TCS Daily

Waldos of Mass Destruction

By Dale Franks - June 16, 2003 12:00 AM

Less than two months after the conclusion of the war in Iraq, President Bush's critics have begun complaining loudly about the lack of results from the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) there. Many of Bush's critics argued before the war that the UN needed more time - perhaps as much as a year - for UN Inspectors to find the Iraqi WMDs. Now, after barely two months of post-war searching, these same people feel that the Bush administration has had more than enough time.

Indeed, many of Bush's critics now accuse him of intentionally fabricating the excuse that Iraq had an active WMD program solely for the purpose of invading that unhappy country. To believe this is true, however, one must believe a large number of improbable things.

First, one must believe that, in addition to duping the American people, President Bush also duped the intelligence services of Russia, China, France, The United Kingdom, among others, into believing that Iraq had a WMD program as well. Over the past eight months, the leaders of each of these nations, presumably informed by their own intelligence services, indicated their belief that Iraq did have an ongoing WMD program. Moreover, by their unanimous approval of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, these nations stated that Iraq had failed to meet its obligation to disarm itself of WMDs that it was known to possess in the past.

As UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix put it, Iraq provided "no credible evidence" that those prior WMD arsenals had been destroyed. So, even if one argues that the intelligence regarding recent Iraqi WMD programs was too spotty to justify claims about WMD activity, one is still left with the fact that Iraq was incontrovertibly known to have had a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, whose status and whereabouts were still unknown.

Unknown, because Iraq never provided the required evidence of its destruction, other than unsupported claims it had done so. Iraq presented no documents signed by the destroying officials. It presented no films or videos of the destruction process. It did not allow inspectors to visit the supposed sites of such destruction. The plain fact is that there was simply no need for President Bush to try to create some sort of false impression that Iraq had an active WMD program. The Iraqi regime was already doing a good enough job of that for itself. So, to accept on the mere say-so of Saddam Hussein's regime that the Iraqis destroyed those WMDs, one must believe, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, that Saddam Hussein was trustworthier than George W. Bush.

Next, one must also believe contradictory things about George W. Bush. One must believe him to be, on one hand, a calculating, Machiavellian conspirator who managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people in order to justify starting a war. On the other hand, he must be enough of an amiable dunce to forget to arrange for WMDs to be "found" in Iraq after the war. In fact, our inability to find such weapons so far is the best evidence that Bush did not fabricate the administration's fears of Iraqi WMD. Why would he jeopardize his credibility over an issue he knew to be fabricated, knowing a) that he would not find a WMD arsenal in post-war Iraq, and b) the lack of such an arsenal would invite closer scrutiny of the administration's pre-war arguments? If Bush were smart enough to create the extraordinary conspiracy with which his critics have charged, you'd think he'd be smart enough to address that question before committing himself to pursuing it.

Additionally, the large number of people who would have to be involved in such a conspiracy makes its very existence highly unlikely. In addition to requiring the silence of most senior administration officials, a large number of career intelligence and defense officials, diplomats, and civil service workers would have to be silenced. In the past, such large secret actions, such as the Nixon administration's military actions in Cambodia, or even Watergate itself - with a far smaller number of conspirators - have proven remarkably immune to secrecy for any length of time. To argue otherwise, one must believe that a legion of both political and career officials, many of whom are presumably not Republicans, have willingly signed on to such a conspiracy, rather than leak it to, say, The New York Times.

In the end, we may not find any Iraqi WMDs at all. Perhaps, as some have suggested, the Iraqi regime removed the evidence prior to the start of the war, either by destroying it, or transporting the weapons to Syria. Some have hypothesized that the Iraqis may have pretended to have ample stocks of WMDs they didn't actually possess, in order to provide a deterrent effect (if true, this was a less than wise policy, as it turned out). Or perhaps, as others have suggested, Saddam Hussein's demands on the treasury for palaces and other monumental structures were too great to allow both an active WMD program and an active program of monumental architecture, so Iraqi officials pretended to keep their WMD efforts current in order to placate him.

Prior to the war, no major figure in American politics and no serious world leader doubted that the Iraqi regime had something to hide, mainly because the Iraqis, at every turn, acted as if they were, in fact, hiding something. Indeed, the Clinton administration in 1998 explicitly charged that the Iraqis had an active WMD program, a charge repeated many times since then by every major Democratic Party leader. To believe that George W. Bush created a fictional Iraqi WMD program in order to justify a war there is to forget the previous 5 years of history, and to forget that the previous administration - good Democrats, all - believed it long before George W. Bush made an issue out of it.

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