Coalition forces have now been in Iraq for two months hunting fruitlessly for weapons of mass destruction. The failure to find WMDs has been greeted with sadistic delight by, among others, CNN and the anti-American British Broadcasting Co., which is suffering from a pernicious disease known as SAHS, Severe Acute Hate-America Syndrome. The hunt for WMDs goes on day after day and, yes, there’s little to show for it except for a pair of trailer facilities described in a CIA-DIA white paper as mobile bioweapons laboratories designed to produce biological agents. Yet there is a big, unasked question; I’ll ask and then pose a follow-up question.
The purpose of the BBC-CNN jeering at the failure to find WMD is to rob the second Gulf War of any legitimacy even though the Coalition victory deposed a genocidal dictator whose contribution to Iraqi culture has been mass graves. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before the U.N. Security Council about the existence of WMDs and now two months after the war’s end, nada. Were there ever WMDs in Iraq ? What gives?
So here is my thus-far unasked question: If there never were WMDs in Iraq then why didn’t Saddam Hussein invite the U.N. inspectors into Iraq a month before, a week before, a day before hostilities broke out? Why didn’t he tell the U.N. convincingly that he was opening up the country to show he had no WMDs? Had he made so compelling an offer to the U.N. weeks before war broke out, he would have stopped the American attack before it began because Saddam would then have been in compliance with the appropriate U.N. resolutions. And more importantly, Saddam would still be sitting on his throne. One can speculate about Saddam’s mental balance but surely it makes no sense for Saddam to have given up WMDs and then allowed the inevitable invasion that led to his ignominious defeat. If we can’t find WMDs then what happened to them? And when?
It may be that Saddam is simply deranged. Remember that in the 1991 Gulf War I, Saddam moved his fighter aircraft to Iran, a bitter rival, with whom he had just fought and lost an eight-year war. Rather than let his air force fall into U.N. hands, the planes were flown out to his enemy’s airfields. Was Saddam so much a fantasist that he thought that Iran would courteously return the Iraqi fighter planes to him at his request? In any case, the Iraqi air force is in Iran forever.
We cannot discount the theory that Saddam did have WMDs and just as he flew his planes out to Iran in 1991, he could just as well have turned his WMDs to Iran, feeling sure that they would in time be put to good terrorist use. While Syria might be the place to have sent his WMDs, Saddam was realist enough to know that the novitiate Bashar al-Assad would succumb to United States pressure and surrender the WMDs.
What is startling is that no captured Iraqi of high or low station has thus far opened up, despite what I am sure have been offers of large monetary rewards to informants. Nor have half the most-wanted Iraqis been caught. Perhaps they’re in Iran, too — why not Cuba or Libya?
Perhaps the way to end this theoretical exposition is to recall the dialogue in the movie Casablanca when the angry police chief (Claude Rains) asks Rick (Humphrey Bogart) why he came to Morocco. “For the waters,” he replies. The police chief is incredulous: “For the waters? We’re in the desert.” The poker-faced Rick replies, “I was misinformed.”
— Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for the Washington Times.