June 07, 2003

IT'S BEEN VERY DIFFICULT for me to take the various "where are the weapons of mass destruction -- Bush lied!" conspiracy theories seriously. The desperation with which they're offered is indication enough of their bogosity. But in any event, Robert Kagan points out just how absurd it is to argue that Bush swindled the world into believing in nonexistent weapons:

The absurdity of these accusations is mind-boggling. Start with this: The Iraqi government in the 1990s admitted to U.N. weapons inspectors that it had produced 8,500 liters of anthrax, as well as a few tons of the nerve agent VX. Where are they? U.N. weapons inspectors have been trying to answer that question for a decade. Because Hussein's regime refused to answer, the logical presumption was that they had to be somewhere still in Iraq.

That, at least, has been the presumption of Hans Blix. Go back and take a look at the report Blix delivered to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 27. On the question of Iraq's stocks of anthrax, Blix reported there existed "no convincing evidence" they had ever been destroyed. On the contrary, he said, there was "strong evidence" that Iraq had produced even more anthrax than it had declared "and that at least some of this was retained." Blix also reported that Iraq possessed 650 kilograms of "bacterial growth media," enough "to produce . . . 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax."

On the question of VX, Blix reported that his inspection team had "information that conflicts" with Iraqi accounts. The Iraqi government claimed that it had produced VX only as part of a pilot program but that the quality was poor and therefore the agent was never "weaponized." But according to Blix, the inspection team discovered that the Iraqi government had lied. The Iraqi government's own documents showed that the quality and purity of the VX were better than declared and, according to the inspection team, there were "indications that the agent" had indeed been "weaponized."

Blix reported as well that 6,500 "chemical bombs" that Iraq admitted producing still remained unaccounted for. Blix's team calculated the amount of chemical agent in those bombs at 1,000 tons. As Blix reported to the U.N. Security Council, "in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for."

Today they are unaccounted for. But the answer to the continuing conundrum is not that Bush and Blair are lying. The weapons were there. Someday we'll find them, or we'll find out what happened to them.

Unless, of course, you like your conspiracies to be as broad and all-pervasive as possible.

Well, it's better than admitting that if you'd had your way, Saddam Hussein would still be shoveling children into mass graves, I suppose. And that's what this is really all about. Having lost the argument about the war, and having had Saddam's brutality proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the anti-war folks have to do something to regain the moral high ground -- because, to them, the moral high ground is theirs by right, regardless of the nature or consequences of their actions.

But as Kagan notes, if Bush is lying, so are a lot of other people:

One would have to assume as well that the German intelligence service was lying when it reported in 2001 that Hussein was three years away from being able to build three nuclear weapons and that by 2005 Iraq would have a missile with sufficient range to reach Europe.

Maybe French President Jacques Chirac was lying when he declared this past February that there were probably weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that "we have to find and destroy them."

And then there's Al Gore, who declared last September, presumably based on what he had learned as vice president, that Hussein had "stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

Finally, we get to Bill Clinton. In a speech delivered at the Pentagon in February 1998, Clinton described what he called Iraq's "offensive biological warfare capability, notably 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs." Clinton accurately reported the view of U.N. weapons inspectors at the time "that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons."

People are changing their tune now -- but it's about ass-covering, and nothing more.

UPDATE: Read this Mark Steyn column too:

If I understand correctly, the British, having won the war, are now demanding a recount. Across the length and breadth of the realm, the people are as one: now that the war's out of the way we can go back to bitching and whining that Blair hasn't made the case for it.

This is all very odd. In Kirkuk the other day, they found another mass grave, this time with the bodies of 200 children who had been buried alive. Yawn. Doesn't count. Wake me if they find a toxic warhead among the teeny skulls. The naysayers were wrong on so much - millions of refugees, Vietnam quagmire, Stalingrad, etc - you can't blame them for clinging to the one little straw that hasn't shrivelled up and slipped between their fingers: Come on, Tony, where's the WMD?

Or as Iain Duncan Smith put it in the House of Commons: "The truth is nobody believes a word you say now." Well, I do. Because what Mr Blair said is not only in line with what American officials told me, it is in line with what Continental officials told me - as recently as two weeks ago, when a big-time Euro paused midway through his harangue about the illegality of the war to assure me that "of course" Saddam had been up to WMD monkey business.

That's why, if you notice, the axis of weasels (France, Germany, Russia) and its short-pants league (Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada), while undoubtedly enjoying Mr Blair's discomfort, have nevertheless declined to join in the show-us-the-sarin taunts. They know what their intelligence services say (assuming, for the purposes of argument, Luxembourg has an intelligence service), and it's the same as the British and Americans.

You might also want to read Colin Powell's speech to the UN, which makes clear what the war was about, and that exposes the "it was all about WMD being about to be used" spin that we're hearing now. Excerpt:

I asked for this session today for two purposes. First, to support the core assessments made by Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei. As Dr. Blix reported to this Council on January 27, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it." . . .

