June 25, 2003

Belief in Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction' is a matter of faith – but even the true believers are having doubts
by Justin Raimondo

You know George W. Bush is in big trouble when even George Will, who backed the Iraq war and has toed the neocon line pretty faithfully, sharply questions the rationale for war. The complete absence of any evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction presents the administration with a major problem:

"The doctrine of preemption – the core of the president's foreign policy is in jeopardy. To govern is to choose, almost always on the basis of very imperfect information. But preemption presupposes the ability to know things to know about threats with a degree of certainty not requisite for decisions less momentous than those for waging war."

Will tries, mightily, to solve the curious case of the missing WMD without drawing the obvious conclusion that the President and/or his neocon advisors lied us into war. That is just not "plausible," avers Will. So what is plausible? Not much, as it turns out. Will cites James "World War IV" Woolsey, ex-CIA chieftain and fanatic warmonger: Saddam, it seems, "destroyed his WMD on the eve of war." On account of the forced march to Baghdad, Woolsey suggests Saddam "may have moved fast to destroy the material that was the justification for a war he intended to survive, and may have survived."

Saddam may indeed have survived the news is now that he wants to negotiate the terms of his surrender. Perhaps then we'll find out soon enough why, if he did have WMD, he didn't unleash all he had as he faced the Anglo-American onslaught. After all, the President of the United States solemnly told us:

"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons – the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

So what happened? Oh, but never mind that minor detail, because Woolsey wants to get to the really important stuff. According to him, Robin Cook's contention that we would have found the WMD by now is "rubbish," because:

"Chemical or biological weapons could have been manufactured with minor modifications of a fertilizer plant, or in a plant as small as a microbrewery attached to a restaurant. The 8,500 liters of anthrax that Hussein once admitted to having would weigh about 8.5 tons and would fill about half of a tractor-trailer truck. The 25,000 liters that Colin Powell cited in his U.N. speech could be concealed in two trucks – or in much less space if the anthrax were powdered."

The complete failure to find these famous trucks a recent "discovery" of a supposed mobile chemical warfare unit turned out to be a balloon-maker is no obstacle to the belief of the faithful. The total lack of any trace of chemical or biological weapons in Iraq to say nothing of the "growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas," that the President claimed to have certain knowledge of doesn't discourage the WMD cult, which has now taken on aspects of a religious movement. Remember, we were told by the President in his State of the Union address that the Iraqis had produced "as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."

So where is it?

Oh ye of little faith! Just because we can't see the WMD doesn't mean they aren't there. They were there, they could still be there, or, as White House spokesman Ari Fleischer put it in January:

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

We just have to have faith.

Surely this is an exhortation the President's Christian fundamentalist followers are prepared to accept, but for the less comatose among us even including some who agitated for war questions are beginning to be raised. The general public, we are assured, doesn't mind being lied to, but the elites are a different matter. Anger, including among Republicans, is mounting. The League of Disillusioned Warmongers is a growing faction of the War Party: first Norah Vincent, then George Will, and now even kneejerk hawks like Mona Charen are exhibiting all the symptoms of a crisis of faith:

"Few would have urged a war against Saddam if he had not possessed weapons of mass destruction. However much we rejoice for the Iraqi people who've been freed from his freak-show of a government, we are not in the business of militarily liberating all the world's oppressed."

John Dean of Watergate fame has recently raised the possibility that the President could even be impeached for lying to Congress and the American people, and conservatives are getting more than a little nervous. Paul Weyrich, of the Free Congress Foundation, a leading right-wing ideologue, is clearly worried:

"The administration should put the truth out there. Otherwise you never know how a far-out plot by someone who is not taken seriously will turn into something red-hot and blown way out of proportion by the media."

In short, Weyrich urges the President and his advisors to come clean. It'll never happen, of course: lying is more than a habit with these people. It is a way of life, a modus operandi, and the only possible way they are going to get what they want. The American people haven't a clue as to what's going on in Iraq: no one consulted them about the minimum stay of five years envisioned by prominent lawmakers in both parties. As the "postwar" casualty count surpasses American losses prior to "victory," and Operation Enduring Freedom gives way to Operation Endless Hassle, the American people will discover that the War Party lied about more than just WMD.

They lied about bringing "democracy" to the region: instead of 'liberating" the Iraqis, the U.S. is refusing to hold elections and has set up a military government of occupation lorded over by an American viceroy.

They lied about how many troops it would take to occupy and administer Iraq. They lied about the costs, and how they would be recouped. They forged documents, smeared anyone who raised questions as "pro-Saddam," stifled debate, and rushed us into war before the majority could realize it was all a con job, a slick operation fueled by falsehoods and propelled forward by the sheer momentum of media-driven war hysteria.

They lied about so many things that, as the truth comes out, even their most faithful supporters are beginning to break ranks. Some are jumping ship, it seems, before the U.S.S. Bush 43 takes a direct hit: others are waiting to see which way to jump, depending on the extent of the public outcry. The President's pollsters find it reassuring to believe the American people will never wake up, one morning, and wonder why we're losing about a soldier a day in "liberated" Iraq. In his column, Will cites Republican pollster Frank Luntz as saying "Americans are happily focused on Iraqis liberated rather than WMD not found, so we 'feel good about ourselves,'" but the acerbic old Tory contemptuously dismisses this as "New Age therapy to make the public feel mellow," and insists:

"Until WMD are found, or their absence accounted for, there is urgent explaining to be done."

Having been left way out there on a limb, and exposed as the party hacks and hand-raisers they are, some of the most hardcore supporters of this war the columnists, publicists, and right-wing true believers, some of whom actually took U.S. government propaganda at face value are angry. Not only at being made to look like credulous fools, but also on account of the "road map," which adds to their sense of betrayal.

The neocons are not loyal to Bush, or to the Republican party, for that matter, but only to their program of ushering the country into the Imperial Era, and ditching our old Republic. If and when the Iraqi occupation goes unmistakably sour, and the President still resists the temptation to continue on to Iran and Syria, they'll dump him so quick it'll make his head spin.

Let the neocons draw up grandiose global architectures in which American power is the framework of a new world order. For the non-interventionists, left and right, our task is to repeat, over and over, two simple words: exit strategy. Faced with these two alternatives, there is no doubt in my mind that the American people will have the wisdom to make the right choice.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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