Monday, March 08, 2004

Blair clears the air

To hear the anti-war voices yap, you'd think that the only justification ever offered for overthrowing Saddam Hussein were the now-dubious intelligence about WMD, and the only opposition was from people too smart to be fooled by Bush's simplistic lies (or words to that effect).

So here's Tony Blair laying out the facts of the case in a simple, straightforward speech.

"We have seen one element -- intelligence about some WMD being ready for use in 45 minutes -- elevated into virtually the one fact that persuaded the nation into war.

"This intelligence was mentioned by me once in my statement to the House of Commons on 24 September and not mentioned by me again in any debate. It was mentioned by no-one in the crucial debate on 18 March 2003.

"In the period from 24 September to 29 May, the date of the BBC broadcast on it, it was raised twice in almost 40,000 written parliamentary questions in the House of Commons; and not once in almost 5,000 oral questions."

And so forth. To which I would add that, In the build up to the war, the most potent argument in the anti-war camp was that, if attacked and cornered, Saddam would use battlefield WMD, and he would lob nuclear-tipped Scuds at Tel Aviv. This fear was elaborately articulated, and it was a worthwhile and intelligent argument.

It apparently was something the coalition war planners considered, too, though this, too, has been allowed to be forgotten. Remember the thousands and thousands of protective suits ordered up and distributed to the U.S. troops? That wasn't the work of planners who know their talk of an enemy armed with chemical agents is all hollow. Especially because the activation of those suits was a clear and undisguisable signal to the other side that the attack was about to begin. Remember, too the scrambling around the western desert of Iraq in the early days of the war, at great risk and diversion of resources, to find the mobile launchers that could reach Israel and which we now know probably never existed.

Yet now it's as though that argument never existed. And no wonder: the anti-war camp is eager to have history forget that it, too, once considered Saddam's WMD a credible threat. If anything, the exaggerated fear of them was greater among those who opposed the war than those who supported it.