My colleagues, Operative Paragraph 4 of UN Resolution 1441, which we lingered over so long last fall, clearly states that false statements and omissions in the declaration and a failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of this resolution shall constitute -- the facts speak for themselves -- shall constitute a further material breach of its obligation.

We wrote it this way to give Iraq an early test, to give Iraq an early test. Would they give an honest declaration and would they, early on, indicate a willingness to cooperate with the inspectors? It was designed to be an early test. They failed that test.

By this standard, the standard of this Operative Paragraph, I believe that Iraq is now in further material breach of its obligations. I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable.

Iraq has now placed itself in danger of the serious consequences called for in UN Resolution 1441.

Iraq was required by the U.N. resolutions in force to prove its innocence, something that it did not do. This, in my opinion, is irrelevant. The UN is a body of no moral or -- really -- legal standing in such matters. But if you're going to play that game, then it's important to recognize that the question isn't whether we find WMD. It was whether Saddam produced adequate evidence that they were destroyed. As Steyn notes:

The moment [Blair] prevailed upon Bush to go the extra mile with the UN, it was inevitable that there would be a fair amount of what I believe the British call "total bollocks". That is, by definition, the official language of multilateralism, and one reason why I have little time for it. For 18 months, my position on Iraq was consistent: I was in favour of whacking Saddam because the price of leaving him non-whacked was too high for America's broader interests. But once you get into auditioning justifications in front of a panel comprising France, China and Guinea, you're in for quite a tap dance. In the end, Britain officially went to war on a technicality, and given that that technicality - Saddam's technical non-compliance with Resolution 1441 - still holds, the WMD song and dance is irrelevant, both de facto and de jure. And as politics, two months after victory, it's pathetically immature.

"Pathetically immature?" It's worse than that, actually, but that will do. As Dean Esmay notes:

Now the spin is that we had an "intelligence failure?" It was the UN that said Saddam wasn't cooperating, and the UN that said Saddam probably still had Weapons of Mass Destruction. . . .

The responsibility for proving that there were or were not Weapons of Mass Destruction fell to the United Nations and Saddam Hussein. They failed to prove his innocence. We had our reasons, some of which we gave the UN and some of which we didn't.

Arguments finished, allies secured, we then went and freed the Iraqi people from a monster.

That's what happened. It's what the history books will record. I just wonder where some of you were during that whole thing. I really do.

Indeed. Probably here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Howard Owens has an excellent roundup of arguments on the WMD topic. It's far more balanced than my coverage above, and more in line with what I planned to write before I got terminally irritated with the nasty emails I've gotten on the subject. That's either because Howard doesn't get those emails, or because he's a better man than I am. Or both. Anyway, read it. Read this, too, and follow the links.


I don't have complete research facilities here in the Kuwaiti desert (nor unlimited Google time), but I'm pretty sure that the original reasons for the French and British Armies to fight in WWII was because of entanglements in treaties that required declarations of war for infractions. The reasons the US entered WWII were many and varied, but I would not be out of line to say they included the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Anglophilism (is that a word?), and fear of a resurgent Germany. At the time we joined in, there were many patriotic Americans who believed that Europe was only getting itself into another one of it's wars, for which it had a long inglorious history, and that the US had no reason to choose sides. Given what we knew at the time, they had every reason to believe they were right. I am pretty sure that there were only a few people, if any at all, who said that Hitler represented an evil that should be destroyed.

Now, in retrospect, the clearest most recognized reason for celebrating the Allied victory over Nazi Germany was because, in fact, Hitler was evil and he was bringing his nation to ruin because of his psychotic, unrestrained capacity to inflict harm on Germans and people of other nations. ALL of the original reasons for defeating Nazi Germany, ALL of the reasons that people understood at the beginning of the war, ALL of the reasons that the soldiers who fought the war knew of as they boarded the transports to cross the English Channel, or as they lay shivering in their foxhole in the cold Ardennes winter night, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE REASONS, pales in comparison to what we now accept as the real reason we should celebrate that great victory. Our world is better because Hitler is dead, the evil he was, is gone.

Now we, as a nation, are faced with the same dilemma. Will the Second Gulf War be viewed as an unnecessary conquest of a benign nation, as some of the pro-Saddam morons would have us believe? I say that one only needs to look into a mass grave, filled with the bones of children scattered among dolls and toys, to know that this war was necessary. Time will show that we did the right thing, and those who opposed it, fervently, completely and eternally, were wrong.

We may never find WMDs in Iraq, and I don't give a shit if we ever do. My world, my children's world, my grandchildren's world (when it comes) will be better because we fought this fight and won.

I will never change my mind on this, I have seen the graves.

Major Diggs Cleveland
US Army
Camp Doha, Kuwait

Indeed. Read this, too. As Dean Esmay says in another post (not the one linked above), "There are good questions to be raised by this affair, but they can't be asked until the 'Bush lied' people get over themselves."

Yes. In a way, of course, the "Bush lied" stuff serves the Administration's interests, by muddying the waters so that less dramatic, but more pointed, questions are hard to ask. It's Karl Rove's useful idiots, all over again.

Also, check out this cartoon.