October 11, 2003

WMD's and the Lunatic Fringe

If you read the headlines last week, you might have gotten the impression that David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group have conclusively proved that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction. Ever. It was all a fantasy, a Big Lie used by the Bush administration to justify the war. Saddam never had WMD's, those tens of thousands of Iranian soldiers and inconvenient Kurds died in their sleep of ennui, and our only reason for going to Iraq was to line the pockets of oil companies.

All of which goes to show that significant portions of the media are much less interested in serious journalism than in playing radical politics. And the politics they are playing is that of the Lunatic Fringe, the politics and journalism that avoids and ignores serious and substantive issues in order to push surreal sensationalist propaganda and extremist agendas.

This is nothing new. During the 1990's, a once-serious and renowned magazine, The American Spectator, squandered all claim to objective journalism and drove itself into obscurity by pursuing both bizarre paranoid conspiracy theories and trivial scandals revolving around the Clinton administration. They were the most obvious idiots, but not the only ones. It seemed like a good deal to them at the time. It played well to the black-helicopter crowd. It played well with the people who had a visceral hatred of Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party. It sold magazines. But as a political tactic it was a massive failure, turning the Great Middle of the American political spectrum away from the GOP, eroding the 1994 Republican gains in the House and Senate, and ensruing Bill CLinton's re-election in 1996. It took Clinton's own obvious and personal sins and failings to spike up GOP fortunes again and cost Al Gore what should have been an easy incumbent run at the White House. And when the dust settled, the Spectator went bankrupt, having no Clay God remaining to fight, and having nothing more to say that anyone would believe.

It is a good thing to learn from your own mistakes, but it is a much better thing to learn from your opponent's mistakes. But those on the Left seem to have missed the lesson and appear determined to repeat history. Instead of attacking Bush on issues where he is eminently vulnerable--health care, for example, or the blatant lie of "compassionate conservatism", or the administration's obvious failure to "govern from the middle" as promised--Dems are instead still beating the WMD horse, long dead, and cheerleader liberal papers are helping as best they can by lying about David Kay's report on WMD's.

So let's review what the President actually said, and compare it to the reality. I know that those who are religiously opposed to Bush, those that substitute their own hatred of him for rational thought or even the nitpicking rants of the Spectator variety, those who zealously worship at the altar of the Mindless Blind Demon of Fear and Loathing, those whose fanatical neo-Nazism is of the Noam Chomsky strain, won't bother to read it, ("Don't try to sway me with facts!") but the rest of us can examine the reality.

"Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession after the Gulf War. When UNSCOM would then uncover evidence that gave the lie to those declarations, Iraq would simply amend the reports. For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times within just 14 months, and it has ubmitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by UNSCOM. In 1995 Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-law and the chief organizer of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, defected to Jordan. He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more. Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of weapons in significant quantities--and weapons stocks. Previously it had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once Saddam's son-in-law defected to Jordan and told the truth.

Now listen to this: What did it admit? It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability, notably, 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs. And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production. . . .

Next, throughout this entire process, Iraqi agents have undermined and undercut UNSCOM. They've harassed the inspectors, lied to them, disabled monitoring cameras, literally spirited evidence out of the back doors of suspect facilities as inspectors walked through the front door, and our people were there observing it and had the pictures to prove it. . . .

Over the past few months, as [the weapons inspectors] have come closer and closer to rooting out Iraq's remaining nuclear capacity, Saddam has undertaken yet another gambit to thwart their ambitions by imposing debilitating conditions on the inspectors and declaring key sites which have still not been inspected off limits, including, I might add, one palace in Baghdad more than 2,600 acres large. . . .

One of these presidential sites is about the size of Washington, D.C. . . .

It is obvious that there is an attempt here, based on the whole history of this operation since 1991, to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the missiles to deliver them, and the feed stocks necessary to produce them. The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons.

Now, let's imagine the future. What if he fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made? Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction.

And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal. . . . In the next century, the community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now--a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists, drug traffickers, or organized criminals who travel the world among us unnoticed.

If we fail to respond today, Saddam, and all those who would follow in his footsteps, will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council, and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program."

By the way, that wasn't George W. Bush. The President who said that was Bill Clinton, in December 1998.

What we know today is that the ISG found significant evidence of ongoing programs, and significant evidence of Iraqi attempts to conceal those programs before, furing, and even after the invasion. What we know is that the ISG has to date inspected only 10 of 130 known munitions storage areas, some of them as big as 50 square miles in size. What we know is that Saddam often had WMD munitions stored unmarked, right in with large stores of conventional arms, in order to fool inspectors. And we know that it may be quite a while before all those known areas are examined, and that the relatively small size of what we're looking for may make that search very difficult, and that the munitions, if not destroyed, may have been removed to locations we don't yet know about.

There were substantial arguments to be made about not going to war with Iraq, to instead pursue other, less confrontational and violent paths. And they were made, and that is not the path Bush followed, and that decision is certainly open to debate and criticism. But what is readily apparent is that the President's words were true then, and they are true now. As an option inaction led only to more dangerous options and greater danger to both the world and our nation, and lesser actions risked the same. By going the denial and conspiracy route, the Democrats actively alienate the Great Middle, and guarantee that next year Dubya won't have to work all that hard to get re-elected. He won't have to act like a centrist or moderate. All he has to do is let the Democrats keep sounding like Elvis-sighting alien-probed black-helicopter-chasing X-Filers.

You want to hate Dubya? I'm sure you can find plenty of good reasons. You don't need to make them up.

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