Monday, June 16, 2003

The hunt for common sense over Iraq's WMDs. The hunt for weapons of mass destruction continues in precisely the same manner that Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. Meanwhile, three must-reads:

1. Writing in the Ideas section of yesterday's Boston Globe, Thomas Powers observes that the Bush administration's cynical use of dubious intelligence will harm the US for many years into the future. By refusing to back the US and Britain, the world community took a calculated risk: think of what George W. Bush and Tony Blair would be saying today if we had found chemical plants and nascent nuclear facilities inside Iraq. Instead, France, Russia, et al. have all the more reason not to believe us the next time. Maybe even the American people will wake up, although that's probably asking way too much.

2. Nevertheless, Saddam Hussein really did have enormous amounts of WMDs, including nerve gas, and he really did refuse to account for them after UN weapons inspections resumed last fall. New York Times columnist Bill Keller can't bring himself to admit he was wrong in backing the war. But he is absolutely right when he observes: "It was not a Bush administration fabrication that Iraq had, and failed to account for, massive quantities of anthrax and VX nerve gas and other biological and chemical weapons. Saddam was under an international obligation to say where the poisons went, but did not."

3. So why aren't more of the Democratic presidential candidates speaking out? Because, as Ryan Lizza (subscription required) notes in the New Republic, most of them are complicit, having expended a good deal of energy in the run-up to the war denouncing Saddam's WMD capabilities. The silent candidates include John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, and Dick Gephardt. Even Howard Dean, who was vociferously antiwar, is being cautious for the moment -- perhaps, Lizza writes, out of concern that WMDs may still be found. (Bob Graham is blasting the White House, but I think we can agree that he doesn't matter -- at least not yet.)

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