WMDs: Don't Change the Ground Rules

Remember: The United States did not have the burden of proving Saddam Hussein was still manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction to justify attacking Iraq. There is no reason the ground rules should suddenly change now that the war is over.

We don’t have the burden of finding WMDs now — not because hindsight vindicates our action as a humane liberation of the Iraqi people, which it was — but because we never had the burden in the first place.

Don’t you recall U.N. Resolution 1441? It was not a unilateral edict of the United States but a unanimous corporate statement of the 15-member Security Council. It was passed Nov. 8, 2002, not at some distant point in the past. What did that multilateral resolution provide?

It affirmed the world’s absolute certainty that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. It declared that Iraq had repeatedly breached its obligations under U.N. Resolution 687 of 1991 by failing to disclose fully and accurately its WMD and long-range missile programs. It stated that Iraq had repeatedly obstructed U.N. inspections and finally terminated them altogether.

It gave Iraq a final chance to comply with its treaty obligation to disarm, but warned that Iraq would be considered in further material breach and face serious consequences if it made false statements or omissions in its required declaration as to disarmament.

What did all that mean in English? Simply that Iraq would either show the good guys where they were hiding the weapons or produce a comprehensive and credible paper trail proving it had disposed of them.

But on Dec. 8, Saddam produced a bogus 12,000-page document full of lies and disinformation. Right then and there Saddam sealed his own fate. For though some on the Security Council had lost their resolve — or were never sincere in the first place — George Bush was dead serious that he wasn’t going to permit any further criminality from this terrorist-enabling tyrant.

While we permitted the post-Clinton era doves to characterize our military enforcement of Resolution 1441 as an act of preemption, technically, it was not — not if we care anything about the words we put on paper following a war.

The gist of it is that Saddam Hussein was on probation following Gulf War I. For 12 years he repeatedly violated his conditions of probation with virtual impunity. Sure, he absorbed a few cruise missile volleys, but their limited scope did more to strengthen his defiance than deter it. He knew Clinton wasn’t serious. He surely thought after 12 years of this fecklessness that George W. Bush wasn’t going to be either.

Though the U.N. ultimately abdicated its duties as Saddam’s probation officer, the United States and the coalition did not. We took it upon ourselves to revoke his probation. Not because we had definitive proof that he still had WMDs — though we sincerely believed and still believe he did (we’ve already found the two mobile weapons labs) — but because he failed to satisfy his conditions of probation showing us the banned goods or proof he had disposed of them.

He had more than a dozen chances. And sane people are supposed to believe he didn’t have the weapons when all he would have had to do to remain in power and riches was to walk us through the process whereby he destroyed them?

The only way Saddam didn’t still have the weapons, which we know he earlier had and used to slaughter his own people, is if he destroyed them. So what Bush’s perennial war detractors are necessarily saying is that he made the great sacrifice (in his mind) and went to all the trouble of disposing of the WMDs, yet refused to benefit from it? That would be like a convicted bank robber, after being promised no jail time if he returned the stolen money, burning the cash and losing both the loot and his liberty. Right — it’s unthinkable.

I don’t expect Bush’s detractors — whose goal is to discredit him — to be logical or intellectually honest. But I do expect others to analyze this clearly. We are not required to find these weapons. We know Saddam had them, or he wouldn’t have repeatedly obstructed the inspectors, filed a flagrantly false declaration or permitted himself to be ousted from power. He gambled against the wrong guy. And that guy, President Bush, did the right thing, and the Iraqi people are better off, and America is a safer place because of it.