The president based the war on Iraq on the presence (in that country) of weapons of mass destruction, principally chemical and biological weapons, despite U.N. resolutions mandating their declaration and destruction. A month ago, coalition forces caused the Iraqi government to collapse. Critics now ask: Where's the evidence?
The administration urges patience, noting that thousands of sites remain to be inspected. Remember that during the pre-1996 round of inspections, thousands of inspectors failed to uncover weapons of mass destruction until an Iraqi defector led the inspectors to them. Now, in addition to the military's 1,000-strong Mobile Exploitation Team forces (MET) engaged in the search, the administration anticipates hiking the number of scientists, technicians and analysts by 1,000 over the next three months.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, before the war, said, "If Iraq were genuinely committed to disarmament, Dr. Blix's document would not be 167 pages of issues and questions, it would be about thousands upon thousands of pages of answers about anthrax, about VX, about sarin, about unmanned aerial vehicles. It would set out in detail all of Iraq's prohibited programs. Then and only then could the inspectors really do the credible job they need to do of verification, destruction and monitoring. We've been down this road before. March 1998, Saddam Hussein was also faced with the threat of military action. He responded with promises -- promises to provide inspectors at the time with immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access. The then chief inspector reported to this council a new spirit of cooperation, along with his hope that the inspectors could move very quickly to verify Iraq's disarmament. . . . And nine months later, the inspectors found it necessary to withdraw."
And after United Nations Resolution 1441 demanded that Saddam Hussein fully and thoroughly declare his weapons, the regime, according to Powell, continued to thwart inspectors. Powell described intercepted phone and radio calls in which Iraqi weapons officials, in anticipation of a U.N. search, moved equipment and labs.
"A web of lies," said Powell regarding Iraq's continuous denials of any ties to terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. "When we confront a regime," said Secretary Powell, "that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present."
Now that the principal fighting is over, Iraqi scientists are beginning to talk.