The WMD Affair
The WMD Affair
By Claude Weill
Le Nouvel Observateur
Tuesday 03 June 2003
Where have the Weapons of Mass Destruction gone? Less than three months after the fall of Baghdad, George Bush and Tony Blair find themselves caught in the nets of their yesterday words. Not a day passes that a newspaper or opponent doesn't challenge them: So, have you found them, where are these terrifying weapons that threatened us- and which justified recourse to preventative war? These chemical and biological weapons ready for use that Saddam Hussein could activate in 45 minutes (Tony Blair)? Voil : the victorious war leaders called upon to vindicate themselves. Suspected of having lied, of having fooled their people. Which, in Anglo-Saxon culture, is a serious sin against democracy.
The accusations run together. Fingers are pointed at propaganda cabals. Intelligence men accuse politicians of having used them- of trafficking the intelligence furnished by their services. In short, scandal brews. It is doubtful the Pentagon's number 2, Paul Wolfowitz, will succeed in smothering it by acknowledging, with a cold cynicism, that if the United States chose to highlight the WMD threat to justify the attack on Iraq, it was for purely bureaucratic reasons: It was the only reason everyone could agree on.
These statements have the merit of honesty nonetheless. And they revert to the major post-war question: have the objectives of the military intervention in Iraq been achieved or not? Well now, cynicism for cynicism, and sticking to the observable facts, the answer tends to be yes. If one speaks, of course, of the real objectives and not the advertised objectives.
Officially, it was a question of neutralizing the weapons of mass destruction. None have been found. Nothing indicates that they existed.
It was a question of fighting terrorism. It continues to strike. Which was, by the way, foreseeable. Because for the experts-including those of the CIA and the British MI5 -, the supposed link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, another justification for the intervention in Iraq, was without foundation. The White House and Downing Street could have to explain themselves on this point also.
It was a question of overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime. That's been done. But the man has escaped.
It was a question of bringing democracy, peace, and prosperity to the Iraqi people. At the moment they have experienced above all destruction and chaos. Let's not prejudge things. Let us simply note that at the least the United States underestimated the problems of reconstruction.
It was a question, finally, of provoking, beginning with Baghdad, a democratic contagion that would shake the dictatorships of the region. And beyond that, start the remodeling of the Middle East. These are vast projects which demand time and perseverance. We shall see.
In any case, with regard to the advertised objectives, the results up to now have been modest to say the least.
On the other hand, if, as the spoil-sports maintained, these famous WMD and the fight against terrorism were merely pretexts, and the real motives were elsewhere.then everything changes. If it were a question of assuring control of Iraqi oil to allow the United States to emerge from their privileged alliance with Saudi Arabia, it's done: since last week, the Americans have complete power over the exploitation of hydrocarbons. If it were a question-as Wolfowitz has just acknowledged-of allowing American troops to leave Saudi Arabia, the operation is underway.
If it were a question for an America wounded by September 11, to show the world its power and determination. If it were a question of intimidating rogue states, of marginalizing international institutions, of letting potential rivals know America will brook no contest of superiority. In short, if the objectives of this war were those that were ascribed . by the anti-war camp, then one could say they have been achieved. That George Bush has succeeded. As long. As long as this affair of the WMD, in an America profoundly allergic to lies, doesn't come back tomorrow to ruin his victory.
Claude Weill is assistant editorial director for the Nouvel Observater. This commentary is broadcast on Radio-Canada.
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