What CIA analysts imagined to be dispositive evidence of Saddam's nuclear ambitions turned out, in Kay's judgment, to be proof of plain, old-fashioned greed. For months the Administration claimed that finely machined aluminum tubes, imported with ever higher tolerances—that is, precision in their specifications—were part of a campaign to produce gas centrifuges for the production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel. But after examining the tubes and talking to the scientists who procured and used them, Kay became convinced that the increasing tolerances were to meet not technical requirements but financial ones. The ever changing tolerances meant new purchases, which in turn meant that the engineers who were working on Saddam's missile programs, for which the tubes were in fact destined, had continuing contracts from which to skim money. Kay concluded, 'An analyst looks for rational explanations and usually finds them in the technical realm they're used to, but Iraq was almost like a parallel universe. The explanations were driven not by technical reasons but by the moral and personal depravity engendered by the regime. A rational person would look at it one way, and it would be completely wrong, because in this parallel universe there was a different set of rules.
Greed, corruption, telling the powerful what they want to hear, a ruthless ruler who expunges the disloyal, a mystique of faith, power and confidence rather than reason and rationality, yes, it's easy to see how Americ... err, I mean, Iraq could have deceived itself.
Remember when the CIA claimed that the Soviet Union was close to acheiving missile superiority? That was in the Reagan administration, just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Later we found that their military was in an advanced state of collapse.
I wonder when someone will make the connection between the mistakes made in Iraq and those made 20 years ago. Maybe after the investigations are complete, and we read internal CIA documents making exactly this comparison. I'm willing to bet that there were intelligent and honest analysts who suspected what was happening, and that their careers have not gone well.