I was just on the BBC World Service providing a minority view on Charles Duelfer’s report–The Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD.
Preceding me were Scott Ritter, David Kay and some British academic whose name I don’t recall.
The basic spin of all them–and that of the moderator–was that Duelfer has now proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Saddam Hussein didn’t have Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), wasn’t an imminent threat and, therefore, that Saddam should have been left alone, the war is a crock, Bush and Blair misled us, etc., etc.
In the days ahead, FDD’s Andrew Apostolou will provide a rather different interpretation at some length and in some detail. But for right now here are some key points he and I would have you keep in mind as you discuss this issue in the media or at your local pub or at dinner with your wife and the twins:
**The case for war was that Saddam was violating numerous UN resolutions as well as the ceasefire agreement he had signed as a condition for being left in power.
**The onus was not on the US or even the inspectors to prove that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD. The onus was on Saddam to account for the anthrax and VX and other weapons he had in the past — and had used in the past, against the Kurds, among others.
**The onus was on Saddam to account for his WMD and the equipment used to make them, and to destroy them in a verifiable manner. Saddam refused to do so.
**There was never any doubt about Saddam’s malevolent intentions. The question was about his capabilities. It would have been irresponsible, post-9/11, to simply cross our fingers and hope he didn’t have the capabilities to match his intentions — especially since every intelligence agency of any reputation–US, British, French, even those of Jordan and Egypt–believed Saddam retained not only the capability to make WMD but also existing WMD stockpiles.
**Stockpiles are not really the issue anyway. Rolf Ekeus, the first and most effective head of UNSCOM, wrote (July 2003 in The Washington Post) that the focus on stockpiles is “a distortion and trivialization of a major threat to international peace and security.” Ekeus is not a neo-con. He’s a Swedish Social Democrat.
***Saddam never gave up his nuclear ambitions. Mahdi Obeidi, his former chief nuclear scientist wrote in The New York Times on September 26: “Our nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein’s fingers.” Obeidi added: “Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary.”
**Duelfer has found that French, Chinese and Russian companies were involved in the corruption of the Oil-for-Food program. It appears clear that money that Saddam skimmed from that program–money that should have purchased baby formula for Iraqi children–went instead to purchasing prohibited materials and missile components instead.
**Duelfer’s report shows that Saddam Hussein was a threat and that he retained the intent and capability to make WMD–as soon as he thought it safe for him to do so. He was importing illegal military and dual-use goods for that purpose.
**It probably would have been safe for Saddam to get back to WMD production soon. UN sanctions were eroding and increasingly ineffective.
**The Duelfer report shows Saddam Hussein, through illicit streams, amassed about $11 billion in revenue from the early 1990s to 2003 outside U.N.-approved methods.
**Saddam created a network of front companies and relationships to help pursue the regime’s military reconstitution efforts, and evade or end U.N. sanctions;
Final point: Saddam had WMDs. Saddam used WMDs. The question is what did he do with his WMDs?
Did he secretly and illegally destroy them? Did he hide them? Did he transfer them? Did he do whatever he did three years before the US liberation of Iraq? Or three weeks before American troops were on the ground?
These mysteries remain.