Sticking to Their Story

“We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandated of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.” — Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), September 19, 2002.

The issue of weapons of mass destruction WMD is a central question concerning the liberation of Iraq. Before the operation by Coalition Forces in 2003 began, there was a broad and deep consensus among leaders of both the Democratic and Republican Parties and indeed the world that Saddam’s Iraq had retained a portion of his stockpiles of WMD from the pre-1991 war era and was still actively seeking such capability and the means to deliver them. All of these activities were in direct violation of the cease-fire agreement with Coalition Forces in 1991 as well as numerous United Nations resolutions.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, the Kay and Reports clearly demonstrated that Saddam’s Iraq was trying to maintain WMD capability and extend its ability to deliver them, though no stockpiles of WMD were found. The categorical “no WMD” assertion was not technically correct because about 30 chemical weapons were found. This number was small enough that it could be believed that the Saddam regime may have lost these to sloppy accounting. The headlines could still “No WMD Stockpiles Found.” Rhetorically speaking, it was possible for some to assert that Bush lied to us about WMD with the same certainty that they assured us before the war that such weapons existed.

It has always been intuitively unsatisfying to believe that Saddam had really come clean with regard to WMD, yet still would not allow international inspectors to unequivocally certify it. After all, interfering with international inspectors cost the regime billons in oil revenues that it might have otherwise enjoyed. Some suggest that interfering with inspectors was a big bluff by Saddam in order for him to save face in the Arab world. In retrospect, if Saddam’s regime had turned over its WMD in the first months after the first Gulf War, sanctions would have ended in a year and the regime could have re-started its WMD program in a few years financed by increasing oil revenues. The bluff would have been irrational. Though, it must be conceded that Saddam has often miscalculated.

One explanation is that some of the WMD had been transferred to Syria prior to the second Gulf War. There is precedent to this behavior in that prior to the first Gulf War, Saddam’s sent some of his Air Force to his implacable enemy Iran rather than see them destroyed by Coalition Forces. Iran declined to return the planes. It is not commonly known, that the Duelfer Report specifically did not rule out such a weapons transfer. In a recent a book Saddam’s Secret, a former Iraqi Air Force General Georges Sada asserts that weapons were moved to Syria, though his sources are second-hand.

Now we find that in the years since the completion of the Duelfer Report, additional weapons have been found. The weapons are in widely varying states of operational readiness, but now the number totals 500, certainly enough to be considered a stockpile. This certainly less than might have been expected based on pre-war intelligence, but still remains a critical conclusion. Unfortunately this new information contradicts the story line of the past couple of years and consequently has difficulty fighting its way into a mainstream media that already has its mind made up.

It seems that such news released by Republican Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) from previously classified documents would be front page news whatever assessment one makes of the credibility of this new information. If the released report is true, it must compel a re-assessment of the conventional wisdom about WMD stockpiles. If the evidence is weak, then it speaks negatively of yet another attempt by some who supported the initial invasion to desperately justify their decision. This latter point is key. If the newly released report is false or misleading, then that would provide powerful evidence of deception and play into the Left-wing assertion that “Bush lied.” The day after the release there was scant evidence of it in the mainstream media. It was not a top AP story. Does the scant coverage actually provide evidence of the report’s compelling credibility?

The Washington Post on June 23, 2006 relegated the story to page A10, under the rather self-serving headline, “Democrats Criticize Claim on Iraqi Arms.” While several days later, the front page of the Sunday Washington Post ran a story, probably leaked from the CIA on how prior to the war the CIA warned against the credibility of a “fabricator” who was providing evidence of pre-war WMD in Iraq. The former story officially released by a Senator contracting the story line of “no WMD” is buried or ignored, and a story from an unnamed source supporting the “no WMD” narrative is featured on the front page.

It is clear that the “no WMD” is the mainstream media’s story and they are sticking to it.

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