Joe Conason's Journal

As U.S. investigators turn up the heat on Saddam for proof he had WMD, it's Tony Blair who's really sweating. When will American politicians borrow some guts from their Brit counterparts and demand real answers about why we went to war?

By Salon Staff
Published December 17, 2003 12:03AM (EST)

Waiting for the right answers
While the CIA sweats Saddam in an undisclosed location, the president's best British friend is nervously awaiting favorable results from the interrogation. In fact Tony Blair may be sweating just a bit too, since the pressure for proof that Iraq possessed a forbidden WMD arsenal continues to build in Parliament. Unlike the pliant tools who run our Congress, many members of Blair's own Labor Party, along with the two opposition parties, are still demanding that his government substantiate its stated reasons for war -- or be held accountable.

Blair's critics in Westminster aren't optimistic that the apprehended dictator -- who has so far reiterated his earlier denials of WMD -- will eventually lead his interrogators to hidden munitions. (According to the New York Times, U.S. government sources "said his denials were in line with statements of other top Iraqi officials who have been captured in recent months, and who still maintain that Baghdad did not have unconventional weapons.)

Former British defense minister Peter Kilfoyle warns that "if they have [Saddam] under lock and key and they can still not find his weapons, it will show that the whole thing was a sham." And one of Blair's former parliamentary whips released a letter to the prime minister: "If Saddam does not within the next month or two offer some evidence which leads to a discovery of WMD, the world will draw the reasonable inference that he never had any. If that happens, I hope that the Government will accept this conclusion too."

Blair didn't do Bush any favor today by exaggerating the findings of the Iraq Survey Group in comments directed toward his own troops. Although it is always possible that real weapons will be found, Blair may no longer place much faith in the fruitless search. "We've got to carry on until we find it," he said, sounding slightly desperate. The British media paired coverage of Blair's statement with remarks by Hans Blix, the former director of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq -- who again confided his doubts that Iraq has had any forbidden weapons for the past decade.

Of course, nobody in Downing Street or the White House will believe Saddam until he tells them what they want to hear. Or as the Times put it, perhaps with unintentional wit: "So far, administration officials said they were not satisfied with his answers."
[4 p.m. PST, Dec. 16, 2003]

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