TCS Daily


Where're the WMDs?

By Duane D. Freese - May 5, 2003 12:00 AM

In Argentina, there are loads of stories involving a naïve character named Manolo.

In one story, a huge, angry man bursts into a bar and shouts: "Pepe, you cur, where are you? You assaulted my girlfriend." Furtively, Manolo raised his hand, and the man proceeded to beat the tar out of him. "Manolo," his friends asked coming up, "why did you raise your hand?" "Ha, ha," answered Manolo, "the joke's on him."

It's a story worth remembering, as President George W. Bush declares the end of major military actions in Iraq.

Numerous critics of the war are up in arms, demanding of the administration, "Where are the weapons of mass destruction?"

USA Today contributing columnist Don Campbell intoned: "If the weapons are not found, the most charitable explanation is that they were moved out of Iraq while we were bombing our way to Baghdad - or that we had rotten intelligence to begin with. Either illustrates incompetence. The more ominous conclusion is that Bush deliberately misled Americans to gather support for the Iraqi invasion. - or was unwittingly misled himself by gung-ho advisers, none of whom wear uniforms."

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said: "Sure enough, we have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction. ... Remember that President Bush made his case for war by warning of a 'mushroom cloud.' Clearly, Iraq didn't have anything like that - and Mr. Bush must have known that it didn't. Does it matter that we were misled into war?"

These columnists and other Bush critics paint their observations as holding the administration accountable. And that's fine. But there is pretense behind their scribbling -- that intelligence services can provide precise pictures of what goes on within totalitarian regimes. Thus, "if you're going to invade a country without direct provocation, the justification should be ironclad both before and after the fact," writes Campbell.

This is nonsense, even if weapons are found. It's as if intelligence has never been surprised - not by Pakistan's blowing up a nuclear bomb or North Korea developing one; not by the Soviet Union's fall nor Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; nor Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. They were all surprises.

Demands for iron clad proof for regimes intent on deception means you wait for the proverbial smoking gun, which, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld noted last summer, means waiting until it's fired. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush said, "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

If Bush is lying or being deceptive, then so, too, is Tony Blair in Britain. Blair this week seemed hardly worried, chiding critics in the House of Commons: "Forgive me if I refuse to engage in all sorts of speculations. But let me say to him, I am absolutely convinced and confident about the case on weapons of mass destruction. And I simply suggest to him, and others who believe somehow that this was all a myth invented by us, I would refer them first of all to the 12 years of United Nations reports detailing exactly what weapons of mass destruction were held by the then Iraqi regime."

The question critics need to answer is this: Why didn't Saddam, if he didn't have weapons of mass destruction, fully cooperate and demonstrate he didn't have them? He had it in his power to do so, as is revealed by the scraps that soldiers and Iraqis and journalists have gathered from the voluminous records his murderous regime maintained. And that is what the treaty ending the first Gulf War required.

Why did he play games - bury trucks in the desert that had all the appearance of being mobile weapons labs, have his military officers move material out the back door of facilities as United Nations inspectors came in the front, have his scientists demand meetings with inspectors tape recorded, rebuild facilities that previously had been used for building chemical weapons, import banned piping material that might be converted to making bombs, have missiles that exceeded their legal range, have drones capable of delivering chemical weapons, have shell casings and missiles capable of doing the same, have manuals and equipment for his troops to fight in a chemical or biological hazard environment, have vaccines for troops to counter a chemical weapon attack, have his scientists take their papers on even legal research home so inspectors might not question it?

The regime's talking heads all the time said, "No, we have no weapons of mass destruction." But who could believe them after they had been found in 1995, and after Saddam kicked out inspectors in 1998, leading to President Clinton ordering a December bombing of possible sites and a policy of "regime change"?

Actions speak louder than words. And they spoke loudly enough that President Bush couldn't ignore them, not in the aftermath of the surprise of Sept. 11th.

There is a reason Saddam might have faked it. Total openness with inspections would undoubtedly have undermined his regime of terror, which in part was based on the idea that he had such weapons.

The despicable nature of that regime becomes clearer every day, to the great shame of the world - made timid in the face of genocide and terrorism by the musings of such columnists as Campbell and Krugman.

It would be nice if they could imagine living in a regime that did such things as happened to Saad Mohammed. He told Voice of America of how he spent from 1996 to 2000 in jail, standing up with 50 other men in a room 12 by 9 feet. "They turned on an air conditioner so it's very cold. They pour water on us so there will be fungus on our bodies," he said. And more. Prisoners were never let out, he said, except for sessions of torture. And what was his crime: Saad cursed Saddam Hussein in conversations with his friends in the street outside his house. He thinks a member of the ruling Baath Party overheard and turned him in to the authorities.

In this country, Americans are free to say what they want about their government. So it's good that Campbell and Krugman have the freedom to speak. Along with them, though, there are plenty of other stories of terror in Iraq in both the New York Times, and USA Today worth reading.

In the meantime, if there were no weapons of mass destruction, the joke isn't on the American people. The success of the Bush administration thus far in frustrating terrorism by cleaning out training grounds, planning centers and strongholds is making sure of that. No, the joke's on Saddam. And good riddance.
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