Saturday, May 31, 2003
Iraq, WMDs and the search: The whining and cries of despair have been growing ever louder over the past few weeks as coalition forces in Iraq have searched, in vain, for biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
What the search has turned up is two trailers that are nearly identical to those described by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council months ago. Some skeptical commentators have suggested that the trailers aren't what the U.S. government is claiming they are, because they've been scrubbed clean.
Scott "I stay bought" Ritter, former U.N. chief weapons inspector and current Saddam Hussein apologist, has alleged that the trailers are used to create hydrogen for weather balloons used to help the accuracy of artillery pieces. If that's the case -- then why have we found only two of them -- and in Northern Iraq, far from the Kuwait border where they would actually be useful?
Critics contend that if the trailers are for creating biological weapons, they're not a very efficient design. However, other than Ritter, they don't have an explanation of exactly what the trailer was used for. The efficient design issue is also a red herring. The lab isn't designed to be efficient -- it's designed to be mobile.
The fact that we've found no biological or chemical weapons in the past several weeks is troubling -- but not for the reason that many liberal, anti-U.S. pundits allege.
The blame-America-first types claim that absence of evidence is evidence of absence -- that is, Iraq never had WMDs in the first place. This allegation is stupid, because it assumes that Saddam Hussein put himself (and his countrymen -- though he never really cared about them) through 12 years of U.N. sanctions and the loss of billions of dollars in income with which to build even more palaces and buy even more weapons to repress his people even more. Critics of the U.S. and its allies have also ignored the fact that, with the unanimous adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, everyone agreed that Iraq had WMDs -- and had not fully accounted for them.
What the failure to find WMDs thus far really tells us is that our intelligence agencies don't know as much as we would like them to. For too many years we relied on technology -- satellites, signals intercepts -- and failed to develop agents and sources within terrorist organizations or countries such as Iraq.
It's also useful to note one argument we're no longer hearing from the anti-war left -- the claim that U.N. inspectors could have located WMDs if they were just given more time has disappeared from the public debate. This argument is gone from the liberal arsenal not because there are no WMDs to be found -- but because they've been so difficult to find. It's safe to say that Hans Blix and his minions were never going to be up to the task as long as Saddam Hussein was in power.
This debate over the existence of WMDs in Iraq shall pass -- quickly -- once one 55-gallon drum of VX nerve gas is found. But don't expect this to chasten opponents of the U.S., the coalition of the willing and President Bush.