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The WMD Thing
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Thirteen
by Brian S. Wise
6 June 2003

Examining the author's political unease and irritation concerning recent WMD discussions.

I admit being made both politically uneasy and terribly irritated by the ongoing “So where are all these Weapons of Mass Destruction?” discussions.  On the one hand, okay, where are they?  On the other hand (as the president’s supporters have so helpfully reminded us over and over again this week) it took seven years to find Eric Rudolph in the woods, what should we really expect in Iraq in seven weeks?  Well, all right, but Colin Powell did not sit at the United Nations with aerial photographs of Rudolph’s exact resting spots over the years, offering the suggestion that he, Rudolph, could be apprehended if only the rest of the world would agree to go along.  There are certain expectations in the process, and the Right should appreciate they exist, having had no small hand in creating them.
           
National Review, as it is wont to do, offers a certain perspective on the matter in its 16 June issue, in the form of two charts.  The first is “Past Iraqi Use of WMDs”:  1983: Area Used, Hajj Umran; Agent, Mustard; Casualties, <100; Target Population, Iranians / Kurds.  1983: Area Used, Panjwin; Agent, Mustard; Casualties, 3,000; Target Population, Iranians / Kurds.  1984: Area Used, Manjnoon Island; Agent, Mustard; Casualties, 2,500; Target Population, Iranians … it goes on like this, 10 instances alone between 1983 and 1988, where about 32,000 people were killed for being either Iranians or Kurds, saying nothing of the chemicals that probably flew up allied soldiers noses during the Persian Gulf War.
 
The other chart, “Amount of WMDs Iraq Admits Having.”  Weapon, VX; Effect, Nerve Agent – Paralysis and Death; Quantity Iraq Claimed, 3.9 tons …. Weapon, Sarin; Effect, Nerve Agent – Paralysis and Death; Quantity Iraq Claimed, 812 tons …. Weapon, Anthrax; Effect, Bio Agent – Lung Infection and Death; Quantity Iraq Claimed, 2,200 gallons.  And so forth.  The statistics helpfully establish that the question (“Where are the WMDs?”) exists only in the where-are-they-now sense, not the they-were-never-there sense.
           
The author of the surrounding article, Jim Lacey, adds to both my political unease and irritation.  “Yes, Iraq is a big place, approximately the size of California, but we have over 150,000 troops there.  Dividing the land by the troops available, each soldier would have to cover only 1.4 square miles.  It might take a few months, but definitely not years.”  More months than just a few months when you take away the silly notion of one soldier stationed every 1.4 miles, but the point lingers.  If we pass summer and make way into fall without finding any chemical or biological weapons, what does it mean?
 
For one, it hurts the administration, but not enough to cost either the president or the party in 2004.  “So where are all these mysterious WMDs, anyway?” will make great campaign and convention fodder for the Democrats, and it may even score a few points in the presidential debates (should it go that long), but at the end of the day the original resolution authorizing force was passed with a fair amount of support from Congressional Democrats, and cannibalizing one’s own is more of a Republican character twinge (e.g., the recent, nonsensical infighting between “paleoconservatives” and “neoconservatives”), meaning the Left will avoid attacking its own side once a nominee is firmly in place.
 
For another, further damage would be done to the collective intelligence community, if it were not already such an awful mess (and regardless of that, still the finest in the world, so you can only imagine the overall quality of the others).  In order for the American intelligence community to be so far off as to invent weapons that do not exist, it means the intelligence on the matter as provided by Great Britain, Israel and the much venerated (albeit among the Left) United Nations must also be faulty.  To be this wrong on a matter so obvious would represent a failure second only to that of the 9/11 lead-up, but something that could at least be shared, for all the good it would do.
 
So, if WMDs end up not being in Iraq, where are they?  The Middle East is a predictable enough region to say with some confidence. They are still in the Middle East, a portion of the world where every nation could rightfully be liberated, if only so we can know intimately who we will be removing 10 years from now.  The safe money here is on Syria, in which case another line should be drawn in the sand, followed by the proverbial five minute pause before bombing begins.

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