Blogs > HNN > Iraqi WMD Iceberg, Post #4

Apr 12, 2006 7:47 pm

Iraqi WMD Iceberg, Post #4

Last summer, I started a series here that I called"the Iraqi WMD iceberg." The point of it was to chip away at the iceberg of evidence for Iraq's being in violation of UN Resolutions 687 and 1441, and generally, its being a threat to us via its WMD capacities. I regret that I only managed to write three posts on the subject--albeit three long and unrebutted ones. I'd wanted to write more, since there's so much more to be said.

I usually hate it when someone beats me to a punch I'd wanted to land, but I have to tip my hat to James Lacey, a"Washington-based writer focusing on defense and foreign-policy issues," who's written an excellent piece on Iraqi WMD in the April 10 issue of National Review, called"The Threat Saddam Posed." The article is not online, so you'll have to get your hands on a print copy of the magazine to read it. The article is based on the ISG's Final Report, which is online, but having gone metaphorically hoarse at suggesting that people read that, as well as the UNMOVIC reports on Iraqi WMD, I'll merely whisper the suggestion for now: If you think NR is too partisan a source to be trusted, or can't get to a newsstand to buy it, go ahead and read Ekeus, Butler, Blix or Duelfer on the subject (along with the text for UN Resolution 687). All of those documents converge on the same basic conclusion: Iraq may not have been an imminent threat, but it was nonetheless a threat.

From the introduction of Lacey's article:

For almost three years now, the anti-war protesters have kept up the drumbeat:"Bush lied and people died." Because weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were not found in Iraq, an endless stream of commentators continues to declare that Saddam Hussein was not the serious threat the administration claimed him to be. The critics usually go even further, and assert that sanctions and the destruction of WMD facilities by UN investigators had done so much damage to WMD infrastructure that it would have taken Saddam years to rebuild it even to a minimal capacity.

But these claims ignore huge amounts of contrary evidence; and most of this evidence can be found in the final report of the Iraqi [sic] Survey Group (ISG)--the very same report that many critics hold up as proof positive that Iraq was not a WMD threat.
That's right on target (except for the minor detail that it's the Iraq, not the"Iraqi" Survey Group).

Lacey ends the article with this:
What has become clear, as example piles upon example in the ISG report, is that this document that has been used by one side of the debate as proof that Saddam had no WMD capability actually says quite the opposite. The fact that no weapons stockpiles were found in Iraq does not mean that Iraq was not a threat. According to the report, Saddam could start producing deadling bioweapons within a week of deciding to do it; he retained the capability to produce smallpox; he had the capability to start producing chemical weapons such as mustard gas within days or at most weeks of deciding to do so; he was actively preparing to produce the nerve agents Sarin and VX; he was pouring cash into nuclear research; he was working on his ballistic-missile program even as the Coalition crossed the border into Iraq. (my italics)
Well said--and well read. At least someone out there knows how to read a document.

I do have one significant disagreement with Lacey. In particular, Lacey claims early on in his article that Bush didn't lie about WMD. But I think it's clear that Bush did lie about the existence of Iraq's nuclear weapons program. At the very least, he was dishonest and deceptive about it, and the very, very least, the case the Administration made about WMD was and continues to be inept. But Lacey is absolutely right to say that in criticizing Bush, critics of the war are ignoring"huge amounts of contrary evidence" about WMD (and about the efficacy of sanctions and inspections). He doesn't say, but could and should, that ignoring evidence of that sort is a culpable offense against the canons of reason and the norms of inquiry.

What we have, then, are two parties engaged in equal and opposite intellectual malfeasances operating to the detriment of our understanding of the facts, not one. If the facts matter--and does anything else matter?--the blame has to go both (or many) ways for the deformation of public understanding of this issue.

(I can't easily do embedded links on the computer I'm currently using, so I'll get to that sometime tomorrow when I'm at a different computer.)

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