There is a camp of Iraq War cheerleaders who say that whether or not we find out what became of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is irrelevant. The war was such a smashing success, they urge, that objections about WMDs are mere footnotes.
This is too pat. The case the administration made (as did many of us who supported the war) rested upon many factors, including: the regime's treachery; aggression toward its neighbors; hatred for the United States; support for global terrorists; internal barbarism; and mass murder of civilians. But the clincher was the regime's determination to possess the most dangerous weapons known to mankind. It was known that Saddam not only held but had used poison gas against Kurdish civilians. His nuclear ambitions were delayed by the Israeli attack on the nuclear reactor at Osirak, but there were solid reasons to believe that he had never abandoned his goal.
This requires a bit more elaboration because there are some simple-minded types who say: "Hey, Israel has nuclear weapons, why don't we take Tel Aviv? And India has nuclear weapons, why doesn't Bush put India on the Axis of Evil?" Obviously, possession of deadly weapons alone is not a compelling reason to engage in pre-emptive action. It is the nature of the regime combined with the nature of the weapons that creates a threat. We had every reason to fear that Saddam might share his WMDs with terrorist groups and we'd have no way to prove it or hold him responsible. Who was behind the anthrax attacks of October 2001?
Few would have urged a war against Saddam if he had not possessed weapons of mass destruction. However much we rejoice for the Iraqi people who've been freed from his freak-show of a government, we are not in the business of militarily liberating all the world's oppressed.
It is important to know what has become of those chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons or the programs to produce them. If the weapons were destroyed, we need to know where and how. If they were exported, we need to know that even more urgently.
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