As he did throughout the speech, Mr. Powell detailed the only plausible interpretation. He said: ?Note what he says: ?We evacuated everything.? We didn't destroy it. We didn?t line it up for inspection. We didn?t turn it into the inspectors. We evacuated it to make sure it was not around when the inspectors showed up. ?I will come to you tomorrow.??
Moments later?after pointing out that ?the inspectors found 12 empty chemical warheads on January 16??Mr. Powell played another intercept, one of a Republican Guard officer issuing an order to a subordinate in the field.
In the recorded conversation, the superior reiterated a previous instruction: ?And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there. Remember the first message: evacuate it.? Lest anyone had any doubt how to interpret this clandestine conversation, the senior officer said, ?After you have carried out what is contained in this message, destroy the message because I don?t want anyone to see this message.?
Buttressing the intercepts, Mr. Powell also provided satellite photos, including shots of bunkers at a facility called Taji. The side-by-side photos?one from before the arrival of weapons inspectors, one taken afterward?with tents and decontamination vehicles nowhere to be found in the later image.
Mr. Powell also showed photos of three sites?out of roughly 30 total?where large cargo trucks arrived at known weapons facilities just before the UN inspectors did.
If anything, subsequent discoveries have bolstered Mr. Powell?s primary argument that Saddam was in violation of Resolution 1441. There were large, unknown shipments crossing into Syria on the eve of war?entirely consistent with evidence of transfer from facilities shortly before UN inspectors appeared.
And David Kay?the man whose credibility is considered near-perfect by the media because he believes Saddam did not possess WMD?found that Saddam had, in fact, duped the weapons inspectors.
As for the remainder of Mr. Powell?s address to the UN, most of the other evidence he cited to support claims that Saddam possessed WMD still stands?particularly Saddam?s own admissions, his bloody track record, and his inability to produce any legitimate proof that he had actually destroyed his stockpiles.
Finally, the 9/11 Commission supported Mr. Powell?s contention that Iraq had ongoing contacts with al Qaeda, and regular news reports of beheadings and terrorist strikes remind Americans that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is as dangerous as originally claimed.
Perhaps it is too much to ask of journalists to go back and actually re-read Mr. Powell?s speech to the UN. If they don?t, though, the media-created myth that the four-star general?s presentation has been debunked will soon become accepted as true.
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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