Devens on WMD

Wednesday 19 May 2004

Keith Devens tries to assess the Iraq WMD situation:

Given the knowledge that Saddam did have [WMD] at some point, I see only three possibilities:

  1. They were moved before the war, most probably to Syria
  2. They're still in Iraq but we haven't found them yet
  3. They were destroyed by Saddam but he didn't tell anybody or keep any documentation of their destruction

Option three, I believe, contradicts good sense, for many reasons I think it would be tedious to enumerate.

To me, this seems like grasping at straws.

I don't understand his dismissal of option 3. There's also an option 4: the Iraqis were basically incompetent at keeping their weapons programs going, and they all fell into disuse or were used up.

Option 3 or 4 seem likely to me. Keith even pauses to wonder that the weapons he "must have had" weren't fired at us during the war in which we took over the country and forced Saddam into hiding.

Look at it this way: our side was announcing every chance they got that Saddam was a mad man, he was crazy, etc. So why rule out option 3 just because it doesn't make sense? Madmen do things that don't make sense. The sane often can't understand the motivations of the insane. In fact, the insane have a distinct advantage when battling the sane, because it is hard plot strategy against an opponent who you can't predict.

I recently did very well in a game of high-low poker, mostly because my skilled opponent assumed that I knew what I was doing. He read motives into my bets that were incorrect. As a complete novice making "stupid" decisions, he was at a loss as to how to interpret the game, and I made a killing.

And another point: if we can go into his country and take over and throw Saddam out of power, and he doesn't fire bad stuff at us, how much of a threat could he or his WMD (whatever he had) have been in the first place? If he didn't fire them then, when did we think he would?

What amazes me is how far people like Keith will stretch their logic to continue to follow the party line that Saddam was a threat because of WMD.

Comments

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Fred Kiesche 8:57 AM on 19 May 2004

It's quite possible that he had them and we haven't found them yet; it's a big country and there's a lot of sand to hide things under.

And, by the way, we have found WMD's. For example, "starter cultures" were found hidden under the sink of one scientist's house. It doesn't take you long to go from "starter cultures" to massive stocks.

And in the past two weeks, two explosive devices were found (and luckily foiled!) that used WMD's. One used a mustard gas shell; the second used a shell containing sarin (nerve agent).

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Fred Kiesche 9:00 AM on 19 May 2004

By the way, assuming that sticking links in here works...

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,120268,00.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,76857,00.html

Yes, I know it's Fox News, which I think is a load of you-know-what, but they were the first links I found.

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Ned Batchelder 9:20 AM on 19 May 2004

I'm not saying the WMD definitely don't exist: I'm saying that people are ignoring clear possibilities in trying to understand the situation. The mantra of "Saddam had WMD" is so strong, they're overlooking simple explanations.

Keith is unwilling to consider that they don't exist. Saddam was nuts, who knows what the heck he would have done. When Bush said that, he meant Saddam was evil and a threat, but it could also mean that Saddam was loony and incompetent.

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Nik Shenoy 10:36 AM on 19 May 2004

Ultimately, whether Hussein is a madman or not is irrelevant. If you had told me a couple of years ago that Iraq could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars, many American lives and it's international reputation, I would have laughed. Somehow, I don't think Bush is laughing any more. Perhaps Saddam Hussein, locked up safely in prison, is having the last laugh.

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andrew 11:03 AM on 19 May 2004

Saddam was a threat to the United States for two reasons:

- He had WMD. Despite your desire to ignore facts, this is not in doubt. The recent discovery that terrorists in Iraq are using Sarin is just the tip of the iceberg. They are there and -- God help us -- they will be used.

- He hated the US and was in league with Al Qaeda. Despite your desire to ignore these fact, these too are not in doubt (see http://www.weeklystandard.com/content/public/articles/000/000/003/378fmxyz.asp , a dissertation of a Defense Department secret memo regarding the pre-war connections between AQ and Iraq)

Given these two facts, why is it so difficult to see that SH was a threat? I see the current crop of "No WMD!" folks as just the latest mantra of the peacenik crowd. No amount of evidence will ever convince them otherwise. One can already hear chatter than the Sarin found in Iraq was "planted" by supporters of GWB. Such rubbish. What is next? Bush killed Kennedy?

