Tuesday, May 13, 2003

By now you've all heard that the team of specialists sent to locate Iraq's missing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) announced this weekend that they are winding down operations and coming home. They have already completed inspections of 80 percent of their top priority targets and two thirds of their secondary targets. Their commanders expressed frustration that the intelligence they have been given has yielded nothing. Meanwhile, the leader of the free world, at his aircraft carrier photo op, assured the American people that we have just begun to look and will find lots of WMDs.

I'm actually surprised that they haven't found something by now. I never thought the huge stockpile Powell told us about at the UN would materialize. Still, knowing that projects to build these weapons once existed (before 1990), I thought they would find something to wave in front of the cameras. I also though Saddam would have cheated a little. Even without massive stockpiles, I expected them to find a few bottles of Sarin (and use these to confuse the public into thinking they had told the truth.

This looks like a good time to sum up the significance of the WMD issue. It seems to me that there are three possible conclusions that can be drawn from the lack of WMDs. All of them look bad:

  1. The Bush camarilla lied to us from the very start. They always knew there was nothing to find. The war was fought for other reasons--reasons which they did not think they could sell to the American public. You can insert your own reason here. In this case they are conscienceless liars who killed 140 Americans (and a still uncounted number of Iraqis) for crass political advantage. They counted on Americans forgetting the lies in the momentary pride over a quick victory. Criminal charges should be brought against the whole lot.
  2. The administration really believed the weapons were there. In this case we have a massive intelligence (in both senses of the word) failure combined with willful blindness. They would have had to reject all evidence to the contrary, believed documents that were already proven forgeries, and always chosen the worst possible interpretation of any ambiguous evidence. They are too stupid to hold office and should not be allowed in public without protective headgear and a nanny.
  3. The weapons were there, but we lost them. In this case we have a massive intelligence failure followed by a massive planning failure. If we knew they were there, why didn't we block their getaway? The weapons must still be out there. We are much less safe than we were last fall. Again they are too stupid to hold office, though in this case a lot of military careers will be destroyed along with those in the administration and intelligence communities.

Obviously, I lean toward the first explanation and the "they wanted a war, any war" theory for their motive. Oil and redeeming the Bush family cojones were fringe benefits. The demonstration of the will and means to pursue a preventative war was their real objective.

To a certain extent, they gambled and won. Although their polling numbers are coming down, a shockingly high number of Americans no longer care about the WMDs. Saddam was bad. Now he's gone. We're number one. Democrats can't let this go if they want to win anything next year. The issue is not whether Saddam was bad; the issue is that the administration lied. This should be a no-brainer for the Democrats. Whichever of the above explanations the administration uses, they look bad. But they only look bad if the issue is kept alive and they are forced to explain themselves.

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