updated 3/9/2004 5:26:08 PM ET 2004-03-09T22:26:08

Former UN Weapons inspector David Kay says the president should apologize to the American people about weapons of mass destruction.  He talked to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough about what he says is a decline in the capablity of the U.S. intelligence services.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, 'SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY': David, you say President Bush should apologize to the American people about weapons of mass destruction.  Why? 

DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR:  I think it‘s less a matter of an apology, quite frankly, than an admission, an admission that there were errors—that, in fact, weapons of mass destruction do not exist in Iraq and that, as a basis for war, that simply turned out to be wrong. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s a shocking conclusion, because, less than a year ago, you would come on these shows and say otherwise.  On Hardball with Chris Matthews, you said, “We will win a brilliant victory and we will in fact see that he had WMD capacity that was developing and on track to become even worse.”

In fact, so many people had the conclusions that you had before the war started.  How could you, President Bush, President Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and almost all of official Washington been so wrong about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction? 

KAY:  There‘s not a simple answer.  There are several reasons.  First of all, one has to give the Iraqis credit.  The Iraqi behavior was one that, in fact, convinced many people that 12 years of defiance of the U.N.... even Hans Blix said Iraq has not made a genuine commitment to disarm.  That was his December report to the Security Council. 

But that‘s not what really disturbs me.  What really worries me is, I think it shows a real decline in the capability of the U.S. intelligence services.  And unless you admit error and start to find out what were the core, systemic reasons that the intelligence community got it so wrong, you‘re in for more surprises and probably far less pleasant surprises than Iraq.  I think we can all say we‘re glad Saddam Hussein is gone, Iraq is better off and the world is better off.  But some of the other surprises may not be so welcoming. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Should George Tenet be fired? 

KAY:  Look, I hate this Washington game —'the let‘s hang someone and then we‘ll find out what was really behind it.'  It‘s more than one person.  If it were simply a matter of getting rid of one person, this would be an easy problem to solve.  I think there are systemic problems that need to be rooted out.  And if you don‘t, firing Tenet will be totally irrelevant to fixing the problem. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So was the war in Iraq a mistake? 

KAY:  Well, in retrospect, anyone who spends any time in Iraq is going to say Iraq is better off without Saddam, the region is better off and the world is far safer without him. 

It‘s not a case of whether the war was a mistake.  It is that the reason, the justification given for going to war, certainly appears to be a serious error. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I read in “TIME” magazine this week—I‘ve read several times over the past few months—that even Saddam Hussein wasn‘t sure whether he had weapons of mass destruction or not.  How could that be? 

KAY:  Well, I think that is wrong.   I think where Saddam had serious misgivings and in fact, was in error, is exactly how all of his weapons program played out.  In the end, it was all a vortex of corruption and lying.  The state, in fact, was held together by terror and fear, not by accomplishment. 

'Scarborough Country' airs weeknights, 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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