I like to render close reading to noosepaper stories. It helps me understand what I don't understand. Join me in this partial questioning of Chi Trib's Oct. 7 p-1 story, "Iraq in transition: Report on Iraq arms undercuts president," both as to sense and completeness, keeping in mind that the darn thing is done on deadline and in a newsroom climate that operates out of its own conventional wisdom:

Report on Iraq arms undercuts president
No evidence of WMD, terror link
By Stephen J. Hedges
Washington Bureau
October 7, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Drawing on an investigation that included interviews with Saddam Hussein and his former top aides, the government's chief weapons inspector has concluded that Iraq did not possess chemical, biological and nuclear weapons--or programs to build them--for more than a decade before the March 2003 U.S. invasion--a direct contradiction of President Bush's contention that the existence of such weapons justified the war. [rather, of his claim there were such weapons; he did make that claim, didn't he?]
In a report of nearly 1,000 pages, inspector Charles Duelfer said the Iraqi leader decided years ago to abandon active programs to develop and deploy banned weapons of mass destruction, but he sought to retain the capacity to quickly reconstitute those programs once United Nations scrutiny of his regime diminished. [but etc. graf belongs in lead? why not?]

But that work to reconstitute them had not begun by 2003, Duelfer said. And in the case of a program to develop nuclear weapons, Iraq's capacity to renew that effort had in fact greatly eroded, he said.

"What we have found on the ground is at a substantial variation from . . . the prewar assessments," Duelfer told members of the U.S. Senate Armed Service Committee on Wednesday. [assessments by whom? vigorously or otherwise contested by Dems, including Kerry?]
Duelfer's report notes that postwar inspections in Iraq have led to the conclusion that Iraq destroyed its long-range missiles and militarily significant chemical and biological weapons stocks in 1991 and 1992. [postwar, yes. but prewar?]

Iraq's nuclear weapons program effectively ended in 1991, the report states, but the inspectors did find "a limited number of post-1995 activities that would have aided the reconstitution of the nuclear weapons program once sanctions were lifted." [Oh? Interesting]

Had it been allowed to proceed, Duelfer's report states, Iraq could have restarted its chemical and biological weapons programs within months. [Should go higher up?] The nuclear effort, however, would have taken [also been started? been completed?] far longer, perhaps years.

Duelfer also told the committee that his investigation, conducted by 1,200 members of the U.S. Iraq Survey Group, found no evidence that Iraq had shared weapons technology or know-how with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, another frequent prewar danger raised by administration officials. [and contested by Kerry et al.?]
On Wednesday, Bush again suggested that Iraq could have shared weapons with terrorists. [he had previously merely suggested this?]

. . . more more more . . .

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