Was Iraq’s fictitious “nuclear program”
    a key justification for the war?

If Iraq had no nuclear program, as it didn’t, then there was no need to rush into war.

Yes, it’s true: there were reasons for invading Iraq other than the threat that Saddam Hussein might acquire nuclear weapons. But none of those reasons was urgent. There was no good reason not to wait and let the inspections process work, other than the argument that if a war was inevitable we’d rather have it before, rather than after, our adversary had nuclear warheads.

Talking about WMD generically, as if poison gas and nuclear bombs were more or less the same, is intellectually dishonest. Saddam Hussein was obligated by the terms on which the first Gulf War ended to eliminate any WMD capacity, and it was reasonable, in my view, for the U.S. to insist that his commitment be kept. But it was only the threat of nukes that meant we had to be in a hurry about it.

Nor is it true, as Glenn Reynolds and Judith Miller would like to pretend, that “everyone” thought SH had a nuclear weapons program. It’s just that the Administration, with Reynolds and Miller cheerleading for them, tried its level best to assassinate the characters and end the careers of those who thought otherwise: Scott Ritter and Mohammed ElBaradei, for example.

And the notion that those of us who believed the Administration and therefore supported the war are painting ourselves as “gullible” when we now complain about having been bamboozled comes ill from someone who was, if not a fellow victim, then an accomplice, of the perpetrators. I’d rather be the guy that bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the guy who sold it.

Footnote Is it just barely conceivable that Glenn has some idea how it feels for someone not from his cocoon to read his site? He quotes fellow hawk Dean Esmay as saying (of the opponents of the war) “It’s not disagreement I can’t stand, it’s the constant repetition of falsehoods that makes me want to scream.” Heh. Indeed.

But I’m pretty sure that’s pure projection, without even a glimmer of self-awareness.

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