Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Searching for those WMDs. The New Republic is back with another vital contribution to the debate over the so-called imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Last month, the magazine ran a report by John Judis and Spencer Ackerman demonstrating how the White House and the Defense Department leaned on the intelligence community to cook the books in favor of a US-led invasion.

This week, it carries a dispatch by Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin (subscription required) that asks: what ever happened to those WMDs? Drogin's well-researched guess is that Saddam's weapons program ceased in the mid 1990s under pressure from UN inspectors and economic sanctions.

Now, this gets a little complicated. There's no question that Saddam lied repeatedly when inspections started up again late last year. Even Hans Blix said it appeared Saddam was holding out. Why didn't Saddam just come clean and save himself?

The most likely explanation, according to Drogin, is that even though Saddam was telling the truth when he asserted that Iraq didn't have WMDs, he wanted to make it look like he was lying in order not to appear weak.

Certainly US officials could have been fooled by this stance. But combined with the earlier story, showing that the administration was more concerned with building a case than with finding the truth, Drogin's article is damning indeed.

And remember, the New Republic was prowar, vigorously so.

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