Anyone who went on record in support of the war has been asked that question a hundred or so times in recent weeks. President Bush's opponents, it seems, won't be satisfied until Geraldo is standing astride 5,000 drums of liquid anthrax in front of a nuclear silo. Wouldn't that be lovely?
I confess to disappointment that there isn't some clearer evidence of WMD. Certainly those of us who wandered out onto the pro-war limb believed in the case presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell. We believed the Iraqi people would welcome us (they mostly did); we believed there would be celebrations in the streets (there were); and we believed that Saddam Hussein needed to be ousted for all the right reasons, including his clear commitment to the development of WMD.
And it was a clear commitment, let's remember. Saddam had developed such weapons in the past and used them against Iran as well as Iraqi Kurds. He consistently thumbed his nose at inspection efforts. He failed to produce evidence that he had destroyed vast quantities of biological and chemical weapons left over from Gulf War I. And he did nothing to convince the "international community" that he had rid his country of all vestiges of WMD.
He essentially chose war over truth and the safety of his own people. Meanwhile, intelligence about WMD in Iraq was sufficiently compelling to declare Saddam in violation of a series of U.N. disarmament resolutions going back to 1991. And not one country on the U.N. Security Council, even among those that fought our war effort, disbelieved the existence of WMD in Iraq. The issue wasn't whether, but how, to get rid of them.
Still, the question that won't go away chaps at the conscience of any thinking person: So where are they?
The bad news is that we may never find them, according to military and intelligence people I've talked to. Does that mean WMD were never there? No. Does it mean we were wrong? No. Was the threat of WMD a ruse to justify an otherwise unjustifiable attack on another country? Anyone who seriously asks this question won't take "no" for an answer.
The truth is, we don't know where the weapons are at the moment, other than the two mobile bio labs, but a number of plausible theories could help explain why not. The most obvious explanation is that Saddam simply destroyed the weapons or shipped them elsewhere - to Syria, for instance. He may have ordered his men to destroy them in the vast Iraqi desert and then killed them as the only witnesses. The perfect crime.
Or he may have dispersed and concealed various elements of his WMD production capacity, figuring he could regroup after the war.
The two mobile labs recently investigated were thoroughly scrubbed down. Although a variety of inspectors have not been able to say with certitude what the labs were used for, the consensus is that they make sense for no other purpose than creation of biological weapons. In any case, they were properly equipped for that purpose. Why carefully scrub a lab unless you're trying to hide something?
The fact that the weapons were never used against our troops may suggest that Saddam hoped that by destroying the bulk of his WMD stocks and dispersing or concealing his WMD production capacity, which often smacks of civilian industrial equipment, he could prevent indictment by U.N. inspectors.
Then he could reliably count on France, Germany and Russia to forestall war because of a lack of credible evidence of the existence of WMD. Once the pesky inspectors left, all he needed to do was obtain the necessary chemicals and materiel for production of WMD and he'd be back in business.
That's the theory of Peter Brookes, senior fellow for National Security Affairs and Director of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. It makes as much sense as anything else, though admittedly it's difficult to read the mind of a maniac. Saddam's, that is.
Whatever the case, we might have been wiser never to entertain hopes of a smoking gun. We entered Iraq with Oz-like expectations, wide-eyed in search of a yellow-brick road lined with happy Iraqis pointing to the brightly colored arrows: "Weapons of Mass Destruction Here!" The WMD weren't likely to be neatly stacked and labeled in warehouses along Frontage Road.
Nevertheless, we still need closure and an answer to the question: Where are they? The fact of their absence in Iraq could predict a scarier scenario still. If they weren't destroyed, they're somewhere else potentially far more dangerous to us now.