by Rod D. Martin
August 24, 2004
Were Saddam’s WMDs a fantasy “concocted in Crawford”? Clearly, Michael Moore and John Kerry want you to think so.
To answer that question, we go where Democrats fear: down memory lane.
The year was 1991. American forces had devastated Iraq’s army in Kuwait following Saddam Hussein’s invasion the prior year, his second attempted conquest of a neighboring country in just one decade.
For America, the war had gone splendidly. We had not only kept Saddam from seizing Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, but compelled him to cough up his Kuwaiti conquest entirely.
Our jubilation, though, was short-lived. In the aftermath, the world awoke to something quite chilling — the full extent of Saddam’s weapons-of-mass-destruction development.
Granted, nobody was surprised by the mere existence of Saddam’s WMDs. Saddam had gassed Iran — and even his own people — many times, and our troops in Desert Storm were well prepared to confront the same.
But in the summer of 1991, UN inspectors found that Saddam was literally just months away from possessing nuclear weapons as well.
Clearly, we had fought the Gulf War just in time.
Saddam’s apologists responded that since western nations like America had nukes, why couldn’t an Arab nation like Iraq?
The answer lay with Saddam’s evil intentions, as evidenced by his words and actions preceding his rape of Kuwait — his attacking Iran, slaughtering Shi’ia and dissident Sunnis, gassing the Kurds at Halabja, and stated desire to be the Mideast’s undisputed ruler, the region’s new Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient Babylonian king.
In other words, Saddam was the last person on earth we wanted to have WMDs.
Yet, here he was, in 1991, not only months away from having nukes, but already brandishing thousands of chemical weapons and tons of chemical weapons agents.
Four years later, in 1995, when several senior Iraqi officials defected, they revealed that Iraq had manufactured and weaponized the deadly VX chemical nerve agent and also possessed an extensive biological warfare program.
By the late 1990s, Iraq had been forced to acknowledge that prior to 1991, it had almost 4 tons of VX and the ingredients to produce plenty more, as well as other types of poison gas. Saddam also admitted to having 8,500 liters of anthrax, 550 artillery shells loaded with mustard gas, over 107,000 casings for chemical weapons, 25 missile warheads containing botulinum, aflatoxin, and anthrax, 500 parachute-fitted bombs for WMD delivery and at least 157 aerial bombs filled with germ agents.
Under the circumstances, common sense dictated that Saddam not only agree to destroy this weaponry and capability, but document their destruction before the world. And indeed, that’s precisely what the US and UN demanded of him. That’s what the countless UN resolutions were about, as well as the UN inspection process which continued through 1998, and resumed briefly prior to the 2003 war.
The burden was never on us to prove Saddam still had his vast stockpile of WMDs: it was on Saddam to furnish proof he had destroyed them. Indeed, this burden of proof was a key term of the 1991 cease fire, signed by Saddam.
But the rest is, as they say, history. Right after the Gulf War, Saddam promised to reveal all his programs and disarm within 15 days.
Naturally, he did nothing of the sort. Rather, he spent almost a decade weaseling out of that commitment.
In the years that followed, he claimed he had destroyed the WMDs secretly, while refusing to provide proof and obstructing the UN’s inspectors. By 1997, he had banned those inspectors from most of the obvious suspect sites.
By 1998, President Clinton was warning of an “unholy axis” of terrorists and WMD-possessing regimes, chiefly Saddam’s Iraq, and putting forth virtually the same case made by President Bush years later for going to war with Saddam.
He backed down. And by December 1998, Saddam had kicked out the UN inspectors. For the next four years, he was completely free, to hide, disguise or disperse his enormous WMD stockpiles and programs – stockpiles and programs he acknowledged possessing — to his heart’s content.
In the alternative, he could have destroyed them and, by merely providing proof of that destruction, end the sanctions, the no-fly zones, and every other encumbrance upon him.
This he never chose to do.
By late 2002, a clearly alarmed Bush administration and a unanimous UN Security Council gave Saddam his final chance. Through UN Resolution 1441, it gave him 30 days to do what he had failed to do since 1991 — tell what had become of his WMDs, and completely disarm. When Saddam defied that deadline too, Bush extended it; but still, Saddam failed to comply. Even Hans Blix, in his final report to the UN before the war, admitted that Iraq had never accounted for its “long list” of known WMDs.
This is the history, the facts John Kerry and friends dearly hope you will forget. Even if Saddam’s stockpiles were gone — and mounting evidence suggests otherwise — Saddam had made himself a necessary target, one which all — even Clinton and Kerry — agreed was a clear and present danger. If mistakes were made, they were Saddam’s.
George W. Bush did the hard work of defending America. Kerry demonstrates his ambition rather than his veracity by dissembling on this point. And with the majority of Saddam’s weapons still unaccounted for, America clearly needs a President who will follow through, not just sweep this continuing threat under the rug.