We Knew at the Time the War Began that Iraq Did Not Possess WMD

Fact & Fiction

Mr. Wanniski was an economics advisor to Ronald Reagan, 1979-1980. Click here for his blog, wanniski.com.

In watching the Sunday talk shows last week I was astonished at how everyone -- interviewers and guests -- seems to have forgotten that in the last month before President Bush pulled the trigger on Iraq it was clear we all should have known Saddam had NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. I'm posting below a memo I ran in this space 30 days before the war began entitled,"Finally, A Disarmed Iraq." When everyone who supports the war continues to say that EVERYONE believed Saddam had WMD, including the French, the Germans, the Russians, etc. That is true only BEFORE the U.N. inspectors returned and spent months going over all the possibilities. A full month before the president decided that diplomacy had failed, Baghdad addressed the only issue still outstanding on the UNMOVIC and IAEA report cards: Proving the negative.

Strip away all gabble we hear today and you should remember the U.S. position was that it was NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE INSPECTORS to locate WMD, it was Iraq's responsibility to 'fess up and take the inspectors to the locations where they were hiding WMD!! To be quite correct, this was essentially the thrust of the 1991 U.N. resolution, which required Baghdad to own up to any unconventional weapons they had, show them to the inspectors, and have them destroyed. The record now indicates Iraq did EXACTLY that in 1991, but none of that mattered as the US did not want to lift the sanctions that were crippling the Iraqi economy. The neo-cons had their hidden agenda of occupying Iraq, which is where we are now.

Senator John Kerry should be making the most of this, but his"helpers" are not doing much to help him. On"Meet the Press," Tim Russert asked former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Chief of Staff John Podesta how Kerry could really complain about the war when he"voted for it." Russert asked: What is the difference between Kerry and Bush? Both Albright and Podesta parroted the party line that Kerry would have allowed the UN inspectors"to finish their work," but then slipped into the line that a President Kerry could then have assembled an international coalition to take out Saddam. Huh?

Their assumption is that if the inspectors finished their work, they would have found the WMD!! Why do they say this? Because if they do not, they will have to come to the conclusion that the United Nations would announce,"MISSION ACCOMPLISHED," and submit that the sanctions against Iraq should finally be lifted. It is now still politically incorrect to say the world would be better off if we had not gone to war and removed Saddam. We know the Bush team wanted war and their smartest players knew Iraq had been effectively disarmed. But why do you reporters to this day run film clips and cite quotes of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry from the Senate floor supporting the use of force against Iraq? Of course, at the time EVERYONE thought WMD would be found (except Scott Ritter, the UNSCOM inspector who ran around telling everyone he knew that this wasn't the case.)

To repeat, political reporters (you too, Tim), should refresh your memories. Go back and watch the UNSC sessions and read the daily accounts of how diplomacy was working, except the major media at the time did not seem to notice.

Finally, A Disarmed Iraq

Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients, Feb 17, 2003
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Closing the Last Gaps

If you watched the proceedings of the U.N. Security Council last Friday, you had to be paying special attention when UNMOVIC’s Hans Blix mentioned in passing a list of 83 names he had gotten from Baghdad in the last few days. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell clearly missed the point or was thinking about something else at that moment. So were the editorialists at The New York Times, which led me to write a letter to the Times explaining the importance of what Blix had mentioned. You may recall that in his remarks which followed, Powell again and again made the point that while it was clear Iraq had been cooperating on “process,” it was still not cooperating on “substance.” He also hammered away on the point that UNSC Resolution #1441 was not about “inspections,” but about “disarmament.” In its lead editorial Saturday, the Times made the same point, that Iraq was still doing nothing to deal with the “substance” of the disarmament issue that has dragged on since the summer of 1991.

