Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Why WMDs are Still a Valid Reason for the Iraqi Invasion and Why Circumstantial Evidence is Enough

And a little bit about the state of our intelligence

I don’t think that the WMD argument proved false. Granted, the stockpiles haven’t been found & many believe won’t be found, but it was not necessarily the stockpiles that were a threat to the U.S. so much as Saddam’s ability to make WMDs and provide them to terrorists. And we know that he had dormant programs, and we still firmly believe that he intended to restart them. In fact, many on the left have been quick to acknowledge Saddam’s possession of chemical weapons whenever they could blame the U.S. for providing them, so I fail to see how they rationalize that he did not have them in 2003. What has been found to suggest that Saddam would not have been able to supply terrorists with WMD? In fact, after the USS Cole bombing, Iraqi intelligence seemed open to providing al Qaeda with help in procuring chemical weapons. That threat was too real to ignore. In a post 9/11 world, the burden of proof was with the dictator to convince us that he meant no harm. He failed by not upholding the provisions of 1441.

As for keeping Saddam in a box, the clock was ticking on that. It was only through U.S. military pressure that weapons inspectors were able to get back into Iraq - costly military pressure. Certainly France, who had routinely opposed inspections and previous UN resolutions throughout the decade before, knew that it would hurt the U.S. to keep a large force cramped in Qatar, indefinitely, while the inspection charade dragged on. The longer the inspections went, the more difficult it was going to be for us to use those forces to advance a solution. There were only two options: 1) Saddam could come clean; or 2) the clock would run out.

Since Bush’s job is to protect the U.S., he had to assume the worst regarding Saddam. Given the intelligence, given the trauma of 9/11 on our economy, culture and security, given Saddam’s aspirations, how could Bush justify not toppling Saddam? Since he had been blamed for not connecting the dots with 9/11, how on earth could he explain another catastrophe that might have been facilitated by Iraq? He was looking at a region that was breeding and supporting terrorism. We definitely know that Saddam and the Taliban supported terror. We know that Saudi Arabia supported terror. We know that Egypt supports terror. We know that Syria, Libya, and Iran all support terror. The “stability” of the Middle East produced 9/11. That status quo was unacceptable. So who to go after first? When a cheetah hunts, it goes after the weakest in the herd. In this case, after the Taliban, it was the country that we had been exchanging fire with on a routine basis for the past 12 years and had 17 UN resolutions against it, making it outside the community of nations. It was the country with a dictator that had a vested interest in keeping the Middle East oppressed and problematic for the West.

Obviously Iraq is not the only threat. There’s Iran and Saudi Arabia. Look at the map. As Iran continues its support of nuclear weapons, is it not better that the U.S. has it pinched between Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey? It looks like a nasty zit, ready to pop if need be.

Going back to stockpiles…that we haven’t accounted for what was once out there is very troubling. I’m probably the only person on the planet who doesn’t believe that our intelligence was an overwhelming failure, but I was still alarmed at how little we knew. I was surprised to learn that the CIA did not have agents operating in Iraq. Subsequently, I doubt we have agents in N. Korea (though I hope to God S. Korea does) or Iran. We obviously have a lot of work to do on our intelligence in order to fight this war, but that does not mean we have the luxury of putting it off. We don’t. We put it off for over a decade and instead of changing our intelligence to fit the new threat, we concentrated on budget cuts. I don’t think Clinton should be singled out as the only culprit for this – we were all asleep. It was the climate of the 90’s. But that period is over.

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