Just thinking out loud, but: If what the Times says is right, isn’t that implicitly an indictment of UNSCOM and further proof that the President was right to remove the monstrous Saddam regime?
The Times reports that the missing materiel includes “380 tons of powerful conventional explosives – used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons.” It also asserts that “United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years.” The undertone is obvious: the inspections were working–as the Kerry campaign claims (at least sometimes), and Bush, in addition to losing weapons, was bull-headed to invade in the first place.
But not so fast. Let’s take a look at Security Council Resolution 687 (April 3, 1991), which imposed the terms that ended the Gulf War. (All italics are mine.) As I read it, Iraq was required, among other things, to “unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of . . . [a]ll ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities[.]” One might think that what the Times describes as “powerful conventional explosives–used to … make missile warheads” were a fairly “related major part” of ballistic missiles.
In addition, with respect specifically to nukes, Iraq was required “not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material or any subsystems or components[,]” and, to the extent it had such items, present them for “urgent on-site inspection and the destruction, removal or rendering harmless as appropriate of all items specified above.” Again, a detonator would seem to be a fairly important component of a nuclear bomb.
The Times’s suggestion here is obvious: it invokes the image of missing powerful explosive components for missile warheads and detonation of nukes to portray Bush as incompetent, as if he were supposed to have stood guard over them himself. But, if the weaponry is as frightening as the Times suggests and Saddam actually had it–that is, if it had not been destroyed, removed or rendered inert in the decade or so during which the inspectors were “monitoring” it–how effective were the inspections?
Deep into its story, the Times lamely reports that “None of the explosives were destroyed, arms experts familiar with the decision recalled, because Iraq argued that it should be allowed to keep them for eventual use in mining and civilian construction.” Great monitoring, huh? Is that what they would take us back to: a process that would have left this kind of weaponry in the control of someone like Saddam (despite the apparently not very effective “monitoring”of inspectors) had we not acted?
That may be part of the explanation why Joe Lockhart, in the letter K-Lo posted earlier this afternoon, contented himself with mentioning “deadly explosives” and wisely avoided the Times-like hyperbole of missile warheads and nukes. Naturally, in dwelling on the one-pound of explosive used in the Pan Am 103 bombing during the Reagan administration, Lockhart also deftly resisted reminding voters of, for example, the 1400 pound explosive detonated in New York City at the World Trade Center in 1993, as well as any toting up of poundage in the bombs detonated at Khobar Towers, the U.S. embassy in Kenya, the U.S. embassy in Tanzania, and the harbor of Aden at the hull of the U.S.S. Cole–all during the Clinton years.
It is never a good thing to lose track of munitions–although, as Mark Levin notes, these are the kinds of things that happen in a war. Still, the Times plainly wants to have it both ways, and it shouldn’t be able to. So which is it: was Saddam a threat who needed to be removed, or is the Times’s story this morning an overblown account of the seriousness of the lost weaponry, which editors transparently placed on page one to help the Kerry campaign?