What was that list of 83 names and why is it so crucial? It is the only way Iraq has of proving the negative, an otherwise impossible demand by the hawks in the Bush administration. As Iraq’s UN Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri put it in his remarks Friday, “You cannot give with an empty hand,” an old Arab saying. What Blix finds promising on “substance” in the list is that these are the men who actually carried out the destruction of materials that could be assembled into weapons of mass destruction if Iraqi scientists knew how to do so. When the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998, they had accounted for 95% of the chemical and biological programs, which led Scott Ritter to say Iraq had been “qualitatively”disarmed. What was left were these “gaps” in the records, which UNSCOM’s Richard Butler insisted was the responsibility of Iraq to prove did not exist. I don’t know if he ever asked Baghdad for a list of names of the workers who destroyed the missing materials, but now Baghdad has supplied the list without being asked for it. If the interviews get started now, Blix will be able to report to the Security Council on March 14 that Iraq has been “quantitatively” disarmed, removing any reason for war.

Here is the letter to the Times, which the paper chose not to run:

Letter to the Editor:

Both the Times in its 2/15 editorial,"Disarming Iraq," and Secretary of State Powell in his remarks to the UN the day before missed the most substantive offer made by Iraq last week, as recounted in the report of UNMOVIC's Hans Blix. It has never been possible for Baghdad to prove with documentation that some of the missing chemical/biological materials were destroyed as claimed in the summer of 1991. Documents had been able to account for almost all the materials, but after inspections from 1991 to 1998 there remained these gaps. Mr. Blix told the UN that Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate has presented a list of 83 names of participants in the destruction process."The presentation of a list of persons who can be interviewed about the actions appears useful and pertains to cooperation on substance," he said, adding the hope that a similar list be proffered for proscribed items in the biological field.

There has never been credible evidence that Iraq ever produced"weapons of mass destruction" in the chemical, biological or nuclear fields. The gasses the Iraqi army used in the Iran/Iraq war were deadly to those caught in the vicinity of an incoming shell, but were mainly used not to kill but to disorient the human-wave attacks employed by the Iranians.

Iraq clearly tried to"weaponize" anthrax, VX, and biological agents in the '80s, but failed and abandoned the efforts. What remains missing are records of some the ingredients that would be needed for such weapons. The most encouraging part of the positive report by Mr. Blix is that a method is being worked out to close those gaps to the satisfaction of the inspection teams.

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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Mr Wanniski--

Could you provide a direct quotation and a citation for your Hans Blix claim? And to clarify: is your claim that the Blix statement you have cited exhausts the UNMOVIC evidence on the subject, so that it by itself can function as a stand-alone claim representing UNMOVIC's official position on the state of Iraq's WMD programs? The very fact that Blix mentioned "it" (whatever you claim he said) "in passing" suggests that he thought there was more to the issue than you are describing. As for that matter does the existence of UNMOVIC's March 2003 Cluster Document and every UNMOVIC Quarterly Report between March 2003 and the present.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Sorry, I meant "So for that matter..."

