Sunday, February 20, 2005

Why Bush (and all of us) Are Lucky That Iraq Didn’t Have WMD

Despite continuing Republican fantasies that U.S. forces have actually found stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, it is an established fact that Saddam did not have any, despite his wishes to develop them once again in the future. Most people, as well as media sources, cite this as a huge failure of both the prewar intelligence (which it was) and as largely undermining the rationale for the war (which it does). However, what no one seems to grasp is that the lack of WMD in Iraq is probably the luckiest break America has gotten in decades.

Why is this?

It’s simple: If Saddam actually had had stockpiles of deadly chemical and/or biological weapons we can say with virtual certainty that they would now be in the hands of our worst enemies, including Al Queda. Since Saddam knew almost to the day when we were going to invade, and had months of advance warning, he and his supporters had a tremendous amount of time to ensure that thousands of conventional weapons caches were scattered around the country for easy access. This is the primary reason why the insurgents are so well armed and will be for years to come. Remember, even after telegraphing our intentions for weeks to invade Fallujah U.S. forces found enough small arms in the city to supply an army that could’ve taken over all of Iraq. If Saddam actually had had chemical and/or biological weapons much of them would’ve no doubt ended up in the hands of his supporters since we didn’t even know where they were, and we didn’t have nearly enough manpower to secure all of the potential hiding places. These supporters now include Zarqawi, who is behind the worst bombings in the country and has pledged allegiance to Al Queda.

After almost two years since the invasion the insurgency is still extremely powerful, its top leaders are free, and the borders between Iraq and Syria are continually being used illegally by these anti-U.S. forces. One doesn’t need to be a military expert to realize that there is little doubt that if stockpiles of WMD had actually existed at least a significant quantity of them would now be in the hands of terrorists, and likely have been moved out of the country.

Bottom line: The primary rationale for the Iraq invasion was terribly flawed from the start and if the Bush administration had been right about WMD our enemies would certainly now have them, which means their ability to murder and pillage would be that much greater and our national security would be severely comprised. The luckiest thing that ever happened to George Bush (and the rest of us) is that he and the neocons were wrong.

Before I conclude, let me address some likely criticisms of what I’ve laid out. First, I don’t think there is any credible foreign policy or military expert who can deny that given how things have transpired in Iraq, if WMD had existed in large quantities at least some of them would’ve ended up in the wrong hands. We are talking about items that are easily transportable and often very small. But what about the fact that if Saddam really did have these stockpiles then not invading Iraq would’ve left them in his hands? While this is true, under the inspections regime that we had in place he would’ve had no room to maneuver, knowing that if he were caught with them he would’ve been immediately destroyed. As soon as the invasion began, however, in the “fog of war” that ensued there were no longer even the minimal incentives for him to keep his weapons under wraps and he had every incentive to provide them to our enemies, which he surely would’ve done if he had had them.

Perhaps contrary to conventional wisdom, it is my guess that George Bush owes his second term to the fact that there were no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq. Can you imagine what the commercials would’ve been like had there actually been any?

“Because of George Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the chaos that followed, our enemies, including Al Queda, have gotten hold of deadly nerve gas and they are preparing a chemical attack on U.S. soil.”

In reality, as things have turned out, democracy is taking root in Iraq (a very positive thing) and since no stockpiles of WMD existed we have been spared the worst of all possible worlds. We should all be extremely thankful for this. Just as I have argued that Bush’s newfound passion for spreading democracy is disingenuous, let us also not forget how lucky we are that he and his administration were completely wrong about WMD in Iraq.

J.S.

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