In light of weapons inspector David Kay's recent statements, it is mystifying to me that President Bush and Republicans aren't claiming vindication and challenging Democrats for exploiting the issue. Some observations about this:
1. Kay did say we didn't discover major stockpiles of recently developed WMD in Iraq, but almost everything else he said supports the president's position, exposing his opponents as wrong and reckless. Kay said or implied that:
A. "The intelligence community owes the president (an apology) rather than the president owing (one to) the American people."
B. The administration did not pressure the intelligence agencies to overstate the WMD threat.
C. While Bush relied on possibly erroneous intelligence, so did Saddam himself and his generals, the Clinton administration, France, Germany and Britain.
D. "What we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than, in fact, we thought it was even before the war."
E. Iraq was a magnet for international terrorists who were free to operate there, and plan and conduct their deadly mischief.
F. Saddam was flagrantly violating U.N. resolutions in a number of respects and feverishly trying to do so in others. While there were supposedly no major WMD stockpiles, there were probably WMDs, some of which may have been removed to Syria in the weeks preceding our invasion. Saddam was trying to weaponize the deadly agent Ricin, and he was clearly developing missile systems in contravention of the resolutions.
G. Saddam's scientists may have duped him about their progress in developing WMD.
2. Bill Clinton recently said that when he ordered the bombing of Iraq's suspected WMD sites, we couldn't be sure whether we (and Britain) destroyed all of them, 50 percent or 10 percent -- because we didn't have inspectors on the ground to determine the extent of the damage. While Clinton was trying to take credit for possibly destroying Iraq's WMD, he inadvertently exposed his party's hypocrisy. Did Democrats complain that he bombed these sites when we didn't even know if WMD were there? Did Democrats complain about weaknesses in our intelligence because we never learned whether we struck pay dirt with those bombing attacks? Did they call for an investigation?
3. It's a little hard for me to swallow the idea that just one of Saddam's scientists deceived him, much less a network of them who would have had to discuss their lies conspiratorially, increasing the chances that they would be exposed (and then murdered).
4. But, if Kay is correct that Saddam was duped, how can we say we had an avoidable failure of intelligence? If a dictator with unchecked power has faulty intelligence about his own regime, how can our intelligence agencies be blamed for having that same info?
5. Intelligence is at best, an inexact science. It is hard to stomach all these armchair quarterbacks demanding perfection from the very intelligence organizations they and their like-minded predecessors emasculated in previous decades. If there were intelligence failures, they were probably not technological ones, but those of human intelligence (HUMINT), which is precisely what liberals weakened.
6. I question Kay's assertion that "you cannot have pre-emptive foreign or military policy unless you have pristine, perfect intelligence." Since much intelligence depends on the human factor, which is inherently imperfect, we will often not be completely certain about our intelligence. Yet, as even Kay admits, it was imperative that we act anyway. The only way we could prevent Saddam from developing and using WMD or sharing them with terrorists was to remove him from power forcibly.
7. And with all due respect to Mr. Kay and others, we did not, as I've written many times before, have the burden of proving Saddam had WMD. He had the duty of proving he had destroyed them and his programs. This he deliberately and defiantly failed to do. Our "preemptive" attack was justified with or without the continued existence of WMD. In this sense, it wasn't even preemptive; it was to enforce already violated resolutions.
8. President Bush has been pressured to conduct an independent investigation even though we don't know for sure that there was truly an intelligence failure that could realistically have been avoided. But as important as intelligence is in our war on terror, we can greatly benefit from a comprehensive review, provided its purpose remains constructive -- to expose and solve problems -- rather than to find a convenient scapegoat.
9. It doesn't make sense that Bush would have lied about WMD knowing that his lie would be exposed when we defeated Iraq. It's time for Democrats to "move on."