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September 17, 2004
Duelfer Report: Saddam Intended To Reconstitute WMD Programs

The New York Times reports today on the final summation of American arms inspector Charles Duelfer, who concludes that Saddam Hussein had no significant stocks of WMD but had every intention of producing them as soon as UN sanctions were weakened or removed:

A new report on Iraq's illicit weapons program is expected to conclude that Saddam Hussein's government had a clear intent to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons if United Nations sanctions were lifted, government officials said Thursday. But, like earlier reports, it finds no evidence that Iraq had begun any large-scale program for weapons production by the time of the American invasion last year, the officials said.

The most specific evidence of an illicit weapons program, the officials said, has been uncovered in clandestine labs operated by the Iraqi Intelligence Service, which could have produced small quantities of lethal chemical and biological agents, though probably for use in assassinations, not to inflict mass casualties.

Duelfer's report promises something for everyone; a bone for the Left, which they will use to beat George Bush over what they continue to insist was his only "justification" for toppling Hussein. The GOP stalwarts can and will argue that Duelfer's report also demonstrates the futility of trying to wait out Saddam and his boys through twelve years of economic sanctions. This has more implications than just electoral, but I'll get to that in a second.

The nonexistence of WMD has been a fairly well-known quantity in the election so far, trumpeted by the Democrats every chance they get. However, Kerry has squandered whatever political capital it could possibly bring, thanks to a series of vacillating positions on Iraq that has left everyone scratching their heads. After beating up Howard Dean on Saddam and WMD early in the campaign -- and remembering that up until his primary season efforts tanked he was a moderate hawk on Saddam and WMD -- he suddenly stole Dean's position during his late-winter surge.

Since he's locked up the nomination, though, he couldn't be more opaque if he painted himself Navy blue. Even his friend and supporter Don Imus expressed frustration this week about Kerry's inability to take a coherent position on Iraq. Just after the Democratic convention, in a clumsy attempt to triangulate the Iraq issue, he claimed he would have invaded even if he had known no WMD existed -- which negates the entire argument against Bush.

On the other hand, this report confirms what Bush had said all along -- that once the so-called "containment" strategy fell apart, Saddam would immediately begin producing WMD without restraint, weapons that would certainly have been produced with the US and Israel as intended targets. Syria had broken the embargo, as the LA Times reported this spring, and France, Germany, and Russia had pressured the UN to drop sanctions for years, until 9/11. The sanctions regime had lost all enthusiasm among the Security Council nations except the US and UK, and as we found out after toppling Saddam, it had not kept the three aforementions nations from arms trading with Saddam in any circumstance. Containment was dead.

Nor were economic sanctions hurting Saddam -- just the opposite, it gave Hussein an opportunity to line his pockets on a scale unimagined for its breadth and short period of opportunity. As much as $10 billion disappeared in the Oil-For-Food program, and as Claudia Rosett reports today, some of that went to people with strong links to terrorism in general and al-Qaeda in particular. With that track record, would Saddam have stopped his cooperation at cash, or would he have been just as generous with his reconstituted WMD arsenal in two or three years?

More to the point: would you bet your childrens' lives on his benificence?

That question is why Kerry fails as a leader during an era of Islamofascist terror. He fails because he refuses to make a decision on that question. He dithers while the clock ticks away. People may not always agree with George Bush -- I don't always agree with him -- but he makes decisions. After a year on the campaign trail, Kerry still hasn't reached a decision on the most important policy issue of the election, and worse, he's actively tried to pass himself off on both sides of it. Post-9/11, Americans understand the danger of dithering, and Kerry's polls reflect the price.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 17, 2004 8:54 AM

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