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October 12, 2003
Why We Went to War

William Kristol and Robert Kagan have written a lengthy, detailed article covering the reason for the Iraq war in-depth. Kristol and Kagan take us back through the history of the UN inspections and Saddam's weapons programs, including statements by the Clinton administration, the UN, and Saddam:

Here is what was known by 1998 based on Iraq's own admissions:

* That in the years immediately prior to the first Gulf War, Iraq produced at least 3.9 tons of VX, a deadly nerve gas, and acquired 805 tons of precursor ingredients for the production of more VX.

* That Iraq had produced or imported some 4,000 tons of ingredients to produce other types of poison gas.

* That Iraq had produced 8,500 liters of anthrax.

* That Iraq had produced 500 bombs fitted with parachutes for the purpose of delivering poison gas or germ payloads.

* That Iraq had produced 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas.

* That Iraq had produced or imported 107,500 casings for chemical weapons.

* That Iraq had produced at least 157 aerial bombs filled with germ agents.

* That Iraq had produced 25 missile warheads containing germ agents (anthrax, aflatoxin, and botulinum).

Again, this list of weapons of mass destruction is not what the Iraqi government was suspected of producing. (That would be a longer list, including an Iraqi nuclear program that the German intelligence service had concluded in 2001 might produce a bomb within three years.) It was what the Iraqis admitted producing. And it is this list of weapons--not any CIA analysis under either the Clinton or Bush administrations--that has been at the heart of the Iraq crisis.

For in all the years after those admissions, the Iraqi government never explained, or even tried to explain, to anyone's satisfaction, including most recently, that of Hans Blix, what had become of the huge quantities of deadly weapons it had produced. The Iraqi government repeatedly insisted that most of the weapons had been "secretly" destroyed. When asked to produce credible evidence of the destruction--the location of destruction sites, fragments of destroyed weapons, some documentation of the destruction, anything at all--the Iraqis refused.

In 1998, Clinton said, in part:

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.

However, as the article continues, the Clinton administration wound up taking no action at the time, because any attempt at enforcing the existing truce and UN resolutions "was averted by a lame compromise worked out by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. But within a few months, Saddam was again obstructing U.N. inspectors, driving a deeper wedge into the U.N. Security Council and attempting to put a final end to the inspections process. He succeeded."

In 1998, Clinton sent missiles into Iraq as punishment for Saddam's intransigence, and also to destroy what the UN and US believed to be a WMD production facility. But for four years afterwards, there were no follow-up inspections, no action whatsoever except additional UN resolutions for Saddam to ignore and Franco-Russian attempts to remove or undermine the sanctions on Iraq. Although both Clinton and Bush believed Saddam to be a priority threat, nothing much changed until 9/11, mostly due to a paralyzed UN Security Council. After Afghanistan, the next military issue was obviously Iraq. In order to keep pressure on Saddam, a huge amount of military resources were pinned down in the Persian Gulf, which limited our ability to respond elsewhere and also acted as a provocation to the region. However, in the four years in between, Saddam had been left to his own devices:

The only means of learning Iraqi activities during those years were intelligence, satellite photography, electronic eavesdropping, and human sources. The last of these was in short supply. And, as we now know, the ability to determine the extent of Saddam's programs only by so-called technical means was severely limited. American and foreign intelligence services pieced together what little information they could, but they were trying to illuminate a dark cave with a Bic lighter. Without a vast inspection team on the ground, operating unfettered and over a long period of time, it was clear that the great unanswered questions regarding Iraq--what happened to the old stockpiles of weapons and what new programs Saddam was working on--could never be answered.

Read the entire article. It is the best recap I have yet seen, and it takes the reader through the apposite points of the Kay report, putting them in historical and strategic context. This is the argument that should have been consistently communicated from the Bush administration, but if nothing else, they can look to Kristol and Kagan to pull their collective butt out of the fryer.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 12, 2003 8:37 PM

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Tracked on October 27, 2004 6:39 AM

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