Editorial

Weapons of mass destruction- Hollow issue

Sunday, June 8, 2003

The debate over weapons of mass destruction is likely to grow louder and shriller now that the topic has become a political weapon rather than a justification (or at least part of it) for the U.S.-led and coalition-supported war in Iraq.

Those who want to discredit President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair believe they have found the weak spot in what otherwise should be considered a monumental victory for the forces of freedom, personal liberty and world justice. Because no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, these detractors claim, the war was somehow illegitimate. Some factions see the so-far-unaccounted-for weapons as both a reason to criticize the successful coalition effort and to lay blame -- for what isn't crystal clear -- at the feet of Bush and Blair.

Let's take a look at this debate.

There are those in Congress who would like nothing better than to open an inquiry, one that surely would drag well into the thick of next year's presidential campaign, into the Bush administration's role in setting the U.S. course that led to a regime change in Iraq.

A parliamentary committee in the British House of Commons announced last week that it will hold an inquiry into the Blair government's decision to participate in the war in Iraq. The issue of weapons of mass destruction is at the heart of the inquiry.

If these official inquiries were aimed at uncovering useful information, a good rationale could be made for all the questions. But these probes have little more than political undermining in mind. Nothing would make Democrats in Congress happier than using the cloak of an official investigation to smear the image of George W. Bush who will be running for a second term in the White House.

Likewise in Britain, where Blair continues to remain popular despite efforts to find fault with that government's earnest and important support in Iraq.

A recent Pew Global Attitudes Project poll in 20 countries shows both Blair and Bush have strong leadership ratings in nations that are generally supportive of the United States, while poll respondents in Muslim countries ranked their support for America at new lows. This should come as no surprise.

One interesting finding of the Pew poll was how attitudes are changing about the United Nations. Poll respondents in the United States and Britain as well as those in countries that opposed the Iraq war, including France and Germany, generally said the United Nations is less relevant than ever.

This is the same United Nations whose own resolutions placed limits and deadlines on Saddam Hussein based on the generally accepted belief -- supported by the world's intelligence gatherers -- that he possessed and was ready to use weapons of mass destruction against his own people and anyone else who might try to remove him from power.

Weapons of mass destruction are, at this point, only of interest as a way of raising doubts designed to detract from the real issues -- the reasons that the free world is glad Saddam is gone. But those who seek to pursue a blame game over such weapons should keep one thing in mind: There is still a good likelihood the weapons or strong evidence of them -- two mobile labs have been discovered -- will be found.

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