The man who until last week was in charge of investigating Saddam?s WMD stash has become either a hero or an enigma?it just depends on who you are.
To the anti-war crowd, David Kay?s recent statements that Iraq had no WMDs on the eve of the war is a valiant admission. To many in the administration who respect the weapons expert but are awestruck at the timing and the bluntness of some of the comments, Kay is a hard man to figure out.
Kay?s statements make one thing clear, though: Bush was justified to go to war.
Within hours of leaving the Iraq Survey Group?the team that has been scouring Iraq for weapons of mass destruction?Kay gave Reuters a phone interview that the news wire described as a ?direct challenge to the Bush administration.? When asked if he thought that Saddam had destroyed WMDs before the war, Kay flatly responded, ?No, I don?t think they existed.?
The predictable headlines followed: ?U.S. arms hunter says no Iraq WMD.? Peaceniks were pleased?and Bushies were bummed.
Coming just three days after the State of the Union and dab smack in the middle of the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, the timing struck some as suspect, at best.
But Kay?s statements were not all bad for the president.
In talking to NPR over the weekend, the former head of the ISG emphatically defended Bush: ?I actually think the intelligence community owes the president (an apology), rather than the president owing the American people.?
Dangling an intriguing theory in the Sunday Telegraph, Kay said, ?We know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD program.? Less than a day later, though, Kay sought to dampen growing speculation. The Times reported, ?Dr. Kay said there was also no conclusive evidence that Iraq had moved any unconventional weapons to Syria.?
What gives? He made a point in each interview to provide political cover for the president, such as leaving open the Syrian possibility or making clear who needs to apologize. It stands to reason, however, that Kay is smart enough to know that his simple soundbites would be used to bash Bush over the head.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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