Weapons of mass delusion, democratic style

Posted: Jun 18, 2003 12:00 AM

I have to say, Hillary Clinton is looking pretty good these days. I mean, up against an impressive number of fellow Democrats, including several who aspire to the presidency.

Say what we will (and probably should) concerning the former first lady, she is famous for a certain cunning. This seems to preclude her getting into bigger trouble than the normal hyper-ambitious pol gets into in the course of a political day.

She hasn't yet, for instance, slammed the administration for deceiving us into attacking Iraq through the concealment or distortion of relevant information concerning weapons of mass destruction.

Mrs. Clinton's reticence in the matter -- she has confined herself thus far to noting, factually, that "Serious questions have been raised ... " -- is setting no example for presidential hopefuls like Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who says President Bush's "credibility is at stake." Then there's fellow White House-seeker, and Florida senator, Bob Graham, who tells us the president "lied, in the sense that he didn't tell the whole truth." (As in "I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky"?) Yet another presidential candidate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, denounces the administration's "fraudulent approach to foreign policy."

Various Democrats clamored last week for a full-dress investigation into what the Bushies knew and when they knew it. Ah, the smell and savor of Watergate! Robert Byrd's West Virginia colleague, John D. Rockefeller IV, of whom little is normally heard, insisted that a private investigation -- one designed to protect national security -- would be "inadequate."

I could go on. Suffice it to say, with clasped hands: Oh, thank you, Mrs. Clinton, thank you. For a change.

The slopes of the Democrats' imposing molehill should not take long to ascend. It could be, in fact, that by the time the Senate intelligence committee's closed hearing into the matter gets off the ground, the long-sought weapons of mass destruction will have been located. Or maybe not. If not, will that prove U.S. deception or Iraqi cunning?

The oddness of this matter stands out a mile. What you want to say to these folk (from whom, in this context, serious Democrats like Joe Lieberman and even John Kerry distance themselves) is: Stop just a minute. Think. What's the purpose here, to keep Americans safe or to crack open a White House door recently believed sealed?

Even taking into account where these particular rites go forward -- Washington, D.C. -- the exercise is almost incomparably loopy. No weapons of mass destruction yet? Might it have occurred, at any rate to the milder of the critics, that it can take a while to find stuff stashed (assuming that to be the case) in order to deceive the whole wide world? That Iraq has possessed WMDs or the capacity to make them is indisputable -- Scud missiles, bulk chemical warfare agents, bulk liquid anthrax, thousands of liters of nuclear enrichment equipment. We demanded for 14 years that the Iraqis surrender these materials; finally, we sent Dr. Blix to look for them. That wasn't time enough? We should have waited?

But we didn't wait. Does this bring us, intellectually, morally, to repudiation of the whole war? We could certainly stammer out some kind of apology, beginning with "Oops." If only we'd known our leaders were lying! Congress at that point could consider a bill -- possibly Dennis Kucinich would introduce it -- to apologize to Saddam, Qusay and Chemical Ali (if still available). We could restore, probably, the gold bathroom fixtures. We could smooth over the mass destruction sites where victims of the regime -- hundreds of thousands in number, it would seem -- were disposed of by, shall we say, conventional means and then quietly buried.

The moral absurdities in which the Democratic critics tangle themselves go on endlessly: not least, the worse-than-absurdity of picking apart your own government during a war and holding it up to ridicule before countries disposed already to believe the worst about it and its motives.

Oh, brilliant, Sen. Graham, just brilliant.