The Washington Times

The interim report issued last week by David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group [ISG] looking into Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs, ought to dispel all doubt on the central point leading to the decision to go to war: The Saddam regime belonged in the category of those uniquely dangerous to peace and stability. The security concerns on which this war of prevention were based were all too real.

There were other reasons to go to war as well. The ongoing tone-deafness of much of the left in the United States and especially abroad to the human cost of the continuation of the Saddam regime is distressing. Basic decency would seem to require at least a minimum nod of appreciation for the overthrow of a Ba’athist police state that debased and terrorized 22 million people. Yet, some really can’t bring themselves to offer this nod, whether out of a hostility to the role of the United States in the world today or to President Bush in particular.

If the humanitarian case was strong, so too was the legal case – the more so based on information Mr. Kay has now provided. Saddam defied and defied again the long string of U.N. Security Council resolutions dating back to 1991 and culminating last year in Resolution 1441, offering him a “final opportunity” to disclose the details of his weapons programs and disarm or face “serious consequences.” Those who believed this winter that Iraq was not cooperating and had no intention of cooperating were correct. As Mr. Kay noted, “We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN.”

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix reported to the Security Council on March 7: “One can hardly avoid the impression that, after a period of somewhat reluctant cooperation, there has been an acceleration of initiatives from the Iraqi side since the end of January.” More initiatives, perhaps, but only in the context of an ongoing effort to conceal and deceive. Had the Security Council acquiesced in the proposition that Iraq was in some measure complying, it would have been duped. The determined opposition among some council members to a resolution noting that Iraq was not complying with 1441 has to be judged in light of Mr. Kay’s findings.

But the humanitarian case and the legal case didn’t form the whole basis for going to war and could not have done so, much as one would like to see more people liberated from oppression and more governments conduct themselves in accordance with international norms. The decisive case was the strategic case.

Now, the strategic case was framed in large measure on the proposition that Saddam had in his possession large quantities of weapons of mass destruction, which may turn out not to have been true, and programs in place for their large-scale production, which likewise may not have been accurate. The Security Council diplomacy surrounding the passage of 1441 channeled the strategic case in the direction of emphasizing the weapons. But it was never merely the weapons that were at issue; it was always also the intention of Saddam Hussein.

The Russian president sits atop a large arsenal of nuclear weapons. The French president has a small arsenal as well. In neither case does any rational person regard these instances of possession of “weapons of mass destruction” as a grave danger to international security. It was always the Saddam Hussein regime and doubt over whether he could be adequately deterred that constituted the security case. The pursuit and use of these weapons proved something about Saddam: that he was too dangerous over time.

What we now know, thanks to Mr. Kay, is that our fears were entirely well-founded: “Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even those senior officials we have interviewed who claim no direct knowledge of any on-going prohibited activities readily acknowledge that Saddam intended to resume these programs whenever the external restrictions were removed. Several of these officials acknowledge receiving inquiries since 2000 from Saddam or his sons about how long it would take to either restart CW production or make available chemical weapons.”

Would it have been possible to contain Saddam with the arrangements in place before the war – sanctions, no-fly zones, etc.? No one can say “yes” with certainty, and the human cost was and would have been horrible. Moreover, if the containment regime cracked, it is clear what Saddam would have done. Mr. Kay’s interim report vindicates the proposition that Saddam’s Iraq was a gathering danger.

Prevention worked. Iraq threatens no more.