The Real Hunt for Illegal Weapons

There has been a lot of attention paid to discoveries of possible biological and chemical weapons in Iraq; some of these have turned out to be false alarms while others are still being studied. Most recently the discovery of a mobile laboratory has been trumpeted, likely correctly, as a “smoking gun.” Nevertheless, this entire emphasis is, I think, misconceived. The important point is not to find a barrel buried somewhere that contains banned materials–although that will surely happen, if it hasn’t already. The important thing is to painstakingly assemble the documentary and anecdotal evidence that will allow a comprehensive picture of Iraq’s illegal weapons programs to be reconstructed.
The Washington Times reports today on that effort:
“U.S. military officers are examining ‘very promising’ documents that they believe will allow them to put together a comprehensive picture of Iraq’s secret weapons programs.
“In his first extensive interview to a journalist, Lt. Col. Tom Woloszyn said his objective is to put together a comprehensive ‘cradle-to-grave’ portrait of a wide-ranging set of Iraqi programs to design, assemble and deploy weapons of mass destruction.
“The commander of U.S. Army troops in Iraq, meanwhile, said American forces have collected ‘plenty of documentary evidence’ suggesting that Saddam had an active program for weapons of mass destruction. ‘A lot of the information that we’re getting is coming from lower-tier Iraqis who had some knowledge of the program but not full knowledge of the program….And it’s just taking us a while to sort through all of that.’
“Col. Woloszyn said his task is being complicated by reports of reputed chemical or missile finds and an overenthusiasm by officers in the field to display their finds to journalists.”
Eventually, all of the information being collected will be assembled in a comprehensive report that will put to rest any doubts about Iraq’s weapons programs. By then, of course, the doubters will have moved on to something else.

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