Where Are All The W.M.D.s?

Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2004 08:32 pm
I cant find back the right thread ... a while ago, someone (Scrat?) asked the obvious question, something along the lines of - "OK, so if there are really no WMDs in Iraq - where did they go? We know they used to be there, so ... where are they now? Aren't you people worried about that?"

It neatly echoed what McGentrix wrote here last year - "The weapons existed, that much is certain. That means they still exist somewhere. It really is that simple."

Now both the question and the assertion were answered extensively. No, the fact that they once existed does not mean they still exist. Most of Iraqs WMD were destroyed in the 90s during the weapon inspections regime. Much of the chemical and biological weapons will have degraded by now. Saddam might have had WMD destroyed after the weapon inspections ended - an unlikely scenario, but possible - because he feared retaliation if he was found out, but wasnt going to tell anyone about it because he didnt want to lose face. On the gamble that America wouldnt really go to war even if he remained defiant, if they couldnt find any actual proof of WMD. Hmm. Theres the (totally unproven) hypothesis that Saddam thought he had WMD, but he was himself cheated about that, presumably by an eager-to-please bureaucracy. Oh, and they could of course have been shipped off to Syria during the war, without leaving a trace, by the Iraqi army while it was suffering humiliating military defeats in the war that was going on. Also unproven.

Meanwhile, a great many could also have been destroyed during Desert Fox - Clinton's bombing of Iraq, also opposed by many of America's allies, in 1998 (which neither party is very eager to bring up at the moment, now that they're trying to emphasize the difference between their approaches):



Here's what everyone has missed about the David Kay report of Iraqi arms: Kay finds the Iraqi atomic weapons program, always by far the greatest threat posed by Saddam, stopped in 1998. (See his statement here; I am directing you to the CIA website!) But what happened in 1998? The "Desert Fox" joint United States-British strike on Iraq. If Desert Fox stopped the Iraqi atomic weapons program, this means the Clinton administration's Saddam containment policy was far more effective than anyone, even Bill Clinton, previously realized.

Recall that in 1998, Saddam had thrown out U.N. inspectors. The United States and United Kingdom threatened airstrikes; most other Western nations waffled or counseled appeasement. In December 1998, U.S. and British aircraft bombed Iraq weapons facilities for several nights, while 400 cruise missiles were fired into Iraq. At the time, many conservatives and Republicans denounced the strikes as pinpricks and called for much more dramatic action. Clinton's decision to do everything from the air was derided as liberal fear of casualties.

Yet now it appears Desert Fox was a resounding success. Among the Iraq facilities pounded in 1998 was the Al Zaafaraniyah atomic weapons and missile complex. Al Zaafaraniyah was not bombed during the 1991 Gulf war, because the United States did not then know much about it. U.N. inspectors found the facility in the aftermath of the 1991 war; in 1993, Clinton ordered Al Zaafaraniyah hit with cruise missiles to stop Iraq atomic-weapons research; in 1998, Al Zaafaraniyah was reduced to rubble.

Set aside the question of whether the United States should have invaded Iraq in 2003; history may still judge this decision favorably, as a liberation of the oppressed. But if most of the Iraq atomic weapons program stopped in 1998, as Kay concludes, then Clinton administration policy on Iraq was far more effective than once assumed; then the WMD case for invasion this year was even weaker than now assumed; and then the case for airstrikes to halt the North Korean nuclear-weapons program may be stronger than now assumed.

posted 09:41 a.m.
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