We were almost all wrong,” David Kay, the former U.S. chief weapons inspector in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. After months of searching, Kay has concluded that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). What Kay discovered—or didn’t discover—makes clear that the much maligned UN inspection system and sanction policy of the 1990s worked. Saddam was unable to reconstitute his WMD programs. In refusing to cooperate fully with UN inspectors, the dictator apparently was carrying on a game of bluff and bluster, hoping to intimidate both internal opponents and external foes by pretending that he still possessed such weapons.

Kay rightly called U.S. prewar intelligence a massive failure, and urged Congress to conduct an independent investigation to determine exactly how intelligence services could have gotten things so wrong. That’s a sound idea, one President George W. Bush had resisted, but now is heeding. Bush has said he will issue an executive order creating an independent bipartisan commission to investigate U.S. intelligence failures. How broad the commission’s mandate will be and whether it will report in a timely fashion remain to be seen. Many questions need to be answered. Democrats are eager to learn if the Bush administration exaggerated the Iraqi threat, while the president will be keen to broaden the focus of the investigation beyond Iraq to other situations in which U.S....

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