When the first air raid sirens sounded in Kuwait City as this war began, U.S. troops hurriedly donned their anti-chemical body armor. The reason stated by U.S. officials why there was no immediate chemical counterattack was that Hussein might be waiting to draw American troops into Baghdad -- not firing until he sees the whites of American eyes. Yet, military experts say it would be less effective for the Iraqis to launch chemical assaults in the close quarters of possible Baghdad urban warfare.
In his daily rant over Iraqi television Friday, Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf declared that weapons of destruction would not be part of his regime's tactics in the battle of Baghdad. That could be a truth embedded in a web of lies.
Last Friday, U.S. authorities told reporters that they may have discovered the smoking gun at the Latifiyah industrial complex, 25 miles south of Baghdad. A U.S. Army engineer brigade found boxes of white powder, nerve agent antidote and Arabic documents on chemical warfare. This looked more like a chemical-biological training unit than a real command post, and early testing of the suspicious powder showed it to be explosives.
"If we end this war with Iraq WMD-free, we're in trouble internationally," a State Department official told me Friday. "But I cannot believe that is going to happen. This isn't over yet, and you cannot make such a judgment over just two weeks."
There is, therefore, a double mission for U.S. forces. The primary mission is to destroy an evil regime, for the benefit of the Iraqi people and the peace of the region. The secondary mission is to come up with substantiation of the avowed reason by President Bush for asking the world to remove Saddam Hussein from power. At stake may be the ruptured international relations of the United States.