by david April 14, 2003
Baghdad has fallen, or, at least, nearly so. There will be continued fighting throughout the city and country for weeks and maybe months, certainly, but, since that team of American soldiers and Baghdad residents worked over Saddam's statue on his own Parade Grounds on Wednesday, Baghdad has effectively belonged to the Coalition.
Most of my friends and co-workers, Americans and Canadians all, are extremely happy the worst of the war appears to be over. Those who wanted the war wanted quick, decisive victory over Saddam, and got it, more or less. Those opposed to the war (like me) wanted it to stop as quickly as possible, with minimal loss of lives -- things went relatively well on that front, too (the lives that were lost, of course, were a needless waste in a war that never had to be, but that's another discussion...). But, as Coalition forces secure the rest of Baghdad and Iraq at large, hunt down and neutralize remaining resistance, and set up an interim government (which is bound to be rife with troubles -- again, a discussion for another time), as the United Nations wrestles with the U.S. for a foothold in Iraq, and the U.S. Congress and Executive Office prepare another round of attacks on American civil liberties, we've forgotten about a very important question:
What about those weapons of mass destruction?
They, after all, are the reason we went to war, right? I mean, as the push toward war went on, the Bush administration piled-on additional half-hearted reasons in a desperate attempt to win public and international support, liberation of the Iraqi people being chief among those, but the real reason, the root cause, were those weapons, right? Or, rather, Iraq's refusal to disclose the location, or even admit the existence, of those weapons. Our intelligence (granted, some good part of it was gathered from the public internet and various graduate student essays) showed the existence of "tons" of chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles, and a budding nuclear weapon program.
So, where are they?
Look, I'm happy we haven't found them so far during the war, for "finding them" would probably have meant "being attacked with them," and that would be truly, truly terrible. But, now that we can sort of see the end coming, we'd better knuckle down and scrounge up some bad-ass weapons. When our administration went to the U.N. with our intent toward war, it was because we were certain these weapons existed, and that they threatened the security of the world, even though the inspectors had not found anything. They said that the Iraqi documents were incomplete, and that these secret weapons were such a threat that military action was required before they were used in an attack against us, or our allies. But, when the chips fell, Iraq didn't even use these supposed weapons in its own defense, which, while not exactly evidence that they do not exist, is at least enough to plant a seed of doubt. Hell, while I opposed the war, I never thought to doubt the existence of those weapons. Now I wonder.
Politically speaking, we could be in hot water if we don't find these weapons. Our credibility on the world stage is pretty low as it stands -- if we don't find these weapons, France, Germany and others will again claim that this war was unfounded, that their proposed policies of continued pressure and inspection would have been as effective, without loss of life. And they'll be right. We won't soon recover from such a gaff, politically speaking. For the sake of America's political credibility, we must find those weapons.
And there's another problem. Not finding the weapons means one of three things: they never existed, they were destroyed sometime between 1440 and the war, or they were given to someone else, probably someone really, really nasty. There's bad political news for the U.S. if the first two are true, and bad, bad news for the entire world if the third is true. If our push toward war put "tons" of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists, who, as our occupation of Iraq continues, hate the U.S. and the rest of the West more and more, we are in deep shit.
I was/am against this war. I still think it was truly unnecessary, and I am skeptical about whether we can help to create a free, democratic Iraq anytime soon (though, if we do, that would be really wonderful). The purely ideological parts of me, which despise the unchecked ego and self-serving heavy-handedness of our current administration, would love to have my anti-war feelings vindicated by the revelation that our reasons for war were wholly unfounded. But the pragmatic part of me knows that we have to find those weapons, even if it means I was wrong. Too much rides on the proof of their existence, not only for the U.S., but for the continued security and stability of the world.