MICHAEL BARONE joins with David Brooks in writing that media headlines are underplaying the Duelfer report:
But these headlines conceal the real news in the report of Iraq Survey Group head Charles Duelfer. For the report makes it plain that George W. Bush had good reason to go to war in Iraq and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. . . .
Duelfer also reported that Saddam asked subordinates how long it would take to develop chemical weapons once sanctions ended. One Iraqi chemical weapons expert said it would require only a few days to develop mustard gas. Former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said that Iraq could have had a WMD capacity within two years after the end of sanctions.
If the weapons inspectors had been given more time to conduct inspections, as John Kerry has on occasion advocated, we now know they would not have found any WMDs. Nor does it seem possible that they would have uncovered Saddam’s attempts to maintain WMD capability. There would have been heavy pressure then from France, Russia, and China—whose companies were given kickbacks and windfall profits from the Saddam-administered U.N. Oil for Food program, Duelfer reports—to disband U.S. military forces in the Middle East and to end sanctions. And once sanctions were gone, there would have been nothing to stop Saddam from developing WMDs.
In other words, we were facing a brutal dictator with the capability to develop WMDs and the proven willingness to use them. A dictator whose regime had had, as the 9/11 Commission has documented, frequent contacts with al Qaeda. We have no conclusive evidence that he collaborated with al Qaeda on 9/11—but also no conclusive evidence that he did not. Under those circumstances, George W. Bush acted prudently in deciding to remove this regime. He would have been imprudent not to have done so.