G G G - 3/23/2005

WMD has little to do with invading iraq. The very first exposure to americans and the world in front of congress about the evil of axis included invading Iraq, and Syria. Said before the began. So why is anyone surprised we might go into Syria ? Because your not paying attention ! You must have forgot the scud missles landing in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other country sides of "Isreal" prior to desert storm. Dah !?! Oh That doesnt count for anything ?? So your burglar forgot to load his chamber with a bullet, (lucky you) goes into the next room momentarily and is back with possibly a loaded chamber this time with intentions of killing you. Are U gonna wait to see if his gun is more successful this time before U pull ur trigger ? A rational thinker may not consider sanctions against the burglar. I would not. Dont forget the Iraqi Physicist who obtained aynomitity into the USA claiming its only a matter of months before explosive war heads are ready. Oh I forgot the gas that was used recently in the Sudanese genocide, they claimed received from Iraq. And how about that Uranium centrifuge used for filtering atomic mass that Syria has all of a sudden, and its active. Thats right I guess Santa Claus gave that to them. Why i didnt stop to think why were all the facilities inspected by the US forces appear to be ransacked and left in the most unorganized order. Oh, they're just messy people. Oh of course ! For one to think the destruction of Jersalem would not perpetuate the world into choas. Why, how on earth can one little bitty free trade country upset so many arabs. What are the arabs afraid of ? failing their peer pressure. Gee cant they grow up like 51% of americans ? Oh and dont forget, human pesticide however successful it may or not be, is not a weapon of mass destruction to the media (ie I mean the left) because they are not technical people, they are journalist full of joy ful drama. One fact is that the osama's and al queda's were fearful of Saddam. They wouldnt dare cross him on his turf. The arabs want the Isrealis OUT of the picture. Period. You can see this in their latest sport, "suicide bombing" coming to a town near you.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Although an unafillated voter yet largely in the Administraion's corner in regard to its responses to the attacks of 9/11 and realizing Sarin was indeed found by Polish troops, if by no-one else. Even so, in my personal list of threats poison gas doesn't begin to rank in seriousness with biological agents or nuclear weapons. In other words, IMHO the conquest of Iraq was well-justified, but not for the reasons officially given by the Administration. In short, poison gas as a WMD was not, IMO, sufficient justification for the conquest. Nor was the terrible brutality of Sadaam's government--we aren't, or at least shouldn't be, the world's policeman.

BUT for real-politics reason there was ample reason to conquer Iraq, as a sideways attack upon militant Islamists. Likewise, there is good reason for us to maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq in order to 1) pressure regional governments to cease permitting al-qaeda & other militant Islamic groups from acquiring support &/or assets within their borders, 2) to establish in the region a forward base of operations for any actual future needed direct military operations against al-qaeda & its backers that may be needed & 3) the conquest demostrated to the Islamic world even better than Afghanistan that the U.S. is not the paper tiger al-qaeda claimed it was, albeit under Clinton's weak leadership the U.S. was indeed a paper tiger distracted by the Monica Wars.

Yes, Americans are uncomfortable with the exercise of power politics, but in this instance it amounts to a matter of national survival and necessary, whether or no we like it.

That is part of the reason this Viet-Nam veteran is going to vote for Bush come November rather than for this twit, Kerry. 'Course, Kerry's support of abortion, euthanasia & stem-cell research are good reasons for any Pro-Life Catholic, such as Yours truly, to oppose Kerry, or anyone else holding those positions.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/17/2004

You may well be right. I'm not familiar with every jot and tittle of the intelligence, but then neither is anybody else, save for a handful of people in the CIA who collated the all-source material, and, presumably, the Commission. We're left in the position of trusting to honest assessments by the Commission, which, given the nature of things, is probably as good as we're going to get.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/16/2004

<I don't think any President is well-positioned as a non-professional to do a de novo analysis -- barring the rare instance where the insufficiency is so glaring that even an amateur can discount it.>

I can't agree with you on that.
Do President really has to be a professional to distinguish between a sloppy evidence and a solid one?

Absolutely not, provided, of course, you don't have to go into a complex technical details, as eg. tell the
indications of sarin from the ones of butan in doing that.
How "glaring" do you want it to be, lacking whatsover, or
with Tenet saying after presenting the evidence "By the way, Mr. President we don't trust this evidence ourselves"?
The info on the evidence presented to Bush and his security advisers(I hope he didn't make that
infamous determination completely on his own) that we now
know pretty much everything about, and the info presented
to the UN and the CIA prompts to the team of inspectors,
was so seriously flawed, and being politically incorrect I would say flimsy, at the even cursory familiarity
with it that only the idiot, would not question its
validity. President, as no one else is eligible for asking hard questions isn't he?
Therefore, I don't buy this 'unprofessionalism' excuse for a second.
I don't want to bragg or something, but I predicted(as did many other much more knowledgable in the pertained area folks) at the very start of the WMD propaganda campaign: they would found no WMDs in Iraq, on the simple reasons there was none at the time.
Besides, some CIA analysts told the press afterwards,
that though there was no explicit pressure or order coming from the White House or the CIA director himself (surely, the habitants of those two houses are not complete idiots!), but they felt definite implicit pressure to "produce" WMD evidence.

