In the eye-popping $166 billion that the U.S. taxpayer is being expected to pay for a questionable intervention in Iraq is $600 million to pay for the administration’s public relations effort to polish its tarnished credibility by attempting to stumble across WMD. But even if they don’t find WMD, at least they have an added $600 million to stretch out a likely futile search, thus delaying an embarrassing result past next year’s election. The American taxpayer is already paying through the nose for post-war Iraq without spending money on administration spin and electioneering.
But what if WMD are really hidden somewhere and could end up in the hands of terrorists? Apparently, the president doesn’t think so. In speeches, the president often says, “Terrorist groups will not ever be able to get weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Saddam Hussein is no more.” And given the six months of scouring Iraq unsuccessfully for WMD, this outcome is unlikely. The United States has already spent $300 million in an intense effort to find the weapons. They have captured most of the key scientists and none of them seems to have knowledge that could break open the case. If the key scientists have scant knowledge of such programs, then who does? It would have been difficult for Saddam to secretly recruit an entirely new scientific team because scientists and engineers with expertise on WMD don’t grow on trees. All the Bush administration’s inspectors have found is a few weapons precursors. It is now clear that the administration had little new intelligence information on Iraq’s WMD programs after the international inspectors left in 1998. The administration thus extrapolated the future based on the past.
Sometimes the intelligence community gets it wrong, but the key question is why the nation was committed to war to counter an “imminent threat” that was based on such thin evidence. Before the war, a key reason that the administration characterized the Iraqi threat in this way was Iraq’s alleged development of nuclear weapons. But David Kay, the current chief weapons inspector for the administration, has said of that nuclear weapons effort, “It clearly does not look like a massive, resurgent program, based on what we’ve discovered now. It is the program right now that we probably know the least about and have the least confidence in saying what it meant.”
So much violence, so little intelligence.