So far, much of the discussion of WMD has been focused on whether war-advocates or war-opponents will be vindicated retrospectively by how much is found. This way of framing the question, however, may miss the real issue -- what we may never find and why. Think about the ways people might dispose of WMD or WMD precursors if they were in a big, big hurry. It's not a comforting thought.
As an opponent of the war, my greatest hope was for a fast, low casualty, defeat of Saddam, followed by our troops finding no WMDs. This would meet my three top priorities for the war: 1) Least casualties, 2) most gain (getting rid of that bastard Saddam, and 3) maximum humiliation for the Bush administration. To meet all three criteria, we must find no WMDs.
However, to be honest, for me to be happy, I must be relatively confident that no WMDs were found because there were none to be found. In this, my goals only diverge from the administration on point three. What can we trust? Will a lack of such weapons be seen as evidence that they never existed, or as evidence that the evil axis moved them before we could catch them? Will lack of evidence become a causus beli to attack Syria, Libya, Iran, or Massachusetts?
My good friend Alan Unsworth, a librarian in New York, provides the following list of announced discoveries of WMDs that were premature (quoted from the Independent) or fradulent:
30 March British troops find protective suits, training materials and stocks defensive purposes
31 March US military spokesman announces discovery of chemical protection suits and decontamination equipment near Nasiriyah. Later admits they could be for defensive purposes.
4 April US forces find hoard of white powder in boxes in military plant south of Baghdad. Substance turns out to be explosives.
6 April US forces find 14 barrels of chemicals that could be the nerve agents sarin and tabun. Further tests suggest the chemicals were pesticides.
7 April US military official says 20 medium-range missiles loaded with sarin and mustard gas found outside Baghdad. US Secretary Donald Rumsfeld treats report with caution saying: "Almost all first reports turn out to be wrong."
8 April Tony Blair says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and that US and British forces will be led to them as Saddam Hussein's regime collapses.
So far, the administration is willing to claim every can of Raid (TM) they find, a WMD. What will they say when they find none. Will they be as honest as they have been about links between 9/11 and Saddam?