Dubya's Biological Weapons Labs

President George W Bush, 29 May 2003:

We've found the weapons of mass destruction. You know, we found biological laboratories. We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.

Bush was referring to two trailers found in Iraq, which the CIA and DIA have referred to as "biological warfare agent production plants". Soon after they were discovered, the DIA sent a team of engineering and scientific experts to examine the trailers. The experts concluded the trailers had been used to produce hydrogen gas, probably for weather balloons.

Despite the experts' findings, the CIA, DIA, and the Bush administration in general stood by their biological warfare (BW) interpretation for almost a year. Testifying before Congress on 12 October 2003, David Kay (of the Iraqi Survey Group) said "We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile BW production effort....That said, nothing we have discovered rules out their potential use in BW production." A few months later, however, in testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on 28 January 2004, Kay admitted "we were all wrong"---not only about the trailers having a sinister purpose, but in thinking Iraq actually possessed (as opposed to had possessed at the time of the Gulf War, or still desired to possess) any weapons of mass destruction.

We now know that the DIA experts had concluded the trailers were not weapons-related early on, and had transmitted this finding in a field report to Washington two days before Bush made the statement quoted above. The two trailers have become a case study in how easy it is, even for President George W Bush and especially Vice President Richard Cheney, to reach a false conclusion when one is determined to do so.

Last updated 27 May 2006.