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For the past few months, the American public has accepted as established fact that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, thanks in part to the David Kay report, which held out little hope of finding any WMD caches in Iraq. However, the finality of the WMD status may not be as cut-and-dried as Americans imagine, as the current weapons inspector keeps finding more references to them in his ongoing investigation:
In prepared testimony, the CIA's new chief Iraq weapons inspector said he does not rule out finding weapons of mass destruction, adding "we regularly receive reports, some quite intriguing and credible, about concealed caches" of weapons. ... Duelfer is testifying Tuesday behind closed doors before the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. His comments contrast with those of his predecessor, David Kay, who has said he does not expect that any weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.
In prepared testimony, Duelfer said fear of retribution is still a significant stumbling block as the Iraq Survey Group he heads seeks information from Iraqi managers, scientists and engineers.
Duelfer agrees with Kay's assessment of Saddam's Iraq as having maintained programs, especially in biological weapons research, that were in clear violation of UN sanctions, which would be more than sufficient to justify military action on its own. However, Duelfer's continuing investigation leads him to believe that there's fire to go with all of the smoke, and that cooperation of the engineers and scientists that worked on these programs will assist as soon as more of Saddam's regime is rounded up.
This may not be the best time to go public with Duelfer's optimism on WMDs; after all, if it turns out that Duelfer's wrong, or that he can't lay his hands on any this year, it may backfire on the US internationally all over again, just like last year when Kay's report seemed to put an exclamation point on the search. However, since the rest of the world has already written off any possibility of discovery of stockpiles of chemical and biological agents or weapons, perhaps there is no real downside in talking about it now. While I don't think that military action in Iraq needed WMDs for justification (there were plenty of good reasons outside of that), finding some now would certainly silence some of our critics overseas, and not just a few of them here at home, for that matter.
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Tracked on March 30, 2004 11:49 PM
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