Wait a minute -- so there were WMDs in Iraq? The Kerry campaign, the media, assorted pundits, and others are making much of the disappearance of the 380 tons of explosives from the al Qaqaa storage facility south of Baghdad. According to the IAEA, the U.N. watchdog agency now apparently in the service of the Democratic National Committee, some of the explosives could be used to detonate nuclear weapons. Wow — nuclear-weapon components were in Iraq? Shouldn't the headline be, "Saddam Had 'Em?"
The opposition really needs to get its story straight. The president cannot be taken to task for inventing the Iraqi WMD threat, and simultaneously disparaged for not securing Saddam's dangerous WMD-related materials.
The cache at al Qaqaa was not the only WMD-related material in the news recently. Another IAEA report came out two weeks ago that did not get as much play. According to this account, dual-use equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons was taken from various locations inside Iraq. The Duelfer Report speculated this equipment could have been taken during the chaos of the invasion. The equipment was "professionally looted" by another account, and may have gone to Iran or Syria. Isn't it significant that equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons was there in the first place? Don't these constitute components of a WMD program?
As well, if CBS wants to recycle old news in an attempt to influence the election, how about this story: 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium and other nuclear material at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center (Saddam's main nuclear research and development center) was secured by the United States and flown out of the country last July. According to the Energy Department this material could have been used to make a radiological dispersion device (a.k.a. a dirty bomb) or "diverted to support a nuclear weapons program." The only thing we found in Iraq that was more hazardous than this haul was Saddam Hussein. The United States was able successfully to deny this dangerous material to terrorists, rogue states or anyone else. This good news story dropped like a stone when it came out. And unlike most of the hype of the last few days, this story has the benefit of being true.
The missing explosives from al Qaqaa also raise the possibility that other WMD-related materials met the same fate. The IAEA had seen the al Qaqaa material in January 2003, but by the time U.S. troops showed up on April 10, they had disappeared. The dual-use technologies mentioned in the other IAEA report also had been moved or looted. This suggests that still other WMDs and related technologies might have been given or taken away in the days leading up to the war, or shortly after the Coalition attacks began. It is widely believed, though not conclusively proved, that much of this went to Syria. The Iraq Survey Group interviewed Iraqi agents who claimed to have helped moved the WMD materials. This charge was repeated by David Kay when he left the ISG earlier this year. The Blix Report found 1,000 tons of chemical weapons missing from Iraq, and last May this column discussed a planned al Qaeda attack in Jordan involving 20 tons of chemicals. The attack was broken up, and the subsequent investigation showed strong links to Syria. Connect your own dots.
So between the al Qaqaa explosives, the dual-use equipment, the Tuwaitha nuclear material, the missing chemical weapons, and the Syrian connection, it sounds like the WMD rationale is much stronger than most critics give it credit for. One can only imagine what Saddam would have done given the chance to put them all together. These are just a few reasons why Operation Iraqi Freedom was the right war, in the right place, at the right time.
James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council and an NRO contributor.
By James S. Robbins
Reprinted with permission from National Review Online