(Updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)
Melanie Phillips is a British neoconservative who has devoted herself to warning England that Muslims are taking over and destroying its culture. Her book, oh-so-cleverly titled Londonistan, warns of "the collapse of traditional British identity and accommodation of a particularly virulent form of multiculturalism."
She has described James Baker and Jimmy Carter as "the kept creatures of the Arab world" who "are intent on smoothing the path to Israel's destruction." She thinks global warming is a "con-trick" because everything is "well within the normal cyclical fluctuations in temperature from century to century." And on and on and on. Needless to say, she is a deeply admired figure in the world of Fox News and right-wing blogs.
But all of that is rendered moderate, restrained, sober and even sane by a new article she wrote for the British magazine, The Spectator (headline: I Found Saddam's WMD Bunkers), which claims that: (a) WMDs really were found in Iraq after the invasion, (b) they were located in vast underground bunkers (c) which contained "nuclear, chemical and biological materials", but (d) the U.S., through negligence, failed to secure those sites and, as a result, (e) the WMDs were stolen by The Terrorists and/or Syrian agents, who now have them and are actively plotting (along with China, Russia and North Korea) to use them against the West, but --
(f) because the Bush administration is so embarrassed by their failure to prevent the theft of all these dastardly weapons, and because Democrats are embarrassed by this discovery because it proves that Saddam really did have WMDs all along, they have all jointly created a vast conspiracy where they conceal the discovery of WMDs in order to cover up for their negligence.
That is really what she "reports" today, all based on the claims by a single individual, Dave Gaubatz (him), a civilian agent who worked for The U.S. Air Force's Office of Special Investigations. Here is what Phillips writes:
Dave Gaubatz, however, says that you could not be more wrong. Saddam's WMD did exist. He should know, because he found the sites where he is certain they were stored.
And the reason you don't know about this is that the American administration failed to act on his information, 'lost' his classified reports and is now doing everything it can to prevent disclosure of the terrible fact that, through its own incompetence, it allowed Saddam's WMD to end up in the hands of the very terrorist states against whom it is so controversially at war. . . .
Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq -- two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra -- which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true. . . .
By speaking to a wide range of Iraqis, some of whom risked their lives by talking to him and whose accounts were provided in ignorance of each other, he built up a picture of the nuclear, chemical and biological materials they said were buried underground. . . .
He subsequently learnt from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies.
The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam's nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state
But here, this deranged tale has been touted by virtually every large right-wing blog, including the ones whom Howard Kurtz and his friends embrace as the standard-bearers of credible serious "conservative" analysis and truth-seeking crusades against the reckless and biased MSM. Just look at their responses to this drooling, deranged, self-evidently moronic conspiracy dribble:
Powerline's Scott Johnson: "MEET DAVE GAUBATZ -- The current issue of the (UK) Spectator has some extremely interesting articles. . . . . none surpasses Melanie Phillips's "I found Saddam's WMD bunkers" in interest. Phillips's article tells the story of Dave Gaubatz, an agent in the US Air Forceb Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds: "I FOUND SADDAM'S WMD BUNKERS:" Er, wouldn't this be news if it were true? Maybe not, these days. . . ." Michelle Malkin's Hot Air: Gaubatz "seems credible" even though "the continuing hunt for WMDs at this point seem to me like a right-wing version of Trutherism." He then laments: "even if Gaubatz is right about the weapons having been moved to Syria, we'll simply never know unless Assad ups and admits that theyb
Scores of other right-wing blogs -- including right-wing "news site" Pajamas Media -- have excitedly linked to the article in order to suggest or even proclaim to their readers that Saddam really did have WMDs all along but that fact has been covered up by a vast conspiracy.
David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine, always slightly ahead of the neoconservative curve, has been promoting Gaubatz's discovery for some time, and The New York Times reported some time ago that two GOP Congressmen were taking The Gaubatz Conspiracy Theories so seriously that they were forcing Pentagon officials to meet with him to hear his tales, including not only now-defeated Rep. Curt Weldon, but also Rep. Pete Hoekstra (who, frighteningly enough, was Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time).
It is not hyperbole to say that this is deranged reality-detachment of the highest, most disturbing and most disturbed order. After all, look who is in on the Great Conspiracy -- the Leader himself, from his August 6, 2006 Press Conference:
THE PRESIDENT: Now look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq, at the time, was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.
But the leading Right-wing bloggers and other neoconservatives are actually receptive to -- or are even actively promoting -- the theory that everyone from the President to military leaders to Senate Democrats have all engineered a massive conspiracy to cover-up the fact that we really did find vast stockpiles of Saddam's WMDs in Iraq, that they were stolen by the Terrorists and Syria, that it's all part of a plot involving large numbers of nations and groups to destroy the West, and now everyone is hiding this because they are embarrassed that they allowed it to happen.
