21 October 2003

Mystery of the Vanishing Weapons

The latest and least defensible defense of the CIA has been to flatly deny administration spokesmen ever claimed Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons or that such weapons posed any imminent threat. A Wall Street Journal editorial thus claims, 'The Imminence Test and the Stockpile Standard... are postwar inventions, and political transparently political inventions.' That is a remarkable remark, and one that relies entirely on extremely short memories.

On Jan. 23, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz addressed the Council on Foreign Relations. He claimed that 'in 1997, U.N. inspectors found Iraq had produced and weaponized at least 10 liters of ricin. In concentrated form, that quantity of ricin is enough to kill more than 1 million people. Baghdad declared to the U.N. inspectors that it had over 19,000 liters of botulinum toxin, enough to kill tens of millions; and 8,500 liters of anthrax, with the potential to kill hundreds of millions. And consider that the U.N. inspectors believe that much larger quantities of biological agents remained undeclared. Indeed, the inspectors think that Iraq has manufactured 2 to 4 times the amount of biological agents it has admitted to and has failed to explain the whereabouts of more than 2 metric tons of raw material for the growth of biological agents.

Despite 11 years of inspections and sanctions, containment and military response, Baghdad retains chemical and biological weapons and is producing more.' Mr. Wolfowitz was clearly claiming Iraq still 'retains' sufficient biological weaponry to kills 'hundreds of millions' -- a number large enough to wipe out the entire population of North America. To make it even scarier, Mr. Wolfowitz added Iraq 'is producing more,' so the dangers today 'are far greater now than they would have been five or 10 years ago.'

Yet even this very public claim that Iraq has more than enough weapons to kill 'hundreds of millions' failed to meet the Wall Street Journal's 'Imminence Test and Stockpile Standard,' since the Journal now assures us talking about stockpiles and imminent threats is just a transparently political postwar invention.

Go read, as much because it comes from the Cato Institute as for the excellent analysis of the various excuses advanced to justify the furphies of mass destruction. In particular the article rips the invention of imminence excuse apart. The Cato people, until recently, were among Bush's most vigorous supporters.

I have the feeling the wheels are falling off the whole Bush coalition, not just the administration itself.

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