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Iraq's WMDs: hidden or nonexistent?

Let's gather round the dead horse and kick it one last time for nostalgia's sake, shall we? Because after this column, I promise to never write about WMDs again.*

Flashback: Highest on the oil-free list of "official" reasons that we invaded Iraq last year was the country's supposed possession of WMDs. We were "sure" that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. We were also "sure" that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program that was just one wishy-washy, nuance-recognizing, international alliance-liking, non-Texan, non-Republican president of the United States away from nuking us or Israel, or giving a bomb to al-Qaeda so that they could hurl it at whomever they were mad at that day.

Flash forward a bit from the flashback: We invaded, a nation was liberated, a mission was accomplished, an occupation was completely botched, blah, blah, blah, and the only weapons we found in Iraq were the regular old weapons of limited destruction kind — bullets, grenades, missiles, artillery, slingshots, etc.

Although the Bush administration and its lackeys continue to insist that weapons could very well be found one of these days ("Iraq's a big country and he had years to hide them"), a careful listen to Dubya's speeches indicate pretty clearly that even he no longer thinks WMDs are gonna turn up. After Saddam was toppled, "they have weapons of mass destruction," quickly devolved into "they had a weapons of mass destruction program," which then became "they intended to develop weapons of mass destruction."

Rather than continuing to water down the WMD argument even more, the administration changed the subject. Suddenly, the invasion was about human rights and relieving the Iraqi people from tyranny and remaking the Middle East, etc.

The question persists, though. What happened to the WMDs? Are they hidden in Iraq? Were they sold on eBay? Did Saddam and his closest aides get together one night in March 2003 and flush them all down one of Saddam's gold-plated toilets?

Jafar Dhia Jafar says, "None of above," or however you say "None of the above" in Arabic. Jafar was the head of Saddam's nuclear program for 25 years. He told the BBC in early August (and The Washington Post in February) that Iraq's weapons were destroyed in July 1991. Gulf War I and United Nations sanctions made Iraqi weapons ambitions impossible, Jafar said, so Saddam ordered everything destroyed in hopes that the sanctions would be lifted.

We and the U.N. knew that some of the weapons were destroyed after the first Gulf War, but we still thought he had a lot left. Jafar explains that pretty simply: Iraq's weapons production figures were systematically exaggerated; therefore, even if all of the actual weapons were destroyed, there were still loads of documents/reports/claims falsely indicating that more existed. Combine the fudged numbers with Saddam's lack of cooperation and his desire to appear to his regional enemies as well armed, and then combine that with an ideologically driven White House that lets conclusions shape facts instead of vice-versa, and you've got yourself a war in Iraq that continues to this day.

Jafar's argument has feasibility on its side. He (a) had the inside scoop, and (b) is backed up by the fact that we haven't found any weapons. Nevertheless, another answer to the "Where's the WMD?" puzzle persists. The Washington Times recently reported that the White House's Iraq Survey Group has found "evidence" indicating that Iraq shipped all of its WMDs to Syria right before the war.

While blowhards like Sean Hannity have pounced on the Times report as evidence that Dear Leader Bush was right to invade, the White House isn't making a fuss about it. Perhaps that's because Iraq shipping its WMDs to a terrorism-sponsoring, evil dictatorship like Syria is precisely the sort of transaction that we supposedly went to war to stop. Go figure.

(*Until the next time.)

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