Clinton's excuse is not valid either, since we don't
comparing the level of his responsibility or IQ to the respective Bush ones. His failure does not justify or excuse somebody else's one.

Neither I believe for a second that Bush will pay a price for his administration lies or mistakes(if you wish) during elections. If he does, it won't be Iraq, since we all know this nation loves belligerant Presidents... up to the point when the number of US troops killed in action is overbearingly hig, and it is not now and could not be then.
But it can be terrorism, if God forbid, there will be another major strike on the American soil before the elections, which I don't think likely to happen in the course of next 4 months, or so.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/15/2004

I think you've hit on some good points. I don't think Bush considered a certain knowledge of Iraqi WMD necessary to take action. Clinton certainly didn't. He destroyed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant based on the co-interest of Iraq and al Qaeda in the plant, intercepted communications between the plant manager and the head of the Iraqi chemical weapons program, and the presence of EMPTA. None of this totaled to certain knowledge either.

I don't think any President is well-positioned as a non-professional to do a de novo analysis -- barring the rare instance where the insufficiency is so glaring that even an amateur can discount it.

So I don't think that certain knowledge of WMD was the motivator of Bush. It was enough to him that Iraq had been linked, even during the embargo, to potential WMD in the Sudan case, and as it turns out, was indeed seeking uranium in Africa -- not a good sign of what would occur when the sanctions were lifted. Add the presence and nurturing of terrorists by Iraq, and you have a potential for enormous problems.

I'm not unhappy that we went into Iraq. I just don't think it was smart to sell it even the slightest on the basis of any intelligence estimate of WMD that you didn't have hard (kick the tires) proof for. I suspect Bush will pay the price for that in the next election, and if his spending the first term is any indication of what is in store for the second, I can think of worse things.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/12/2004

Mr. Morgan,

Let me pose I think the most relevant question to you:
Provided you are the US President and Commander in Chief
and you are ultimately the one who makes a likely most important decision over your presidency: about war and piece. You've been told by CIA director that infamous "slam dunk" thing. Would you then close the case, so speak, and make up you mind on that decision, or
would like to evaluate the evidence CIA based its "slam dunk" conclusion on yourself?
I never heard of any responsible head of state(with the obvious exceptions again taken from the US history) who wouldn't do just that, unless that was the kind of responce he(and his croonies) steered CIA to.
Now, again, provided any half-brained person would evaluate the "evidence" CIA presented(and we now know exactly what info was presented) he could not help
rejecting any thoughts of attacking Iraq, if WMD was the major reason behind the attack.
This is the real logical 'slam dunk'.
The resume: guilty as charged, and should have been impeached... Alas, this is not a country of people's law, but corporate-interests law.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/12/2004

Also, who ever said anything about Woodward making anything up? He is a respected and renounced political journalist whose book has been dismissed by many conservatives, but none is able to get the administration to deny anything said in the book.

As for Bush, you seem to be suggesting that Bush’s statements of certainty are okay so long as he doesn’t credit them to the CIA. Why would that be so?

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/11/2004

If that is your request, I do not have the answer, nor do I see what difference it makes.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/9/2004

I was actually asking for a quote of what Bush said, where he actually says that the CIA told him it was certain -- as opposed to him saying it was certain (he certainly had access to DIA, NSA, and British sources too -- witness the recent revival after death of the uranium and Africa story).

Bob Woodward has Tenet telling Bush it was a "slam dunk" that Saddam has WMD. If Woodward just made that up, I'll have to re-examine my view of Watergate history.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/9/2004

"The key U.S. assertions leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was working to make nuclear weapons -- were wrong and based on false or overstated CIA analyses, a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report asserted Friday."


The report focuses on the intelligence and not on the administration. However, I believe that the administration is also to blame, since as I have said, regardless of how poor our intelligence turned out to be, it STILL did not conform to the administration's statements.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/9/2004

1) "At what point (presumably more than two) would a discovered group of sarin shells meet your criterion for a stockpile?"

