Sunday, March 12, 2006

Putting Iraq's WMDs to rest

For the people who still cling to the belief that Iraq had WMDs, today's New York Times will not be welcome.

In an article about Iraq during the runup to to the war, based on a secret military history derived from captured documents and interrogations of high-level officials, we learn that Iraq didn't have WMDs, gave full access to inspectors and did its best to destroy any remnants of old programs that might exist.

In other words, "muscular inspections" -- coercing intrusive inspections backed by the credible threat of force -- worked. Or would have, if we would have let it.

The relevant bits:

In December 2002, he told his top commanders that Iraq did not possess unconventional arms, like nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, according to the Iraq Survey Group, a task force established by the C.I.A. to investigate what happened to Iraq's weapons programs. Mr. Hussein wanted his officers to know they could not rely on poison gas or germ weapons if war broke out. The disclosure that the cupboard was bare, Mr. Aziz said, sent morale plummeting.

To ensure that Iraq would pass scrutiny by United Nations arms inspectors, Mr. Hussein ordered that they be given the access that they wanted. And he ordered a crash effort to scrub the country so the inspectors would not discover any vestiges of old unconventional weapons, no small concern in a nation that had once amassed an arsenal of chemical weapons, biological agents and Scud missiles, the Iraq survey group report said.

The inspectors reported that they were getting unprecedented access, and finding nothing. All we had to do was wait a couple of months for them to finish their work, and war could have been avoided.

Instead, we ordered the inspectors out so we could invade.

Perhaps toppling Saddam was a worthwhile objective in its own right. But the cost/benefit ratio of such a move was highly questionable. In any event that should have been its own discussion, not something now used to retroactively justify an unwarranted mistake.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was obvious to me and many others, from day one, that the Bush administration played a deft game of pretending to support inspections while hindering the process at every level. Perhaps the saddest result of the WMD propaganda campaign is the fact that so many Americans still cling to grossly distorted suppositions in order to continue supporting a warped foreign policy.
- Caracarn

3/14/2006 2:18 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

While I think Bush -- or at least prominent members of his administration -- gamed the intelligence, I don't think they flat-out lied. They just overemphasized what supported their position and ignored what contradicted it.

But the rapidly changing conditions near the end -- ordering the inspectors out before they could finish their work, giving Saddam 48 hours to leave the country -- wasn't our finest moment. It seemed obvious that we were going to invade pretty much no matter what.

3/14/2006 6:03 PM  

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