Jonah Goldberg

For weeks Washington has been the site of a colossal game of hot potato over who's to "blame" for the Iraq war. Or, more specifically, who's to blame for the "bad intelligence" over Iraq's as-of-yet-undiscovered stockpiles of WMD.

Before the war, the nearly universal consensus among our intelligence agencies - as well as the agencies of pretty much all of our allies - was that Saddam had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was probably working on a nuclear program as well.

While the findings from our WMD bloodhound David Kay have been more serious than the mainstream press have generally reported, it's certainly true that the reality isn't matching up to the pre-war predictions - so far.

Since this fact feeds the generally ludicrous "Bush lied" mantra, Senate Republicans on the Select Committee on Intelligence are reportedly preparing a steamy pile of blame for CIA Director George Tenet.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats very much want the blame to be left in a burning bag at the White House's doorstep. That's why - cynics like me think - the Dems are leaping to the defense of Mr. Tenet.

Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, declared, "There is a very, very clear effort being made to blame everything on the intelligence community and steer by all means away from anything that has anything to do with anybody in the administration at higher-up levels or elsewhere."

Might I suggest another candidate for the blame? What about Saddam Hussein?

There are a host of theories as to why we haven't found WMDs in Iraq. Some hold that they are hidden deep in Iraq and will be found eventually. Others suggest they were moved to Syria or perhaps elsewhere at the last minute. Another theory holds that Saddam destroyed them fairly late in his decade-long face-off with the United States and the U.N., but refused to admit it.

Others say Saddam believed he had WMD but really didn't; his staff was too afraid to tell him. And, of course, the "Bush-lied" theorists hold that Bush was the only person in the world who knew that all of the intelligence agencies were wrong about Saddam, but he went to war anyway.

All of these are interesting notions, some clearly more plausible than others. But in a sense they're all irrelevant. No serious person thinks Saddam behaved like a leader with nothing to hide. By Saddam's refusing to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, sanctions remained intact. Those sanctions cost the lives of Iraqis and - far more painful to Saddam - they cost him perhaps $100 billion in oil revenue. Why do that if you have nothing to hide?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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