PINEHURST, N.C. — Many months prior to the recent major combat operations in Iraq, there was much daily commentary on Saddam Hussein's regime and the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which threatened the United States and other nations around the globe.
For a few months preceding the coalitions' advance to Baghdad, the United Nations' inspectors under Hans Blix and Dr. el Baredi were within Iraq, but came up empty handed in their search for WMD and evidence of a nuclear program.
Interestingly, nearly every authoritative and political figure over the past five years has endorsed the idea that Iraq possessed WMD and would probably use them at the appropriate time.
President Bill Clinton said so in 1998 as he ordered a small scale retaliatory attack on Hussein's regime. Vice President Al Gore said so. Democrat senators Tom Daschle and John Kerry also said so in 1998. UN Resolution 1441 declared that Iraq was in violation of many UN resolutions pertaining to WMD. President Bush and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair were convinced that Saddam was hiding WMD and pursuing a nuclear weapons program which one day could be a serious threat to the world.
But where are those WMD today? The coalition forces along with a CIA directed team in country have not produced very much of substance in the first three months of their search. Why were they so obvious in the rhetoric of the past five years, but not findable in the past three months?
For starters, there were no United Nations inspectors in Iraq for nearly five years after Hussein told them to leave in 1998. There were lots of opportunities for Saddam's regime to hide anything relating to WMDs. After all, an Iraqi scientist recently took coalition forces to his rose bush in his back yard and unearthed documents which allegedly had been hidden there since 1991. Where there is a will there is a way.
Most folks would agree that a picture is worth a thousand words.
So here are 12 pictures
which are incredibly demonstrative of how difficult it is and will be to find WMD in a country the size of California.
These pictures graphically depict the extremes to which Saddam went to hide military items. If the Iraqis buried fighter planes under sand dunes in the desert, think how easy it would be to hide a small tube or container of chemical or biological weapons. Or maybe ship these small containers out of the country to a sympathetic foreign government or terrorist organization.
The photos from MSgt. T. Collins of the USAF should persuade even the most cynical that finding WMD is a tough job. But find them we will.
For some time now I have been cautioning on the air and in this column that finding WMD will be a long-term process. Bringing stability … and civility … to Iraq will also be a long term process. There are many factions, such as Saddam's Baathist party loyal, hundreds of trans-national terrorists, and al Queda which will continue their unconventional and terrorists attacks on the coalition forces, the Iraqi infrastructure and the Iraqi people.
It would be easy to say we kicked Saddam from power and his regime is now history … then pack up and leave this suffering country to fend for itself. It might be easy to do this, but it would be terribly wrong to do so as we pursue an international war on terrorism. By leaving Iraq before a stable democratic government is in place, we would be creating another spot on the map as a haven for international terrorists. Not to say what a travesty that would be for the freed Iraqis who suffered so greatly under Saddam Hussein's regime over the past three decades.
Bottom line: We will find Weapons of Mass Destruction. We must stay the course to give Iraq back to the Iraqi people and not to a band of like minded international terrorists. Americans are not known for their patience in situations such as those facing Iraq today. But I would caution that the "right thing and the expedient thing are seldom the same thing."