Thursday, October 16, 2014

Follow-Up on the Finding of More Chemical WMDs in Iraq

           In my last post, I noted the reported discovery of thousands of chemical weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq that had been retained by the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, in violation of United Nations resolutions that required him to destroy the weapons.  Reportedly, the weapons remained dangerous and even potentially lethal for many years after the Liberation of Iraq in 2003, even wounding American and Iraq soldiers.  Some of the opponents of the war have been misinterpreting the evidence that proves Iraq did have WMDs and did pose a threat either to use them itself or give them to terrorists.  

These chemical WMDs and were among those known about by UN inspectors that Iraq was required to destroy, both under the 1991 ceasefire that ended the Liberation of Kuwait and UN resolutions.  Some of them had been left at a staging area or had been transferred there, where they were supposed to be destroyed by Baathist regime.  Despite the threat of war over its retention of such weapons, as well as the chemicals used to make them, such as sarin and nerve gas, Iraq failed to destroy them.  The presence of some of these weapons at the staging area is not conclusive evidence that Hussein’s regime ever intended to destroy them.  Opponents of the war believed either that Iraq had destroyed the weapons or the United States had when the Clinton Administration bombed Iraq to degrade its WMD program or they believed the duplicitous Saddam Hussein’s claims that the weapons had been destroyed.  The critics held firm to this belief without any convincing evidence of the destruction of the weapons, such as the destroyed weapons themselves, or at least videotape or photographs of the destruction of the weapons or the destroyed weapons. 

Similarly, some of the opponents of the Liberation of Iraq dismiss the significance of the threat from these chemical WMDs, including those not found at the staging area, by describing them as having been “abandoned” by the Iraq regime.  That the chemical WMDs were buried instead of destroyed does not necessarily signify an intention to abandon them, but reasonably suggests an intention to reuse them at a later time, such as after UN sanctions on Iraq had been lifted.  A related argument of war critics and apologists for the Baathist regime is that the chemical WMDs were unknown to Iraq because it had lost track of them, despite the threat of war over its failure to destroy these WMDs and the overthrow of the regime.  However, it is unlikely that a totalitarian regime could possibly lose track of such a valuable state asset.  Such regimes are defined by their total control and are notorious for keeping meticulous records.  At best, it could be theorized that the chemical WMDs, which were artillery shells filled with prohibited chemicals, were deliberately mixed in with conventional shells, which, in a sense, validates the observation by the Duelfer Report that Hussein’s Iraqi regime was in some ways “more dangerous” than previously thought.

Liberal and other opponents of the Liberation of Iraq accused the Bush Administration and other supporters of the war of changing their rationale for the war, but it is the critics who have changed their rationale.  First, they opposed the war beforehand, citing, among other things, the threat from Iraq’s known chemical weapons of mass destruction.  Then, after large stockpiles of WMDs were not immediately found, they claimed the weapons were non-existent – an argument they would continue to make, despite the repeated discovery of WMDs, or at least of minimal threat.  Next, after some chemical WMDs were discovered early in the war in improvised explosive devices set by insurgents, they cited these WMDs as a “new threat” to American and coalition soldiers, as if to blame the Bush Administration for allowing the weapons to escape the implicitly preferred control of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime.  In 2006, when the discovery of a tally of over 500 chemical WMDs and counting was announced by the United States, the critics dismissed the weapons as too “degraded” to be a threat, even though they had cited them as a threat in 2003, which is when it mattered whether or not they had remained a threat.  Now, after admitted that the weapons wounded American and Iraqi soldiers for several years after 2006, and thus remained a threat, they are back to regarding these old weapons as a continued threat if they would be mishandled or fall into the hands of Islamist terrorists, instead of remaining in the control of Hussein. 

The fact that Iraq’s chemical WMDs were often hidden and the totalitarian nature of the “Republic of Fear” explain the difficulty in finding them sooner and also exposes another logical contradiction in the arguments of the opponents of the war.  The critics claimed mistakes by the intelligence services in exaggerating or even misleading about Iraq’s WMDs, but apparently these critics had supreme confidence in the same intelligence agencies’ effort to find WMDs that were hidden across a territory the size of California.  If these critics were consistent, they would have criticized the failure of the intelligence agencies to find the WMDs, or at least to find more of them sooner, instead of jumping to the conclusion that because the intelligence agencies they criticized as incompetent could not find the WMDs, the WMDs must not exist.

As I noted in my last post, the Liberation of Iraq was abundantly justified because of the Baathist Hussein regime’s history of aggression and terrorism that made it a threat even without possessing WMDs.  Iraq signaled its intent to continue hostilities both by violating the 1991 cease-fire by shooting at American and Coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones and by refusing to destroy its WMDs, like a convicted felon who refused to allow an inspection of his home to verify whether or not he had guns.  Iraq’s refusal, which was also a violation of UN resolutions, allowed it to continue to intimidate its neighbors.  The Baathist also regime harbored and financed terrorists who targeted and killed Americans and had attempted the assassination of former United States President George H.W. Bush.  All of these acts were sufficient alone to justify war, but made war a compelling choice when taken collectively, as they ought to have been.   

An active Iraqi WMDs was never necessary as a justification of war, but the Hussein regime’s retention of its WMDs after the end of sanctions was, in fact, an additional specific justification cited by the U.S. and only added to the urgency to act, especially after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks.  The U.S. was concerned that Iraq’s retention of its WMDs suggested its intent to restart its WMD program after the lifting of sanctions.  

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