U.S. May Already Have Iraq’s WMDs

Posted: Jul 31, 2003 12:00 AM

  As WMD hysteria reaches a frenzied pitch, comments by the head of the U.S. team searching Iraq for WMD evidence should give pause to the "Bush lied" crowd.

  Dr. David Kay—the 63-year-old former U.N. weapons inspector now heading up the American WMD team—recently remarked that the United States will be “starting to reveal” WMD evidence in six months.

  Though he was circumspect at best, Dr. Kay’s comments could indicate that U.S. investigators know quite a bit more than they have revealed thus far.

  Buzz inside the beltway has been intensifying in recent days that the administration may have significantly more evidence than it has publicly released, and Dr. Kay’s comments have triggered even more chatter. Some of it may be wishful thinking, but considering that some of the people doing the talking are administration officials, declarations that there are no WMDs may be premature.

  Why would the Bush folks keep such politically high-value information secret?

  Possibly because, given the sheer number of guerrilla forces present inside Iraq, U.S. investigators believe it would be foolish to leak evidence piecemeal. Sources and methods of intelligence-gathering could be “compromised”—a polite way of saying those helping us or their families could get killed—and the U.S. team's efforts could be hampered if other would-be informants hold back out of fear.

  And with many of Saddam’s former henchmen still around, U.S. investigators tipping their hand could make it easier for Baathist thugs to destroy evidence or sabotage discovery efforts.

  Not that critics of President Bush—the people who wanted to wait endlessly while U.N. inspectors played footsy with Saddam—are waiting for the canvassing to be completed before slamming the commander-in-chief.

  Liberal legend Teddy Kennedy (D-MA) has charged that President Bush led the country to war "under false pretenses." His colleague and presidential wannabe John Kerry (D-MA)--who voted for the war--now is retreating to the warm embrace of his liberal base, claiming that, in essence, Bush duped him into supporting the liberation of Iraq.  Mincing no words, New York Times Paul Krugman stated flatly, "There is no longer any serious doubt that Bush administration officials deceived Americans into war."

  That there is WMD evidence inside Iraq - or possibly Iran or Syria - makes logical sense, as there are really only three WMD scenarios: 1) Saddam didn't have any WMDs, 2) Saddam destroyed everything just before the war began (or snuck it into Iran or Syria) or 3) the evidence stuck around longer than Saddam did.

  As Rumsfeld said before the war, “Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” No one argues, in fact, that Saddam didn't have active WMD programs when the U.N. inspectors left the country more than four years ago. So for the first possibility to be correct, Saddam would have had to have voluntarily ceased an operation that had been his primary obsession for some two decades and kept no records of having done so.

  Which leaves us with two other possibilities, either of which confirms Bush's pre-war arguments. It is possible that Saddam destroyed stockpiles and his mobile labs on the eve of war, but it is at least as plausible that he would not part with his treasures so easily. With a high street value and relative portability, though, it is also possible that Saddam sold off at least part of his stash. Or he could have used the time-honored tradition of simply hiding his arsenal.

  But until we have examined every last square inch of Iraq—and Syria and Iran—the entire WMD debate is premised on a hypothetical.

  In the end, the investigators may only find indirect evidence of WMD programs - human sources and documents - as opposed to the kind of weapons “stockpiles” for which our image-driven media salivates. A lack of camera-ready evidence could be a problem, but a mountain of documents and numerous human testimonials from Saddam's former scientists could be enough to reaffirm the obvious: Saddam had WMDs.