A valid question. I suppose for me, several dozen WMD that were methodically organized and armed and fully capable of being deployed at any moment would be sufficient for me to call it a stockpile.

However, this is the answer to the question of what Iraq had. My point is not to focus on that customary criticism, but look at what the administration said based on the intelligence.

2) "I don't know what Bush has said about the CIA view, so maybe he has lied. I like to see the quote -- you may have a convert. You may also have doublespeak on the part of the CIA -- putting out an estimate on one hand, and Tenet telling Bush it was a "slam-dunk" that there were WMD, on the other."

I can assure you my friend, nothing would make me happier, but frankly, I don't see it coming, since I have already provided the necessary quotes. Bush told the American people with certainty what Iraq had... with certainty. Either he made it all up, OR he based them on intelligence. Either way, it is a lie (or perhaps he was lied to, another possibility).

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/9/2004

I understand your point about Bush taking a estimate and turning it into a fact. That seems a perfectly valid point. Then you say "even if they happen to match his estimations", then concede he offered no estimations of quantity beyond a stockpile. Let's put a number to that, in the interests of intellectual honesty. At what point (presumably more than two) would a discovered group of sarin shells meet your criterion for a stockpile?

Similarly, it seems to me that Bush has only conclusively lied to the extent that he has micharacterized the CIA view as the CIA view. I can make a claim about the magnetic moment of the electron, and believe it true (falsely) even if it doesn't conform to the National Bureau of Standards (I know, it has changed its name) view, provided I haven't characterized it as the NBS view. I don't know what Bush has said about the CIA view, so maybe he has lied. I like to see the quote -- you may have a convert. You may also have doublespeak on the part of the CIA -- putting out an estimate on one hand, and Tenet telling Bush it was a "slam-dunk" that there were WMD, on the other.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/9/2004

1) “So there you have it. Tomorrow they could find 1000 sarin shells, and by your lights, they would have lied, because they are not in quantities suggested by the administration.”

You have not understood my post. Perhaps I should have been more clear. The president spoke based on intelligence reports. The intelligence reports did not say what President Bush said. Thus, President Bush has lied. This is regardless of the “quantities” that are found, even if they happen to match his estimations. It will prove that Iraq was a serious threat and that it turned out that war and invasion may have been the right decision after all. But it will NOT absolve Bush of responsibility.

2) “How deliciously vague, particularly since I've never seen an administration statement about specific quantities anywhere.”

Neither have I. However, I think it is safe to say that 2 shells do not qualify as a “stockpile” that threatens the world. Perhaps you disagree and would consider glue to be toxic enough to validate the president’s warnings, but I do not.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/9/2004

Moving the Goalposts Syndrome:

"I would reiterate that this is all regardless of whether WMD are found in quantities that the administration suggesting, a possibility that I have all but rejected at this point in time."

So there you have it. Tomorrow they could find 1000 sarin shells, and by your lights, they would have lied, because they are not in quantities suggested by the administration. How deliciously vague, particularly since I've never seen an administration statement about specific quantities anywhere.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/8/2004

It is not possible, as the article states, to prove a negative. Thus, some people will forever be comforted that the WMD the administration claimed was such a threat will one day be found. For myself, it is clear that the administration lied to us and nothing will change that, even the discovery of the stockpiles of WMD which have STILL failed to turn up, as has any indication that any such stockpiles exist. However, even IF such weapons turn up (a possibility David Kay calls unlikely), that will not change my opinion of Bush’s obvious deception. Allow me to posit the following analogy that I have used in the past to explain why this is so:

A police officer sees a black man entering a building, and decides to go to a judge and LIE in order to get a warrant. He tells the judge that the man had drugs in the house and that the police officer SAW him carry it in (even though no such observation was made).

Upon breaking into the house, lo and behold, the police actually find drugs! Question: Does the accidental finding of the drugs forgive the police officers lies? Not to me.

