"A year after
the war began, Americans are
questioning why the administration went to war in Iraq when Iraq was
not an imminent threat, when it had no nuclear weapons, no persuasive
links to al Qaeda, no connection to the terrorist attacks of September
11, and no stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons."
--Edward M. Kennedy, April 5, 2004
"There were no weapons of mass destruction."
--Howard Dean, April 4, 2004
SENATOR KENNEDY and
Governor Dean speak as Democrats. They speak
as opponents of the war in Iraq. But on the issue of Saddam
weapons capabilities--the tyrant's development, possession, and
threatened use of chemical, biological, and nuclear arms--they also
speak as standard-bearers of the conventional wisdom. Over the
several months, ever since David Kay stepped down as head of the Iraq
Survey Group and told us that "we were almost all wrong" about Saddam's
arsenal, what was once a universally accepted truth (Saddam had weapons
of mass destruction) became an apparently self-evident fiction (Saddam
had no such weapons). It seems the whole world now agrees that
rid his country of weapons stockpiles shortly after the first Gulf War
ended in 1991. With respect to weapons of mass destruction (WMD),
least, there was really nothing to worry about.
But what if that
judgment, too, is wrong? Just as wrong, in fact, as
was the assumption that Iraqi WMD would be found quickly and
Senator John Kerry, interestingly, has been cautious. As recently
April 27 he commented, "Who knows if a month from now, three months
from now, you find some weapons? You may."
The truth is Kennedy is
right, at least in one regard: There are
many questions that deserve answers. Here are a few we would like
pose--both to those who, like Kennedy and Dean, are so certain Saddam
was weaponless in March 2003, and also to the Bush administration,
which has been virtually mute, and has not explained what it has found
and what it now believes to have been the truth about Iraqi WMD.
* Where did the sarin come from?
Last week the Pentagon
reported that two U.S. servicemen were hospitalized in Baghdad for
exposure to nerve agents. The soldiers were part of an American
that came across an unmarked 155 millimeter shell lying on the side of
a Baghdad street. When the soldiers attempted to disarm the
bomb, it exploded, spilling out part of its poisonous contents.
shell later tested positive for sarin, the poison developed by the
Nazis and used by Saddam against the Kurds in Halabjah in 1988.
The shell in question
appears to have been made prior to the first
Gulf War. The terrorists who planted the bomb may not have known
contained the deadly poison. But the claim always was that Saddam
not fully relinquished or done away with his pre-Gulf War
if the terrorists didn't know the bomb contained sarin, because the
casing had no distinctive markings, doesn't that suggest an effort at
deception? Doesn't it also suggest that there could have
could be--many more of these shells around?
The New York Times
wasn't worried: "No one can be certain"
whether the bomb "did really contain sarin," it editorialized.
"finding some residual weapons that had escaped a large-scale
destruction program would be no great surprise--and if the chemicals
had degraded, no major threat." But it now seems the bomb did
sarin. And we do not know that there are only a few such
weapons. Do we?
* How did Jordanian terrorists
apparently obtain chemical weapons?
Last month the Jordanians thwarted a terrorist
attack in Amman. A
terrorist cell linked to Abu Musab al Zarqawi--previously connected to
Saddam--planned to explode trucks carrying 20 tons of poison chemicals
outside the headquarters of the Jordanian intelligence service.
Jordanian authorities said the blast could have killed up to 80,000
people and wounded around 160,000. Where did the chemicals come
* Who is killing
Iraqi weapons scientists? In
testimony to members of Congress earlier this year, David Kay reported
that Saddam Hussein's top scientists have been targeted for
assassination. Terrorists and Baathists have killed nine
scientists since April 9, 2003. All those killed had worked in
or another on Baathist weapons programs. All had been questioned
Iraq Survey Group.
* What has Charles Duelfer discovered?
Until January 2004
David Kay led the Iraq Survey Group, the 1,400-member team of
scientists charged with discovering easily hidden weapons in a country
of 27 million people that's roughly the size of California. In
testimony before Congress, Kay said he believed Saddam had destroyed
his weapons stockpiles prior to the American invasion in March
Hans Blix, the former head of the U.N. inspection team, agrees.
helped establish the conventional wisdom that Iraqi weapon stocks would
never be found because they never existed.
But the Iraq Survey
Group did not end with David Kay's departure. In
fact it is still plugging along, now under the leadership of Charles
Duelfer, who told Congress in March that "the picture is much more
complicated than I anticipated going in." And that it's too soon
reach "full judgments with confidence." Because "we have yet to
identify the most critical people in any programmatic effort."
more, "Many people have yet to be found or questioned, and many of
those we have found are not giving us complete answers."
Duelfer has other
problems. His team has "recovered millions of
documents," but millions were also destroyed in the chaos that engulfed
Baghdad following liberation. Also, the documents are "often
Which means research is "extremely difficult." And Duelfer is
understaffed. He especially lacks Arabic speakers. Hence
only a "tiny
fraction" of the recovered files have been translated. Duelfer is
reported to be much less confident than Kay that Saddam had done away
with his WMD.
The Bush administration
can answer, or can begin to answer, all
these questions. But having professed such certainty about
weapons of mass destruction before the war, the administration now
seems intimidated by the new conventional wisdom that Saddam had done
away with his WMD. Yet we do know that Saddam had weapons after
Gulf War in 1991, and of course United Nations inspectors spent much of
the next six years destroying some of them, despite repeated efforts at
concealment and deception by Saddam. The inspectors never were
account for all of Saddam's weapons. So the question is, what
to them? No one has adequately answered that question. Not
Blix. Not Howard Dean or Ted Kennedy. Not the Bush
Maybe we just got one answer: Some of those weapons are still there in
Iraq, and they're being used against our troops.