January 22, 2005

The Argument All Along: Uncertainty

Justin Katz

It is, and has been, encouraging that the Providence Journal editorial page is willing to argue on the side of rational response to Saddam Hussein:

The AP saw no reason to seek further comment on that news [that 120 Iraqi scientists who had been working in weapons programs were being paid by the U.S. government to work in other fields], but we think it speaks volumes. Some people want those volumes to just go away, but the fact remains that whatever happened to the WMDs -- they were in Iraq at some point, and then disappeared -- Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and the U.S., Iraq and the world are safer now that he is gone. ...

... while Saddam may have scrapped his WMDs, he kept his WMD scientists, and worked to break U.N. sanctions -- rather than just ending them by proving he had indeed destroyed his WMD arsenal. Instead, he scammed billions from the United Nations. He did not spend it on food or medicine for Iraqis. Nor did he spend it exclusively on palaces.

So what were those 120 scientists doing before they fell into U.S. custody? Scholarly research? At least now we needn't worry about learning the answer the hard way.

It's easy to forget that even after September 11 people were arguing for the cessation of sanctions. There's still reason to fear that weapons slipped out of the country before the war, and the frightening quality of WMDs is that "stockpiles" and "large-scale production" aren't necessary to do inconceivable damage. Considering the Ba'athists' efforts to facilitate renewed WMD production once the country's activities didn't need to be routed through the corrupt caverns of the United Nations, an alternate historical timeline may well have seen a more-massive terrorist attack within our borders by now — whether evidence of Iraq's involvement would satisfy the true disbelievers or not.