THE HUNT FOR WMD PROGRAMS….Terminology update: we’re no longer looking for weapons of mass destruction ? that was all just a misunderstanding, apparently ? we’re looking for weapons programs. But apparently that’s not going too well either according to officials who have been briefed on the progress so far:

The sources said four senior scientists and more than a dozen at lower levels who worked for the Iraqi government have been interviewed by U.S. officials under the direction of the CIA. Some scientists have been arrested and held for months, others have made deals in return for information and at least one has agreed to be interviewed outside Iraq.

No matter the circumstances, all of the scientists interviewed have denied that Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program or developed and hidden chemical or biological weapons since United Nations inspectors left in 1998. Several key Iraqi officials questioned the significance of evidence cited by the Bush administration to suggest that Hussein was stepping up efforts to develop new weapons of mass destruction programs.

Before long, George Bush is going to be reduced to saying that what we’re really looking for is evidence of “a strong desire on Saddam’s to start thinking about weapons again someday.”

Unfortunately, it’s a poor jest. At the end of the day, if it turns out there’s no WMD and there isn’t even any credible evidence of WMD programs, then just what the hell were our intelligence agencies doing? I can’t think of another intelligence failure of this magnitude anytime in recent history.

Why do I have the sinking feeling that someday, when the definitive histories of this era finally get written, it’s going to turn out that the sum total of our WMD evidence was the say-so of Ahmed Chalabi and his buddies? Man oh man oh man, I sure hope there was more to it than that, I really do….