On day one of the campaign to liberate Iraq, armchair generals criticized the Bush administration’s war planners for not thundering away with their “Shock and Awe” smart bombing of Baghdad, as originally planned. A week later, there weren’t enough ground troops to storm the ancient metropolis, said the Monday-morning quarterbacks, citing the initial technical difficulties Coalition troops encountered in taking over Basra and Umm Qasr.
Then, as the campaign entered week three, the Al Jazeera crowd chimed in, desperately counting on Coalition losses to redeem their wounded pride. They warned that the American-led effort to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam would ignite the fires of Arab nationalism — or worse, violent Islamist extremism — for decades to come. One hundred bin Ladens would be born, warned Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.
Then, Monday morning, April 8, came. Soon, Baghdad would fall more swiftly and with less civilian loss of life than any prognosticator could have imagined. It essentially imploded from within like our military planners said it would. To quote Brian Burridge, commander of U.K. forces, from the British military press briefing on that sunny morning, the execution of the Coalition war plan would be a required case study at war colleges for decades to come and would be noted for “…the dexterity, audacity and sheer brilliance of how the U.S. put its plan into effect…”
George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism is now indelibly imprinted on his war ethic — America has proven it can conduct a politically correct, yet militarily precise war against a foe that by all counts had the mendacity and weaponry to draw Iraq and its citizens into Saddam’s final hellfire.
Though there was never any doubt about the ultimate outcome of the war to liberate Iraq, it is worth recounting what has been achieved thus far. The naysayers, including some of America’s most decorated military commanders and political leaders, should understand once and for all why this war had to be fought, and how ridding the world of the most dangerous threat mankind has possibly ever faced was necessary to insure he couldn’t distribute Iraq’s weapons of mass terror through networks of Islamist lunatics willing to martyr themselves.
The evidence of Saddam’s maniacal plans becomes clearer by the hour, but a few findings merit discussion now because the naysayers continue to bluster about the rationale behind America’s decision to proceed.
1. Weapons-grade plutonium. At the Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex, which Mohammed El Baradei’s International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors declared free of unsecured nuclear materials late last year, an embedded journalist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported on Thursday that Marine battalions had detected weapons-grade plutonium. Al Tuwaitha was an Iraqi government-controlled facility run by Saddam’s Atomic Energy Commission. A maze of belowground hallways leading to labs and storage facilities underscored the lengths to which Saddam’s scientists had gone in order to hide their clandestine activities. And not one or two buildings, but fourteen — count them, 14 — buildings had abnormally high radiation levels, according to the US 1st Marine Division’s nuclear and intelligence experts unearthing the secrets. If it is confirmed that weapons-grade plutonium exists at Tuwaitha, those who gave Saddam either the reactor technology and chemicals to reprocess spent uranium or transferred weapons-grade plutonium directly to Iraq will have a lot to answer for.
2. Biological weapons. Fox News’ embedded reporter, Rick Leventhal, downloaded incredible video of what may be the first of Saddam’s bioweapons labs on wheels. He reported that in a U-Haul-sized truck disguised as a radar facility for mobile surface-to-air missiles, a false panel revealed electronic pulleys, winches, storage bins, and refrigerators which could easily be used to store biological-weapons stashes (refrigeration being the key identifier because you certainly don’t need refrigerators to freeze the rocket launcher). Tests will determine definitively whether there are any biological residues or not. But when a truck is found at a construction site hidden amid other trucks and construction equipment, and then tries to high tail it out of camp before it gets found out and then shot out by alert U.S. Marines, it is a sure sign that someone powerful wanted to hide this truck, and maybe its sisters, at all cost.
3. Chemical warheads. The 1st Marine Division with the 101st Airborne reports the seizure of 20 medium-range rockets armed with sarin and mustard gas that were ready to fire — not stored away, not unassembled, but ready to fire. And the amounts of chemicals found in the warheads of the BM-21 missiles left no doubt about their intended use — to kill masses of Coalition troops. These were not trace amounts.
4. Al Qaeda links. In the north, Coalition troops found paperwork early in the campaign after bombing the Sargat camp that indisputably tied the terrorists of Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist outfit funded in part by Saddam’s Mukhabarat intelligence directorate and in part by Iran’s SAVAK intelligence services, to al Qaeda. Sargat was operated by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a known close associate of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and was residence to over 700 terrorists, about a fourth of whom trained in bin Laden’s Afghani terror camps. Zarqawi and his henchmen are now believed to be hiding in Ansar camps just on the Iranian side of the border.
5. Terror toxins. The paper trail may only be the tip of the iceberg. Mobile-lab tests conducted on boots and running shoes found in the bombed Sargat camp showed meaningful traces of Ricin and botulinum toxins. Similar trace amounts of chemical agents allegedly found in soil samples were used to justify the Clinton administration’s August 1998 decision to launch cruise missile attacks on Sudan’s al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant. Traces of Ricin, it might be recalled, were found in terrorist hideouts in London and Paris, and then later in Barcelona and Milan, where Algerian terrorists tied to al Qaeda and answering to Zarqawi were readying retaliation strikes against Europe’s civilian populations. Ingesting miniscule amounts of Ricin, which induces respiratory failure, can kill within 72 hours. There is no known cure.
6. Salman Pak. Media outlets and U.S. officials who once had responsibility for America’s national security have long ridiculed claims that Saddam had any ties to the hijackers of September 11, or that his secular identity could ever commingle with radical Islamists like bin Laden. The paperwork and presence of recipe books to mix Ricin and other toxic nerve agents, as well as traces of the agents themselves, at the Sargat camp in northern Iraq lay to rest the Saddam-bin Laden commingling issue. So did the capture of Sudanese, Egyptian, Yemeni, Syrian, and other Arabs with ties to al Qaeda fighting along Saddam’s Fedayeen kamikaze forces. But the hijackers were another matter — until this weekend, when Coalition forces destroyed the Salman Pak terror camp on Sunday morning. They found an airplane shell at the Salman Pak terror camps, just like former CIA Director James Woolsey and ex-Clinton aide Laurie Mylroie had postulated repeatedly since the mid-1990s there was. Interviews conducted by PBS’s Frontline in June 2002 of Sabah Khodada, a captain in the Iraqi army, indicate that he personally witnessed men of Arab descent, mainly Yemeni, with long beards training in the hull of the 707 aircraft, and on trains and buses in the same fields specifically for hijacking missions using knives and other common utensils.
What else is there? What else matters? The doubters no longer have a shred of evidence to support their case against forcefully removing Saddam Hussein from power.
Democracies exist to encourage vibrant debate about the issues that affect all our lives. But the Islamist threat, with legions of fanatics willing to give their lives at any cost to destroy our way of life, is no ordinary debate. It is one in which the naysayers better get on board fast because those who understand Islam’s lunatic fringe, and how its sinister designs could co-opt even a sadomasochist like Saddam, cannot indefinitely carry the weight of those who don’t, but still want to enjoy the freedoms our brave men and women are fighting, and dying, to protect.
As we endeavor to win the peace in Iraq and beyond, let’s hope the doubters will come up with more constructive arguments to help rather than hinder the course the U.S. has rightly charted for the safety and security of the American people, and for peace-loving people throughout the world.
— Mansoor Ijaz, an NRO contributor, is chairman of Crescent Investment Management in New York.