with the eventual lifting of sanctions, any reasonable person could quite easily come to the conclusion that Hussein still had weapons, or at least the equipment with which to rapidly get up to speed with weapons, and had to go. Now, does it appear that the intelligence was wrong? Yes. At least as far as the active weapons programs, and "stockpiles" of WMDs. But Hussein's intentions were clear, no? His history was clear, no? The potential dangers, both in the region, and world-wide were clear, no?

Have plenty of mistakes been made in Iraq? Absolutely. Did we act on bad intelligence? Yep, it sure looks like it. Were there dissenting voices in the Intelligence communities? You betcha. Were they the majority voices? Absolutely not. To claim otherwise is a willful misrepresentation of the facts at the time. And to try to claim that Bush knew that these weren't weapons labs, when the consensus at the time leaned in the opposite direction, is pure bunkum. Yes, a report had just come into the CIA which indicated the trucks weren't bio-labs, but it certainly would not have made its way to Bush's desk within the next 2 days for him to see that the priliminary reports were wrong. And it wasn't until the Duelfer Report that we had any definitive answer. And that wasn't released until September of 2004, a year later.

Okay. I think I've ranted enough.

Update 3:  
Here's a picture on the CIA website of one of the captured trucks.  So much for "there are no pictures!" as was yelled at me recently.



1. Nuke ‘m Hill » Final (?) Thoughts on the ‘Mobile Bio Labs’ - April 15, 2006

[…] I’ve been ruminating over the discussion about the mobile labs. I have my own entry below. While I tend to lean towards the Duelfer conclusion that they were meant for hydrogen production, I still have some questions that haven’t been completely answered, at least to my satisfaction. Maybe there are answers out there, but I haven’t seen them. […]

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