What further proof is needed of just how completely bereft of judgment and integrity -- of how detached from reality -- this faction is? Everything is possible except for one thing -- that they were wrong about WMDs and the war. Perhaps the next time Howard Kurtz has Glenn Reynolds on CNN or lauds Michelle Malkin's epic truth-seeking battles, he can note that they promote this Worldwide Conspiracy and ask them to expound on it.
UPDATE : Even after George Bush -- George Bush -- expressly admitted that Saddam had no WMD's, many of the "respectable and prominent" right-wing pundits cling steadfastly to the belief -- really a key article of faith -- that Saddam did have those weapons, as illustrated by John Hinderaker's July 2006 remarks about a Washington Times poll asking Americans if they believe that Saddam had WMDs when we invaded: "'Yes' is indisputably the right answer to that question. . . . about the fact that Iraq possessed WMDs, there is no doubt."
But their embrace of Melanie Phillips' theory here is almost alarming, even in light of their past behavior. On her blog today, Phillips expounds on her article by printing a lengthy Memorandum which claims that: (a) John Negroponte is persecuting various groups which are trying to bring the WMD conspiracy to light because (b) Negroponte is part of what they call the "Red Team" in the U.S. government, which is exceedingly loyal to China, which is crucial given that (c) the stolen-WMD-plot involved the subsequent transfer of "Saddam's WMD technology to Syria and Iran" and that all happened (d) "because the Chinese Army created an international consortium of rogue states to develop the Islamic Bomb" (and Negorponte, it implies, is concealing that by persecuting these groups because he is an agent of China).
These are the people whom the right-wing bloggers are citing as evidence that Saddam's WMDs were stolen by Syria and Iran and other Terrorists. This is the world they inhabit. And these are the people whose worldview has been governing our country for the last six years and who have been treated with the utmost respect, even reverence, by our national media -- the fact which explains, more or less, everything.
UPDATE II: As Bob Fertik notes, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton gave a truly wild interview to the BBC just last month in which he insisted that the U.S. was largely right about its pre-war claims about the Iraqi threat, and with regard specifically to the issue of whether Saddam had WMDs, Bolton said: "I fully believe that all of the evidence on that is not yet in."
Five years from now, and 20 years from now, and 50 years from now, there is going to be a substantial portion of the American population which insists that Saddam really did have WMDs when we invaded. It is not uncommon for a substantial portion of the population of any country to live in a purely mythical world, where desire -- rather than reality -- dictates beliefs. But it is most assuredly unusual for such a group to be the dominant political faction governing the world's only remaining superpower.
UPDATE III: Jim Henley provides some additional information about Dave Gaubatz, including his organization devoted to celebrating the unique "White Christians" -- "a distinct people and privileged as such" -- who founded the country.
Henley actually understates the case. Just go look at Gaubatz's organizational website. You just won't believe it. I honestly don't even know where to begin.
If it weren't so richly deserved, it would actually be pity-inducing to watch these neoconservative warmongers, having fallen so low and become so discredited, turn to deranged conspiracy theories spun by the likes of Dave Gaubatz and Melanie Phillips -- all in order to insist that Saddam really did have WMDs all along.
UPDATE IV: I'm pretty much speechless about this, which takes a lot given the amount of time I spend swimming around in the primordial muck of neoconservative fantasies. The project to which Dave Gaubatz is currently devoting his time is called "Mapping Sharia in America", the purpose of which is to create a comprehensive map of every mosque and Islamic school in the U.S. This is what he says:
It is our task to conduct an extensive mapping of all the Islamic day schools, mosques, and other identifiable organizations in the US and to determine which ones teach or preach Islamic law, Sharib
This investigation will also map the leadership of these Muslim organizations and their other affiliations. We will also attempt to uncover any related businesses used or run by the organizations as fronts for money laundering and other illicit activities.
Finally, we will examine and map any potential targets situated near these organizations, such as city, county, and federal government buildings, schools and universities, US military installations, major utility or infrastructure sites (i.e., nuclear installations, pipelines, water supply, etc.), and transportation hubs.
The ultimate goal is "to produce an interactive map that allows a macro- and micro-analysis of the current Sharib BREAKING! Dave Gaubatz says Saddam had hidden WMDs in Iraq but The Terrorists stole them as part of a conspiracy with China, Russia and Iran to build an Islamic Bomb and obliterate your children. We were right all along! Saddam had WMDs! The MSM doesn't want you to know!!! That is what their blogs and radio shows and Fox programs are for.