A diminishing threat

No, we didn’t have to race to take SH out before he had the bomb. Therefore, we should have waited to clean up al-Qaeda, to assemble a real coalition, and to make workable post-war plans.

Read ’em and weep, warhawks:

Report Discounts Iraqi Arms Threat

U.S. Inspector Says Hussein Lacked Means

By Mike Allen and Dana Priest

Washington Post Staff Writers

Wednesday, October 6, 2004; Page A01

The government’s most definitive account of Iraq’s arms programs, to be released today, will show that Saddam Hussein posed a diminishing threat at the time the United States invaded and did not possess, or have concrete plans to develop, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, U.S. officials said yesterday.

The officials said that the 1,000-page report by Charles A. Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, concluded that Hussein had the desire but not the means to produce unconventional weapons that could threaten his neighbors or the West. President Bush has continued to assert in his campaign stump speech that Iraq had posed “a gathering threat.”

The officials said Duelfer, an experienced former United Nations weapons inspector, found that the state of Hussein’s weapons-development programs and knowledge base was less advanced in 2003, when the war began, than it was in 1998, when international inspectors left Iraq.

“They have not found anything yet,” said one U.S. official who had been briefed on the report.

Right then. No ties to 9/11, and a WMD program that was going nowhere. Yes, the report also says that Saddam Hussein intended to revive the WMD program as soon as the sanctions came off, which would have had to happen eventually. So there was a good case on security as well as humanitarian gronds for taking him out, sooner or later.

But there was no urgency. We had time to finish the job against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, to gather a larger coalition, and to prepare outselves for the job of postwar reconstruction.

Now I didn’t know that at the time. Not knowing that, I supported the war. But now that I know it, I say that we would have been better off waiting a year before going in.

This makes Cheney’s comments last night — What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the right same course of action next to incomprehensible on any rational basis. The insistence of the Bushies that no mistakes were made — that, in light of what we now know, nothing should have been done differently — strikes me as yet more evidence of the Administration’s strained relationship with reality.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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