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WMD Report Confirms Saddam's Threat By: Investors.com
Investors.com | Friday, October 08, 2004

You wouldn't know it from the headlines, but the new WMD report explains why Saddam Hussein was a threat and why the U.S. was right to remove him.

Arms inspector Charles Duelfer has just delivered the most exhaustive findings so far on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. As anyone even faintly aware of the report must know by now, Duelfer and his team found no WMD stockpiles and concluded that Iraqi WMD capability was "essentially destroyed" after the 1991 Gulf War.

The anti-war media have been quick to seize on that angle, kicking off stories with agitprop leads like this one from The Associated Press' Ken Guggenheim:

"Contradicting the main argument for a war that has cost more than 1,000 American lives, the top U.S. arms inspector said Wednesday he found no evidence that Iraq produced any weapons of mass destruction after 1991."

Fortunately, we live in the Internet era where Americans can easily find the facts. The Duelfer report is online, with good summaries in "Key Findings" and the Duelfer's "Transmission Letter."

Drawing not just on inspections but also on debriefings of regime officials — including Saddam himself — Duelfer gives us the best window yet into the dictator's long-term strategy. From all sources the message was clear: Saddam's first order of business, after his own survival, was to break the United Nations sanctions so that he could resume the WMD program. He came close to succeeding.

Forced to scrap most of his WMD after the first Gulf War, Saddam, Duelfer says, took pains to preserve know-how so that production could start quickly when sanctions were lifted. Sanctions lasted longer than Saddam had hoped, but by the end of the 1990s, his propaganda and bribery program — the U.N. oil-for-food program came in handy — had done its work. The sanctions were cracking.

After 9-11, with sharp prodding from the U.S., the U.N. rediscovered its backbone for a time and forced him to re-admit inspectors. Saddam's French and Russian allies insisted that the inspections run their course. The U.S. and Britain decided on war instead.

That decision has never looked better than it does now.

If Saddam's friends had prevailed, the inspections would have played into his hands. Having mothballed his WMD program, he would have received the U.N.'s clean bill of health and the sanctions would have been lifted.

In short order, he would have restarted his chemical, biological and nuclear programs, with plenty of oil money to buy materials and produce quick results. His contacts with al-Qaida might then have firmed up into an operational alliance. And the U.S. would be begging fruitlessly for global action, as it now does with Iran.

The situation in Iraq today, as President Bush likes to say, is "tough." But it's not the strategic nightmare that it would have been if Saddam had been allowed to stay.

On Wednesday, Sen. John Warner asked Duelfer if he thought the world is better off with Saddam out of power. "I'm an analyst, and I realize I'm in a political world right now," Duelfer began.

But Warner pressed him further, and Duelfer went on: "But I have to agree. Analytically, the world is better off."

His report, in its scrupulously impartial way, makes just that point.

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