IRAQ AND WMD….Chris Bertram asks: did Tony Blair lie when he told the House of Commons that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? The same question, of course, could be asked of George Bush, who very clearly made WMD the central part of his argument for regime change, both to domestic audiences and to the UN.

The answer, of course, is that it’s too soon to tell. WMD, or evidence of substantial manfuacturing capability, may still turn up. But even so, the evidence so far is disturbing.

Before the war, we had the problem of the Iraqi exiles who said the WMD programs were all defunct, the forged Niger document, the plagiarized “dossier,” and the aluminum tubes. Why frame a guilty man? At best, these incidents indicate an appalling failure of our intelligence operations; at worst, they indicate a deliberate attempt to deceive.

During the war, another disturbing fact cropped up: Saddam folded like a cheap tent and never used any of his WMD against us. Why? There has been speculation about why he might possess WMD but not use it, but it’s been less than convincing.

After the war, the problems have grown further. No WMD has been found. No factories have been found. High ranking Iraqi officials have been captured, but they’ve revealed nothing. Perhaps more time is needed, but then there’s this: the actions of the military have not been consistent with a genuine fear that Saddam’s regime possessed WMD.

To wit: the Pentagon had only two MET teams ready to search Iraq when the war ended. They ignored known nuclear sites for a month. They have refused the help of UN inspectors, who would have provided much needed manpower, expertise, and international confidence in any findings.

Is this important? Of course it is. It’s obviously important if the President of the United States lied or even seriously exaggerated about a threat in order to gain support for a foreign war, but it’s important beyond that as well. Although seeing the end of Saddam Hussein is an unqualified good, this by itself is not enough. Any serious foreign policy must accept that there are many other actors on the world stage who are just as odious as Saddam Hussein, and we can’t police them all. There must also be some credible threat to national ? or world ? security to justify a war of this kind, and WMD in the hands of an unstable dictator is exactly that kind of threat. It was critical as justification for this war.

Only a fool would declare at this early date that Iraq didn’t possess either WMD or WMD programs. But the fact patterns emerging so far do not inspire confidence. For the sake of America’s credibility with the world, I hope that changes soon.

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