Joe Conason's Journal

"Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities?" Bush's curious wording, in its own way, sounds as desperate as Dean's caucus-night war whoop.


Salon Staff
January 22, 2004 12:02AM (UTC)

Why we're in Iraq: WMD-RPA
Last night, the president had little to say about the weapons of mass disappearance that were the main topic of last year's State of the Union address -- and what he did say was, in a word, pathetic:

"We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day ..."

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What does that convoluted phrasing mean? Bush's curious wording, in its own way, sounds as desperate as Dean's caucus-night war whoop (which I have now heard enough, thanks). "Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities?" Not exactly a stirring call to arms.

Nor did Bush seem to comprehend the irony of the sentence with which he introduced this touchy topic: "For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America."

Unfortunately, the credibility of American diplomacy will be measured against the very specific accusations made by this president as he prepared for war against Iraq on Jan. 28, 2003. His words are still available on the White House Web site:

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

"U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

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"From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide ...

"Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.

"With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida. "

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Uh-oh. According to the Secretary of State, that last sentence lacks "concrete evidence," too -- and could now be considered inoperative.
[10:30 a.m. PST, Jan. 21, 2004]

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