President Bush assured the nation that Iraq had WMD, and his administration went to great lengths to tell the American public that this was a solid fact, and the only question was what to do about it. Some examples of what I mean, in case anyone denies this reality:

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves NO DOUBT that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised” [emphasis mine].
- George W. Bush, address to the U.S., March 17, 2003

“Simply stated, there is NO DOUBT that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction” [emphasis mine].
- Dick Cheney, speech to VFW National Convention, Aug. 26, 2002

We now know that this was a lie, and the intelligence NEVER said that. According to George Tenet, in defending the pre-war intelligence:

“Analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs and those debates were spelled out in the estimate."

Tenet went on:
"They never said there was an imminent threat. Rather, they painted an objective assessment for our policy-makers of a brutal dictator who was continuing his efforts to deceive and build programs that might constantly surprise us and threaten our interests."
"Together, this information provided a solid basis on which to estimate whether Iraq did or did not have weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them… It is important to underline the word estimate, because not everything we analyze can be known to a standard of absolute proof."
"The question being asked about Iraq in the starkest terms is, were we right or were we wrong? In the intelligence business, you are almost never completely wrong or completely right. That applies in full to the question of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. And like many of the toughest intelligence challenges, when the facts of Iraq are all in, we will neither be completely right nor completely wrong."
In other words, the intelligence was not certain on anything, only projecting possibilities. Indeed, according to Bob Woodward and others, the intelligence was ever murkier and more uncertain than Tenet commented on. However, this was NOT what the administration assured the American people. All those who doubted the intelligence- be they nations or individuals- were viewed as either incompetent or politically motivated.

This man lied to the American people in order to ensure support which they gave him based on those lies. For that reason alone, he should be held accountable for his actions. I would reiterate that this is all regardless of whether WMD are found in quantities that the administration suggesting, a possibility that I have all but rejected at this point in time.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/7/2004


Scott Ritter, before his arrests and before ending up on the receiving end of funds from Saddam (through a middleman, in order to produce Ritter's film), wrote in the New Republic that no WMD's would be found because of the lapse of time between the presence of inspectors -- time enough, he alleged, for Saddam to hide WMD so that effectively they would never be caught.

BTW, the guy who financed Ritter's film, a Mr. Khafaji, was the recipient of oil allocations from Saddam, which he flipped for a profit. Turns out this was the way Saddam financed a whole coterie of western propagandists for his cause, including the British MP George Galloway. The whole scheme was aided by the UN, which set up a system where the recipients of the oil allocations were not recorded by the UN -- though they were recorded in Iraqi oil ministry documents, as well as Iraqi intel documents which documented the ultimate recipient of the profits.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/7/2004

I'm underwhelmed by Hans Blix's assurances that interviews with 83 people would have cleared up the problem of the unaccounted for materials. I'm particularly underwhelmed because Hans Blix saluted Iraq for its compliance just before it was discovered that Iraq had conducted a nuclear weapon research program under his very nose when he was head of the IAEA. He was also prepared to sign off on another positive report, but American members balked, citing the suspicious fact that Iraq had dug up the foundations of a research building to a depth of several feet below the foundation. Blix was wrong, the Americans turned out to be right.

Who pushed for the appointment of Blix? Yep, France and Russia. And when Iraq, on the eve of the invasion served up some non-compliant missiles in order to extend the inspections, Blix helpfully ordered their destruction without setting a method sure nor a timetable -- he knew his orders, and they were to forestall invasion. In fact, Blix was chosen precisely because he was a diplomat and not a scientist, and our opponents didn't want a hard case like Ekeus running the show. When Blix took over, do you know what his first instructions to the inspectors were? Don't be confrontational.