There are none so blind as those that refuse to see.

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Johnie Lee 12:56 PM on 19 May 2004

Iraq may or may not have WMDs. The evidence is weak at best...


But we know for sure that North Korea DOES have WMDs. NK is also flouting UN regulations. NK has the technology to attack US mainland. Why didn't we apply more pressure there? What about Iran? Or Pakistan?


In addition, this quagmire is requiring the US put itself into further danger. US is shifting troops based in South Korea to Iraq.


The main argument is .. was Saddam a clear and present threat to the US? Is NK now a clear and present threat to the US?

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Keith 1:48 PM on 19 May 2004

Ned, I responded in an update of my post. Here's a link for easy access.

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Martin Roller 3:38 AM on 20 May 2004

I liked the Google add on this page:
"Find those WMD win Gold"

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Sylvain Galineau 2:54 PM on 20 May 2004

There are many other scenarios and alternatives. His underlings, fearing fatal punishment, might have concealed from him the relative success of the UN inspection campaign. Hence a leader acting as if he has something to hide when he no longer does. Or, fully aware of the weakening state of his arsenal and army, he continues to act as if he has a very dark secret; to signal to both his neighbors and possible internal coup plotters - the man was rather paranoid - that he still wields a very powerful stick.

As for Iraq being a threat to the US, it's now pretty clear it wasn't. But one could even argue today's Iraq is much more of a threat to the US now than it was then. And most of that is self-inflicted on our part. A rather costly self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another amazing and very puzzling thing - to me at least - is that while this argument still rages on, the military dictator we call our Pakistani "ally" has committed pretty much every single crime we claimed Iraq was going to commit if we didn't invade it. His country was still selling nuclear weapon technology to North Korea more than a year after the famous 'axis of evil' speech. And we reward him with billions of aid and military assistance.

[gravatar]
Sylvain Galineau 2:54 PM on 20 May 2004

There are many other scenarios and alternatives. His underlings, fearing fatal punishment, might have concealed from him the relative success of the UN inspection campaign. Hence a leader acting as if he has something to hide when he no longer does. Or, fully aware of the weakening state of his arsenal and army, he continues to act as if he has a very dark secret; to signal to both his neighbors and possible internal coup plotters - the man was rather paranoid - that he still wields a very powerful stick.

As for Iraq being a threat to the US, it's now pretty clear it wasn't. But one could even argue today's Iraq is much more of a threat to the US now than it was then. And most of that is self-inflicted on our part. A rather costly self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another amazing and very puzzling thing - to me at least - is that while this argument still rages on, the military dictator we call our Pakistani "ally" has committed pretty much every single crime we claimed Iraq was going to commit if we didn't invade it. His country was still selling nuclear weapon technology to North Korea more than a year after the famous 'axis of evil' speech. And we reward him with billions of aid and military assistance.

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Eric W. Bachtal 12:33 AM on 21 May 2004

I usually avoid politics on-line, but respect your thinking, and so will add that I believe judging the correctness of our having moved on Iraq using information gleaned only from having moved on Iraq smacks of facile ex post facto reasoning. It is na´ve.

If there's a debate to be had now, I believe it is whether the US should ever (again) move preemptively to eliminate threats based on intelligence (and a decade of UN resolution violations).

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Sylvain Galineau 8:32 AM on 21 May 2004

Eric, the implied question here is whether intelligence can be trusted as a basis for such a decision. The essential assumption here was that it could.

And on a very nitpicky semantic note : this was a preventive war, not a preemptive one. Preemption is when someone is about to strike you and you move to hit them first to deny them the initiative. The imminent threat of attack justifies preemption and even makes it legall. The canonical example being the Six Day War in 1967. The perception of a possible future threat, however, does not justify nor constitute preemption.

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