Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Three years later and still drinking the Kool-Aid

In trying to defend Judy Miller, or at least go after her attackers ("enemy of my enemy is my friend" and so forth), Glenn Reynolds makes this ridiculous statement that shows the fantasyland defenders of Bush's Iraq policy still live in:

I also think it's interesting to see how many people are now pretending (1) that Miller's WMD/Iraq reporting didn't start until the Bush Administration's war buildup, when actually it goes back to the 1990s; and (2) that nobody else thought that we'd find vast WMD stockpiles when we invaded, when in fact everyone thought we would. (The valuable lesson for would-be Saddams -- don't run a bluff against the United States -- is also lost).

Point 1 hardly seems relevant. Alot of people thought Saddam had or was trying to get WMD in the late 90s. That doesn't necessarily justify thinking the same thing 5 YEARS LATER. Especially when you the stakes are a war that will result in tens of thousands of death and the commitment of massive military resources that could be used elsewhere (like maybe catching the people who attacked us on 9/11). In the late '90s, it was much more likely Saddam still had some of the materials we know he had in the early '90s, much of which degraded by five years later (see "All the President's Spin" for some details on this). Furthermore, despite all the spying and inspectiong, we never happened upon any evidence Saddam had WMD in the intervening five years.

Then there's the even more absurd point 2. Everyone most certainly didn't think we would find WMD. Here's a name that immediately pops to mind: Scott Ritter. Of course, he only had the qualification of being the lead weapons inspector in Iraq until 1998, not teaching law in Tennessee. But here, nevertheless, is what he said in an interview with Time Magazine in September, 2002:
I've said that no one has backed up any allegations that Iraq has reconstituted WMD capability with anything that remotely resembles substantive fact... The question is, has someone found that what Iraq has done goes beyond simple sanctions violations? We have tremendous capabilities to detect any effort by Iraq to obtain prohibited capability. The fact that no one has shown that he has acquired that capability doesn't necessarily translate into incompetence on the part of the intelligence community. It may mean that he hasn't done anything.

Then there's that final parenthetical comment. Yes, I guess the lesson is that you shouldn't run a bluff against the U.S. But the next logical step is that instead of running a bluff, you should actually get nuclear weapons. Which is, of course, a lesson that North Korea and Iran have learned quite well.

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