I particularly like the use of scare quotes around "sarin shell". It was a sarin shell, not a "sarin shell", whose effectiveness was limited both by the fact that it was detonated non-optimally at ground level, and by the fact that Iraq had not perfected log-term stabilization of binary sarin shells -- nor is it clear that Iraq knew it hadn't perfected such. In fact, Iraq had never declared the existence of any true binary sarin shells, though intel believed they had been working on them in the 80's -- apparently intel was right on that score. It hardly seems a defense that it couldn't have caused mass destruction, because any one shell would be hard-pressed to pass that test. In any case, no binary sarin shells were declared by Iraq, nor UNSCOM, nor UNMOVIC. So let's state that so baldly it can't be misunderstood -- Blix missed the boat on that entirely.

How many more, if any, there are, is anybody's guess, as well as the existence of biological starter materials (weaponized strains sitting in a hole somewhere). Iraq agreed to what is an admittedly difficult task -- they agreed to prove that they had destroyed all materials, etc. They could have had UNSCOM or UNMOVIC personnel there at the time to verify the materials and their destruction. In stead, they offer 83 "witnesses" -- with Blix refusing to avail himself of the legal option of removing them and their families to another country for interviewing -- he likened it to kidnapping. What is abundantly clear is that Iraq retained parts and plans for a nuclear isotope centrifuge for enriching to weapons grade. Blix, of course, missed that one too. And then there's the half dozen medical research facilities that were never declared, and whose operators were told not to reveal their existence to UNMOVIC.

Are there more sarin shells, or even other WMD? Don't know, and don't particularly care. Given the fact that Saddam sought a breeder reactor, and built and used WMD, and acquired weaponry in violation of UN accords, and maintained a stable of terrorists in his country, and failed to document the destruction of WMD materials, is sufficient for me. BTW, any guesses on where that weapons grade anthrax came from? Just asking.

Jude T Wanniski - 7/6/2004

Respondents are all in denial that the IAEA and UNMOVIC inspectors could say 30 days before the war began that all WMD had been accounted for... except for a small gap that Hans Blix said could be cleared up by the interviews of 83 people who worked at the one site where chem/bio weapons had been destroyed in 1991. In the last 16 months since US troops invaded Iraq and began looking for WMD, none have been found. The "sarin shell" found has not been proven to be a "sarin shell" that could have caused more than a headache, let along mass destruction.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/6/2004

Mr. Livingston,
While I don't agree with everything in your post, I appreciate your honesty in it.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/6/2004

I think we piggy-backed on the UN's stalemate with Iraq. Iraq had lied and got caught, lied and got caught, lied and got caught, and the best they have to offer to account for the destruction of bioweapons materials (and here, I find it so funny that Wanniski pushes this that I almost peed my pants) is interviews with 83 people!!

Bush's worry (and I share it) was the nexus of states like Iraq with WMD material production capability, and terrorist groups that it can use in an arm's length manner, denying responsibility. Saddam had as much as made that threat in his communication to April Glaspie, and his continuing ties to terrorists only upped the concern. I also share that worry because I strongly suspect that the anthrax attacks were part of the 9/11 operation, and that the supplier and motive force behind it was Iraq. We can't prove that, so we pushed Saddam's non-compliance with UN resolutions.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 7/5/2004

I agree the shells prove false the contention that there were NO WMD's, since clearly, there were at least 2 (last I read).

With that said, I believe everything else in the article is pretty on target. Indeed, I recently provided a similar message in a US News op ed piece.

Richard Henry Morgan - 7/5/2004

Writing in the New Republic, before his mysterious conversion to Iraqi filmmaker, Scott Ritter pointed out that with the lapse of time since the inspectors had been kicked out, it would be impossible to find any WMD if the inspectors went back in.

Speaking to the European Parliament shortly after the invasion of Iraq, Blair pointed out that the intelligence services of all the EU member states had reached the same conclusion pre-invasion -- that Saddam had WMD. He then challenged any person there to contradict him -- and nobody did.

The binary sarin shell deployed as a roadside IED, somehow doesn't appear anywhere in the Iraqi or UNSCOM or UNMOVIC reports. How many more are there? Who knows. So Wanniski's contention that were no WMD, and that any WMD that they had previously had were destroyed, is just plain false.